Skip to main content

Canada’s top soldier is doing damage control after commenting that sexual misconduct might be prevalent in the military because some men are “biologically wired in a certain way.”

General Tom Lawson, Chief of the Defence Staff, apologized for the remarks he made in an interview with the CBC’s Peter Mansbridge, calling it an “awkward characterization.” The comments provoked an outcry on social media and from opposition politicians after an excerpt of the interview aired Tuesday night on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics.

(CBC News)

What he said

Peter Mansbridge: I want to move the conversation to something else that’s of enormous interest across the country – that you’ve found yourself having to deal with, especially in the last few months – and that’s the whole issue of sexual harassment within the armed forces. It’s 2015. Why is this still an issue?

Gen. Lawson: First of all, it’s a terrible issue. It disturbs the great majority of everyone in uniform and yet, we’re still dealing with it. It would be a trite answer, but it’s because we’re biologically wired in a certain way and there will be those who believe it is a reasonable thing to press themselves and their desires on others. It’s not the way it should be. …

(Watch the full interview)

Reaction from MPs

His apology

Misconduct in the military

The controversy comes only a few months after a report, prompted by media reports of sexual misconduct in the military, took aim at a “sexualized culture” in the Canadian Forces and urged sweeping change. The Canadian Forces agreed to implement only two of its 10 recommendations, including a centralized, independent agency to handle misconduct complaints.

More on the report:

-“Cultural shift” required to address harassment in Canadian Forces

-Why victims of sexual harassment or assault in the military stay silent

Brightcove player

(Watch: Opposition parties call for action on military misconduct review)

When the report was released, Gen. Lawson said the biggest problem it identified was underreporting of complaints. “The problem lies not only with those who behave poorly or maliciously, the responsibility also rests with those who idly stand by and permit inappropriate behaviour to persist, from jokes to harassment to assaults,” he said.

But last month, Mr. Lawson also came under fire from opposition leaders after a CBC report alleged that he told the military to be prepared to ignore certain recommendations in the report by retired judge Marie Deschamps.

With reports from Daniel Leblanc, Bill Curry, Evan Annett and The Canadian Press