On Feb. 1, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance, released the first progress report on addressing inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace, six months after Operation HONOUR was initiated. The report acknowledges that though the CAF is years away from a substantial cultural shift, it is making positive strides in executing Op. HONOUR.
“We have only just begun this mission. Last year we acknowledged inappropriate sexual behaviour is a significant problem in our organization. Today’s report shows we are beginning to see early progress. But we are still far from where we need to be. We must focus and sustain our efforts to ensure we instil the cultural change necessary to provide a healthy environment for all members,” said Gen. Jonathan Vance.
One of the significant highlights of the report is the progress made by the recently established Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC). The Response Centre, opened on Sept. 1, is the first ever organization for the CAF to support victims of inappropriate sexual behavior. The centre offers initial support to victims through phone or email.
From the time of its establishment through Dec, 204 individuals reach out to the centre for support; of these 156 were members of the CAF.
Out of the 204 individuals who contacted the Response Centre, 99 requested information about SMRC services or complaint procedures, 53 contacted the SMRC to report a sexual offence and 32 contacted the SMRC about sexual harassment.
More specifically, out of the 156 CAF members who reached out to the SMRC, 69 inquired about information about processes such as Military Police or National Investigation Service, harassment procuresses and DND civilian resources; 52 members requested more information about the centre, and 26 requested facilitated access to service providers, including a counsellor from the centre.
According to the report, as of Dec. 31, 2015, the Military Police Liaison Officer to the SMRC received 36 calls, 23 were transferred from the centre, and 13 were direct calls from CAF members. Out of those calls, six resulted in investigations by the National Investigation Service.
The report also goes on to highlight progress made within the CAF to raise awareness. For example, commanders of all branches and organizations of the CAF have completed awareness sessions across their respective organizations. In addition, an extensive review was recently completed of major CAF training and education establishments. This review will form the basis of curriculum changes and a series of training tools.
The report also acknowledges that the CAF has contracted Statistics Canada to conduct a volunteer member survey on the topic. This survey will be conducted in April 2016; the results will impact activities and policy review to improve attitudes regarding inappropriate sexual behavior.
The report concluded that though the CAF is on the right track, the cultural change could take several years.
“Ultimately, Canadian Armed Forces members will decide whether the organization’s culture has truly changed, and they will do so as a direct reflection of the positive, sustainable change implemented at the grassroots levels within their professional environments. This will be a long process, reinforced by the commitments and actions of leaders at all levels of the institution. There are several significant challenges and obstacles remaining and much work still to be completed before the Canadian Armed Forces can declare success in addressing sexual misconduct amongst its ranks. The Chief of the Defence Staff’s intent is clear, and changes in behaviour are starting to be seen across the organization, but the longer-term cultural shift will take a number of years.”
Op. HONOUR went into effect Aug. 14, 2015, after a series of stories in the media reported sexual harassment in the CAF in 2014. The then Chief of the Defence Staff commissioned an external review by former Supreme Court Justice Mme Marie Deschamps. Deschamps’ research produced a detailed report, released in April 2015, which proved that there was an underlying sexualized culture in the CAF. Op. HONOUR fulfills the first recommendation out of Deschamps ten recommendations: CAF leadership recognize that there is a problem of inappropriate sexual behavior in the military.
CLICK HERE to see the report in its entirety.