OTTAWA — For Lt. Col. Eleanor Taylor it was the last straw. The simultaneous investigations of the Canadian military’s top commander and his predecessor that were announced last month led her to write a stinging letter of resignation from the army reserve after more than 26 years of service.
“I am sickened by ongoing investigations of sexual misconduct among our key leaders,” wrote Colonel Taylor, one of the highest-profile women in the Canadian military and a combat veteran of Afghanistan, in an email she sent to military officials on March 13. “Unfortunately, I am not surprised. I am also certain that the scope of the problem has yet to be exposed. Throughout my career, I have observed insidious and inappropriate use of power for sexual exploitation.”
Nearly six years after a government report found Canada’s military was “hostile to women and LGTBQ members and conducive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault,” the investigations into the institution’s top leaders have left service members and veterans reeling, and demanding that more be done to address such systemic and widespread problems within the ranks.
“Changes happened on a superficial level but without really disrupting the core of military culture,” Stéfanie von Hlatky, the director of the Center for International and Defense Policy, at Queen’s University said of the reforms made after the 2015 report. “The release of Colonel Taylor’s letter permits a bigger opening for conversations where it’s military culture that is going to be looked at more closely as opposed to just a slew of initiatives.”
separate investigations into Canada’s top military officer, Adm. Art McDonald, and the previous chief of the defense staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, who held the post until his retirement from the army in January.
Little has been released publicly about the investigations, though reports surfaced last month that General Vance behaved inappropriately with two female subordinates. Admiral McDonald has stepped aside from his position while the investigation is underway.
government survey found in 2016, and fewer than one in four respondents reported the assault. At the time, the findings set off calls from military leaders, including General Vance, to do more to encourage victims of assault to come forward.
Many service members now say that the heavily publicized program to end sexual misconduct launched by General Vance during his tenure has been both inadequate and completely undermined by the current investigation into his actions.