THE WEST BLOCK
Episode 23, Season 10
Sunday, February 28, 2021
Host: Mercedes Stephenson
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces
Linna Tam-Seto, Queen’s College
Retired Lieutenant-Basic Man Thibault
Vina Nadjibulla, Michael Kovrig’s spouse
Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Mercedes Stephenson: This week on The West Block: The Canadian Armed Forces in disaster.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “The next of all of the steps on this to be sure that everybody has an opportunity to be heard and other people perceive how severely we take all these issues.”
Mercedes Stephenson: Allegations of sexual misconduct on the highest ranges of the navy. Shock, anger and calls for for change.
Erin O’Toole, Official Opposition Chief: “Nobody ought to be subjected to sexual harassment once they present as much as serve their nation.”
Mercedes Stephenson: The flood gates have opened, and Main Kellie Brennan is again.
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: “I by no means thought there could be so many ladies needing a voice.”
Mercedes Stephenson: After greater than two years in Chinese language jail, will President Biden’s phrases lead to motion for the 2 Michaels.
Vina Nadjibulla, Michael Kovrig’s spouse: “I hope that our authorities will seize this second.”
Mercedes Stephenson: It’s Sunday, February 28th. I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and that is The West Block.
During the last three weeks, the Canadian navy has been shaken by allegations of sexual misconduct by these trusted to guide the troops on the highest ranges. Highly effective males liable for the nation’s nationwide safety and defence, tasked with setting the instance of rooting out sexual misconduct within the forces.
Now, the nation is within the unprecedented state of affairs of the final two chiefs of the defence workers underneath police investigation, and there are questions on how widespread the issue is. So how did we get right here?
On February 2nd, International Information broke the story that Basic Jonathan Vance was dealing with allegations of sexual misconduct with two subordinate girls, simply weeks after leaving the submit of chief of the defence workers.
Inside 24 hours, the navy introduced an investigation into Vance and the bottom breaking interview: Main Kellie Brennan got here ahead to inform her story to International Information.
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: “If he rang me on the cellphone, or if he texted me, I used to be obliged to get again to him.”
Mercedes Stephenson: The allegations of abusive command authority, complicity on the highest ranges of the navy, and hypocrisy, triggered extra police investigations and questions on dangerous behaviour from the brass.
By late Wednesday evening, the brand new chief of the defence workers Admiral Artwork McDonald within the job for simply six weeks, stepped apart due to an investigation into himself for alleged sexual misconduct.
The nation has had three chiefs of the defence workers in six weeks. Army sources name it a reckoning, as they put together for an unprecedented investigation into who knew what, when. Who was doing it and what number of have lined for them. Is that this lastly the second for change?
We sat down once more with Main Kellie Brennan, who gave the interview final week that began a nationwide dialog about sexual misconduct within the navy.
It’s been per week since we sat down, since that landmark interview and rather a lot has modified. We’ve had a chief of the defence workers who’s needed to step apart underneath police investigation. There are extra police investigations open after the allegations that you simply raised in your interview. I can’t think about what this week has been like for you. What has occurred since we final talked?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: I’ve obtained so many individuals speaking to me, calling me, emails—individuals bringing their tales to me and reaching out for assist.
Mercedes Stephenson: Have been you stunned by the amount of what you bought?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: I used to be astounded. I by no means thought this could occur. I by no means thought there could be so many ladies needing a voice.
Mercedes Stephenson: How did it really feel to learn these emails and to get these calls?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: It was intestine wrenching. So a lot of them informed me that that they had known as out, that that they had made reviews and it fell on deaf ears. Nothing occurred.
Mercedes Stephenson: Do you get the sense that now, now in spite of everything of this that that is going to be important mass? That that is going to be the second when it’s not simply phrases but it surely’s motion.
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: It must be. Ladies want to come back collectively and stand collectively and create that change. We should be those that really do one thing to vary inside ourselves and inside the place we work.
Mercedes Stephenson: I do know that you’ve a message you wished to share with different girls on the market, different members of the forces who’ve been victims of misconduct. What’s it that you simply wish to say to them right now, Kellie?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: It’s simply that I—I couldn’t be extra touched by the entire emails, all of the tales, the entire individuals opened as much as me and informed me issues they—that they had a tough time voicing. And I believe that we have to deliver that optimistic change now. I believe that collectively, I’ve heard that they’ve reported it, that they’ve given binders of data to the police, that they’ve written letters to the ombudsman, that they’ve cried out and different girls, too, that their voices are nonetheless yelling in silence. So I consider that we have to come collectively. We have to, to have a look at a plan of how we will change this. And for that to occur, I’m—I’m calling on all girls to carry my hand. I’m not any stronger than anyone else. And I believe that holding our palms collectively and collectively if every lady can give you one answer, one change that they need and ship it to me; I’m going to make a listing of all of them. And that listing shall be our street map to the change that we have to make. We’re that drive that’s going to roar and shall be heard.
