Minister of National Defence, Anita Anand, presented her “ambitious roadmap” to combat sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to Parliament on Tuesday. The tabled report outlined ways the CAF will be implementing recommendations made by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour.
Tuesday’s update in Parliament served as Minister Anand’s official response to all of Madame Arbour’s recommendations. Where she officially accepted all 48 recommendations made in the report.
“As Minister of National Defence, I frequently visit military bases in Canada and travel to visit our personnel deployed abroad. I have met with thousands of Canadian Armed Forces members and Department of National Defence employees – and I am deeply proud of them. My sincere hope is that every Canadian feels this same pride in the people who protect our country and who keep us safe.
“But, this can only happen if we rebuild lost trust by delivering transformative change. Culture change cannot happen from the top down. It will only succeed if it is a team effort, and it will continue to require the involvement and commitment of every DND employee and CAF member. I invite them all to take up this call to arms, and to pursue this mission with the same commitment and vigour for which they are known around the globe,” said Minister Anand.
Justice Arbour’s Report
On May 20, after one year of investigation and reviews, former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour released the Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR) on sexual misconduct and harassment in the military. The report consisted of 48 recommendations that range from defining sexual misconduct and harassment to the mandate and activities of the Sexual Misconduct Centres to issues around recruitment.
On May 30, Anand welcomed the recommendations and announced that work on 17 of the recommendations was immediately underway. This includes the appointment of an External Monitor, which Minister Anand appointed on Oct 30. The External Monitor is Jocelyne Therrien. Additionally, in line with the IECR recommendations, the SMRC’s reach and services have been expanded.
Officially Accepting Recommendations
After months of “careful analysis and robust consultation,” the Minister of National Defence officially accepted all 48 recommendations. Tuesday’s report outlined the work the CAF and DND will be carrying out for implementation.
“This is an ambitious roadmap for reform developed through months of work and consultation. We will continue to put our shoulders to the wheel and deliver substantive changes to the way things are done at the Department of National Defence and in the Canadian Armed Forces,” said Anand during a press conference Tuesday.
A key recommendation that Minister Anand highlighted is recommendation number five, which calls for the removal of criminal sexual offences from the jurisdiction of the CAF. The recommendation states that such cases should be investigated by civilian police forces and should be prosecuted exclusively in civilian criminal courts.
To ensure this recommendation is carried out, the Minister has asked DND and CAF to explore how jurisdictional changes can occur in conjunction with federal, provincial and territorial partners.
Other factors are also being considered when determining the best way forward to implement this recommendation, including the capacity for civilian police to investigate historical cases and the ability to investigate cases outside of Canada.
Change Will Take Years
Even with outlining the way forward, Anand also noted that institutional change would take years, and even implementing certain recommendations could take years before fully coming to fruition.
However, the need for change is ever-urgent as the CAF continues to struggle to recruit new members.
“Canada needs a military that can attract and retain talent from across society. If we cannot protect our members, we cannot expect that they will be willing to join and will be able to protect us,” Anand stated in her report to Parliament.
Considering the gravity of the situation and the need for culture change, CAF leadership also understands the urgency of implementing the recommendations.
“As I speak with our members and leaders at all levels, I see a strong desire for change with my own eyes. Simply put, we owe it to our people to make serious changes—we owe it to our people to have confidence in their leadership and their reporting systems. Our ability to defend our nation depends on it, and our future operational effectiveness is predicated on forming diverse and inclusive teams where everyone is able to carry out their duties to the very best of their abilities. Change is absolutely necessary, and we will do so not only because it is what Canadians rightly expect of us, but ultimately because it is the right thing to do,” stated Gen. Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff.