CFB Esquimalt training course cancelled over allegations of sexual misconduct, racism


CFB Esquimalt has taken the rare step of shutting down a naval training course after alleged racist and sexual misconduct incidents among students.

“This is something that has been a surprise but at the same time we are addressing very seriously,” said Cdr. Maude Ouellet-Savard, Comandant of Naval Fleet School Pacific.

According to base officials, there were four serious incidents over a three-week period between February 15 and March 9.

In the first incident, an explicit photo was shared to a text group chat among recruits. The student that sent the photo underwent a Progress Review Board and was removed from the course and recommended for release from the Canadian Armed Forces.

In the second incident, inappropriate sexualized comments were made to an instructor. The two recruits involved were removed from the course. Their future in the Canadian Armed Forces is now being decided.

“I think people are happy to see we haven’t hesitated to take action and to address that inappropriate and harmful behaviour, it shows we are taking action not just paying lip service to what we’re trying to achieve,” said Ouellet-Savard.

“Some of this information came through the students that had that courage and that’s what we encourage in all our members is having that courage to stand up for themselves and make sure they can speak up without retaliation.”

It comes as the Canadian military faces a wave of high-profile sexual misconduct allegations. Some say the action taken after the training incidents at CFB Esquimalt will send a strong message to potential future recruits and may help spur a change in military culture.

READ MORE: Hidden camera leads to CFB Esquimalt sex assault charges

“If those kinds of incidents are not being handled properly they become systemic, and they become pervasive as we’ve seen over the last 12 months of scandals,” said Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute in Ottawa.

“Now we need to find a way for other units throughout the Canadian Armed Forces whether they’re Navy, Air Force or Army, to pursue the same type of approach when facing incidents of this scales even at the lowest and entry-level of the military.”

While the military police investigation continues the 30 or so remaining candidates are receiving support and will be sent to training programs at other facilities across the country.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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