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CFB Esquimalt training course cancelled over allegations of sexual harassment, racism

The incidents include the sharing of sexually explicit photos, inappropriate sexualized comments, and two incidents of racist messages, the Canadian Armed Forces said.
An entry gate at CFB Esquimalt. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST

A basic training course at the Naval Fleet School has been cancelled after a series of incidents that include racist harassment, sexualized comments and the sharing of a sexually explicit photo, according to Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt.

The course, a basic military qualification course designed to train new sailors, was cancelled March 11, and three recruits were dismissed.

According to CFB Esquimalt, racist messages were directed at a recruit, a sexually explicit photo was shared among recruits, and sexually inappropriate comments made to an instructor. The incidents took place between Feb. 15 and March 9.

In a statement provided to the Times Colonist, the Royal Canadian Navy said it takes strong action on allegations of misconduct.

“Harmful and inappropriate conduct, be it through words or actions, is completely incompatible with the values and culture of the Royal Canadian Navy,” it said. “The chain of command will not hesitate to act and, if necessary, remove from our ranks those who are unwilling to conduct themselves professionally.

“We have made it clear that any form of harassment and inappropriate behaviour within our ranks is unacceptable. It harms our people, jeopardizes our operational effectiveness, and is inconsistent with our values and ethical principles.”

One of the recruits in the course was removed after sharing a sexually explicit photo in a group chat with other recruits. An investigation was undertaken and a progress review board recommended the recruit be released from the Armed Forces.

In another incident, two recruits made sexually inappropriate comments to an instructor. Both recruits underwent a progress review board and were removed from the course. Their future in the Armed Forces has not been determined.

Military police continue to investigate racist and hateful messages found on the personal equipment of a recruit. One of the messages included implications of physical harm.

The individuals responsible have not been identified.

In its statement, the Canadian Armed Forces said “the incidents that occurred did not involve physical harm to any member of the group. This does not reduce the seriousness of these incidents in any way, as harmful behaviour, especially racist behaviour has no place within our ranks.”

It noted having to cancel a course like this is rare.

Fifty-one candidates started the course, and 16 left due to normal attrition.

Those who remain have been moved into individual accommodations at CFB Esquimalt and are under supervision.

The basic training courses are normally run through the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School in St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., but de-centralized courses were developed during the pandemic.

While investigations into the incidents are ongoing, the findings may result in further releases, administrative action, disciplinary measures, or criminal charges.

Progress review boards are designed to help gather information about incidents and the recruits involved. It is not a disciplinary procedure.

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