Sex and the Military
Bill Lynn: 22 June 15
The following letter, published in the Toronto Star 22 June 2015, was written in response to articles calling for the resignation of General Lawson because of remarks he reportedly made in a CBC interview.
It might fit with your discussion on Sex in the Military.
From: Bill Lynn
Sent: Thursday, June 18, 2015 8:29 PM
Subject: General’s sexual harassment remark denounced by Harper, Trudeau and Mulcair
In reading the Star in recent years, it is evident that not only the military has men who are “wired to respond in a certain way”. University students, professors, doctors, lawyers, church ministers, senators, you name it; some men in all walks of life respond in that way. General Lawson stated the facts, and he noted that it’s not the way it should be. All true, and he is being skewered for stating the truth. C’mon folks, let’s get real.
WIH: I would suggest that "politics" is a major contributor to this overreaction. The general serves at the pleasure of our Conservative government. So the leader of the opposition stands in parliament to emotionally demand that the general be sacked, despite the few short days before the general's scheduled retirement, and despite the general's 40 years of dedicated service. (Mulcair is the same leader who wants to raise the corporate tax rate but didn't come close to correctly stating the present rate, which is higher than most countries and only 1% less than the USA.) The CBC is also no friend of the Conservative government. That may account for Mansbridge's unusually aggressive interview with General Lawson.
SIG: 12 June 15
By rights I really should not have more than one kick at the cat here, but since the discussion seems to have shifted from the current court martial to the ‘disrespectful” reception allegedly accorded to the young lady who talked to the cadets, I feel justified in adding my two cents worth. I entirely and emphatically agree with Bill Broughton that we might do well in examining the particular circumstances which seem to have brought such criticism upon the cadets. None of us, so far as I know, were present at the event, nor have any of us talked to any of the cadets present. As Bill says where was the staff, and then just maybe was this a kind of informal give and take session where vigorous discussion was invited and expected? Maybe the speaker represented herself as some kind of expert which may or may not have been justified. Maybe statements were made regarding the actual college situation which were factually incorrect. We don’t have the answers to these and other vital questions that we need to have before judging the cadets. Just maybe we have jumped the gun so to speak, that on closer examination may turn out to be unjustified, but in the current delicate circumstances fully understandable. Understandable because of the crazy and unsettled world in which we now live.
Allow me to circle around to my initial letter where I wrote about RADICAL feminism. When you encounter such persons you will find that they are an entirely different breed of cat than normal and justified feminism. Women who insist upon equal rights, fair treatment in society, in the home and workplace, free of physical or emotional violence, are only to be admired and accommodated as of right. Certainly in advanced Western societies that argument is settled. That’s NOT what I am talking about here. Radical feminists are of course about the latter PLUS much more as I hinted at in my letter. Such women will take their every argument or position to a loud, shrill and insistingly annoying extreme to where commonsense and normal human behavior is left in the dust. The fallacy of their arguments become painfully evident by the mere application of reductio ad absurdum reasoning which more than amply demonstrates their self evident nonsense. Moreover the intellectual basis of their basic premise, like pure communism, falls apart, with their simplistic assertion that by mere acts of will, physical circumstances or propaganda you can forever change basic human nature to their liking, in this case by making men and women the very same. When such women are crossed, they love it, and then they scream bloody murder urbi et orbi from the roof tops like in ancient Rome. I am tempted to speculate on what the would say about Victor Hugo’s famous remark that if women insist upon being our equals they must also accept becoming our competitors.
Now I am NOT saying that the young lady in question is a radical feminist or that she provoked the cadets for I simply don’t know. Her arguments whatever they were in the situation at hand may well have been entirely reasonable, no doubt fully and vigorously pressed, or they may have been something else. We simply do not know! If it was the former then the criticism of the cadets obviously must stand. Therefore I invite you to examine her web site, it clearly indicates that she is an activist, and perhaps it can be said of her that she will go far because she believes everything that she says. That is for each of you to judge. And then also to hear from the cadets present, and only then come to a fair and balanced conclusion as to whether the cadets behaved horribly. Like other comments, I find it hard to believe that the cadets behaved exactly as indicated.
