The Canadian Forces will move ahead with an independent centre for sexual assault and harassment once international examples have been studied this summer, says the general in charge of responding to this week's damning report on harassment in the military.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail on Friday, Major-General Christine Whitecross addressed criticism that only two of the report's 10 recommendations were clearly accepted by the Forces.
The eight others – including a call for an independent centre that would receive complaints – were described as being accepted "in principle" Thursday after the report's release.
"What we are going to do is move out on all 10 recommendations, including number three which is this independent, centralized organization," she said in a phone interview from CFB Trenton, where she was meeting with Canadian Forces members to discuss the report.
Former Supreme Court judge Marie Deschamps released an investigative report Thursday for the military that found a "sexualized culture" in the Canadian Armed Forces that disproportionately affects lower-ranking female members.
NDP MP David Christopherson challenged the government in Question Period Friday, saying it was "outrageous" that only two of the report's recommendations were accepted.
Conservative MP James Bezan, the parliamentary secretary to the defence minister, said Maj.-Gen. Whitecross is looking at how to "best implement" the recommendations.
"Nobody who has chosen to stand on guard for Canada should have to put up with this disgusting behaviour," said Mr. Bezan.
Friday's visit to Trenton by Maj.-Gen. Whitecross is the first stop on a country-wide tour of military bases in which the team will discuss the report's findings with rank-and-file members of the forces.
While the team works on final recommendations, Maj.-Gen. Whitecross said she is reminding members that there are several existing options for reporting abuse, including to the chain of command, the military or civilian police or the Forces member assistance program.
"What we need right now is a culture change," she said. "...and we need to do it from the top down and from the bottom up."
Several other nations already have independent offices for harassment complaints in the military. The team will be visiting the U.S. example on May 12, followed by trips to Australia, France, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
"We should be able to have recommendations to our senior leadership shortly after our return to Australia, probably early to mid-summer. I think we can work that fast," she said.
Maj.-Gen. Whitecross joined the Canadian Forces in 1982 while studying chemical engineering at Queen's University. She was the first female to hold several senior positions in the military, including the first female commander of Joint Task Force North from 2006 to 2008.
Her personal experience is that the military has changed a great deal over her career.
"I joined in the 1980s. It was different back then," she said. "As I said to my colleagues at lunch, I almost expected it back then that there would be inappropriate jokes or language or comments. But today it's not expected and it's not tolerated and we need to put a stop to it."
She also said that she has not personally witnessed any problems in recent years.
"I have to be completely honest. I did not see the sexualized culture toward the end of those 33 years. In the last 10, 15 years, I haven't seen, personally, anything. But that doesn't say that it didn't happen. Madame Deschamps made it very clear and I know what she wrote down is what she heard and we need to address it. The bottom line is the action that we take forward."