Mercedes Stephenson: I’ve gotten so many emails from principally girls within the Canadian Forces saying Main Kellie Brennan has made a steal. She has a lot braveness and a lot energy, and I, too, am a sufferer and I’m questioning if I ought to discover my voice, if I ought to communicate out? How did you are feeling after you took that distinctive step of doing a nationwide tv interview?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: Free. [Pause] It’s the one one phrase. Free.
Mercedes Stephenson: Kellie, some persons are questioning whether or not the navy can resolve this internally. Do you suppose that’s doable?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: I don’t. I don’t suppose it—I don’t suppose that the navy can resolve this downside. It’s not a navy downside, it’s a personnel downside. In that, I imply that it—this exists in society. This exists in different companies, but it surely’s simply extra pronounced within the navy.
Mercedes Stephenson: I do know there’s a police investigation into this. It’s the Canadian Forces Nationwide Investigation Service, a specialised department of the navy police. I’ve spoken to some cops who suppose they’re not those who ought to be investigating this, that an establishment shouldn’t examine itself. Do you suppose the NIS is able to finishing up this investigation?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: I don’t suppose that they’ve sufficient assets and personnel certified on the stage for such a investigation.
Mercedes Stephenson: And also you was a police officer.
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: Sure.
Mercedes Stephenson: So you already know one thing about this.
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: I do.
Mercedes Stephenson: I do know they despatched three male investigators to your property. You didn’t have a sufferer help officer at first till you known as them.
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: Effectively they gave me a pamphlet and so they opened it to the appropriate web page and informed me to name.
Mercedes Stephenson: Is that this a part of the systemic downside within the forces when, when victims report?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: It’s as a result of it’s you’re made to really feel very lonely on this. However anyone who has already been in these worlds, after I see the way in which persons are approaching it on this state of affairs, I’ve all of the hopes on this planet that they do their job. However I can already see that they’re not poised for achievement.
Mercedes Stephenson: And also you’re fearful in regards to the consequence of this investigation.
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: I don’t suppose there’ll be an consequence of the investigation.
Mercedes Stephenson: What does that imply?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: It implies that to succeed in the extent of proof that you simply want, it’s a must to have investigated the entire allegations. In the event you’re solely two deep—which means two individuals—that it’s unimaginable to have adopted up on all of the leads, or questioned the entire individuals concerned.
Mercedes Stephenson: Kellie, is there anything that you simply wish to say to Canadians that I haven’t requested you?
Main Kellie Brennan, Canadian Armed Forces: Assist our navy. We’re going by rather a lot and I would like all Canadians to consider in us.
Mercedes Stephenson: And thanks for sitting down with us once more, Kellie. We admire it.
Mercedes Stephenson: Up subsequent, a better have a look at sexual misconduct within the Canadian Forces.
Mercedes Stephenson: The federal government continues to dodge questions on who knew what in regards to the allegations of misconduct in opposition to the final two chiefs of the defence workers.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s workplace informed International Information the minister solely turned conscious of the allegations and investigation into Admiral Artwork McDonald various weeks after the change of command however gave no specifics.
On Friday, I requested Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the place the political accountability is from his authorities.
My inbox is stuffed with emails from girls who’ve skilled sexual misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces underneath your authorities’s watch, and right now you’re telling us that everybody has the protected—the appropriate to a protected office, that you simply’re dedicated to that. However you prolonged the time period of a chief of defence workers who’s accused of sexual misconduct and underneath police investigation. You personally appointed one other chief of defence workers who needed to step down six weeks later as a consequence of this. And the one solutions we’re getting by way of accountability, is that an electronic mail was despatched to the Privy Council Workplace and that you simply’re dedicated. What do you say to those girls who’re questioning whether or not you’re really critical about this and what steps you’re going to take? As a result of they’re feeling like they’re dropping belief within the chain of command, that that is systemic on the highest ranges of the navy and that your authorities is just not taking motion.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: I believe what we’ve seen with the present chief of defence workers selecting to step apart due to these allegations, demonstrates that the navy and the federal government takes extraordinarily severely any allegations of the type. We’ve carried out that. I’ve personally carried out that as chief from the very starting, and we are going to proceed to make sure that everybody who works in authorities or within the navy or wherever throughout the nation, is heard once they come ahead with challenges or allegations or issues.
