Base newspaper rejects ad seeking sex assault victims

CFB Esquimalt says ads did not meet the intent of the newspaper

When Rajinder Sahota had the idea to place an ad in CFB Esquimalt’s military newspaper encouarging victims of sexual assault in the Canadian Armed Forces to come forward, he thought it would be simple.

The ad from Sahota’s law firm, Acheson, Sweeney, Foley and Sahota, offered a “safe and supportive environment” for victims to tell their story and included a quote from Gen. Jonathan Vance, chief of the defence staff, about sexual assault and harassment being a “real and present threat to our institution.”

The firm submitted the ad in December to run in CFB Esquimalt’s newspaper The Lookout, and didn’t think it would be difficult to get published — but it’s been anything but easy. After a number of intitial edits which Sahota called “subtle” and “cosmetic,” the ad has since been rejected by senior leadership at CFB Esquimalt.

According to Sahota, the purpose of the ad was to provide survivors of sexual assault, harassment, abuse or sexualized discriminiation with another avenue to come forward and speak to someone confidentially, if they feel uncomfortable reporting such incidents to their superiors.

“I anticipated it would be encouraged and seen as productive by the Department of National Defence given what top leaders were saying about the situtation, namely that they were aware of the problem and wanted to do everything that they could to change the culture within the forces that led to this and of course, one of the things that’s necessary in that process is to hear from the survivors of this type of behaviour,” Sahota said. “Clearly there’s no cultural change that’s occuring.”

Capt. Jennifer Jackson, public affairs officer for CFB Esquimalt, said the topic of the ad was not considered to be controversial, but did not meet the intent of the newspaper.

“The chain of command takes this issue extremely seriously, and continues to employ a variety of strategies and approaches to instill institutional change,” she said in an emailed statement, adding the newspaper is open to accepting ads from the firm that meet the newspaper’s policies.

In December, former sailor Nicola Peffers, who was based in CFB Esquimalt, launched a class action lawsuit against the armed forces, alleging sexual assault and harassment of female and LGBTQ members. Sahota’s firm set up a hotline for former members of the armed forces to report incidents of sexual assault or harassment. Since then more than 100 people have come forward alleging single incidents of sexual harassment to multiple sexual assaults with weapons spanning the length of a career.

In 2015 an independent review by former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps found sexual misconduct was “endemic” in the military and tolerated by the highest levels of leadership. Shortly after, Canada’s top general Jonathan Vance launched Operation Honour, aimed at ending the problem.

But the decision to axe the ad has raised concerns for Sahota, who called it a “missed opportunity.”

“Instead, their decision was to, it appears, to censor the ad,” he said.

kendra.wong@vicnews.com

Just Posted

Older communities in Greater Victoria record higher turnout

Oak Bay and Sidney rank first and second in voter turnout

Three strong earthquakes reported off Vancouver Island

The quakes, all measuring more than 6.0 on the richter scale, were about 260 kilometres west of Tofino

See your great fog images from across Greater Victoria

It was a foggy day today and your cameras captured some beautiful images

Victoria Police looking for kids dressed as officers for Halloween contest

The contest is part of their #BeSeenHalloween initiative to encourage highly visible costumes

Business is booming as Black Press gears up for Victoria career fair

One stop shop for questions about entering the workforce, finding work experience

UPDATE: Lisa Helps re-elected as mayor of Victoria

Nine people were seeking the mayor’s seat for the City of Victoria and 29 candidates hoped to be chosen for council

Okanagan parachute accidents kills American

Man, 34, dies in skydiving accident Saturday near Westwold, between Vernon and Kelowna

Man who died at BC Ferries terminal shot himself as police fired: watchdog

Officers didn’t commit any offence, says police watchdog office

Mother passes school trustee torch to daughter in Port Alberni

Jane Jones loses after one term, but proud of her daughter Connie Watts

Canada Post strikes leaves small shops in the lurch as holidays approach: CFIB

Rotating strikes began in Victoria, Edmonton, Halifax and Windsor

Voter turnout at 36% in B.C.’s municipal election

Vancouver saw 39% turnout, Surrey saw 33%

Harry and Meghan travel in different style on Australia tour

Prince Harry and his wife Meghan are on day seven of their 16-day tour of Australia and the South Pacific.

AP Exclusive: Stephen Hawking’s wheelchair, thesis for sale

The online auction features 22 items from Hawking, including his doctoral thesis on the origins of the universe, with the sale scheduled for 31 October and 8 November.

In Khashoggi case: Saudi calls, ‘body double’ after killing

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman called the son of Jamal Khashoggi, the kingdom announced early Monday, to express condolences for the death of the journalist killed at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by officials that allegedly included a member of the royal’s entourage.

Most Read