Policy

Sweeping changes coming to CAF

Above image: On March 23, the Canadian Armed Forces held a technical briefing on culture change in the Canadian Armed Forces. left, Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture, and right, Major-General Lise Bourgon, Acting Chief of Military Personnel, provided an overview of the Canadian Armed Forces’ approach to diversity, inclusion, and culture change with other senior leaders.

Sweeping changes across the military will be felt by all members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in the coming months and years.

The changes will include a gender-neutral dress code and a new ethos as the Canadian military continues its efforts to create a more inclusive and diverse environment.

“It has become clear that creating a culture that is rooted in inclusion must be central to our approach,” said LGen. Jennie Carignan, Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture, during a briefing to the press on Wednesday.

Carignan continued, “When people feel valued, supported and that they can bring their authentic selves to work, that’s when they can fully contribute to their full range of creativity, innovation and talent to the organization.”

After more than 430 hours of consultations with nine thousand participants, the CAF has determined four elements of the existing culture that need particular attention: service to the mission, warrior identity, leadership, and teamwork.

First Visible Change

In the next few weeks, an announcement will be made to dress instructions of CAF members. The CAF will be moving to a more gender-neutral dress code that will allow its members to have more options.

“We’ve heard from our members that the existing dress instructions were not inclusive and did not allow our members to represent their authentic selves while in uniform,” said MGen. Lise Bourgon, Acting Chief of Military Personnel.

The new dress instructions will allow for more choices while sticking to the core mandate of military dress that includes safety and operational readiness.

“Professional skills and competence are not defined by the length or the colour of your hair. So this will be the first visual display of our culture and honestly a very clear signal that the CAF is evolving into a more inclusive organization,” Bourgon said.

The Minister of National Defence met with CAF Personnel at the beginning of the month. At Camp Adazi, I was thrilled to meet with women
@CanadianForces leaders who demonstrate the very best of Canada source:https://twitter.com/AnitaAnandMP/status/1501268221000830988/photo/1

Need for Change

Although white males account for 39 per cent of the general Canadian workforce, they still represent a staggering 71 per cent of the CAF, according to stats released during Wednesday’s briefing.

“Generally speaking, we have a very exclusive culture that typically forces people to fit in. For the good of our people and to ensure operations effectiveness, we need to create a culture of inclusion,” said Carignan.

The CAF has created a number of targets to attract more women and visible minorities. However, although great strides have been made in attracting indigenous peoples and visible minorities, there are still many challenges, especially with the recruitment of women. And minorities, indigenous people, and members of the LGBQT+ community remain underrepresented in the CAF.

“Diversity enhances operational effectiveness. So, we must attract, recruit, retain and develop talent that is representative of our Canadian society,” noted Bourgon.

According to Bourgon, considering this need for change, the CAF will be releasing a new ethos that will be a day-to-day guide and make inclusion a military value and teamwork a professional reality.

After more than 430 hours of consultations with nine thousand participants, the CAF has determined four elements of the existing culture that need particular attention: service to the mission, warrior identity, leadership, and teamwork.

“It is not that we have judged that any of these elements of our culture to be good or bad. Rather, the key finding is that we recognize that we have a dual nature and that they can be our greatest strength and our most harmless weakness depending on how they’re expressed,” said Carignan.

Lt. Col. Pelletier, 2nd Canadian Division, briefs Vermont Army National Guard Soldiers on integration of women in the Canadian Forces at Camp Ethan Allen Training Sites, Jericho, Vt., Sept. 12, 2015. Canadian Forces integrated women in combat arms occupations in 1989. (Photo by U.S. Army National Guard Pvt. Avery Cunningham)

Reaching Women

The CAF currently falls short of its target to recruit more women, mainly impacted by the recent sexual abuse scandals plaguing the military.

With this specific target in mind, the CAF has made and will continue to make several changes to make the military a more inclusive place for women.

Specific Strategies Being Rolled Out

There are specific strategies being rolled out for the retention and recruitment of women. For example, the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) is launching the Building our Future Program focused on the university and early military career experience.

The program was created in partnership with the sexual misconduct centre. The CAF is also supporting groups on campus such as Agora to support students of the LGBQT+ community and Athena, which focuses on gender inclusivity.

According to Carignan, leaders need to create a safe workplace to encourage new ideas and make their team members feel valued. Currently, there are a number of workshops and consultations being held with CAF leaders to help them understand the problems and create a space for reflection and dialogue.

Additionally, in the last year, the CAF participated in various programs to support women, such as working with Build a Dream, an organization that encourages women in STEM, hosting the Girls Can Fly Too event led by the Royal Canadian Air Force to support women interested in aviation, and hosting a bilingual chat to connect currently serving women with women interested in joining the military.

Current Initiatives

There are a number of initiatives currently underway to support the CAF’s goal of inclusion and diversity.

These initiatives include:

    • Nursing and pumping policy that allows women to have access to a clean, safe, and private space;
    • Reimbursement of nursing and pregnancy shirts part of the operational dress uniform;
    • Compassionate leave for bereavement and victims of family violence;
    • Compassionate leave for sick children or parents;
    • Leave for religious and spiritual holidays of non-Christians;
    • The removal of sex designation from the military licence.
Personnel of the Canadian Women’s Army Corps at No 3 CWAC (Basic) Training Centre, Kitchener ON,April 6,1944 RCAF Women’s Division, Library and Archives Canada

Leadership

A key strategy in enforcing culture change in the CAF is the development of leadership.

“Leadership at all levels and across our organization has the key role to play in making DND can more inclusive,” commented Carignan.

According to Carignan, leaders need to create a safe workplace to encourage new ideas and make their team members feel valued. Currently, there are a number of workshops and consultations being held with CAF leaders to help them understand the problems and create a space for reflection and dialogue.

“Culture change is incremental and requires systemic, sustained, and continued efforts,” noted Carignan.

Multidisciplinary & Distinctive Strategies

The hope is through these multidisciplinary and distinctive strategies, the CAF can make a permanent culture change not only for current defence team members but also for the future.

“Culture change is a must-have rather than a nice to have,” said Carignan.

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Mishall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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