AKR: 12 June 15
Further to our discussion yesterday, please add the following to the subject Class discussion:
There has been considerable reaction (read outrage) from ex-cadets in particular (including members of our class) and the public in general to an incident that occurred at the College last October involving alleged harassment of a visiting female lecturer by cadets during and after her presentations to these same cadets. Ironically, she had been hired by the College to speak to the cadets about the legal definition of consent, statistics of sexual violence and assault in Canada, and bystander intervention. She also discussed alcohol-related sexual assault and online harassment. This was all part of an ongoing sensitivity training program for future officers.
The lecturer was Julie Lalonde from Ottawa and she works for the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centres; she has an impressive CV, including several prestigious awards, as can be readily found on the internet. She is an outspoken advocate for sexual-assault prevention and has her own Anti-Harassment website that “allows contributors to publicly shame men they say grope or make degrading comments to women”. One of the people at the College to whom I spoke said she came across as a somewhat “strident feminist”. In fact, the College did not hire her directly, but rather engaged a contractor to provide a qualified bilingual person to speak to the cadets as part of their sensibility training. This was the first attempt by the College to address harassment directly through an expert guest lecturer.
The lecture was 90 minutes long and was one that she says she has given many times before to a wide range of audiences. Since Curry Hall has a seating capacity of no more than 300, it was necessary for Ms Lalonde to make the same presentation four times separately on the same day to each of the first, second, third and fourth years. It did not help that this occurred on a Saturday! In any event, as you have all probably read, she alleged that she was subjected to cat-calls and harassment as well as fearing for her safety to the extent that she requested an escort back to her car. Afterwards she sent a letter of complaint to the organizers which resulted in the Commandant of the day, BGen Al Meinzinger, sending a letter of apology for the “unprofessional behaviour of select Officer Cadets”. That was back in February.
Then, more recently, there were the CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi and Toronto television reporter Shauna Hunt incidents as well as the release of the External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Forces by retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, which found, among other things, an “underlying sexual culture” in the Canadian military that is hostile to women and leaves victims of sexual assault and harassment to fend for themselves. There were, at the same time, a couple of unrelated sexual assaults being investigated at the College, one of which was at the Court Martial stage. Lots of stuff making the military look bad! At this propitious conjuncture of events Ms Lalonde says she had “a watershed moment” that changed the contemporary conversation about sexual assault and sexual violence directed at women. As a result, she decided to step forward and tell the press about her own experience at the College several months previously. She had not done so before, she said, because she wasn’t convinced people would believe her.
The Other Side of the Coin
Well, yes, there is more to the story. As always there are at least two sides to the coin. As mentioned above, the lecture was given four times, commencing with the First Year cadets and moving upwards class by class thereafter. Further, at these types of lectures, the cadets have been encouraged by their profs to interact with the lecturer, rather than to sit passively back and just listen (or sleep!). Normally, of course, this is done in a positive and orderly manner to the benefit of all present.
The approach of Ms Lalonde seems to have been very aggressive from the get-go. She started off, apparently, by insulting the male cadets in rather inelegant terms and from there on she seems to have had an agenda which constantly kept the cadets, especially the males, on edge by purposely provoking them. Well, male cadets will be male cadets and, by the time the third year cadets entered the hall, the word had spread and they were well prepared. I guess it wasn’t very pretty! Lots of push back, some of which was undoubtedly sexist in nature. Ms Lalonde, these many months later, denies she provoked the cadets, but there were an awful lot of them who witnessed what happened. Certainly, the cadets should have behaved in a more restrained manner. That is something they are going to have to learn to do even when it doesn’t seem justified.
