Having a frank, open discussion seems to be how class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of members of the Canadian Armed Forces are going to be solved.
Open conversations and discussions appear to be what both sides have agreed to do in a private setting for the time being.
“The government and plaintiffs of several class-action lawsuits filed on behalf of the members of the Canadian Armed Forces relating to sexual assault, racism, harassment and discrimination have agreed to suspend the current litigation process,” Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence Seamus O’Regan announced Friday afternoon during a news briefing at the Lt.-Cmdr. W. Anthony Paddon Building on Canadian Forces Base St. John’s.
“The government will not be proceeding with motions to strike these proceedings. We look forward to commencing these discussions to bring closure, healing and acknowledgement to the victims and survivors of sexual assault, racism, harassment and discrimination.”
Operation Honour, a program unveiled in 2016, is the Canadian Armed Forces’ mission to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian military.
It is based on the principles that every man and woman who serves their country deserves to be treated with dignity and respect — anything less is simply unacceptable.
In addition, any attitudes or behaviours that undermine the camaraderie, cohesion and confidence of serving members threatens the Canadian Armed Forces’ long-term operational success.
“Senior military officers have acknowledged the importance of making sure we have a safe and discriminatory-free workplace and Operation Honour is something they are putting into place to make sure we don’t have a workplace like that for the men and women that serve,” O’Regan said.
“We fully acknowledge the impact that racism and harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour may have on victims and on survivors. This behaviour, as well as discrimination based on gender or race, must be stopped in our society.”
Talks will continue as long as it takes, according to O’Regan, adding that he was not able to put a timetable on a decision or action.
“I’m happy we’re all going to be at the table now. … We can talk this out. I think that is a very positive thing and certainly in keeping with the government’s message overall. As many Canadians know, I spoke out on the LGBTQ apology and this certainly is in keeping with the sentiment (and) the direction of this government,” he said.
“This came about, when you look at the direction of the government, you look at the sentiment, you look at a number of other things, I keep coming back to the LGBTQ apology because that was something that I was quite close to. It’s in keeping with those things. So, sit down, talk, come to a settlement.”
O’Regan said the military is held to very high expectations, and there’s no question it should be. In addition, he said, on several forums as Veteran Affairs minister, there are the resources and ability to change things … and to give the military credit, it is changing.
“There has been, even in my short time, I think the change on these issues and also on the broader issue of mental health has been really quite extraordinary because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.
“I think actions like this help. I think when we take things out of the court and (are) more able to say, you know what, we want to sit down, we want to come to a settlement. I think gestures like that mean a great deal.”