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This article was published 23/9/2015 (1543 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A nationwide centre designed to provide resources to Canadian Forces members who have experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour within the military is a step in the right direction, but still warrants criticism, according to one Brandon University professor.
"It still falls short of what this centre could be," BU political science Prof. Allison McCullough said, calling the centre a "stop-gap measure" to addressing sexual assault within the military.
"It’s still putting the onus on victims to come forward, and not addressing it at the root cause — which is this sort of macho, sexualized culture that makes that behaviour permissible in the first place."
The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre was opened by the Department of National Defence last week. Located in Ottawa, the centre will operate independently from the military and provide all Canadian Forces members — including those from nearby CFB Shilo — with a team of 10 professionals to provide support and information.
"Our goal is for all members of the defence team to be able to work in an environment free of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour," Canadian Armed Forces deputy minister John Forster and Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance said in a statement issued last week.
Currently in its interim stages, a permanent response centre is expected to be open by 2017.
The creation of the centre stems from a scathing report on sexual misconduct in the military released by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps last May. The report listed 10 recommendations for the Canadian Forces to enact in order to address what Deschamps called an "endemic" of sexual misconduct within the Canadian military.
McCullough has several concerns with the implementation of the response centre, including the fact that it is not entirely independent from the military. Two Canadian Forces members will be employed within the centre to act as military liaisons for the organization.
"While there is a civilian administration, there is still a military connection to it … It certainly isn’t at the level of independence that the (Deschamps) report would have wanted," McCullough said. "It’s problematic, and I think part of the issue is that it doesn’t get at the structural issues that make (sexual assault in the military) so pervasive and widespread in the first place. So I think that even if that military connection, is following proper protocol, people will still be reluctant to use the centre."
The centre’s hours of operation are also a concern for McCullough, who said that "crisis doesn’t happen on a Monday-to-Friday work schedule." Currently, the SMRC is scheduled to be staffed between 8 a.m and 5 p.m. during weekdays, with operating hours expected
to expand as the centre develops. In the meantime, calls outside of operating hours will be returned within one business day.
In order to properly address the issue, McCullough says that all 10 recommendations of the Deschamps report need to be put into place sooner rather than later. So far, the military has agreed to two of the recommendations outright — one of which was the creation of the response centre. The rest of the recommendations were committed to only in principle.
"The full implementation of the recommendations is obviously required, as well as getting at the sexualized culture in the military," McCullough said. "To do that you need to prioritize training all the way from top to bottom, so that the leadership of the organization needs to realize how important it is to get at the roots of this and not be dismissive."
CAF members can access the centre by calling 1-844-750-1648, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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