Anyway, the damage to the College was done when Ms Lalonde spoke to the press a few weeks ago without prior warning. First up to bat gets all the publicity. Ex-cadets jumped all over the College for not doing enough to stop such sexual harassment, even though much was already being done by the staff – and quite well at that – with even more to come (see yesterday's statement by the new Commandant, which was cleared all the way up to the Minister’s office).
But, this wasn’t gratuitous sexual harassment as we usually think of it. In fact, much of it wasn’t harassment at all, simply reaction to someone, male or female, who was making argumentative statements that seemed offensive or unacceptable to some in the audience. There is now a Board of Inquiry underway with all those involved, including staff members who were present, being interviewed. A report will eventually be issued and those cadets who really harassed her in an overt sexual manner will undoubtedly be disciplined, if that has not already occurred. Although by then some balance between the two versions of events will be formally established, it probably won’t help the College's image, which has certainly been tarnished, a bit unfairly it would seem.
Yesterday’s statement by the Commandant, referred to above, clearly states how the College is going to move forward in matters such as this.
P.S. Despite your desire to give no more heads up on this issue, I’d appreciate one for this input. Thanks
Glenn Doupe: 12 June 15
Bill Broughton: 11 June 15
A hot topic indeed! What I find missing is any reference as to staff being present for the lecture. Surely some members of the military staff, and perhaps academic staff, would be on hand. Did not a staff member introduce the guest speaker as I recall was always done? And he/she took no action to bring the offenders smartly up short at the first inappropriate remark? Was it because they didn’t stick around? In any event, somebody on staff must have been sufficiently involved to be made accountable now. But all we hear about is the cadets. In eVeritas I’ve just read the message from the new commandant, BGen Sean Friday. Inter alia he says “We will continue to hold offenders accountable and ensure leaders, supervisors and bystanders fulfill their duties when it comes to responding to incidents or concerns.” Fulfilling supervisors’ duties should include holding whoever was, or should have been, in a position to stop the harassment at that lecture the instant it first occurred.
WIH: 10 June 15
When Dinah included the incident of JT dropping a Liberal MP from the caucus without due process, I wondered about his motivation. He's obviously trying to follow in his father's footsteps and it was PET who famously said "the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation". Could it be that the Liberal MP was dropped, not for what he did, but what he failed to do. He failed to use the moment to sell his willing lady NDP MP a membership in the Liberal Party of Canada.
Serge Morin: 10 June 15
In the days we were studying at RMC, we were recognized as «Gentlemen cadets».
Ladies were admitted to the Colleges when the Government (the politicians) realised that, with the advancing technologies, future conflicts would be resolve with brain power more than muscle power.
With some reluctance, the military finally accepted this reality and the Canadian military colleges admitted women. However this obliged a change of mentality in the former chauvinistic behaviour of male officers and male cadets.
In the past few years, too many cases of sexual misconduct have been reported in the armed forces (e.g. The commanding officer of Trenton). That some members of the future «elite» of the officers corps show such lack of judgement question strongly the recruiting standards of future cadets and the laxity of the present educational military discipline.
A very serious «mise en question» of the present policies has to be made by our politicians and our politically appointed superior officers.
If the «Gentlemen cadets» are unable to meet the expected democratic standards, perhaps we should only admit «Lady cadets» in our military colleges...
I hope Serge had his tongue in cheek when he typed that last sentence. WIH
Glen Doupe: 09 June 15
I think Bill has it right. Having sat through 4 years of classes with most of my classmates I cannot imagine the performance that apparently a current class exhibited ---- no matter what the subject.
I admit that while I have endeavoured to understand what recently transpired at RMC one can almost never be certain these days about anything.
So I agree with Bill's observation and agree with the thrust of Lawlor's message.
It's a strange world out there.
Anybody want to start over again ????
Dave Wright: 09 June 15
Couldn't let this one go by without my two cent's worth.
