Military police don’t know — or refuse to say — how many charges have been laid following dozens of cases involving criminal sexual acts that have been transferred to civilian authorities.
Some experts have criticized this lack of response, since they believe that it is important data in order to assess whether the decision to officially transfer to the civil authorities the responsibility to investigate and prosecute in cases of a sex allows us to obtain concrete results.
National Defense Minister Anita Anand ordered the military police to begin handing such cases over to civilian authorities in November 2021, following a recommendation to that effect from the retired judge of the Supreme Court Louise Arbour.
Arbor made the recommendation during a review of the Canadian Armed Forces’ handling of allegations of sexual misconduct. She explained that this change was necessary to dispel widespread public distrust and doubt about the military justice system.
Military police revealed in recent weeks that they had transferred 57 sex-related case files to civilians since November 2021, but it remains unclear how many charges have resulted from those transfers.
According to military police spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Jamie Bresolin, Canadian Armed Forces investigators are working with their civilian counterparts to gather information in these files.
But when clarifying how many investigations had resulted in charges, Bresolin said civilian investigators are not required to inform military police of the status or findings of their investigations.
“Several investigations are still active,” said Mr. Bresolin in an emailed response to questions from The Canadian Press.
“Furthermore, while we work with our civilian police partners to gather information relating to investigations involving members of the Armed Forces, they have no obligation to provide information to the Military Police or the Armed Forces about the status or outcome of their investigations. »
Mr. Bresolin also did not provide details on why the civilian police refused to deal with 40 other cases involving alleged sex crimes, which ended up being investigated by the military police.
“We will not provide a breakdown of why these cases were denied by civilian police and we will not identify the police department involved,” he wrote.
“There are many complexities when it comes to transferring files from one civilian police service to another,” he said.
Asked about the number of such investigations that led to charges, Mr. Bresolin mentioned that the military police’s most senior officer, Brigadier-General Simon Trudeau, “intends to provide a comprehensive overview in his annual report who could provide this type of information as it becomes available”.
This lack of specificity on the part of the military has disappointed several experts, who have argued that such details are key to understanding what is really going on with cases of alleged criminal sexual behavior in the military — and whether recent changes work or not.
“This is unacceptable,” said retired uOttawa professor Holly Johnson, who is also the principal researcher of Statistics Canada’s first national survey on violence against women.
“If we can’t follow the progress of cases and learn when there are charges, we have no way of knowing if this is good policy,” she said.
Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, who studies military sexual misconduct for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the refusal to provide information on why cases are turned down by civilian police was also a cause for concern.
“Explaining why these cases are being denied could give complainants, the department and the public a more complete picture of the issues the Armed Forces face with respect to the transfer of jurisdiction,” she said.
Retired Lt. Col. Rory Fowler, who is now a civilian lawyer specializing in military affairs, said without further details that the military police were ultimately just “throwing numbers that we can only attach very strongly to. little sense”.