CBC Radio Syndicated Interviews
On July 19th, first thing in the morning, CBC Radio Syndicated called me and asked if I’d be willing to share my reaction to the previous day’s new release that the federal government is set to pay $900M in settlement of military sexual misconduct class action lawsuits for victims of sexual harassment and assault. In the end, I shared on these nine driving home programs for CBC Radio Syndicated from Newfoundland to Vancouver!
St John's - On the Go with Zak
Saskatchewan - Afternoon Edition with Bonnie
Kelowna - Radio West with Sarah Penton
Winnipeg - Up to Speed with Rom
Ottawa - All in a Day with Alan Neal
Sudbury - Up North with Matt
Edmonton - Radio Active with Adrienne Pan
Whitehorse - Airplay with George
Vancouver - On the Coast with Jason D'Souza
What an honour to be invited and to be able to weigh-in on such an important conversation. The settlement is great news. The money doesn't erase what happened for anyone, but hopefully it can help cover some of the cost related to recovering from the abuse. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the abuse in the first place rather than compensate victims.
One of the most comprehensive conversations took place with Sarah Penton on her show, CBC Radio West, in Kelowna. Our discussion started at 1:17:45 minutes into the show on the copied link. Due to copyright, I am unable to post the live link, but you can copy and paste the show into your favourite internet browser if you’d like to listen.
The transcript of our conversation is posted following this National Post news release article on the subject:
NATIONAL POST, JULY 18TH, 2019
Federal government to pay $900M settlement in lawsuits over sexual misconduct in military
The settlement provides $800M for members of the Canadian Forces and $100M in compensation for another class of DND employees
OTTAWA — The federal government is paying $900 million to settle multiple class-action lawsuits lodged on behalf of survivors of sexual harassment, gender discrimination and sexual assault in the military.
The settlement provides $800 million for members of the Canadian Armed Forces and $100 million in compensation for another class of employees of the Department of National Defence.
Over the past few years, participants in several lawsuits alleging similar misconduct and systemic problems in the military agreed to co-operate in their legal actions against the government.
One claim, filed by three former members of the military, said the Armed Forces was “poisoned by a discriminatory and sexualized culture” that encouraged sexual misconduct and was caused by a failure in leadership.
In a statement Thursday, deputy defence minister Jody Thomas and the military’s top general Jonathan Vance said they acknowledged the “obligation to ensure a safe work environment for all women and men” in the military.
“We hope that the settlement will help bring closure, healing, and acknowledgment to the victims and survivors of sexual assault, harassment, and discrimination,” the statement said.
The government had sought to defend itself in court against the lawsuits, filing documents in December 2017 in an attempt to quash them.
But after facing criticism, the government moved to begin settlement proceedings in early 2018.
Class members will mostly be eligible for between $5,000 and $55,000, with higher compensation for people who were subjected to exceptional harm and were denied disability benefits related to that harm. Those members could receive up to $155,000.
Lawyer Garth Myers, part of the team representing the plaintiffs in the suit, called the day “historic” and hoped it would provide closure and a healing process for survivors.
In Thursday’s settlement, the government promised to create a way for victims to share their experiences with senior military leaders in a “restorative engagement” program.
The settlement also calls for an external review of existing anti-harassment programs and revisions to how the government deals with disability benefits for survivors of sexual assault or harassment.
CBC Radio West Interview with Sarah Penton
Friday, July 19th, 2019 at 1:17:45 minutes
Kate Armstrong on Government Settlement of Military Sexual Misconduct Class Action Lawsuits
Sarah: Well, Ottawa is set to pay up to a billion dollars to settle sexual misconduct lawsuits against the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence going back years. Ottawa says it is settling class action lawsuits to show how serious it is about eliminating the issue or the abuse. Now compensation rates range from 5 thousand dollars to more than 100 thousand. Kate Armstrong is a former Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces. She has just published a memoir about her military career and we reached her at home in Nelson.
Kate: Hi Sarah.
Sarah: Curious about your reaction when you heard about this decision.
Kate: I was so excited to hear that the government had made this decision.
Sarah: How come?
Kate: I think it’s really significant that they decided to settle and it acknowledges that some of these people have suffered real and lasting harm. And the restorative engagement aspect of it is huge as well. Trauma causes shock and recovering from shock requires being witnessed in it. And people have lost their careers and emotional health, and this is a step definitely in the right direction for providing the opportunity for people to be witnessed.
