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  • Canadian Veterans Legal Services

Sexual (mis)conduct in the Canadian Forces

Updated: Mar 10, 2021

This essay compares findings of Marie Deschamps’ 2015 report on sexual harassment and assault in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) with my earlier 1990s study of gender integration in the CAF. Both demonstrate that CAF culture is sexualized and misogynistic. Deschamps argues that changing this culture is a pre-requisite for addressing sexual misconduct. But is such cultural change possible if the CAF’s mandate and principal organizational features remain unchanged? I argue that (1) gendered military culture is grounded in the CAF’s hierarchal social structure, disciplinary system, and conditions of service designed to achieve operational effectiveness; and (2) the CAF’s normalized atmosphere of sexualized hostility to women soldiers originates in tensions within the military’s internal relations of domination designed to preclude soldiers’ resistance and ensure that they enter harm’s way to execute the military’s mandate of state-sponsored lethal violence. As long as these hold, the problem of sexual misconduct may remain intractable.

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Marcia Kovitz

August 2018

Critical Military Studies

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