Canadian navy cancels training course after alleged racist and sexual misconduct incidents


The navy has cancelled one of its basic training courses on the West Coast and suspended three recruits after a series of alleged racist and sexually inappropriate incidents.

The HMCS Calgary is seen behind sailors during a change of command ceremony at CFB Esquimalt, in Esquimalt, B.C., in June, 2015.The navy has cancelled one of its basic training courses on the West Coast and suspended three recruits after a series of alleged racist and sexually inappropriate incidents. (Chap Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

The Royal Canadian Navy has been forced to cancel one of its basic recruiting training courses on the West Coast after a series of alleged racist and sexual misconduct incidents, CBC News has learned.

Three sailors-in-training were kicked off of the course and one of them is being released from the military, a spokesman for the navy said late Thursday night after questions about the incident were posed by CBC News.

Four separate incidents allegedly took place between Feb. 15 and March 9 at different locations on the same training course at Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt, B.C.

"We have made it clear that any form of harassment and inappropriate behavior within our ranks is unacceptable," said Lt.-Cmdr. Anthony Wright in a statement late Thursday.

"It harms our people, jeopardizes our operational effectiveness, and is inconsistent with our values and ethical principles."

In one incident, a text chat group was allegedly set up among some recruits and a sexually explicit photo was shared. The person alleged to have sent the photo — whom the navy will not identify — is expected to be booted out of the military.

Separately, an instructor on one of the courses was on the receiving end of "inappropriate sexualized comments" from two recruits, said Wright.

Both sailors are under review and face the possibility of being released.

The third incident saw a racist and hateful message allegedly placed on the equipment of one recruit. There was a second separate racist incident, involving another recruit and that incident included alleged threats of physical harm.

Training terminated

Military police have launched investigations into both occurrences of alleged hateful conduct, but have yet to identify suspects.

As a result, training for the entire course has been terminated and internal investigations — known as Progress Review Boards — are being convened for all recruits. The review will determine whether the recruits can continue with training.

At the outset of the course in January, there were 51 candidates on the course. Sixteen recruits left for a variety of reasons including voluntary release, and medical or compassionate grounds. By the time the course was cancelled, there were 35 trainees still part of the program.

"The incidents that occurred did not involve physical harm to any member of the group," said Wright. "This does not reduce the seriousness of these incidents in any way, as harmful behavior, especially racist behavior has no place within our ranks."

In light of the ongoing investigations, it is possible more recruits may be released or face "administrative action, disciplinary measures, or criminal charges," he added.


Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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