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Minister of National Defence Anita Anand and Gen. Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff, prepare to appear before the Standing Committee on National Defence, on the independent review into sexual misconduct in the military, in Ottawa on Dec. 13.Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour says she is skeptical of Ottawa’s plan to implement her recommendations on dealing with sexual misconduct in the military – findings she says require decisive action, not further study.

Ms. Arbour detailed her 48 recommendations in a high-profile report released in May. They include a call to remove Criminal Code sexual offences from the military justice system’s jurisdiction.

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Anita Anand told reporters she had directed the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to move forward on all of Ms. Arbour’s recommendations. She tabled a report in Parliament outlining how the government would pursue each one.

But Ms. Arbour, speaking to the House committee on national defence later that morning, said Ms. Anand’s report calls for the creation of “a large amount of internal reviews and further task forces.”

Despite the commitment to implementing all of her recommendations, Ms. Arbour said, the government’s method of doing so will involve the military’s “business as usual” approach.

She added that while the CAF and DND haven’t flat-out refused the many recommendations put to them over the years, they have let them “linger in perpetuity.”

“I was concerned that my recommendations would find their place in the graveyard of recommendations,” Ms. Arbour told MPs.

Ms. Arbour’s 420-page report found that the CAF had failed to stamp out sexual misconduct, and that the handling of those cases in the military justice system “has eroded trust and morale” within the organization. She called this a “systemic failure.”

She recommended that Criminal Code sexual offences by military members be dealt with solely by the civilian justice system, which already has the jurisdiction to do so.

Her report was the third in seven years to give the federal government similar suggestions for addressing widespread sexual misconduct and other problems with the military’s culture.

Ms. Anand said she has directed officials to present options for moving prosecution of sexual offences from the CAF to civilian courts. She said she is aware that in recent years civilian authorities have declined to pursue close to half of the military sexual offences referred to them.

Her report says the process of making the switch will include a federal-provincial-territorial “Deputy Minister-level committee,” convened in the “near term,” to “inform the implementation options.”

Ms. Anand did not offer a timeline for implementing the change. She said amendments to the National Defence Act “will take some time, likely years.”

But Ms. Arbour told parliamentarians that the move does not require the extensive consultations laid out in the Minister’s report.

“I am concerned that this issue is now the subject of further discussions and consideration. It makes it look very complicated. It’s not complicated,” Ms. Arbour said. “You want to abolish that jurisdiction, put an act of Parliament. It’s not hard. It’s a matter of decision, not further review.”

While Ms. Arbour acknowledged that civilian authorities have been reluctant to take these cases on, she said that on the military’s part “it’s very obvious to me that those involved in that process are dragging their feet.”

Ms. Arbour also referenced another of her recommendations: a call to get rid of the “duty to report” on matters of sexual misconduct, which compels service members to report violations to authorities, and has been criticized for putting an unfair burden on victims.

She said the idea has already been studied. The policy simply needs to be abolished, she added, not sent back to a working group as the Minister’s report proposes. (Ms. Anand’s report says that the CAF and DND “will task the Duty to Report Working Group to develop a draft policy framework” for crafting the exemption.)

Ms. Anand also announced that the government intends to conduct a review of Canadian military colleges, which was another of Ms. Arbour’s recommendations.

“These colleges attract some of the best that Canadian society has to offer. But let’s be clear: the culture at our military colleges must change significantly and we will ensure that this occurs,” she told reporters.

Ms. Arbour told MPs that the proposed review is premised on the assumption that military colleges “are superior institutions.”

“It doesn’t suggest the kind of open mind with which I think this kind of exercise should be undertaken,” she said.

While Ms. Arbour praised the Minister for appointing an external monitor to oversee the implementation of her recommendations – which was itself a recommendation – she said the monitor will be dealing with a “lengthy process,” given all the studies and committees that must now take place.

Ms. Arbour also said the reviews detailed in the Minister’s report are mostly internal, and therefore miss the central point of her recommendations, “which is the need for CAF to open up to a lot more external, not only scrutiny, but input.”

In an appearance at the committee on national defence after Ms. Arbour, Ms. Anand pushed back against suggestions that the government and military would repeat past failures by pretending to agree with Ms. Arbour’s recommendations only to let them gather dust on a shelf.

“The way that we ensure cultural change occurs in the military is by trying every single day to get it right,” Ms. Anand said. “And the gist of my tenure as Minister of National Defence is to ensure that that occurs.”

In a statement on Tuesday, NDP national defence critic Lindsay Mathyssen said that for years women and men in the CAF have faced a toxic culture, where sexual misconduct was prevalent. She said the response from Conservative and Liberal governments has been the same: “more studies, more reports, and more empty promises to CAF members.”

“The minister’s report tabled today is more of the same from this government – new reviews, new studies, and a lot of promises that will take years to implement,” Ms. Mathyssen said.

Ms. Arbour’s report dealt with the military’s reluctance to implement many of the recommendations it had previously received.

The military has been “choosing the letter over the spirit, often the appearance of implementation over its substance,” she wrote. “I believe this is a consequence of the insularity within which the CAF has traditionally operated, and its determination to perpetuate its old ways of doing business.”

With a report from The Canadian Press