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Top general says no systemic problems at Royal Military College after report on suicide, sexual misconduct

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Top general says no systemic problems at Royal Military College after report on suicide, sexual misconduct

Post by Bruce72 on Wed 29 Mar 2017, 18:07

A new report into suspected suicides, alleged sexual misconduct and low morale at the Royal Military College of Canada has found leadership tension, negative role models and some cadets who are afraid to ask for help.

The review was ordered last fall by the country's top military commander after a troubling series of events, including suspected suicides among students and reports of sexual misconduct.

The eight-person review panel, which interviewed more than 400 people, found morale at the 140-year-old institution is fair to good, but it has been poor.

The 227-page report, released Wednesday, lists a variety of reasons but denies that there a culture of bullying and sexual misconduct, issues which have, over the last few years, consumed the Canadian military writ large.

"The negative stressors centered on inconsistent leadership within the Training and Cadet Wings, unintended negative consequences in the implementation of defined leadership progression levels, the questionable quality and utility of the Professional Military Training program, the coordination and time management of the Four Pillars program, and the state of repair of some of the college infrastructure," the report says.

It also says cadets were aware of those stresses, but reluctant to come forward with their problems.

"Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to those that seek or want to seek assistance as many are concerned about being perceived as being weak or having a problem if they do solicit help," the report said.

It echoes previous military reports about sexual misconduct and post-traumatic stress disorder in the military.

Problems not systemic, top general says

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance spoke to reporters Wednesday afternoon as the report became public. He said the problems were not systemic, but reflecting a period of neglect said there are no systemic problems at Royal Military College of Canada, as the military released a report today on suspected suicides and sexual misconduct at the college in Kingston, Ont.

"If there had been systemic or endemic cultural problems around any one of these issues, they would've shown up loud and clear in the report," Vance told reporters Wednesday afternoon. 

"I'm satisfied that the sample size was big enough. I'm satisfied and I feel good about this because the cadets are reflecting back to me that they're satisfied, they're proud of this place. They're proud of joining the Armed Forces and going on to lead in the Armed Forces."

The report said morale is "fair to good" at the college, though it did dip after recent deaths among some naval and officer cadets at the college.

Vance said the report included several recommendations, some of which are to be implemented immediately, to provide a better balance between the academic, military and personal lives of cadets.

"It's not that we're without incident, but they appear to be decreasing and very importantly, the cadets feel safe," Vance said. "I wanted to make certain there was nothing about the college that would contribute by design in such a way that would bring cadets to a point fo despair such that they'd be facing suicidal ideation."

Vance spoke to staff and cadets at the college this morning prior to speaking to media saying he accepted the report's finding and would implement them fully.

Review too broad, says educator

At the time the investigation began, there were several reports of sexual misconduct going back to 2013 that raised questions about the culture of the institution.

Following her year-long investigation into sexual misconduct in the military, retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps reported in 2015 that sexual harassment was considered a rite of passage at the college, and sexual assault was an "ever-present risk."

Julie Lalonde, a sexual violence prevention co-ordinator, was verbally abused during a talk at the Kingston campus in autumn 2014. 

"​I was very surprised to hear this morning that RMC did not have a systemic problem when just two years ago Justice Deschamps said that RMC had a very acute problem and a highly sexualized culture," Lalonde said Wednesday afternoon.

"So to see Gen. Vance stand up today and say that is not, in fact, the case is quite surprising and I highly doubt they've solved that problem in two years."

Lalonde said the mandate of the review at RMC was too broad to address the concerns about sexual violence.

"You see that reflected in the recommendations," she said. "Some of Gen. Vance's comments around 'we need to inject fun into the campus.' Well, that will work with issues around stress and around too many demands on students, but that's not how you address sexual misconduct on campus."

Lalonde also said she was "frustrated" that the military has not turned to outside experts to try to address the problem. The eight-member team that examined the college was composed entirely of current or former military officers.

"They also appear to be refusing to work with experts on sexual violence. We're going to keep having this conversation until you bring in the right people," she said.

Vance said the opportunities for cadets to come forward anonymously, informally or through written testimony helped ensure the credibility of the report.

"The military is expert at investigating itself. Yes, some people don't like it and some people would have cause perhaps to deem it therefore not credible. But ultimately, I'm responsible and as the one responsible I deem it to be credible," he said

Vance said the military would put any victim first if they come forward with accusations of a sexual assault. He said Operation Honour, which grew out of Deschamp's report, has only been in effect for a year and half and is beginning to have an impact.

Last edited by bruce72 on Wed 29 Mar 2017, 18:10; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Added link to report)

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