Canada’s military chief Tom Lawson apologized late Tuesday for making a controversial comment, blaming the prevalence of sexual harassment in Canadian Forces on "biological wiring." In an interview to CBC, a local news network, earlier in the day, Lawson said that men are "wired" to force themselves on women, a problem that has led to a high number of harassment cases in the forces.
Lawson, who will retire in September, said that the issue “disturbs the great majority of everyone in uniform and yet, we’re still dealing with it,” CBC News reported. "We believe that's a little bit of biological wiring and inappropriate behavior.
"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. It's not the way it should be," Lawson reportedly said, adding: "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.”
Lawson -- whose comments have been compared with Liberal defense critic Joyce Murray's "boys will be boys" -- released a statement of apology late Tuesday after drawing criticism from opposition politicians and public alike.
"I apologize for my awkward characterization, in today's CBC interview, of the issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. Sexual misconduct in any form, in any situation is clearly unacceptable," Lawson said in the apology statement, according to CBC News, adding: "My reference to biological attraction being a factor in sexual misconduct was by no means intended to excuse anyone from responsibility for their actions.”
The discussion about sexual harassment in Canadian forces comes after an April report by Marie Deschamps, a former Supreme Court justice, which found that women face a hostile environment in the military, and that there were discrepancies in official records of sexual harassment cases and the actual number of incidences, Global News, a local news network, reported. The report also suggested 10 recommendations to deal with the issue of harassment.
“The (external review) found that there is an undeniable problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the CAF, which requires direct and sustained action,” the report said, according to Global News, adding: “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.”
Lawson’s comments also drew criticism on social media.
I'm off to congratulate all the men I know for conquering biological wiring & not raping anyone. Tom Lawson=wrong on SO many levels #cdnpoli
— Mack (@Kcam0011) June 17, 2015
Military sexual misconduct due to 'biological wiring,' Gen. Tom Lawson says. Is he saying 'boys will be boys'? Deplorable excuse! #CDSFail
— Joyce Murray 梅麗喬 (@joycemurray) June 16, 2015
Congratulations to all men who have not raped someone for overcoming their biological wiring http://t.co/tCblQzwY18
— Lauren Strapagiel (@laurenstrapa) June 16, 2015
Canada's top military brass is literally blaming their sexual violence problem on biological determinism. Unreal. http://t.co/Cju60m5r43
— Julie S. Lalonde (@JulieSLalonde) June 16, 2015