Dress code is a minor military concern
While the Canadian Armed Forces hope that a gender-neutral dress code will attract more enlistments, the appearance of the uniform matters far less than the behavior of the people wearing the uniform. This is especially true when insignia on the uniform indicate that the wearer is of higher rank.
The military announced on March 23 that it would soon change separate dress codes that categorize men and women on clothing, hairstyles, makeup and jewelry, one of several measures designed to make the forces more attractive. for young people in view of their career choices.
Meanwhile, last Wednesday, a judge handed down a sentence in a case that is surely a high profile example of why military recruitment is declining. Jonathan Vance, who resigned as chief of forces after allegations of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, received a conditional discharge, walking away from court without a criminal record.
The leniency shown by Mr Vance has been decried as another example of powerful military personnel getting away with sexual misconduct. This view is understandable given the larger context, which is appalling. In recent years, the Canadian military has been rocked by cascading claims of women who have been sexually harassed, a crisis that has led to 11 current and former military leaders being investigated and, in some cases, expelled from strengths.
Chief among them was the Chief of Defense. It was while Mr Vance was in the highest position in the forces that he was accused of sending sexually suggestive messages to a female officer and having an ongoing intimate relationship with another junior officer, two acts who violated the rules of procedure.
When his relationship became public, he initially denied it and asked the woman to deny it as well, although she refused to join in his deception.
A military police investigation into sexual misconduct ended without charges. There was ample evidence, including tape recordings, but it was ‘legally impossible’ for Mr Vance to be tried under military law because his rank was too high, the retired Supreme Court justice says Morris Fish.
Instead, he pleaded guilty in civilian court to a single charge of obstruction of justice, related to lies told to military police investigating allegations of sexual misconduct. He was sentenced to 80 hours of community service and granted parole.
Although the legal sentence was light by anyone’s standards, the misconduct of Mr. Vance and other high-ranking officers has tarnished the reputation of the Canadian military, worsening a recruiting drought that has left Canada with a shortage of thousands of soldiers as it faces increasing demands. to deploy troops at home and abroad, including hundreds ordered from Europe in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The epidemic of sexual misconduct has led the federal government and the military to make substantial efforts to rebuild trust. A $900 million class action lawsuit has been settled in response to 19,000 claims submitted by former Department of Defense and Army employees, and Defense Minister Anita Anand and current Commander-in-Chief, General Wayne Eyre, each issued full apologies.
Even though the military now assures victims it is safe to come forward, it will take time for potential recruits to see the forces as a place where they will be protected from harassment by those in power.
Perhaps Mr. Vance is the poster child for the military’s latest intolerance for sexual misconduct. He wore civilian clothes for his virtual court appearance on Wednesday, no longer allowed to wear the uniform he soiled. The abrupt end to the career of Canada’s highest military officer and the damage to his personal reputation should serve to deter other officers from abusing their authority.