CAF addresses results of Statistics Canada 2018 survey on Sexual Misconduct

Statistics Canada recently conducted a second survey on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), which was answered by both members from the regular force, as well as, members from the primary reserves. A similar survey was conducted in 2016. 

Addressing the release of the results Canadian Armed Forces Chief Warrant Officer Alain Guimond stated in a press release, “Sexual misconduct is incredibly harmful and corrosive to our people. For the past four years, we have been working hard to create a respectful workplace that our members both deserve and need in order to accomplish the tasks Canadians ask of us. Although this report shows that awareness of this problem has increased, more work is needed to solve it. In particular, we have to do a better job at looking after those affected by sexual misconduct. Those who engage in sexual misconduct are not welcome in the Profession of Arms, and with my colleagues, I will continue our work to end this threat.”

Over 36,000 responses were collected for the survey, representing 44 per cent of the CAF population. The survey asked participants about their experiences and perceptions of sexual misconduct within the military, as well as, what they perceived about the military’s efforts in dealing with sexual misconduct. These surveys allow the military to gain a picture of the prevalence, scope, and nature of the problem of sexual misconduct within the CAF, as well as allowing them to compare that data.

“The Stats Can surveys are a critical tool to inform, evaluate, and guide the CAF’s efforts to address sexual misconduct. This survey highlights some positive movement, as well as a number of areas that need more work. The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre will work with and provide advice to, the CAF to address these issues, to better support affected members and enhance prevention efforts,” said Dr. Denise Preston, executive director of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre with the Department of National Defence.

While the survey has shown some positive results, the CAF will be examining the data collected in order to determine how to improve the way the military addresses and prevents sexual misconduct; provide better support for victims, and lead in changing the culture by helping to change harmful attitudes and beliefs. 

Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff, said, “The number of personnel who continue to be affected by sexual misconduct is completely unacceptable. We have made some positive headway in some areas, but it is clear that we need to do more to change the harmful behaviours and attitudes at the root of this issue. While overall, we are dissatisfied with the lack of improvement, we are encouraged to see that our members have confidence in the work we are doing and believe it will make a difference. This is an essential element of achieving culture change, and we will build on this momentum as we work to realign our institutional culture with our core values of dignity and respect.”

Below is a summary of the survey findings:

Sexual assault

 Rates of sexual assault (sexual attack, unwanted sexual touching, or sexual activity where unable to consent) in the military workplace or involving military members in the Regular Force and Primary Reserves are not statistically different from 2016.

·       1.6 per cent of all Regular Force members and 2.2  per cent of Primary Reservists indicated that they had been sexually assaulted in the context of the military workplace during the previous 12 months.

·       Unwanted sexual touching was the most common form of sexual assault (88 per cent of Regular Force incidents; 86 per cent of Primary Reserve incidents).

·       As was the case in 2016, the prevalence of sexual assault among women in the Canadian Armed Forces is higher than that among men (4.3 per cent  Regular Force women compared with 1.1 per cent  men; 7.0 per cent  of Primary Reserve women compared with 1.2 per cent  of men.)

To look at the full surveys and their findings, visit Statistics Canada’s website.

 Sexualized and discriminatory behaviours

 Fewer members witnessed or experienced sexualized and discriminatory behaviour in the 12 months prior to the survey.

·       70 per cent of Regular Force members and 71 per cent of Primary Reserve members saw, heard or experienced sexualized or discriminatory behaviour in the military workplace, compared with 80 per cent  Regular Force and 82 per cent  Primary Reserve in 2016.

·       As was the case in 2016, the most common behaviours witnessed or experienced were sexual jokes (65 per cent for Regular Force members and also for Primary Reservists).

 Knowledge and perception of policies and responses to sexual misconduct

 Awareness of Operation HONOUR is extremely high among Regular Force and Primary Reserve members, and most are optimistic about Operation HONOUR’s effectiveness:

·       94  per cent of Regular Force members and 91 per cent of Reservists continue to have a very high awareness of Operation HONOUR. 

·       Almost half of both Regular Force and Primary Reserve members (45  per cent in each case) felt that Operation HONOUR has been very or extremely effective.

·       Approximately half of Regular Force members (49 per cent ) and Primary Reservists (51per cent ) feel that Operation HONOUR will be very or extremely effective moving forward. This represents a significant increase since 2016 when results for the same question were 32 per cent  Regular Force and 29 per cent  Primary Reserve.

 Most members have a positive view of CAF responses to sexual misconduct:

·       A large majority of members felt that complaints about inappropriate sexual behaviour are (or would be) taken seriously in their current unit (94 per cent  Regular Force; Primary Reserve 83 per cent ); that inappropriate sexual behaviour is not tolerated in their unit (94 per cent Regular Force; 83 per cent  Primary Reserve), and that the CAF currently works hard to create a workplace that prevents inappropriate sexual behaviour (93 per cent  for both Regular Force and Primary Reserve).To look at the full surveys and their findings, visit Statistics Canada’s website.

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Deborah van der Linde

Deborah is a librarian who is passionate about books, storytelling, and writing. Thanks to her husband Adam’s military career, they have had the great fortune of living all across Canada. Deborah and Adam have two delightful children and a dog that thinks he’s one of the kids.

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