by Barry Weisleder
Hardly a week passes without another scandal that tears the lid off rampant sexism and racism in the Canadian military and police forces.
The latest episode involves allegations of sexual misconduct by two former chiefs of staff. General Jonathan Vance is accused of inappropriate behaviour involving a woman he outranked. Admiral Art McDonald stepped aside as top commander only five weeks after taking over from Vance. McDonald is now under investigation over allegations that CBC News say concern his conduct in 2010 toward a female junior officer.
This is nothing new. In 2015, former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Marie Deschamps produced a scathing report that concluded sexual misconduct is “endemic” in the armed forces and that leadership has long tolerated abuse. Deschamps recommended that Ottawa “Create an independent center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment,” independent of the armed forces, that would receive allegations of misconduct and coordinate action against it.
The report gathered dust, while top military leaders, including Vance and McDonald, ran top-down campaigns such as “Operation Honour”, supposedly to counter abuse.
It gets worse. According to Global News, Lt.-Cmdr. Raymond Trottier, who reportedly flagged a claim of misconduct against McDonald, received two threatening phone calls that warned him against co-operating with the House of Commons Defense Committee’s investigation, and that his military career would be over if he did. Global reported that the calls came from blocked numbers, one from a person claiming to be a military officer and the other from someone who identified themselves as “a senior member of the Canadian government.”
The Conservative Party cited this as “more evidence that Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government have gone to great lengths to coverup allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.” The opposition parties, including the labour-based New Democrats, and the pro-Liberal Toronto Star, call for an independent body to root out abuse.
Independent of what? Independent of the capitalist state and the corporate elite, or just their military arm?
Socialists fully support the demand for justice by women and all victims of oppression under the present system. That includes BIPOC folks and LGBTQI people killed by soldiers and cops, at home and abroad. Remember what Canadian forces and police did in Afghanistan, Sudan, Libya and Haiti. Remember how the RCMP failed to investigate hundreds of cases of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls on B.C.’s notorious Highway of Tears. Or how the Mounties invaded unceded Wet’suwet’en territory and arrested Indigenous pipeline opponents. Or how the federal cops watched as racists in Nova Scotia assaulted Mi’kmaq fishers and burned their lobster catch and storage huts.
In November 2020, another retired Supreme Court judge, Michel Bastarache, handed federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair a devastating report about the state of affairs within the RCMP. “One of the key findings of this report”, Bastarache noted, “is that the culture of the RCMP is toxic and tolerates misogynistic and homophobic attitudes among its leaders and members.” Should anyone be surprised that the state recruits members in its own colonial, bigoted and authoritarian image?
And don’t forget how Toronto police watched (?), from inside her apartment, as 29-year-old Regis Korchinski-Paquet, an Indigenous, Black woman, plunged to her death from a 24th floor High Park balcony. Just west of Toronto, Peel police killed a number of people of colour in 2020, some experiencing mental health issues. Sadly, in cities and towns across Canada there are many more examples of this horrific pattern of misconduct.
The struggle continues…. against a problem that is clearly systemic in nature. Socialists recognize that the military and the police may not soon be abolished. But demands for justice, demands for restitution, and calls for de-funding the police and the military should be advanced, and should be linked inseparably to a vision of revolutionary working class rule where sexism and racism no longer have a material basis in social inequality.