Thanks to Lawlor for writing the letter. Perhaps he is a bit more blunt than I would be but the behaviour which was reported by Julie Lalonde on CBC National News is not what one would expect from a group of RMC cadets. I am surprised because even though I have not been in a school for over 20 years I know all these kids have been exposed to sensitivity training ( if that is what you would call it ) and they know such behaviour is just not right. There are many organizations such as Safe Schools that was founded by Stuart Auty that have been educating teachers about how to handle bullying and sexual harassment for many years and these kids have heard the message.
I don't think Lawlor would have been part of what he said he may have been part of back before 1957 but I don't agree with Bill when he said we only did things like flood the square. We did some questionable antisocial things which are not appropriate for me to describe here. Ask me in September.
Dinah, Wanda and our daughter Anne agree with you. If the incident in the dormitory was reported correctly Wanda and Anne said you don't tell someone you have been drinking with to go to bed and then say you were going to have a shower. And thanks for wading in, Dinah. A lady's opinion on things is very refreshing for these pages.
As for sensitivity training I would have each year sit as a group and put up a picture of Nichola Goddard and tell her story and what those in her command thought of her. Then tell them to look at the person seated next to them and say that person could be Nichola.
Bill Lynn: 09 June 15
I agree with WIH that we would have been unlikely to treat any speaker, male or female, in such a discourteous manner. The only explanation that comes to mind for the inexcusable behaviour of the cadets vis-ŕ-vis the lecturer is that the perpetrators aspire to become politicians after their military service and were practicing for Question Period in the House of Commons.
And I agree with Diana but, as a male in today’s society, to say so probably marks me as a misogynist.
WIH: 09 June 15
I disagree with Lawlor when he says, "I am a graduate of the Class of '57 and probably on some level would have been equally guilty of harassment if faced with the same lecture during my time at the College." My memory says we were a well disciplined group, largely meeting the expectations of the society of our day. Our missteps were largely hijinks rather than social misbehaviour, such as flooding the parade square in Winter.
Dinah Tremain: 09 June 15
If, as Sig stated, the principal players responsible for this "evil" conduct had both been drinking and the male cadet went into the female cadet's bedroom, having apparently been invited to do so, are they not both somewhat culpable for the outcome? And also, perhaps, those of higher rank who might be looking out for this sort of behaviour?
This reminds me of the female NDP member of parliament who went to Justin Trudeau and told him she drank with a Liberal cohort, went to his hotel room at 1 AM, lay down on the bed with him, handed him a condom and then didn't like what - or the way - he did what ever he obviously did.
Trudeau fired him on the spot; no hearing, no explanation. Was she not also somewhat responsible for the outcome, like it or not?
I think political correctness is a very large worm in that apple of Sigs's as well. Uncontrolled, criminal behaviour is inexcusable but we must remember that the human animal lies just beneath the most thin and fragile veneer of civility….
Thank you again, for including me in the class of '57 website Bill. I so enjoy reading Ted's classmates' discussions of these interesting timely, topics!
Can you print this letter on our class website which I have sent to RMC requesting that the Commandant take note of our strong objections to the unacceptable cadet behaviour recently. I would hope that our class also lets him know that this behaviour is repugnant and deserves severe condemnation. I believe we have to articulate our objections in order to get action as I believe that criticism from the ex-cadet body carries alot of weight. Lawlor
Subject: Sexual Harassment
Date: Fri, 22 May 2015 18:57:00 +0000
Please convey to the Commandant, Brigadier-General A.D. Meinzinger, my concern over the incident of the reported harassment of Julie Lalonde of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crisis Centre by RMC cadets during her presentations to the College. To say that the cadets acted like Neanderthals is an understatement.
I am a graduate of the Class of '57 and probably on some level would have been equally guilty of harassment if faced with the same lecture during my time at the College. But since the early sixties we have, as a society, come so far in recognizing these male prejudices against women. They were everywhere and in many cases not so subtle. The effect of this change in attitude and behaviour has resulted in the emancipation of women from under this brutal form of racism. To state the obvious, women now have equal opportunity in politics, the professions and hopefully the military.
The College administration should consider immediate and brutal solutions to stop this misogynist behaviour and attitude to women. The future of the military is at stake. In addition, the well being of the female cadets must be considered as an immediate problem.
