The Canadian Armed Forces, as an institution, has a necessarily coercive culture. Leaders must have a high degree of authority and control over their subordinates in order for the military to be effective when it is called into action. But the checks and balances meant to stifle the ugly side of that coercion—an instinct to demonstrate power with subjugation, humiliation and harm—are deficient.
More than a dozen current and former military members tell Maclean’s of a deep distrust in the institutions that are supposed to bolster them, and of a belief that bad actors within the system will protect perpetrators and ostracize or punish complainants. All believe in the potential of the Forces, and that good men and women serve in its ranks. But few are optimistic about senior leadership’s willingness to tackle the cultural and systemic problems that undermine their efforts.
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