POLITICS

'Biological wiring' remark on military sexual misconduct prompts strong MP reaction

06/17/2015 02:06 EDT | Updated 06/17/2016 05:59 EDT
Government members reacted strongly to a comment by Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Tom Lawson, who said sexual harassment remains an issue in the military due to "biological wiring."

The comment was made Tuesday in an interview with the CBC's Peter Mansbridge.

Lawson later apologized, saying it was an "awkward characterization."

The remark drew strong words from government members, some calling for him to resign. 

"General Lawson's comments the other day were completely unacceptable. His excuse was completely inadequate," Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said Wednesday afternoon.

"General Lawson should be immediately dismissed. His comments are absolutely out of place in 2015 in the society and the country we're trying to build."

Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair called the comment "completely wrong and totally unacceptable," saying "the military brass simply don't get it."

He added that "the real problem is no one is working for a change in the culture in the military on the issue of sexual harassment."

NDP MP Jack Harris also noted that the comment appeared reflective of a wider issue, noting "this kind of Neanderthal thinking is what contributes to the problem."

'Wake up, we're in 2015'

Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray called the comment "an insult to men and women alike," and pressed for his immediate resignation, saying "we need leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces that is prepared to take sexual harassment and abuse in the military seriously."

Others expressed outrage.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt said she was "at a loss for words on the chosen verbiage the general used."

NDP MP Francoise Boivin said, "Wake up, we're in 2015."

Some seemed uncertain as to whether the comment was representative of a systemic Canadian military problem.

Senator Jean-Guy Dagenais said, "I don't know if it's symptomatic or if it's just a mistake on his part, but thankfully he apologized."

Conservative MP Candice Bergen called Lawson "a great leader," but said that she did not agree with the remark.

When asked if he felt that Lawson's words were appropriate, Justice Minister Peter MacKay answered negatively, but said Lawson "genuinely feels bad about the way he used that language." 

The comment came in the wake of a searing report released in April by retired Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps that called sexual misconduct in the Canadian military "endemic."

Lawson is set to step down as Canada's top general in September.