Alleged sex offences spark booze warning at CFB Esquimalt

Commander holds lecture after two incidents

Two alleged cases of sexual misconduct involving military members from CFB Esquimalt have prompted the commander of Canada’s Pacific fleet to warn personnel about their alcohol use.

“There were two incidents in a relatively short period of time and (Commodore Peter Ellis) had a town hall meeting in which he reminded people of their responsibility with respect to drinking responsibly and looking out for your buddies, and basically the rules and regulations that surround this kind of incident,” said Lt.-Cmdr. Nathalie Garcia, public affairs officer for Maritime Forces Pacific.

All available fleet personnel were required to attend Ellis’ town hall meeting, held on the base’s ‘A’ jetty on June 30. About 300 went, and since then Ellis has shared the same message with personnel from three other ships that were away at the time, Garcia said.

She would not comment on whether charges have been laid in the two incidents, alleged to have occurred in January and June 2011, and whether they involve allegations of sexual assault, if they happened on or off the military base or onboard a naval ship and whether alcohol is a factor.

“That’s part of the investigation,” Garcia said. “I don’t want to skew the investigation (being conducted by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service) by giving details about the incidents.”

The commodore’s town hall speech was not prompted by concerns there is an increase in sexual misconduct at the base, Garcia said.

Such incidents are considered rare, as reflected in personnel statistics compiled by the base’s formation administration section, Garcia said. That office tracks and monitors personnel data on medical to administrative to legal matters, including sexual misconduct.

While alcohol consumption was addressed at the town hall meeting, the alleged misconduct cases have not prompted liquor restrictions at base messes or onboard ships, Garcia said, noting current regulations have been in place for several years.

“We haven’t had any kind of edict coming from the top saying we should change anything within our policy,” she said, adding that ship and base messes are licensed just as civilian liquor establishments are.

“We’re limited in the same way that any other bar would be limited,” Garcia said.

There are, however, additional alcohol limitations for the fleet.

While at sea personnel are permitted to drink no more than two alcohol beverages per day, and no later than six hours before going on duty, said Garcia, adding there may be times when alcohol is not served onboard during certain missions.

emccracken@vicnews.com