Lawlor Rochester, #3833
Sig: 29 May 15
I believe that a great injustice is now unfolding somewhere in one of the buildings where we once walked some sixty years ago at our old College. The uncomplicated “facts” are reported in some considerable detail by The Globe & Mail, and are now being resolved by a formal Military Tribunal. It is in name a Court Martial, but in substance how can it be so when it is presided over by a retired Supreme Court Justice instead of a serving officer in the Armed Forces; the clear inference is that the case at hand is much too sensitive to be handled by the military itself. Indeed perhaps it is! No doubt the proceedings will be technically impeccable, and judicially the decision will be final and by definition therefore correct. But whatever the verdict will be, can it also be just? Justice to whom you might ask; to the hapless young Officer Cadet who foolishly yielded to the pressure of Nature itself, to the young female Officer Cadet now promoted to Second Lieutenant. Justice to their respective families, to their fellow classmates, to the College, to the military, or to society at large in whose name these proceedings are conducted? Those are the questions which are of overriding interest, and those questions lead me to say that Justice cannot be done in this case. Let us not forget that Justice is a man made concept, malleable, frail and unique to our species. Alexander Pope well reflected upon it when in 1733 he wrote that Man “is sole judge of truth in endless error hurled; the glory, jest and riddle of the world”. In 1902 Clarence Darrow talked of justice and truth in his great speech to the inmates of the Cook County jail when he told the inmates to the great discomfort of the Establishment, that you wretched souls are here, some of you guilty and some not, here merely because of your circumstances, here perhaps only to satisfy society, or your very natures condemned you to be here. Left unsaid of course, for it is much too unsettling to admit, you are here also by the thoughtless application of the doctrine of Free Will as wielded by the self righteous, and which invariably finds its very limits in the inherent weaknesses of Man himself.
What do the musings of a Clarence Darrow or Alexander Pope have to do with this? Everything or perhaps nothing to men devoid of imagination. These young people are just there, but condemned to live in an impossible situation quite contrary to their very natures which was bequeathed to them by virtue of being born into this world.
Let us take the two principal actors in this drama. Why were they alone together in one of the RMC dorms, and under the influence of alcohol, and lodged in the same building with easy access to each other in the most intimate of circumstances? True, there was a sign that he should not enter the ladies’ bathrooms, although he could with ease enter her bedroom which he apparently did with her consent. Where are the mature minds in all of this? Are those in charge so utterly devoid of any basic understanding of human nature and pressing young sexuality as to allow such a situation to exist in the first place? Give us the total idiot responsible for this state of affairs that we might have his head on a platter. Well the truth is that there is no such idiot available to hold responsible. Instead intelligent and well meaning people looking at precedent (of which there is plenty), and practicality, and the practices of the modern world decided this unnatural arrangement should be sanctified. If you press the issue further you will no doubt also get pleas of lack of money to rectify this degrading state of affairs for both sexes, and in and of itself that would no doubt be a truthful answer. Perhaps you will hear that separate barracks are out of the question for that would imply a quota, no more women cadets than there are beds allocated in the separate facility and God help us if it is not at least 50% say some, or perhaps you will even hear that not to lodge women in the most intimate of circumstances and in close proximity to men in the same facility amounts in and of itself to unjust discrimination for it is decreed that there are no differences between men and women. I think that perhaps here we might get to the heart of the dilemma.
But the dilemma does not properly illustrate women’s rights per se. In the past century the fairer sex can be said to have woken up after twenty centuries of stony sleep, from a state of subordination and tutelage, and especially so after the introduction of easy and effective birth control measures. Well and good; that clearly is a societal phenomenon to be celebrated and fully accommodated. Moreover in the situation at hand, it is not to be re litigated whether the College should have female officer cadets or that they should be treated equally and fairly in all manner of ways. But it is also to be acknowledged, and indeed gratefully so, that there does and always have and always will exist a greater and more fundamental primordial truth which must also be recognized and accommodated; that men and women are different in all manner of respects, and that in their collective they need their respective privacies. It is right here that society is struggling, and sometimes produces wrong answers it seems to me. In searching for a remedy to some of these wrong answers is there not some signal indication of where the locus of these wrong answers may lurk?
