Canada’s military failed to act on Afghan child-sex abuse: Report

News Apr 12, 2016 by Bruce Campion-Smith Hamilton Spectator

OTTAWA — Canadian soldiers aired concerns about the sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan by Afghan personnel — medics even treated minors for injuries suffered in the assaults — according to a new report that concludes the military failed to effectively deal with the issue.

The defence department on Tuesday released the results of a long-awaited investigation examining the response of the Canadian military to reports of sexual abuse of boys by Afghan soldiers and interpreters.

The inquiry was launched in 2008 in response to in the Toronto Star that told how Canadian soldiers knew of sexual abuse of young boys but had been told by their commanders to ignore the assaults.

The report confirms that Canadian soldiers witnessed or suspected that sex acts were taking place between Afghan National Security Forces and children.

"These reports include incidents of oral sex and genital fondling under clothing," according to the report.

There was one report of Canadian Forces medical personnel treating both male and female children for rectal damage that resulted from the assault, the report found.

"Sufficient information existed as early as 2006 to warrant action on the possible sexual abuse of minors by (Afghan National Security Forces)," the report said.

But breakdowns in communications left senior commanders in the dark about the abuse concerns, according to the report.

"No specific and permanent CF action was ever taken," the report says.

It was only after revelations in the media in 2008 that the Canadian Armed Forces took action on the issue, the report said.

While the report was completed in 2010, it has taken six years to work its way through the military bureaucracy. Indeed, in the years since its completion, several inquiry members have retired and Canada has ended its military operations in Afghanistan.

Military observers have already condemned the slow pace of the investigation with one branding it as "farcical." The military says the "scope and complexity" of the recommendations were a "significant" factor in the time it took to release the report.

As well, the high tempo of operations, such as the air mission over Libya and now the mission in northern Iraq strained resources in headquarters, said Col. Jay Janzen, director, public affairs operations and planning.

The inquiry, which heard testimony from 105 witnesses, says it found no evidence that anyone in the military's chain of command had ever ordered troops to turn a blind eye to the sexual assault of children.

But it did find evidence that commanders up and down the chain were informed of "possible" sexual activity but that action was limited and that formal reports were never passed up the chain.

For example, on Oct. 3, 2006, a weekly advisory from Afghanistan to the legal adviser for the command leading the Afghan mission said that "possible sexual assaults were taking place in theatre and that a CF policy review was required."

The report says it's "clear" that the information on sexual abuse was in the headquarters of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command, the unit overseeing the mission. But that message was never passed along to defence legal team or mission commanders for review or action, the report said.

The inquiry found six specific instances in which commanders in Afghanistan were told of possible sexual abuse. In one case, a unit deputy commander sought legal advice about what soldiers should do if they suspect abuse.

In another case, a battle group commander, hearing reports of abuse, issued orders to his subordinates that they were to intervene and to report all incidents.

Yet other times, the reports of abuse were dismissed as second-hand discussion or wrongly accepted as a cultural norm in Afghanistan.

The report also notes that during this time Canadian soldiers were engaged a fierce, deadly fight with the Taliban in the Kandahar region and the intensity of the engagement took up the attention of military staff, at the expense of this issue.

"Survival and combat were the primary missions and all other issues were secondary," the report says.

Officials on Tuesday stressed that the military has not waited for the report's release to act on its recommendations and direction.

For example, in 2008, Gen. Rick Hillier, then chief of defence staff, made it clear that troops were "not going to stand by" if they witnessed abuse.

As well, classroom training in ethics, law of armed conflict and rules of engagement have been improved.

Soldiers training to go to Afghanistan were exposed to scenarios that had them dealing with reports of sexual abuse, human trafficking and other rights violations.

Troops are also taught the cultural practices of the country they are headed to.

Military officials said Tuesday they are confident that soldiers today would react differently if confronted with sexual abuse.

"As an institution we have addressed many of the primary considerations that have been brought forward by the board ... a lot of progress has been made," Janzen said.

He said the "key objective" of this exercise is making sure troops on future missions know how to react when confronted with a similar situation.

"It's clear that the board felt there was a lack of clarity in soldier's minds about how they ought to behave," Janzen said.

"That reinforced for us that how a soldier ought to react in these types of situations needs to be instinctive," he said.

"It requires amplification in some of our directives and documentation. It requires training, both in the classroom and scenario-based training so that when our soldiers are put to the test under difficult circumstances and they are faced with these types of ethical dilemmas they are as best prepared as possible to do the right thing," Janzen said.

