Featured image credit:(Nicolas Laffont/45eNord.ca)
Though the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has made strides on addressing sexual misconduct, according to the second progress report recently released, much work is still needed to be done to create a lasting cultural change. Over the next few months, the CAF will continue to build on its existing foundation to root out any traces of sexual misconduct within the Armed Forces.
“I am cautiously optimistic, and I believe that we are making some positive steps forward, but there’s still a lot of work to do. I’m pleased that people are actually coming forward and going to the centre and going to different organizations and options they have. I’m very unhappy that this behaviour is still happening. Culture change takes time. As much as we want to be patient and want to eliminate this behaviour in the CAF we know it’s going to take some time,” said LGen. Christine Whitecross, Commander, Military Personnel Command.
One of the most crucial pieces that will dictate policies going forward is the Statistics Canada survey that will be released in late November. The survey looked at the prevalence of sexual misconduct within the military; the reporting of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour; as well as awareness of Operation HONOUR. More than 40,000 CAF members took part in this survey.
“We need to go into this with our eyes wide open because it will be a very sobering moment, as Gen. Vance said, when we get the results from the questionnaire,” said Whitecross.
The survey will indicate the level of awareness amongst CAF members both pre and post Op. HONOUR.
As the CAF continues to work towards eradicating inappropriate sexual behaviour, mental health of victims is another question that comes into play. Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is prevalent among many survivors and is a mental health concern that is unique to members of the military.
“The whole reason for asking people to come forward to acknowledge that they’ve been in those situations is so that we can facilitate the mental health and the support, treatment support peer support, that they require. So, that is a huge focus in supporting the victims,” noted Whitecross.
In addition, the group of MST survivors, It’s Just 700, a platform to provide support and information to victims of sexual assault in the military, will be further involved going forward, says Whitecross.
Whitecross and her team are also working on preparing the final touches to ensure the Sexual Misconduct Centre is ready for full operational capabilities for summer 2017.
Additionally, an advisory council is being set up, and the aim is to have a meeting before the next progress report. The council will be comprised of academic leaders and subject matter experts to help with formulating training and policies as well as validating the steps the CAF is taking.
Whitecross says the hope is that making behavioural changes within the CAF now will lead the military towards a cultural change.
“All this foundational work we’re doing, in terms of the policies, the education, that’s important for the enduring cultural change. I think just as important is getting the dialogue out and making sure people are aware that this is a priority to the Canadian Armed Forces, and we won’t tolerate it and there will be significant repercussions for the people who take part in this behaviour.
“Anecdotally, people have come up to me and said this is the first time they’ve gotten the impression that we’re taking this seriously. I’ve had members of the LBGT community come to me and thank me for the work that we’re doing. I think that just speaks spades about what’s happening on the ground floor,” stated Whitecross.