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article imageCanada's top general apologizes for 'biological wiring' remark

By Megan Hamilton     Jun 18, 2015 in Politics
Canada's top general has apologized for talking about "biological wiring" being to blame for sexual harassment in the military.
Outgoing Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Tom Lawson apologized, saying that the wording he used was "awkward."
Lawson is retiring in September, and he issued a statement Tuesday night, in an effort to clarify his remarks, CTV Canada reports.
"I apologize for my awkward characterization ...of the issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces," he said. "Sexual misconduct in any form, in any situation is clearly unacceptable."
"My reference to biological attraction being a factor in sexual misconduct was by no means intended to excuse anyone from responsibility for their actions."
Not everyone is happy with his apology, saying it wasn't so much his wording they objected to; instead it was the intent of his words, which seem to suggest men can't resist harassing women.
Lawson made the comments during an interview.
Researchers estimate that five people in the Canadian military are assaulted each day, Jezebel notes.
When CBC's Peter Mansbridge brought up sexual harassment in the interview that's sparked this kerfuffle, he asked:
"It's 2015. Why is this still a problem?"
Lawson remarked it "disturbs the great majority of everyone in uniform and yet, we're still dealing with it."
He continued:
"It would be a trite answer, but it's because we're biologically wired in a certain way and there will be those who believe it is a reasonable thing to press themselves and their desires on others," he said. "It's not the way it should be. Much as we would very much like to be absolutely professional in everything we do, and I think by and large we are, there will be situations and have been situations where, largely, men will see themselves as able to press themselves onto our women members."
Earlier this spring, a report found that women in the military endure hostile work environments because of an "underlying sexualized culture" that encourages sexual harassment and assault, The National Post reports. Former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamp authored the 88-page report, in which hundreds of interviews with active military members found "there is a broadly held perception in the lower ranks that those in the chain of command either condone inappropriate sexual conduct, or are willing to turn a blind-eye to such incidents."
Deschamp offered 10 recommendations for solving this problem, including creating an independent center separate from the military chain of command that would be responsible for handling complaints, CTV News reports.
Tuesday, Lawson reiterated his promise to carry out her recommendations.
"I am committed, alongside Canadian Armed Forces leadership, to addressing the issue of sexual misconduct through an action plan based on the ten recommendations provided in Madame Deschamps' report," Lawson said in his statement.
Lawson has been Chief of Defense Staff since 2012, and will leave the position when his term ends in September, The National Post reports. He will be replaced by Lt. Gen. Jonathan Vance, who is currently commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command.
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