Policy

Aiming to Get it Right, Canadian Government Announces Review and Support to Fight Systemic Misconduct in the CAF

Over the past months, Canadians have heard from Defence Team members who have been affected by sexual trauma and sexual misconduct.

Today, the Minister of National Defence, Harjit S. Sajjan, announced that Madame Louise Arbour will lead an independent external comprehensive review into harassment and sexual misconduct in the DND/CAF.

“We’ve been on this road for a very long time, and it can feel like there isn’t much to show for it, but I would argue that if the initial steps need to evolve, then we should go back and make that happen, said Thomas.  “Women have been integrated in the forces for more than 30 years and clearly have not been truly included. This dates back to when I served. It is utterly unacceptable that the isolating and abusive culture persists with this work.” Jody Thomas, deputy minister of national defence.

“The challenges are many in the fight to prevent systemic misconduct, and they include bureaucracy and outdated values that prevent progress and allow affected persons to be ignored at the end day, stated Jody Thomas, deputy minister of national defence.

Addressing Jointly CAF & DND

“For the first time, we are addressing this jointly as a CAF and Department of National Defense issue that needs a Defense Team solution. Failure to do so previously ignored how intertwined the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence are at the working management and senior leadership level,” stated Jody Thomas, deputy minister of national defence.

She added this is not only a CAF or DND issue, and it never has been. They are also looking beyond the issue of sexualized culture; how can they eliminate broader abuses of power that manifest themselves in sexual or other forms of misconduct.

Madame Louise Arbour will lead an independent external comprehensive review into harassment and sexual misconduct in the DND/CAF. Image courtesy of Madame Louise Arbour.

“We’ve been on this road for a very long time, and it can feel like there isn’t much to show for it, but I would argue that if the initial steps need to evolve, then we should go back and make that happen, said Thomas.

“Women have been integrated in the forces for more than 30 years and clearly have not been truly included. This dates back to when I served. It is utterly unacceptable that the isolating and abusive culture persists with this work,” she added.

Provide Concrete Recommendations

Over the coming months, Madame Arbour will provide concrete recommendations on how the DND/CAF can set up an independent, external reporting system for Defence Team members that meets the needs of those who have been affected by misconduct, free from any influence of the Chain of the Command.

“It is clear we have not lived up to our responsibility to protect members from harassment and misconduct. It is why we are taking these important initial steps to ensure that we have a system that better responds to the needs of those who have been affected by sexual harassment and violence while holding those who perpetrate it to account,” explained Sajjan.

Left, Anita Vandenbeld, parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence, said they know that the only way to put a stop to sexual misconduct is by having a reporting mechanism outside of the Chain of Command. Right, Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan will lead the new internal organization as the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture.

Third-Party Review

The neutral, third-party review will be independent of DND/CAF. It will consider all relevant independent reviews conducted to date concerning the DND/CAF, along with their findings and recommendations.

  • Recommendations on establishing external oversight and/or review mechanisms related to misconduct will also be included.
  • The review will also examine the policies, procedures, programs, practices, and culture within National Defence and make recommendations to address systemic issues and create lasting culture change within the organization.
  • It will look at the CAF military justice system’s policies, procedures, and practices to see how to make the system more responsive to the needs of those who have been impacted by misconduct while holding perpetrators to account.

Anita Vandenbeld, parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence, said they know that the only way to put a stop to sexual misconduct is by having a reporting mechanism outside of the Chain of Command.

“The lived experience of many members does not reflect the professed values of the organization. That has to change, and we have to be that change. We have to listen to our people, present, past, and at all levels, to learn from and guide our actions, finding solutions and making decisions reflective of their experiences and suggestions.” Acting Chief of the Defence Staff Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre

She commented, “Madame Arbour is the right person for this job to ensure that we get this right. To all the survivors who have spoken out with heartbreaking stories, you are making a difference.”

Addressing Important Issues As Soon As Possible

To ensure important issues can be addressed as soon as possible, Madame Arbour will provide any interim recommendations to the DND/CAF, which we commit to acting upon. The final report and the Departmental response to the report will be made public once complete.

While Madame Arbour undertakes her review, Acting Chief of the Defence Staff Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre and Deputy Minister Jody Thomas are also creating a new internal organization to be led by Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan as the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture.

The group’s intention is to unify related policies, programs, and activities that are addressing systemic misconduct and supporting culture change across National Defence. As their efforts line up with the work being done by Madame Arbour, “This will ensure that immediate steps are taken to address and act upon any interim recommendations made to provide better and more streamlined support to all those impacted by misconduct,” the press release stated.

Acting Chief of the Defence Staff Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre and Deputy Minister Jody Thomas are also creating a new internal organization to be led by Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan as the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture. Left, Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre. Photo by Melani Girard, Canadian Forces Support Unit (Ottawa) Imaging Services. Right, Deputy Minister of National Defence Jody Thomas. Images courtesy of DND/CAF.

Chief Professional Conduct and Culture Group

The Chief Professional Conduct and Culture group will have an assistant deputy minister, yet to be named, in direct support of Lt.-Gen. Carignan. The team will be inclusive of members of all ranks/classifications and will emulate the diversity that Canadians expect of it.

The team will be inclusive of members of all ranks/classifications. According to the press release, in the 2021 Budget, the Government committed over $236 million so that DND/CAF and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) can develop a professionally co-facilitated peer support program in conjunction to help CAF members and Veterans who have suffered from sexual misconduct related to their military service.

“The DND/CAF continues its important work in support of victims and survivors by following through on its commitment to consult with victims and survivors of service offences, which will inform the development of the regulations needed to implement the Declaration of Victims Rights from Bill C-77. Direct engagement with victims’ groups has been completed and an online questionnaire will be launched soon to allow for the collection of anonymous feedback from DND employees and CAF members,” the press release informed.

The Program to Include

The program is to include online and in-person group support, mental health professionals. Peers with lived experience will co-facilitate the platforms in line with best practices. There will also be an expansion in the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) reach across the country to better support those who have experienced sexual misconduct.

“The lived experience of many members does not reflect the professed values of the organization. That has to change, and we have to be that change. We have to listen to our people, present, past, and at all levels, to learn from and guide our actions, finding solutions and making decisions reflective of their experiences and suggestions,” Acting Chief of the Defence Staff Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre said.

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Julia Lennips

Julia is a journalist who is an avid reader and an artist. She is living in North Bay, ON pursing her passion for reporting.

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