Canada’s military leadership, including defence minister Anita Anand, rendered an official apology on Monday to those impacted by the institutional sexual misconduct crisis that has hit Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) this year.
The live-streamed apology was issued by Anand, who was appointed to the post in October replacing Harjit Sajjan.
“I apologise on behalf of the Government of Canada, and on behalf of those elected officials who throughout the history of the Canadian Armed Forces had the responsibility to protect you and who failed to do so,” she said.
Sajjan faced severe criticism on this issue and had even been censured in the House of Commons before mounting pressure led to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau moving him to a different portfolio when the new Cabinet was announced in October, following the mid-term elections in September.
“We must acknowledge the pain and trauma that so many have endured because the very institution charged with protecting and defending our country has not always protected and defended its own members,” Anita Anand said, as she delivered the apology.
Anand is just the second woman to hold the post of Canada’s defence minister after Kim Campbell in the 1990s.
The country’s chief of the defence staff (CDS), General Wayne Eyre also issued an apology.
Trudeau was asked during the course of a press conference why he had not delivered the apology himself. He reacted, “We profoundly regret what has happened and we apologise to all the survivors in the Canadian Armed Forces who should have never experienced the things that they did, when these people offered their services to our country.”
The crisis came to light in February this year, as the outlet Global News reported that General Jonathan Vance, who had been replaced as CDS just a month prior, was facing charges of sexual misconduct. Vance’s successor Admiral Art McDonald stepped aside from the post before the end of February as he faced allegations of impropriety.
In May, the head of Canada’s vaccine rollout programme Major-General Dany Fortin, was removed from that position as the military announced an investigation into similar allegations. At the time, he was seconded to the Public Health Agency of Canada as its vice-president for logistics and operations. And just last week, reports emerged of Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, facing such charges.