We’ve lots of work to do in our programs, in our workplaces throughout the nation to proceed to maneuver ahead on ensuring that they’re protected and free from intimidation, harassment and sexual assault. We’ve made nice strides as a rustic over the previous years, over the previous decade, however there’s an terrible lot extra to do. And I believe if we will spotlight, as we’ve got, that nobody is out of attain of issues and allegations like this that they are going to all the time be taken severely. And I wish to say to anybody who has survived incidents or problems with sexual assault that we’ll be there to hear, to listen to them, to work with them and to maneuver ahead by processes that may get to the appropriate solutions.
Mercedes Stephenson: The allegations have rocked the defence institution. I spoke with former second in command to the Canadian Forces, retired Vice Chief of the Defence Employees Lieutenant-Basic Man Thibault, who was Vance’s boss when a few of the misconduct was allegedly carried out.
Retired Lieutenant-Basic Man Thibault: It got here as an enormous shock to listen to the information about Basic Vance when it got here out and really disappointing.
Mercedes Stephenson: We requested Basic Thibault to elucidate why within the navy particularly, relationships within the chain of command are in opposition to the principles.
Retired Lieutenant-Basic Man Thibault: Two members of the Canadian Forces might be in a private relationship if the truth is it’s declared. However this situation of the chain of command is basically fairly necessary as a result of in our system of navy group, our ranks that we’ve got that enable us to prepare and to be organized and to comply with lawful orders is basically important for the conduct of our operations and to hold out the necessary missions that the Canadian Forces have. And in the way in which we’re structured, our commanding officers have the duty to [00:04:03 unintelligible] however in addition they are actually concerned in all elements of their careers, their profession growth, the alternatives that they’ve for development and promotion for coaching. And in that sense, we by no means wish to put a person within the place the place the connection that they’ve will both be seen to be influencing that profession or conversely, to be holding it in opposition to that particular person in a damaging approach.
Mercedes Stephenson: And what does all of it imply for the troops, those that placed on a uniform and comply with threat their lives for his or her nation?
I spoke with analysis fellow Dr. Linna Tam-Seto on the Centre for Worldwide and Defence Coverage at Queen’s College. She research the well being and wellbeing of Canada’s navy members and veterans.
What sort of well being results does it have on the ladies and men of the Canadian Armed Forces when this type of behaviour is being perpetrated inside their group and in some instances, by their commanding officers and from very highly effective generals and admirals?
Linna Tam-Seto, Queen’s College: It’s—it has important well being impacts, and never only for the members themselves who’re survivors of sexual misconduct, but it surely impacts everybody round them and has lengthy lasting results on themselves and their households. The work that I’ve carried out with reference to well being and wellbeing has lately been centered on lots of the problems that veterans expertise as they transition out. And for a lot of of them that I’ve had the honour of talking to, they’ve been subjected to sexual misconduct. And that is one thing that they carry with them. You understand for members which might be, you already know, actively, you already know, serving, that is, you already know, this impacts the way in which they, you already know, perform, you already know, operationally their capacity to do their job. But additionally, it impacts their relationships outdoors with their household, their pals, and the way they type of view the Armed Forces as a company, you already know, whether or not or not they will belief a company. And belief is such a key piece of being a member of the Canadian Armed Forces due to what their—what persons are anticipated to do. So, you already know, it has important impression on their well being and wellbeing, you already know, as serving members that has, you already know, actually lengthy lasting impacts as effectively.
Mercedes Stephenson: Sources inform me the probe that may sweep by defence shall be totally different this time: deeper and broader. And that extra investigations could also be opened in coming days, as extra members of the navy communicate out.
Up subsequent, President Biden calls out China for the detention of the 2 Michaels. However will his phrases make a distinction? My interview with Vina Nadjibulla.
Mercedes Stephenson: U.S. President Joe Biden gave one of many strongest statements but from an American president calling for the discharge of the 2 Canadians arbitrarily detained in China.
It’s now been greater than 800 days since Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been put behind bars in Chinese language prisons, following the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada on a U.S. extradition warrant.
Becoming a member of me now could be Vina Nadjibulla, Michael Kovrig’s spouse, to share extra of Michael’s story.
Vina, thanks a lot for taking time for us right now, we hope that you simply’re effectively. I do know that is all the time a troublesome subject to talk to, and we actually admire you becoming a member of us and sharing your ideas.
