Systemic Racism and Discrimination Report Released

“Racism in Canada is not a glitch in the system; it is the system,” quote from the panel. 

A blistering new report released today by the Minister of National Defence clearly defines how racism and inequality remain prevalent within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).

“I sincerely thank the Panel for their extensive work and recommendations for change to eliminate systemic racism and discrimination on the Defence Team. The Panel has urged us to consider their recommendations with resolve and urgency, and that is exactly what we will do as we continue our mission to bring the culture change needed in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence,” said Anita Anand, the current minister of national defense.

The report concludes with 13 recommendations for the CAF to act on to permanently change its culture to a more inclusive one and encourage future recruitment and retention. Among the recommendations is a call to fight white supremacy and other extremism that can often creep into the military.

The report also indicated that the CAF had conducted many such external and internal reviews over the past few decades but often failed to act on them.

“It is quite clear that the Defence Team knows how to move quickly in the right direction if it has the will,” the report reads.

The report was conducted by an advisory panel assembled by the former Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, in 2020. The panel focused on Anti-Indigenous and Anti-Black Racism, LGBTQ2+ Prejudice, Gender Bias, White Supremacy, Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and discrimination against people with disabilities.

Members of the Ministerial Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination in DND/CAF General Wayne Eyre, left, with panel members, Sgt (retired) Aronhia:nens Derek Montour, Maj (retired) Sandra Perron, CD, HLCol of the Régiment de Hull, Minister of National Defence Anita Anand, Captain (retired) Door Gibson, Major-General (retired) Ed Fitch and Deputy Minister of National Defence Bill Mathews.  Image courtesy of MND Anita Amand, Twitter.

Reports Findings

The year-long review uncovered many “uncomfortable” truths about racism and discrimination within the Canadian military.

According to the report entitled “Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination” found that inequality in representation “persists in every corner of the Defence Team: recruitment, retention and career progression are seriously hampered by systemic discrimination.”

It also noted there is a discrepancy between Canada’s growing diversity and the reflection of this diversity in the Defence Team.

“The failure of the Defence Team to be representative of Canadian demographics is rooted in the system that was created by European settlers. The systemic and cultural racism that is institutionalized in regulations, norms, and common worldviews in the Defence Team is a direct consequence of Canada’s colonial past and the associated treatment of Indigenous, Black, and racialized people,” read the report.

The groundbreaking report also found there is an issue with retention of marginalized groups, and they are less likely to reach higher ranks.

“Meeting the challenges of an increasingly dangerous and unstable future requires an even more diverse and inclusive Canadian Armed Forces. Every Canadian needs to see themselves reflected within our ranks, and every member of our team must feel welcome, valued, and safe to bring their talents to bear in service to our country. We thank the panel and all members of the Defence Team who are helping us identify and address exclusionary aspects of our institutional culture to bring about lasting and meaningful change,” said Gen. Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff.

At the press conference.


Considering the large gaps in equality and the continued marginalization of certain groups, the panel has suggested 13 recommendations for the CAF to consider urgently.

The 13 recommendations are:

    1. Establishing a Process for Reviewing Recommendations
    2. Elevating the Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs) and Network(s)
    3. Re-Defining the Relationship Between the Defence Team and Indigenous Peoples
    4. Addressing the Experiences of Black People – “Resilience” and “Tenacity” in the Absence of Progress
    5. Fighting White Supremacy and Other Forms of Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE)
    6. Re-Defining Chaplaincy
    7. Ensuring Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities
    8. Re-Designing Military Policing
    9. Embracing Transgender Members of the Defence Team
    10. Employing the Diversity within the Defence Team
    11. Fostering Parental Allowance (PATA) Usage in the Canadian Armed Forces
    12. Measuring Initiatives and Progress – Scorecards
    13. Improving the Total Health and Wellness Framework.

Specifically, some of the recommendations under these 13 broad recommendations include improving education and awareness of reconciliation, promoting the history of Black service personnel, improving recruitment efforts in multicultural communities, and using data to measure progress.


The Minister’s Advisory Panel has been conducting research and interviews with stakeholders since January 2021. The panel consists of four members, including MGen Major-General (retired) Ed Fitch Ed Fitch, OMM, MSM, CD; Sgt. (retired) Aronhia:nens Derek Montour; Maj (retired) Sandra Perron, CD, HLCol of the Régiment de Hull; and Capt (retired) Door L. Gibson, MMM, CD, as well as General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces, and Bill Matthews, the Deputy Minister of the Department of National Defence.

“Your Advisory Panel believes that the necessary expertise to effectively address challenges described in this final report exists within the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces. The key to lasting positive change within the Defence Team is to listen to its members at all levels, as it is with their input that a more inclusive culture, appreciative of diversity, can flourish,” members of the panel in a joint statement.

The panel conducted close to 50 engagement sessions with external organizations and internal Defence stakeholders. During their review process, the Advisory Panel received dozens of unsolicited submissions and engaged in subsequent conversations, where lived experiences contributed to the Panel’s analysis of systemic racism and discrimination to inform this report.

Way Forward

According to the Department of National Defence, the Defence Team will be establishing a cross-sectional working group that will include Branches from across the organization and the Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs) and Networks to address the report’s recommendations including by developing an implementation Framework and Action Plan. This work will be synchronized with the broader Culture Change Strategy currently in development by the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture.

Also, according to a DND press release: Budget 2022 also proposes to provide $100.5 million over six years to strengthen leadership in the Canadian Armed Forces; modernize the military justice system; bring into force the Declaration of Victims Rights as set out in the National Defence Act; undertake engagement and consultation on culture change; and enhance restorative services, including dispute resolution and coaching services.

Read the report here.

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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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