On June 2, 2016, the annual Canadian Bar Association’s Military Law Conference was held in Ottawa.
Phillip Millar gave a presentation in which he addressed several critical issues regarding the handling of sexual assault cases. Chief among his recommendations was how the Military Chain of Command must familiarize themselves with the power dynamics at play in sexual assault cases. Phillip stressed that it is not enough to encourage victims to report the abuse as they are generally immersed in a cultural environment where complaining makes victims look weak and results in them being shunned.
Phillip went on to state that once a complaint is made, serving soldiers can be laid and a court martial held, but afterwards they cannot sue their employer. Essentially, they are denied the civil remedy most civilians have available to them to seek damages and receive justice. In addition, Phillip addressed the fact that lawyers who represent the Department of National Defence in civil suits do not reflect the internal policies of the Chain of Command when it comes to treating victims with respect. He brought up the example of one case in which lawyers for the defence described a sexual assault as a simple breast groping, thereby showing a lack of understanding of the nature of what a sexual assault constitutes and the power dynamics involved.
The presentation was extremely well received. The board assured Phillip that his points would be reviewed and likely implemented in the future treatment of sexual assault cases in the Canadian Military.