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Former sailor leads class action suit against CAF

A former member of the Royal Canadian Navy said she is launching a class-action lawsuit against the Canadian Armed Forces in a bid to change the culture of sexual harassment and abuse in the military.

Nicola Peffer, who was based in Esquimalt near Victoria, B.C. and who served in navy frigates, said in a statement of claim that female, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender members of the CAF are subjected to sexual harassment and abuse. The 34-year-old former sailor left the force in 2012, after the military rejected her complaints of unwanted sexual advances by her superior, according to a report from the Canadian Press.

“When I arrived, I learned the culture was not one of camaraderie, at least for women or LGBTQ members,” Peffer said in a phone interview. “The culture was one of fear and intimidation. The culture was one of abuse, discrimination, bullying, and harassment. The culture was of sexual assault.”

Peffer said she faced retaliation and professional repercussions after refusing to comply with the sexual demands of one of her superiors.

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Proposed class-action suit details sexual harassment in CAF

Peffers said when she failed to comply with the sexual demands of one of her superiors she faced retaliation and professional repercussions. She said she reported her complaints through “the proper channels” but “did not receive justice.”

The Department of National Defence is aware of the legal action and the Attorney General of Canada has recently seen the lawsuit, according to the report. DND said the situation is being reviewed. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Last month, Glynis Rogers, a former CAF member from Nova Scotia, filed a statement of claim against Ottawa before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. She claims she was subjected to sexual orientation-based discrimination, bullying and harassment during training and during her time as a regular member of the armed forces.

Rogers, who joined the service in 2006, said that female CAF members were often called names and treated as inferior members of the military.

If the case proceeds, it could include other women who claim to have suffered similar treatment in the military.

Natalie Foley, the lawyer for Peffers, said during a news conference that she too expects hundreds of military members to join her client’s class action. The class action seeks to compensate alleged victims and change in the culture of harassment in the CAF.

A 2015 Statistic Canada survey which was released near the end of November indicated that 960 regular members of the CAF were victims of sexual assault involving fellow military members in the workplace.

Unwanted sexual touching was the most common form of sexual assault, reported by 1.5 per cent (or 840) regular force members. Women in the regular force were more likely than men to be sexually assaulted (4.8 per cent versus 1.2 per cent) in the twelve months preceding the survey.

 

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