here on sexual assaults in the Canadian Armed Forces. Excerpt:
Studies including the Statistics Canada survey and the Deschamps report have proved to be a wakeup call for the military, said Maya Eichler, a professor at Mount Saint Vincent University who does research in the area of gender integration in the Canadian military.
But trying to achieve any meaningful change in culture is going to be a lengthy process, she said.
“One has to be aware of the legacy of the military as a gendered organization and for how many decades there has been both overt and implicit gender discrimination,” she said.
“Obviously, it’s a broader societal problem and not just a military problem. At the same time we have a responsibility to change the institution.”
Retired lieutenant Louise Fish was the first woman to serve as a naval officer at sea and was one of the first women to serve in previously all-male naval units. She wore the navy uniform between 1974 and 1998.
Not only was there severe pushback from her peers along with overt sexism because she served in a traditionally male role, Fish said she experienced constant sexual harassment.
“From low-level comments to outright sexual assault, all the time, at all levels,” she said, adding that it only subsided as she rose in the ranks.
“You’re dealing with an iconic cultural establishment that is going to change very very slowly,” Fish said, adding that things like the #MeToo movement are helping to advance an overall culture shift.
“It’s part of the wider society. All the blame doesn’t go on the military. Every single one of those guys who call it ‘operation hop on her’ are local guys from Ottawa or Halifax or whatever. They’re just Canadians. They’ve come through the school system and they go into the military. . . . It’s just that in those militaristic organizations, it’s easier to enshrine it in their very being.”
In the past, Eichler said, external pressure was the only way to prompt real change in the military regarding inclusion and treatment of women.
“Over the last decades, it’s always been media, civil society and legal pressures that have brought about any change. Right now the military is mostly trying to change itself through Operation Honour, and it’s focusing mostly on better understanding the problem, offering better support to victims of sexual harassment and assault, and trying to prevent harassment and assault. But it’s not really being held to account externally. I think what would be needed is much stronger external accountability.”