Sarah: Hmmm. Now can you just tell, go through the details a little bit more, about who is going to get the compensation and what kind of abuses we’re talking about here?
Kate: Okay. It’s 900 million dollars – 800 million dollars will cover current and former members of the Canadian Armed Forces and 100 million dollars are for employees of Department of National Defence, who experience sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation on the job. And each victim will be paid between 5 thousand and 55 thousand dollars. But a really important piece of it is that the window has not closed on any complaints. It was triggered by the class action suits but any woman or LGBTQ2 can submit and have no need to provide harm and there will be no cross examination.
Sarah: Can you tell us a little bit about your own experiences?
Kate: Yes. I was in the first class of women that went through Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario and, um, went in quite naïve and while I was at the College, I’ve just written memoir about it, but I, um, experienced stalking and being bullied and that looked like casual misogyny, and sexist jokes, and some unwanted touching. But I think one of the biggest things was being prevented from fully being accepted as part of the team and there was a withholding of a sense of belonging. And so those were all tools that were used to withhold that sense of belonging. Which is very crazy making. It made me doubt myself and I felt like a loser and I had self loathing because I was trying so hard and I just couldn’t seem to get it right. So those are some of the impacts from the ongoingness of that kind of behaviour.
Sarah: And it was enough to make you leave the Armed Forces, and you said when you started, you went in feeling kind of naïve. I’m curious how that process works, at what point during your experience did you say, wait a minute, it’s not me? There’s something wrong with the system and the people in it.
Kate: And this is the thing that’s quite, it’s so, insidious, and unpacking it can take a lifetime to figure out what part was me and what part was them. In my memoir, I talk about some experiences that happened for me after grad — we have reunions and I went back for a thirty year reunion and some disclosures were made to me there and some of that was news to me and that was another layer of the unpacking of trying to figure out: who am I and what parts are real and what parts are what I’ve been told, like the gaslighting, um, against women really.
Sarah: Hmmm. Now I’m curious, as part of the settlement agreement there’s a statement that says: while not admitting liability, the government of Canada has agreed to a settlement. How does that make you feel?
Kate: (Sighs). Oh. I don’t know if I need them to admit liability as much as, um, I think that they’re acknowledging that people have been harmed and especially that they’ve created the dynamic where the window is open for other people to come forward with complaints, so I actually like that aspect of it. I would rather have that open than having the government admit liability.
Sarah: Hmmm. Interesting. Now there’s been so much talk about the issue of sexual misconduct and harassment within the Canadian Armed Forces, you know, and commitments from various levels within the Forces and the government. How optimistic are you, uh, that this will be a part of changing the culture?
Kate: I’m not sure. (laughs)
Sarah: What do you mean?
Kate: I’m not totally optimistic. I’m optimistic that we’re moving in the right direction but I believe cultural change is a huge undertaking and it literally comes down to each and every person buying into: what are our values and where do we stand? And sometimes I, looking at this issue, I think instead of focusing on reducing the number of victims the focus could be on reducing the number of perpetrators. And I think that’s a cultural issue beyond the military as well. The focus seems to be, like, this settlement is about compensating victims but I’m not sure that within the military culture that the things that are happening are actually making the changes of the attitudes.
Sarah: Hmmm. If there was a young woman in your life who came up to you and said, ‘Hey, I’m thinking of joining the Armed Forces.” What would you tell them?
Kate: That’s really complex because I got so much, in my life, out of being in the military and that’s the sad thing for me, is that in some cases, in many, many cases, people have to choose whether to put up with that stuff and have a career or whether to leave. And I believe that we should have opportunity to be where we want to be and the career that we want to do without having to put up with that. And I suppose it would depend on the person, um, it’s definitely not clear sailing in the military.
Sarah: Kate, it’s nice to meet you on the radio. Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us.
Kate: It’s been so great. Thank you so much. Bye.
Sarah: Thank you. That’s Kate Armstrong, a former Captain in the Canadian Armed Forces. She’s just published a memoir about her military career. It’s called: The Stone Frigate: The Royal Military College’s First Female Cadet Speaks Out. We reached her from her home in Nelson.