OTTAWA — Senior Canadian Armed Forces commanders have ordered a complete review of the Royal Military College of Canada following a number of suspected suicides and allegations of sexual misconduct at the prestigious institution in Kingston, Ont.
The rare move highlights the growing concern among top brass about the way the 140-year-old college — where future generations of military officers are groomed — is being run.
"It's unusual,'' Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the military's second-highest-ranking officer, acknowledged in an interview earlier this week.
"But with that unusualness comes an indication of how seriously the chief of defence staff and the entire senior leadership are taking this issue."
The 140-year-old Royal Military College is where military officers are groomed. (Photo: CP)
An eight-member team comprised of current and former military officers has been convened to look at all aspects of the college, from the institution's climate and culture to its academic programs and infrastructure.
The review will put a heavy emphasis on assessing the mental state of the college's approximately 1,000 full- and part-time student cadets by looking at stress levels and available support, as well as overall morale levels.
It will also look at how staff are selected and whether they have the right training and qualifications to be working at the college, as well as the structure of the program.
The team will start work on Wednesday and spend the next two months interviewing staff and cadets as well as poring through documents at the college.
"This is about finding the reasons why and causes for things."
It will report back to Norman by the end of the year, at which point he and other senior officers will consider what changes are required.
No single event sparked the review, said Norman, who cited instead a number of incidents over the past few months that prompted military leaders to sit up and take notice of the need for a closer look at the school.
"Everything from alleged infractions that weren't necessarily being handled the way we would have expected them to be handled to some questionable behaviour in terms of cadets leading cadets under the guise of training,'' Norman said.
"The habitability of the residences. Just a whole range of things.''
Sexual misconduct allegations, three sudden deaths
Norman would not get into specifics, but there have been several reports of sexual misconduct at the college over the past two years. In one case, a lecturer was verbally abused while giving a presentation on sexual assault prevention.
In another, court martial documents show Officer Cadet J.C. Scott received a severe reprimand and a $2,000 fine in May 2015 after pleading guilty to one charge of assault after touching a fellow cadet without her consent on several occasions in March 2013.
Following her year-long investigation into sexual misconduct in the military, retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps reported last year that sexual harassment was considered a rite of passage at the college, and sexual assault was an ``ever-present risk.''
The military is also still investigating the sudden deaths of three Royal Military College cadets between May and August. Harrison Kelertas, 22, and 20-year-old Brett Cameron died on campus within days of each other, while 19-year-old Matthew Sullivan died in August in Saint John, N.B.
Cadets and Royal Military College staff are also being encouraged to reach out to the review team. (Photo: CP)
Officials have not confirmed the cause of death in any of the cases, though suicide is suspected. Norman said the review he is overseeing is completely separate from the investigations into the three deaths.
Senior leaders recognize the trust families put in the military when they send their children to the college, Norman said, which is why a letter will be sent to parents explaining the reasons for the review.
"My message to parents is, 'We recognize our obligation for the care and custody, the safe development of your children and we're not concerned that there is an unsafe environment, per se,''' he said.
"But we want to make sure that we make their experience as enjoyable and as successful as it can be.''
"(RMC) is a source of incredible pride to thousands of Canadians and it's something we really are invested in."
Cadets and staff are also being encouraged to reach out to the review team. Norman said their help is essential to getting at the "root causes'' of the problems at the college.
"This is about finding the reasons why and causes for things,'' he said. "It's not about assigning blame or responsibility. So we would like them to feel comfortable coming forward and telling us about their experiences. Positive or negative.''
Norman described the college as a "national institution,'' and said closing it is not an option. However, he said the top brass is prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure it lives up to its promise and responsibility to both the cadets and Canadian Armed Forces.
"It is our only national military university, military college,'' Norman said.
"It's steeped in history. It is a source of incredible pride to thousands of Canadians and it's something we really are invested in. And we want to make sure we get this right going forward.''
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Cambridge wins the Oxford vs Cambridge rivalry this year at the third spot on the list. With a larger student body of 30,000 than the aforementioned universities, Cambridge is generally better suited for maths and science students than Oxford. However it’s academic and employer reputation remain at 100 no matter what the course of study may be. The architecture and facilities are great however they can sometimes be limited through the collegiate system as you may not get to meet as many people as you would like. Entrance to Cambridge does come from high expectations of you though. The terms work in short and intense periods before a break during which the majority of students try to bag internships.
Unlike the majority, of its highly esteemed competitors, The University of Stanford is located on the West Coast of America, conveniently near Silicon Valley. This is why this is a great university for technological startups. Research, internship and work experience opportunities are rife at Stanford as they genuinely encourage you. It seems to have the perfect balance between a rigorous academia and a social side but activities here can be expensive and there are not a lot of nearby services in the local area. Stanford is also often thought to be a hop, skip and a jump away from San Fransisco but this requires a considerable amount of planning and isn’t quite ‘on your doorstep’ as many seem to claim. The dorms can also be shabby and the scheduling system is said to need updating as many miss out on opportunities such as summer internships as a result of this.
California Institute of Technology, or Caltech as it is commonly known, has previously been ranked as number one by other university ranking sources. They claim that their mission is to ‘expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education’, which can’t really be argued with although students also boast about the social side of it through regular dinners and events. The arts also seem to be appreciate appropriately as there is a secret tunnel system underneath the establishment which has been preserved throughout history. However the institution has been criticized by the likes of med students who claim that core classes seem to punish your overall GPA and there aren’t enough opportunities such as hospital volunteering. Many also say that the establishment is simply too small and it can be difficult to expand your social circle.
Oxford is the world’s oldest university in the English speaking world and lays claim to nine centuries of continuous existence. However it is only at number six this year after being let down by it’s citations per faculty as well as its low level of international student intake which echoes criticisms of them not taking in enough students from less privileged backgrounds. Yet Oxford is renowned for its academia and is the best place to go for someone wanting to study the arts within the UK. Although there is a lot of pressure put on students and consequently Oxford has the highest suicide rate in the country.
Another British University is at number seven, The University College of London. Located in the heart of London, everything is on your doorstep including job opportunities. However UCL sometimes has a cramped feeling to it with little space both indoors and outdoors which is also furthered by the large student population of 30,000. The institution recently turned 100 years old and was the first one in the country to open its doors to women and other minorities during the height of racism.
Imperial College is the UK’s very own engineering university. Recent graduates have been known to end up working for the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini as a result of excellent opportunities across the establishment. Although this is often also the result of a ‘pushy’ work ethic whereby everything must be related to work, including socialising at times. There is also said to not be enough diversity in the student body and the surrounding area can be extremely expensive.
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The University of Chicago is at the number ten spot. Originally set up by the American Baptist Education Society, it has been around for over a century with its academic reputation as high as ever. It is home to the best undergraduate economics course in the world therefore one has to work hard to distinguish themselves amongst a crushing workload. Many students also claim that their professors take little interest in them as many didn’t actually come to teach but instead came to take a shot at a Nobel. Winters can be harsh, both physically and mentally and you will begin to question your decision to come here but if you soldier on through it, you are highly likely to get an excellent job straight out of university.
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