Torstar News Service

Canada’s military failed to act on Afghan child-sex abuse: Report

News Apr 12, 2016 by Bruce Campion-Smith Hamilton Spectator

OTTAWA — Canadian soldiers aired concerns about the sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan by Afghan personnel — medics even treated minors for injuries suffered in the assaults — according to a new report that concludes the military failed to effectively deal with the issue.

The defence department on Tuesday released the results of a long-awaited investigation examining the response of the Canadian military to reports of sexual abuse of boys by Afghan soldiers and interpreters.

The inquiry was launched in 2008 in response to in the Toronto Star that told how Canadian soldiers knew of sexual abuse of young boys but had been told by their commanders to ignore the assaults.

The report confirms that Canadian soldiers witnessed or suspected that sex acts were taking place between Afghan National Security Forces and children.

"These reports include incidents of oral sex and genital fondling under clothing," according to the report.

There was one report of Canadian Forces medical personnel treating both male and female children for rectal damage that resulted from the assault, the report found.

"Sufficient information existed as early as 2006 to warrant action on the possible sexual abuse of minors by (Afghan National Security Forces)," the report said.

But breakdowns in communications left senior commanders in the dark about the abuse concerns, according to the report.

"No specific and permanent CF action was ever taken," the report says.

It was only after revelations in the media in 2008 that the Canadian Armed Forces took action on the issue, the report said.

While the report was completed in 2010, it has taken six years to work its way through the military bureaucracy. Indeed, in the years since its completion, several inquiry members have retired and Canada has ended its military operations in Afghanistan.

Military observers have already condemned the slow pace of the investigation with one branding it as "farcical." The military says the "scope and complexity" of the recommendations were a "significant" factor in the time it took to release the report.

As well, the high tempo of operations, such as the air mission over Libya and now the mission in northern Iraq strained resources in headquarters, said Col. Jay Janzen, director, public affairs operations and planning.

The inquiry, which heard testimony from 105 witnesses, says it found no evidence that anyone in the military's chain of command had ever ordered troops to turn a blind eye to the sexual assault of children.

But it did find evidence that commanders up and down the chain were informed of "possible" sexual activity but that action was limited and that formal reports were never passed up the chain.

For example, on Oct. 3, 2006, a weekly advisory from Afghanistan to the legal adviser for the command leading the Afghan mission said that "possible sexual assaults were taking place in theatre and that a CF policy review was required."

The report says it's "clear" that the information on sexual abuse was in the headquarters of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command, the unit overseeing the mission. But that message was never passed along to defence legal team or mission commanders for review or action, the report said.

The inquiry found six specific instances in which commanders in Afghanistan were told of possible sexual abuse. In one case, a unit deputy commander sought legal advice about what soldiers should do if they suspect abuse.

In another case, a battle group commander, hearing reports of abuse, issued orders to his subordinates that they were to intervene and to report all incidents.

Yet other times, the reports of abuse were dismissed as second-hand discussion or wrongly accepted as a cultural norm in Afghanistan.

The report also notes that during this time Canadian soldiers were engaged a fierce, deadly fight with the Taliban in the Kandahar region and the intensity of the engagement took up the attention of military staff, at the expense of this issue.

"Survival and combat were the primary missions and all other issues were secondary," the report says.

Officials on Tuesday stressed that the military has not waited for the report's release to act on its recommendations and direction.

For example, in 2008, Gen. Rick Hillier, then chief of defence staff, made it clear that troops were "not going to stand by" if they witnessed abuse.

As well, classroom training in ethics, law of armed conflict and rules of engagement have been improved.

Soldiers training to go to Afghanistan were exposed to scenarios that had them dealing with reports of sexual abuse, human trafficking and other rights violations.

Troops are also taught the cultural practices of the country they are headed to.

Military officials said Tuesday they are confident that soldiers today would react differently if confronted with sexual abuse.

"As an institution we have addressed many of the primary considerations that have been brought forward by the board ... a lot of progress has been made," Janzen said.

He said the "key objective" of this exercise is making sure troops on future missions know how to react when confronted with a similar situation.

"It's clear that the board felt there was a lack of clarity in soldier's minds about how they ought to behave," Janzen said.

"That reinforced for us that how a soldier ought to react in these types of situations needs to be instinctive," he said.

"It requires amplification in some of our directives and documentation. It requires training, both in the classroom and scenario-based training so that when our soldiers are put to the test under difficult circumstances and they are faced with these types of ethical dilemmas they are as best prepared as possible to do the right thing," Janzen said.

