General Lawson was disappointed to see the recent media reports on the actions the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is taking to respond to the issue of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
In a statement last week, Lawson reiterated the CAF clearly recognizes the seriousness of the issue and is committed to responding to it. He explained that is why he ordered an internal review into policies and procedures last spring, and it is why he further commissioned Madame Deschamps to undertake an external examination.
“Even before her final report was received, we took the proactive measure to stand-up a dedicated team, led by Major-General Chris Whitecross, to examine the final report, and to develop an action plan to respond to it. The directive I issued for this included planning assumptions, provided to MGen Whitecross to guide her work,” said Lawson.
The planning assumptions should in no way be viewed as restrictions or orders for her to ignore the recommendations of the final report. According to Lawson, any such suggestion is quite simply false.
“The salient point is not what considerations went into the stand-up of our response team, rather it is the Action Plan that they developed to respond to this issue. This Action Plan, as endorsed by our senior leadership and released publicly, clearly accepts all of the recommendations made by Madame Deschamps, either outright or in principle. Major-General Chris Whitecross and her team are now actively examining options for how to best achieve the intent of each of these recommendations,” said Lawson.
Lawson pointed out there has been much discussion on the issue of Madame Deschamp’s recommendation to establish a ‘Centre of Accountability’ which is separate from the chain of command. Her report suggested that the CAF examine models for this such as those used by the militaries of Australia, France or the United States.
Lawson says the CAF has accepted this recommendation in principle, and Major-General Whitecross is now actively examining the other models to develop recommendations for what will be the best fit in Canada.
This might mean, for example, something that draws from the Australian model, which empowers victims, but also strengthens the chain of command’s ability to lead and care for the well-being of its members, and reports regularly to their Chief of the Defence Force through the Chiefs of Service Committee.
The CAF is also looking at the United States system, which is led by a two-star general who reports to an under-secretary of defence.
“While we are ultimately uncertain which model will be the best fit for Canada, and therefore how we will implement this recommendation, we fully recognize the need to have a centre which is independent of undue influence from the chain of command,” said Lawson.
The CAF’s response to this issue has been clear, and the organization will remain resolute in their commitment to addressing the issue.
Inappropriate sexual behaviour has no place in today’s Canadian Armed Forces, and strong steps will be taken to initiate positive change.
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