Canada’s new minister of national defence Anita Anand has expressed confidence that; she can “accomplish” the task of ending the institutional crisis of sexual misconduct in the Canadian military; which resulted in the departure of her predecessor Harjit Sajjan.
“Fixing this crisis is my top priority,” Anand tweeted on Sunday, adding; “Misconduct in the military is not just a woman’s issue. For our military to be effective, our members must feel safe, they must feel protected, and they must be respected.”
In an interview with Canada’s daily Toronto Star; the defence minister expanded on the subject, saying, “I’m hands on, I’m determined, and I’m going to get it done.”
The failure of Sajjan to deal with the sexual misconduct crisis, which erupted into public view in January this year; resulted in his demotion when the new Canadian cabinet was announced on October 26.
He was moved to the portfolio of minister of international development.
After assuming the post, Anand had made her intention clear in a tweet; “The members of the Canadian Armed Forces dedicate their lives to safeguarding our country and we owe it to them to make sure that they operate in a safe and healthy environment. I look forward to this work!”
Among her initial actions has been to meet with senior defence ministry officials and acting chief of the defence staff General Wayne Eyre; to find out which recommendations; from external reports on the sexual misconduct crisis, have been implemented, and which haven’t and for what reasons, according to a report in the Toronto Star.
The controversy over sexual misconduct in the armed forces began to surface this year; after then chief of defence staff General Jonathan Vance resigned in January amid allegations of sexual impropriety.
Sajjan came under severe criticism in this matter after the military ombudsman of the time revealed that; the defence minister was aware of Vance’s alleged “improper conduct” with a subordinate in 2018.
Vance’s successor Admiral Art McDonald voluntarily stepped aside less than a month-and-a-half into his term; after it came to light that he was being investigated by the Canadian forces national investigation service over sexual misconduct allegations.
More such incidents of sexual misconduct in the military have come to light since.
Sajjan was censured by the House of Commons in a vote in June this year; where he defended himself, saying “We take all allegations very seriously, as I did and likewise brought the immediate information to the appropriate officials.”
Trudeau had defended him at the time but it was clear that Sajjan continuing as defence minister; a post he held since 2015, would prove a liability for the Government going ahead; also leading to Anand’s appointment as just the second woman in Canadian history to hold the critical portfolio.
Anand emerged as a major figure in the previous cabinet of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as she handled the public services; as well as procurement department responsible for securing a sufficient supply of Covid-19 vaccines for the country.
An Indo-Canadian with Tamil and Punjabi roots; Anand was a professor of law at the University of Toronto before she entered politics in 2019 and was also elected to the House of Commons from Oakville in Ontario.