Army officer charged with sexual assault

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Jul 29 2015 07:22 AM | Updated as of Jul 29 2015 03:22 PM

OTTAWA, Canada - The Canadian military on Tuesday charged the commander one of the army's most prestigious battalions with a string of sexual assaults involving teenage cadets.

Lieutenant Colonel Mason Stalker is the first officer to face such charges since an April report spoke of endemic sexual harassment and assault in the Canadian armed forces.

The 40-year-old Stalker commands the 1st Battalion of Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry, based in Edmonton.

He faces 10 counts, including three of sexual assault, four counts of sexual exploitation and one count each of sexual interference, invitation to sexual touching and breach of trust by a public officer.

The violations stem from incidents between 1998 and 2007 while Stalker served as a "mentor" with a local army cadet corps, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service said.

The cadets program trains young volunteers, aged 12 to 18, for the military.

"These are serious and significant charges," said CFNIS chief Lieutenant Colonel Francis Bolduc.

"Regardless of a member's rank and role in the Canadian Armed Forces, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service works diligently and independently from the Canadian Armed Forces chain of command to protect individuals from those who violate the law."

A scathing report in April accused the Canadian military of being hostile to women and homosexuals.

The report's author, former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps, had been asked to investigate after cover stories by MacLean's magazine and its French-language sister publication L'Actualite, citing military records, found that one in 10 female soldiers had reported being sexually assaulted.

The two magazines estimated the figure was actually far higher when adding in unreported cases. Deschamps agreed.