Leaving in Disgust

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The Royal Bank of Canada has more employees than the Canadian Armed Forces – 86,000 compared to 68,000.

While the Royal is the 11th largest bank worldwide, the Canadian Armed Forces rank 50th in size as a military force. In other words, our banks are big, our army is small. That said,  Stephen Harper did once call it “the best little army in the world.”

But in the world of sexual impropriety, our little army is not only big, it is world-class.

It’s one thing for a nation’s top military officer to be under investigation for sexual misconduct, as Canada’s former chief of the defence staff General Jonathan Vance is. It’s an entirely different signal of bad behaviour for his successor, in this case, Admiral Art McDonald, to be under investigation by the military’s National Investigation Service for separate allegations of sexual misconduct. As the CBC noted, this “has rocked the Department of National Defence to its foundations.”

I have to say, I didn’t get that sense. My sense was: “Oh, another General revealed as a bad actor around women. I guess that’s just the way things are in our Armed Forces.”

Now, if a Canadian bank CEO was forced to resign for sexual misbehaviour, and his (of course, ‘his’) successor was also forced to resign for sexual reasons, not only would that be preposterous, it really would ‘rock’ Canadian business to its foundations.

One reason is, Canadians care a lot more about our banks than our military. Another is, our banks are in a different universe when it comes to systemic sexism. In our banks, it’s a tiny bug; in our military, it’s a big feature.

This vast distance hit home when one of Canada’s most senior women officers resigned from the military last Tuesday. Eleanor Taylor, who was deputy commander of the 36th Brigade Group, a reserve unit in Halifax, finally had enough.

She wrote a furious email to the military brass that said:  “I am sickened by ongoing investigations of sexual misconduct among our key leaders. Unfortunately, I am not surprised. I am also certain that the scope of the problem has yet to be exposed. Throughout my career, I have observed insidious and inappropriate use of power for sexual exploitation.”

Is Lieutenant-Colonel Eleanor Taylor a disgruntled whistle-

blower? Is she some desk-bound paper leader? Is she, heaven forbid,  from HR?

No. No. No.

When she served in Afghanistan, she was the first woman to command an infantry company in a war zone.  She was also recruited by JTF2, Canada’s most elite and secretive special forces unit, to lead their Vancouver Olympics preparations.

After she resigned last week, she was interviewed on Global National. There, she spoke about “an undercurrent of seething rage” among women, who account for one in seven members of our military. She claimed “the breach of trust with the troops was devastating”, that “this type of behaviour was no surprise”, and that her leaving was met with “deafening institutional silence.”

She ended her televised indictment by noting: “We have demonstrated quite resoundingly that we cannot fix this on our own.”

Actually, it’s worse than that. Six years ago, Ottawa reported on its first External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Clearly, it was all words and no action.

Which is why Eleanor Taylor said: “The most powerful thing I could do was leave it.”

This begs the question: “What woman would ever want to join it?”

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