There was some important growth on the story final week by way of President Biden really popping out and speaking in regards to the two Michaels. And I wish to learn for our viewers simply what he stated. “Let me reiterate our help for the discharge of these detained in China of the 2 Canadians: Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig. Human beings should not bargaining chips. We’re going to work collectively till we get their protected return.”
What did you consider the president’s feedback? Do you suppose this can make any form of a distinction?
Vina Nadjibulla, Michael Kovrig’s spouse: Thanks, Mercedes. Listening to President Biden say these phrases was actually emotional. Having him consult with Michael and to Michael Spavor by identify, to name for his or her launch was shifting. I actually felt that. His phrases that “human beings should not bargaining chips” are highly effective and what I took away from that, is that President Biden has compassion for the unjust struggling that our Michael and Michael Spavor are going by, in addition to that he understands that Canada has been paying a very excessive worth because it accepted the extradition request from the U.S., two years in the past. That was shifting. After which lastly, his public dedication that the U.S. will work with Canada to safe their launch and to be sure that they’re safely dwelling was actually important. And now I hope that our authorities will seize this second and can work very carefully and urgently with the Biden crew to translate these necessary phrases into motion, in order that Michaels are the truth is, free.
Mercedes Stephenson: I wish to ask you about how Michael is doing. What have you ever heard in regards to the consular visits? And the way is his well being? How is his way of thinking?
Vina Nadjibulla, Michael Kovrig’s spouse: So the final consular go to was in the midst of January. We haven’t had one but in February. And at that go to, Michael appeared wholesome. He’s staying mentally sturdy. He’s persevering with to be extremely disciplined about his regime round meditation and train and studying. And what was actually putting in a single his current letters, is he famous that there are moments the place we don’t have management over a lot, however regardless of how troublesome our circumstances, we’ve got management over the place we focus our consideration and form of the place our consciousness goes. And what strikes me is, I imply, his state of affairs is so extremely unspeakably troublesome and he continues to remain centered on what he can management: his ideas, his angle, reciting prayers, studying and actually, actually making an attempt to remain as mentally wholesome as doable.
Mercedes Stephenson: That’s simply exceptional the resilience that he has, and also you too. I do know that it should be extremely troublesome to learn these letters and to share them with us. So thanks, for being prepared to try this.
Whenever you noticed Meng Wanzhou’s household come to Canada, and we discovered that they have been capable of come right here and go to her. And to my data, you haven’t been capable of go and go to Michael. Michael Spavor’s household has not been capable of go and go to him. What did you consider that?
Vina Nadjibulla, Michael Kovrig’s spouse: You’re proper. Our solely contact with Michael for the final two years has been by consular visits and letters. In fact, I would like extra entry to Michael, however my focus is on bringing him dwelling, on ensuring that he’s freed. It’s not about me going to China to go to him there. I would like him to come back again to Canada. I would like him to come back dwelling and our focus is on securing his freedom and within the meantime, bettering his circumstances as a lot as doable.
Mercedes Stephenson: I do know we’d heard reviews from The Wall Road Journal that there was a chance the U.S. Division of Justice was a plea cut price that might enable Meng Wanzhou to go dwelling, and a few speculated which will or could not set off the discharge of the Michaels. Have you ever heard any updates on that, Vina?
Vina Nadjibulla, Michael Kovrig’s spouse: No, not on that. However I took coronary heart from President Biden’s assembly with our authorities, in addition to with the conferences which have occurred later this week between Secretary Blinken and Minister Garneau. I consider that these conversations and the dedication of the U.S. to work with Canada to safe their launch, is important. I consider the U.S. has various instruments at its disposal. It will possibly discover a wide range of choices to deliver an finish to the extradition request by no matter means settlement offers. And in addition to work with China to ensure that there’s a broad consensus and understanding that this example is serving nobody, that human beings are struggling unjustly, that their detention is just not solely unjust, however it’s pointless, and that it will possibly and should be dropped at an finish. So that’s the focus now, it’s translating that public dedication and the assertion of solidarity from President Biden and from Secretary Blinken into motion. It’s time and we lastly, I consider, can finish this and convey Michaels, dwelling.
Mercedes Stephenson: Vina, thanks for becoming a member of us. Our hearts are with you and with Michael. We’re pondering of you. Thanks on your time.
Vina Nadjibulla, Michael Kovrig’s spouse: Thanks a lot for having me, and for persevering with to focus on Michael’s and Michael Spavor’s plight. Thanks, Mercedes.
Mercedes Stephenson: Effectively that’s on a regular basis we’ve got for right now. For The West Block, I’m Mercedes Stephenson, and I’ll see you again right here subsequent Sunday.
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