The Canadian army issued cards to soldiers reminding them sexual assault is 'inappropriate'

The cards are in response to a damning report issued last year on sexual misconduct in the military. Exploitation of power imbalances, date rape, and violent sexual assault were all common stories told by current and former Canadian Forces members.
June 17, 2016, 6:05pm
Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

In response to a damning report on sexual misconduct in the military, the Canadian Forces has distributed 120,000 wallet-sized cards that remind soldiers of what constitutes "inappropriate sexual behavior."

The cards, which feature a warning to "Do No Harm," lists sexual assault, sexual interference and sexual exploitation as "inappropriate", along with "the exploitation of power relationships for the purposes of sexual activity", verbal abuse that is sexual in nature, the publication of an intimate image of a person without their consent, voyeurism, and indecent acts.


The military has issued a wide range of cards, which are not a requirement to carry, for everything from the rules of engagement during deployment to mental health, but this is the first time one is geared toward sexual misconduct.

And according to one former colonel who now focuses on cases against the military, it's insulting, and little more than a public relations exercise that won't change anything on the ground.

Michel Drapeau has represented dozens of clients over the last decade, including the high profile case of Master-Cpl. Stephanie Raymond, who was laughed at by her peers and refused help as she battled to have her complaint of sexual assault taken seriously. Eventually, she was kicked out of the military.

"I'm quoted as saying it's absurd and it is absurd, for a number of reasons," Drapeau told VICE News of the new cards, which were first reported on by the Ottawa Citizen. "Sexual assault, sexual interference, those are criminal offences. It's not inappropriate. It's not like you have a choice," he said.

Drapeau also says it's "insulting" to issue such cards to all personnel, when the vast majority of the armed forces "are respectful and law abiding and I salute their professionalism."

In a 100-page report released last year, retired Justice Marie Deschamps laid bare "an underlying sexualized culture in the [Canadian Armed Forces] that is hostile to women and LGBTQ members", resulting in pervasive low-level harassment and, in some cases, "more serious and traumatic incidents of sexual assault."


Exploitation of power imbalances, date rape, and violent sexual assault were all common stories told by current and former Canadian Forces personnel to Deschamps and her team.

Related: Sexualized Culture In Canadian Military Is Responsible for Harassment, Assault, and Stifled Reporting, Retired Judge Says

The forces responded with Operation Honor, which included a review of policies, new training and victim support. It also set up the Sexual Misconduct Response Center within the military, and in its first four months had heard from 156 armed forces personnel. "Any form of harmful sexual behavior undermines who were are, is a threat to moral, is a threat to operational readiness and is a threat to this institution. It stops now," General Jonathan Vance said in a stern memo last summer. Some recruits and military personnel responded by nicknaming their superior's initiative Operation "Hop on Her" instead.

Drapeau accused the military of doing nothing to actually address the issue of sexual misconduct in its ranks, which he said persists. He's heard of numerous new allegations, from sexual harassment to sexual violence, some of which have gone unreported. He said the single most important thing the military should do is set up an independent center that takes complaints. Currently, soldiers and personnel have to report complaints to their superiors, "and people don't trust the chain of command," he said.

The Canadian Armed Forces has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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