And it is right here in front of our eyes in plain view, yet we don’t see it. Because in that long and hard legitimate struggle for the full rights of women we unfortunately find one poisonous worm lurking in that promising apple, and it is this worm that indirectly is the root cause of the disciplinary proceeding at the College. For want of a better expression I would call that pesky worm RADICAL feminism. It is not only radical but it is intolerant especially of self evident truths, and it is shrill. At times it sweeps away all logic and reasoning before it, but substitutes nothing persuasive in its wake. In general it frightens and confuses all manner of men and it has demonstrably infected the very body politic. It is present everywhere including in the College. RADICAL feminism is doomed to failure, for like pure and idealized communism before it, it embodies within itself the ludicrous notion that human nature is infinitely malleable, and therefore human nature can be changed at will. Thus the final goal of RADICAL feminism that all differences between men and women (apart presumably from their reproductive organs) shall forever be banished from this earth and that women in full proportion to their numbers shall and insistently must occupy all human activities. How will this dragon of Radical feminism be slain you might well ask, and I would reply that it can only be put to rest not by pure logic, not by any posturing or lectures from the pulpit or from respected public figures. It can only be put to rest when in the hearts of ordinary people they see and reject the ridiculous claims of Radical feminism. Perhaps it will end like the McCarthy era when some irate father will exclaim “how dare you put my daughter in the same dormitory, on the same floor and in intimate close proximity to men, HAVE YOU NO DECENCY! But what if no such father comes forward because he is afraid to look ridiculous and alone, or worse still what if he simply doesn’t know that all this is inherently wrong. We might then rethink about our new found emphasis on degraded sensualism which deprives this life of its grace and refinement. And then we might also start to reflect on our newly found “advanced” state of civilization, and perhaps imagine that just as man can advance from the primitive so can he regress and start to resemble more and more the brutishness of his ancient biological ancestors.
Finally let us ask ourselves how can the distinguished retired Supreme Court justice and head of the Court Martial put things right? The short answer is that she really can’t. She can’t order that separate but equal facilities must be provided, she can’t find some violation of the Charter of Rights without unduly torturing the language of the Constitution, she can’t simply acquit the Officer Cadet, for the facts won't allow it, and which his victim may, by her words at the proceeding, secretly wish to be done. Can she assuage the grief of the parents of the victims concerned, can she put two careers back together? No she can’t. Can she dry the tears of despair of the young woman concerned who was shunned by much of her class for reporting the incident in the first place. Again she can’t. But can she put the whole unjust mess before the chief official of the College, the Governor General himself, who may be particularly well suited to fully understand the issues brought forth, in the hope that he might indicate his displeasure to a distracted Prime Minister that no institution which bears his direct royal patronage shall perpetuate the degradation of young women. The case is important enough to justify such a step, let us hope that it is done.
Lawlor: 28 May 15
Again yesterday RMC was in the news with the expulsion of two cadets just before graduation. Has there been no response from our class to the recent news concerning the mind boggling attitudes of cadets to sexual harassment?? It may well be that this is simply the work of several knuckle heads but nevertheless the College comes off looking disgraceful and it would seem that our future military leaders now at the College might well continue the existing misogynist attitude apparent at some levels of the military today. As a class, we should be putting pressure on the administration to come up with answers.
Lawlor: 22 May 15
I was knocked for a loop after hearing the news reports of sexual harassment by RMC cadets of a speaker invited to talk to the cadet body. I would urge all our classmates to respond to the Commandant to ensure that attempts are made to come down heavy on this kind of behaviorist so insidious, having experienced it during my early days in the law. Anyway that's my two cents. Its f...k..g appalling!!