If you ever wanted to know why no one has ever really paid attention to child sexual abuse on the various Canadian Armed Forces bases, it’s because the Canadian Armed Forces are good at hiding and obscuring issues.
A couple of years ago I filed an Access to Information to the Department of National Defence. I was looking for copies of any documents or emails between myself and a particular person.
What I received in response blew me away.
It was a copy of an email between Denis Paradis and William Bain of the Ministerial Correspondence Unit.
Paradis was requesting that Bain attach a copy of an email between the Chief of Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, and the Deputy Judge Advocate General, Major Zenon Drebot, to my file.
Denis Paradis is requesting that my file be encrypted, and the subject matter of my file be changed in name to “Concerns with the CAF’.
This would pose sigificant problems to anyone who was ever searching for the existence of my paperwork.
For example, if a media wonk was to submit a request to DND to see if the Minister of National Defence has ever dealt with subjects such as “child sexual abuse in the Canadian Armed Forces”, their request would come back with negative results as the Ministerial Correspondence Unit changed the subject name of my correspondence.
What’s stopping a media wonk from requesting copies of any documents that mention “Concerns with the CAF”?
Well, they’d never get my files as my files are encrypted. And any files they do get might run the gamut from disgruntled vets upset about their pensions to fishers worried about the impact of our submarines on the cod stocks. Concerns with the CAF might yield so many results that DND would be able justifiably turn this request down due to the amount of time to collect all of the results.
I was able to request a copy of the “encrypted files” because I specifically knew they existed and I knew who created the “encrypted files”. The file contains copies of letters that I had sent to the Chief of Defence Staff and the Minister of National Defence. The file also contains 8 pages of documents redacted in their entirety due to Section 27 of the Privacy act. Numerous sections redacted due to solicitor / client privilege. And a whole bunch of back and forth between the Judge Advocate General, the Chief of Defence Staff, and the Minister of National Defence.
Am I being paranoid?
Nope. Not in the slightest.
A high ranking officer was found during the recent fiasco involving the former Vice Chief of Defence Staff Vice-Admiral Mark Norman to have avoided using Mark Norman’s name on documents and internal correspondence in order to thwart access to information requests and discovery requests.
During the Mark Norman pre-trial, it was discovered during the examination of a DND employee that when this employee went to their commander to fulfil an access to information request for documents relating to Mark Norman, the commander told their subordinate “Don’t worry, this isn’t our first rodeo. We made sure we never used his name. Send back nil return”
It is very apparent that DND is adept at the art of hiding information. And I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that they actively use their skills to hide a lot of embarrassing issues from the public eye.