Testifying before a House of Commons defense committee, Lawson noted a likely under-reporting of incidents. An internal review in April identified barriers preventing alleged victims from speaking up, he added. Lawson requested an independent and external investigation.
The testimony was prompted by suicides of Canadian veterans of the Afghanistan war -- implying a mental health crisis within the military -- and a recent article in McLean's and L'actualite magazines suggesting sexual assaults are common. The article said military police receive reports of 200 sexual assaults annually, with many more going unreported.
Lawson citied a 2012 military survey, in which only two percent said they faced harassment of any sort, although he conceded the numbers are more disturbing when analyzed by gender.