Mil­i­tary news­pa­per re­jects ad seek­ing sex as­sault vic­tims

The Daily Observer - - NATIONAL NEWS - DAVID PUGLIESE

A mil­i­tary base news­pa­per has re­jected an ad from a law firm look­ing to rep­re­sent those sex­u­ally ha­rassed in the Cana­dian Forces be­cause it would fur­ther draw at­ten­tion to the is­sue.

The ad from a Vic­to­ria, B.C., law firm of­fered vic­tims of sex­ual as­sault or ha­rass­ment in the mil­i­tary “a safe and sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment to tell your story” and in­cluded con­tact in­for­ma­tion. It also con­tained a quote from Chief of the De­fence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance about how sex­ual mis­con­duct is a threat to the mil­i­tary.

But the se­nior mil­i­tary lead­er­ship at Cana­dian Forces Base Esquimalt put out the word that the ad was not to run.

“Our news­pa­per can­not be used as a ve­hi­cle to fur­ther am­plify the sex­ual ha­rass­ment is­sue cur­rently in the main­stream me­dia,” Melissa Atkin­son of the Look­out news­pa­per told law firm, Ach­e­son, Sweeney, Fo­ley and Sa­hota in an e-mail.

The news­pa­per, dis­trib­uted on the base and to the pub­lic at var­i­ous lo­ca­tions in Vic­to­ria, ac­tively so­lic­its ads.

In her e-mail, Atkin­son noted that the Look­out is a “mil­i­tary news­pa­per re­spon­sive to the mil­i­tary chain of com­mand.”

The mil­i­tary ’s pub­lic af­fairs of­fi­cers also re­viewed the re­quest and agreed with the de­ci­sion.

The Look­out staff noted in an e-mail that it was will­ing to run the ad if the law firm re­moved all ref­er­ences to the Cana­dian Forces and De­part­ment of Na­tional De­fence.

Ach­e­son, Sweeney, Fo­ley and Sa­hota has started a class ac­tion law­suit on be­half of for­mer and serv­ing Cana­dian mil­i­tary per­son­nel who suf­fered or may have suf­fered from sex­ual ha­rass­ment or abuse. So far, more than 100 in­di­vid­u­als who served in Bri­tish Columbia have come for­ward, lawyer Ra­jin­der Sa­hota said Mon­day.

He fig­ures there are many more in­di­vid­u­als in the mil­i­tary com­mu­nity in Vic­to­ria who have ei­ther been sex­u­ally as­saulted or ha­rassed.

Sa­hota, who ac­cused the mil­i­tary of try­ing to cen­sor the law firm’s mes­sage, said he was sur­prised the paid ad was re­jected. “It’s not as if no one knows about this prob­lem,” he said.

At least an­other sim­i­lar three class ac­tion law­suits are un­der­way in other lo­ca­tions across the coun­try.

The ad was re­jected in De­cem­ber, with the de­tails in­cluded in a newly re­leased up­date from the firm.

Over the last sev­eral years, the Cana­dian Forces has been crit­i­cized for in­ci­dents of sex­ual as­sault and mis­con­duct, most of it di­rected to­wards women.

Vance has vowed to take a tough ap­proach against any­one in­volved in sex­ual mis­con­duct.

But Sa­hota said de­spite Vance’s claims lit­tle has changed in the mil­i­tary. The firm is hear­ing from sev­eral peo­ple a week who are fac­ing or have faced sex­ual mis­con­duct.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILES

De­fence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance

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