Current Conditions

Mainly Clear
19.0°C

Ghomeshi trial could chill military efforts to combat sexual misconduct: expert

Former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi leaves a Toronto court after day four of his trial on Friday, February 5, 2016.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
February 08, 2016 - 6:00 AM

OTTAWA - A military law expert says fallout from the lurid spectacle of the Jian Ghomeshi trial could make the Canadian military's effort to stamp out sexual misconduct much harder.

Retired colonel Michel Drapeau says the grilling that the alleged victims received in the witness box will almost certainly give pause to women thinking about stepping forward to report a crime, particularly those in uniform.

"The trial will probably set back the clock for victims that might be thinking of coming forward," said Drapeau.

One of Ghomeshi's accusers is former actress Lucy DeCoutere, who is also now a training and development officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force and based in Halifax.

DeCoutere faced tough cross-examination about her relationship with the 48-year-old former CBC Radio host, and the trial comes as the military struggles to get more alleged victims of sexual misconduct to come forward through a newly established crisis centre.

The country's top military commander, Gen. Jonathan Vance, has made it clear there will be zero tolerance for abusive behaviour of any kind within the ranks, and he recently released an update that says eight investigations into inappropriate actions have been launched.

Vance declined comment on how the Ghomeshi case might affect the military's effort, citing the ongoing court case.

The progress report from National Defence shows the crisis centre received 206 phone calls, emails and texts, of which 99 were requests for information — a figure Drapeau interprets as a sign that victims are still hesitant.

He says reluctance to report sexual violence or inappropriate advances is more intense for people in uniform because there's a greater potential impact on the victims' careers than there would be in the general population.

There is also the added disincentive that members of the military are not covered by the federal Victims Bill of Rights, introduced by the former Conservative government, Drapeau said.

Military tribunals such as courts martial are deliberately excluded under the law. Through the legislation, victims of crime can expect to be kept informed by authorities about the progress of their case. They're allowed to speak in court and give victim impact statements.

Drapeau says it's sad and ironic that people who fight for freedoms overseas are "disenfranchised at home."

A spokeswoman for National Defence, Maj. Holly-Anne Brown, says the military justice system has safeguards and procedures built into it that are meant to protect victims' rights, including written policy directives that require uniformed prosecutors to consider victims' views in the handling of a case.

Last June, the Conservatives introduced legislation that would have created a military victims bill of rights, but the legislation died when the election was called.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

  • Popular penticton News
  • Comments
  • Body of missing Cache Creek fire chief found
    CACHE CREEK - The body of Clayton Cassidy has been found. Around 10:30 p.m. yesterday, May 27, members of the Ashcroft fire department found his body during a patrol of Cache Creek, accordin
  • TRENDING NOW: Instant karma for angry dog walker
    When crossing a street we all pay attention to a car pulling up to an intersection, but this man seems to get really riled up for some reason. Of course, his threatening behaviour is under c
  • Firefighters rescue unexpected visitors during blaze battle in Calgary
    Calgary firefighters made an unexpected rescue when they were battling a house fire in the city's southwest. On Friday afternoon, a passerby called 911 to report smoking coming from a ho
  • Fire on Front Street
    PENTICTON - Penticton firefighters spent a hot afternoon battling a fire on Front Street today. Penticton Deputy Fire Chief Chris Forester said in a release Sunday evening, May 28, firefight
  • No, Okanagan Lake will not peak this weekend
    If you’re confused about projections for what Okanagan Lake is going to do over the next few weeks, you’re not alone. The City of Penticton issued a media release yesterday, May
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile