Cadets, abuse & the media.
Ryan Hammermeister, a two-time Afghanistan veteran diagnosed with PTSD, was convicted and jailed for two years for sexual interference and Internet luring of a 13-year-old girl. This would normally rate a few paragraphs in the local news section of a paper. Unfortunately, the accused is an adult helper with a cadet unit so this made headlines! While we often see youth leaders, teachers and clergy accused--not necessarily convicted--of offences against young people, we hardly ever see "butcher/baker/candlestick-maker charged!" Sensationalism sells, but the writer managed to parlay this incident into a full-page story of the supposed safety shortcomings in the Cadet movement. The writer (Douglas Quan) draws on a number of cases as far back as 1964 and 1998. One complaint was that an air cadet instructor had provided a 16-year-old cadet with alcohol--the cadet was a family friend; the instructor was suspended.
There are about 50,000 cadets in the movement (Sea, Land and Air). In 2014, there were 44 cases of abuse involving cadets --most of the alleged offenders were cadets. In the case of persons in authority accused of misconduct, the allegations often make headlines, but subsequent acquittals get little mention. Cadet leaders undergo "double indemnity"--military police and the civil authority investigate cases. Their job is not easy; they must strike a fine line between undue familiarity with cadets (e.g., coffee and donuts together after parade) or distance-keeping when the cadet, often, needs a mentor. It is very simple for a cadet who feels that he or she is not sufficiently recognized--such as failure to be promoted--to make an allegation against an instructor. I have served in Cadets for decades, from being the scruffiest cadet in my Corps, through CIC and as League representative. I am cautious; when I had to pin a medal on a female cadet, for example, I would either hand it to her or invite her mother (if present) to put it on.
DND takes the protection and safety of cadets seriously. In the words of BGen Kelly Wolden, who heads the cadet program, "I will not tolerate inappropriate behaviour involving cadets, their instructors or anyone involved in the cadet program. There's no grace period." Any adults working with cadets--even those who have little or no contact with the youths--must undergo police record checks. Sponsor support groups, with local knowledge, screen applicants. Leaders must take sensitivity training. All in all, your "ankle-biters" are as safe as you can reasonably expect. (Read "Cadet Corner" in each month's Esprit de Corps.)
Les Peate is a Korean War veteran based in Ottawa, and author of The War That Wasn't: Canadians in Korea