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Members of the military can take complaints about sexual misconduct, harassment or discrimination directly to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, the government announced Tuesday.

The change will apply to new and existing complaints, allowing military members to ask for an independent review before exhausting internal grievance processes.

Former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour recommended the change in her May 2022 report on sexual misconduct and toxic culture in the Armed Forces.

Last December, the government presented its plan to implement the 48 recommendations in a report to Parliament. Tuesday’s announcement addresses two of them.

“Modernizing complaint processes is a key component of our culture change efforts,” the Defence Department said in a news release.

Arbour’s report noted that only 42 complaints about discrimination on the basis of sex were filed with the Human Rights Commission by military members between 2015 and 2021.

She said the number was likely so low because of a requirement to exhaust the internal grievance process before taking complaints outside the institution.

Arbour said the commission would be able to handle “an influx of cases” from the military if it were given the resources.

Defence Minister Bill Blair said in a written statement Tuesday that the government would stop filing objections to human-rights complaints on the basis that there is another process underway – another of Arbour’s recommendations.

The head of the Human Rights Commission said it wholeheartedly supports all of her advice.

“The commission hopes the implementation of these recommendations will help people access human rights justice swiftly,” said Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, interim chief commissioner, in a press release.

Complaints about harassment and discrimination that are not on the basis of sex will still be handled through internal military procedures.

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