Torstar News Service

Canada’s military failed to act on Afghan child-sex abuse: Report

News Apr 12, 2016 by Bruce Campion-Smith Hamilton Spectator

OTTAWA — Canadian soldiers aired concerns about the sexual abuse of children in Afghanistan by Afghan personnel — medics even treated minors for injuries suffered in the assaults — according to a new report that concludes the military failed to effectively deal with the issue.

The defence department on Tuesday released the results of a long-awaited investigation examining the response of the Canadian military to reports of sexual abuse of boys by Afghan soldiers and interpreters.

The inquiry was launched in 2008 in response to in the Toronto Star that told how Canadian soldiers knew of sexual abuse of young boys but had been told by their commanders to ignore the assaults.

The report confirms that Canadian soldiers witnessed or suspected that sex acts were taking place between Afghan National Security Forces and children.

"These reports include incidents of oral sex and genital fondling under clothing," according to the report.

There was one report of Canadian Forces medical personnel treating both male and female children for rectal damage that resulted from the assault, the report found.

"Sufficient information existed as early as 2006 to warrant action on the possible sexual abuse of minors by (Afghan National Security Forces)," the report said.

But breakdowns in communications left senior commanders in the dark about the abuse concerns, according to the report.

"No specific and permanent CF action was ever taken," the report says.

It was only after revelations in the media in 2008 that the Canadian Armed Forces took action on the issue, the report said.

While the report was completed in 2010, it has taken six years to work its way through the military bureaucracy. Indeed, in the years since its completion, several inquiry members have retired and Canada has ended its military operations in Afghanistan.

Military observers have already condemned the slow pace of the investigation with one branding it as "farcical." The military says the "scope and complexity" of the recommendations were a "significant" factor in the time it took to release the report.

As well, the high tempo of operations, such as the air mission over Libya and now the mission in northern Iraq strained resources in headquarters, said Col. Jay Janzen, director, public affairs operations and planning.

The inquiry, which heard testimony from 105 witnesses, says it found no evidence that anyone in the military's chain of command had ever ordered troops to turn a blind eye to the sexual assault of children.

But it did find evidence that commanders up and down the chain were informed of "possible" sexual activity but that action was limited and that formal reports were never passed up the chain.

For example, on Oct. 3, 2006, a weekly advisory from Afghanistan to the legal adviser for the command leading the Afghan mission said that "possible sexual assaults were taking place in theatre and that a CF policy review was required."

The report says it's "clear" that the information on sexual abuse was in the headquarters of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Command, the unit overseeing the mission. But that message was never passed along to defence legal team or mission commanders for review or action, the report said.

The inquiry found six specific instances in which commanders in Afghanistan were told of possible sexual abuse. In one case, a unit deputy commander sought legal advice about what soldiers should do if they suspect abuse.

In another case, a battle group commander, hearing reports of abuse, issued orders to his subordinates that they were to intervene and to report all incidents.

Yet other times, the reports of abuse were dismissed as second-hand discussion or wrongly accepted as a cultural norm in Afghanistan.

The report also notes that during this time Canadian soldiers were engaged a fierce, deadly fight with the Taliban in the Kandahar region and the intensity of the engagement took up the attention of military staff, at the expense of this issue.

"Survival and combat were the primary missions and all other issues were secondary," the report says.

Officials on Tuesday stressed that the military has not waited for the report's release to act on its recommendations and direction.

For example, in 2008, Gen. Rick Hillier, then chief of defence staff, made it clear that troops were "not going to stand by" if they witnessed abuse.

As well, classroom training in ethics, law of armed conflict and rules of engagement have been improved.

Soldiers training to go to Afghanistan were exposed to scenarios that had them dealing with reports of sexual abuse, human trafficking and other rights violations.

Troops are also taught the cultural practices of the country they are headed to.

Military officials said Tuesday they are confident that soldiers today would react differently if confronted with sexual abuse.

"As an institution we have addressed many of the primary considerations that have been brought forward by the board ... a lot of progress has been made," Janzen said.

He said the "key objective" of this exercise is making sure troops on future missions know how to react when confronted with a similar situation.

"It's clear that the board felt there was a lack of clarity in soldier's minds about how they ought to behave," Janzen said.

"That reinforced for us that how a soldier ought to react in these types of situations needs to be instinctive," he said.

"It requires amplification in some of our directives and documentation. It requires training, both in the classroom and scenario-based training so that when our soldiers are put to the test under difficult circumstances and they are faced with these types of ethical dilemmas they are as best prepared as possible to do the right thing," Janzen said.

Torstar News Service