One of the class-action lawsuits filed against the Canadian military by former members and alleged victims of sexual misconduct is asking for $1 billion in damages, CBC News has learned.
A statement of claim, in a case involving three former members of the Forces, was filed Monday in Ontario Superior Court.
The plaintiffs — Nadine Schultz-Nielsen, Larry Beattie and Amy Graham — filed the claim on behalf of all former and current members of the military alleging sexual assault, sexual harassment and abuse of authority. They are also suing on behalf of family members who may have suffered as a result of a loved one’s trauma.
The lawsuit alleges the military was negligent in controlling the behaviour of members alleged to have harassed and assaulted the complainants, some of whom were actively discouraged from reporting incidents.
“The conduct of [Canadian Armed Forces] members was reckless, arrogant, high-handed and abusive, and showed a callous disregard for the rights of the plaintiffs and class members,” said the court filing, obtained by CBC News. “This conduct is reprehensible and deserves punishment.”
The federal government has not filed a statement of defence in the case.
Notices of action have been filed in three other class-action cases involving the sexual misconduct scandal that has seized the military: One was filed in Nova Scotia, another in northern Ontario and a third initiated in British Columbia.
The impending court battles come just a few weeks after National Defence released the results of a Statistics Canada survey that shows nearly 1,000 members of the military claim to have been sexually assaulted within the last 12 months.
In April 2015, retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps released a report that said sexual misconduct within the ranks was endemic and many members — mostly women — were subject to assaults, harassment, degrading jokes and unwanted touching.
Canada’s chief of defence staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, has responded with a comprehensive program to stamp out misconduct, known as Operation Honour.
Pattern of abuse
The claim put forward Monday alleges that men have also been subject to abuse and outright attacks.
Larry Beattie, a former sailor aboard HMCS Skeena, claims he was forced into sex with another male crewmember while on operation in the Caribbean in 1979. He was 18 at the time and says he was attacked in the shower on at least 10 occasions and threatened “that he would be thrown overboard with the garbage if he told anyone.”
The court records also state that Amy Graham claims to have been repeatedly sexually harassed after joining the military in 2004. She was apparently pressured to go on dates with her chief warrant officer a year later.
Graham, a communications research officer, was sexually assaulted by a fellow soldier in a hotel room following her tour of Afghanistan in 2010. Her attacker was charged just recently and pleaded guilty last month to an administrative charge, rather than a criminal charge. The soldier, whose identity was not listed in the court records, was demoted and fined $2,500.
Nadine Schultz-Nielsen, a medic, claims she was repeatedly grabbed and touched without consent while serving aboard HMCS Iroquois in 2002, according to Monday’s filings. When she went to report some of the incidents, she alleges no action was taken and “was subject to retaliation for coming forward.”
The Ottawa law firm representing the three complainants — Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck — said last month it has been in contact with upward of 45 people who are considering joining the suit.
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