OTTAWA — A disappointed and angry chief of the defence staff put the Canadian military on notice Monday after a Statistics Canada survey found a troubling number of sexual assaults and other misconduct among active military personnel.
The study's findings include an estimated 960 men and women who say they were sexually assaulted in the last year — some of which occurred after the last time Gen. Jonathan Vance read the riot act to members of the Canadian Forces.
"I gave an order to every member of the Canadian Armed Forces that this behaviour had to stop," Vance told a news conference Monday at National Defence Headquarters on Monday.
"My orders were clear. My expectations were clear. And those who choose or chose not to follow my orders will be dealt with."
The study — Vance repeatedly called it a "sobering" disappointment — also found that about one in four women serving in uniform reported having been sexually assaulted at least once over the course of their military careers.
Those who continue to act inappropriately and victimize their colleagues or anyone else, he warned, are effectively disobeying an order to stop such actions — and will face severe consequences if they don't.
Vance ordered the landmark survey in the spring in an effort to quantify the extent of sexual assault and misconduct in the ranks in the wake of a series of media reports that described the problem as chronic and endemic within the Canadian Forces.
Retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, recruited to examine the extent of the problem, exposed what she called a sexualized military culture that was hostile to women and left victims of sexual misconduct to fend for themselves.
Statistics Canada's findings, which were based on a survey of 43,000 military personnel, "affirm what Madame Deschamps said her report almost two years ago," said Vance, who dubbed his efforts to root out the problem Operation Honour.
"They affirm the reason why I made Operation Honour my first order as chief of defence staff. Harmful sexual behaviour in our institution. We know it. And we're trying to tackle it head on."
The Statistics Canada report found that about 1.7 per cent of the roughly 90,000 people in uniform — about 960 cases — were sexually assaulted in the last year, a rate higher than the 0.9 per cent reported in the general population
Women serving in uniform full time were four times as likely to be assaulted as their male counterparts. That ratio was even higher — nearly one in 10 — for female personnel in the part-time reserve force.
Of the assaults, the vast majority were incidents of unwanted touching. About 1.5 per cent of those in uniform reported being the victims of such acts, with 0.3 per cent being a victim of a sexual attack and 0.2 per cent being unable to give consent.
Nearly half of women who were assaulted described their attackers as someone higher up in the chain of command. Most men said they'd been victimized by a peer.
Such incidents were not consistently reported, the study found, with only about one in three victims bringing their cases to someone in authority or to military police.
While many victims wanted to resolve the situation on their own, more than half of women said they didn't trust the system to deal with the problem or feared negative consequences.
More than one-quarter of women serving in uniform reported having been sexually assaulted since joining the forces. That compared to 3.7 per cent of men.
Speaking directly to victims, Vance said that military leaders "deeply regret the past." But he affirmed that they are "working tirelessly to make things better in the future."
Nearly 80 per cent of military personnel also reported having seen, heard or experienced inappropriate sexual behaviour, such as jokes or inappropriate comments. One in three said they had seen discriminatory behaviour based on gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
One glimmer of good news: the survey did find the majority of personnel believed complaints were taken seriously and inappropriate sexual behaviour would not be tolerated in their current unit.
"Despite the occurrence of inappropriate sexualized and discriminatory behaviour within the Canadian Armed Forces, most members had positive perceptions of the way sexual misconduct is or would be addressed in their unit," the survey said.
"About eight in 10 members strongly agreed that complaints about inappropriate sexual behaviour are (or would be) taken seriously and that this behaviour is not tolerated in their current unit."
That said, "36 per cent of men and 51 per cent of women reported believing that inappropriate sexual behaviour is a problem within the Canadian Armed Forces as a whole."
HERE ARE SOME OF THE NUMBERS:
43,000: The number of people, including members of the regular force and the primary reserve, who replied to the survey.
61 per cent: Response rate from regular force members.
36 per cent: Response rate for reservists.
960: Total of men and women who reported being victims of sexual assault during the previous 12 months.
380: Women who reported being sexually assaulted in the last 12 months.
570: Men who reported being sexually assaulted in the previous 12 months.
4.8 per cent: Proportion of women who reported assaults.
1.3 per cent: Proportion of men who reported assaults.
15 per cent: Proportion of women in the forces as of February 2016.
27.3 per cent: Proportion of women who reported having been victims of sexual assault at least once since joining the military.
3.8 per cent: Proportion of men who reported being assaulted at least once in their military career.
12 per cent: Proportion of regular force members who reported being victims of more than one type of sexual assault in the last 12 months.
23 per cent: Proportion of sexual assault victims from the last year who reported at least one incident of sexual assault to someone in authority.
79 per cent: Proportion of regular force members who said they saw, heard or personally experienced inappropriate sexualized behaviour during the past 12 months, including inappropriate verbal or non-verbal communication, sexually explicit materials, unwanted contact or suggested sexual relationships.