The shocking allegations brought forward by women in the Canadian Armed Forces have made it evident that there are still members – and more disturbing – also senior leaders who somehow think improperly exercising their position of authority over women is acceptable.
I’m writing this to express my disappointment and as a call to action to my former Canadian Armed Forces colleagues to help fix this situation going forward.
Canada’s Charter makes it clear: “every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
Our country and all Canadians need an effective and well-led military to face ever-evolving and complex global conflicts. We cannot be strong at home when leaders fail the women and men under their command, nor can we be engaged in the world without leveraging every competent, willing, and capable Canadian who enrols into the military.
When we have phenomenal leaders such as Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Eleanor Taylor retiring in “disgust” not much more needs to be said. This needs to be fixed now and into the future.
The Canadian Armed Forces needs more Eleanor Taylors – not fewer.
I spent more than 25 years serving in the Canadian Armed Forces until my retirement in early 2019. I was honoured to serve, be led by, or count as friends, inspiring female leaders such as, LCol Taylor, Brigadier-Generals Lise Bourgon, Carla Harding, and Corinna Heilman (soon to be promoted), as well as Lieutenant-General Francis Allen, to name just a few of the incredibly talented women in uniform.
Every woman who serves as a sailor, soldier, or aviator should have the same opportunity to succeed in their careers as the men they serve with, without fear of sexual exploitation by their peers or superiors. Further, when they have experienced sexual misconduct, they must feel safe coming forward without fear of any reprisal.
For any of the talented, gifted, hard-working women I’ve had fortune of leading or serving with during my career: If you have experienced any sexual harassment, misconduct, or worse, I regret not doing more to eradicate this unethical, immoral behaviour while I served. I will use my voice as a parliamentarian to ensure we make this right.
I am a proud member of The Royal Canadian Regiment (The RCR). Our regimental slogan is “Never Pass a Fault”.
I encourage all serving military members, and more importantly, the former Chiefs of Defence Staff and the Minister of National Defence to aspire to this. It will help ensure no military member is subject to sexual misconduct in the future.
Alex Ruff, MP BGOS
Alex Ruff is a retired Colonel in the Canadian Army. He is Gender Based Analysis+ (GBA+) trained and was involved in the initial stand-up of Gender Advisors for the Canadian Armed Forces. He is the current MP for Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound.