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Duty with Honour - Waypoint to Success

October 15, 2021

Reading Time: 6 min  


Members of 2nd Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment regroup and prepare to mount up in a Light Armoured Vehicle (LAV 6) during a simulated assault at Saville Farm in the Wainwright training area, during Exercise MAPLE RESOLVE on May 11, 2022.

Photo credit: S1 Zach Barr, Canadian Armed Forces photo


There is no profession that asks more of its personnel than the profession of arms. The CAF is a diverse institution, and as members of the Canadian Army we represent the entire Canadian population. The soldiers and officers within the CAF have many different upbringings, and their experiences while growing up will be exclusive to them. Even today, their values will be much different than their neighbour’s values and beliefs. They will have unique life experiences, as values influence and regulate behaviour. However, as a member of the profession of arms, we accept the possibilities and opportunities of our profession, and we live and act in accordance with the CAF Ethos. In Duty with Honour, The Profession of Arms 2009 it is said that, “In Canada, an individual becomes a member of the profession of arms by swearing the Oath of Allegiance and adopting the military uniform, thus establishing an essential distinctiveness in Canadian society.”1 That responsibility was given to each and every one of us when we sacredly took an oath or solemn affirmation to support and defend Canada, and its interests. Still, it doesn’t end there, it only begins. As members of the CAF we must focus on adapting to the military, being a valuable part of the profession of arms, achieving occupational proficiency, and learning to be productive members of the Army. On top of all that, each member of the army has a duty to honour, to cultivate, mentor and lead the profession of arms.

By now, you may already know this, but as members of the CAF team, our profession is also different from others, and that’s because of the application and the use of military force, and a willingness to lay down your life for your country. No other profession expects its personnel to do this for their family, friends, or freedom, not to mention their country. However, this is what our profession expects, it’s a higher calling, and it comes with a high standard that as members of the Canadian Army, must be willing and able to honour. All officers and non-commissioned members belong to the profession of arms, this includes the most junior private to the most senior leaders. We, more than anyone, understand what it means to serve in the profession of arms.

Duty with Honour

Duty with Honour is not only the core publication of the profession of arms in Canada, it is the foundation in which it has been built upon. Since Duty with Honour was first published in 2003, it has evolved with the culture of Canadian society and as such was updated in 2009, and once again Duty with Honour is going through another revision. It is scheduled to be released before the end of 2020. As our culture and society grows and evolves, there is a compelling need for the CAF to progress with society. When it comes to the CAF Values and Ethos, we cannot rely entirely on tradition and the old way of doing things. It is important to renew these so we continue to reflect the Canadian principles, standards and the expectations of the citizens we serve.

As highlighted in Strong, Secure, Engaged Canada’s defence policy, the profession of arms in Canada is composed of military members dedicated to the defence of Canada and its interests, as directed by the Government of Canada. The profession of arms is distinguished by the concept of service before self, and the acceptance of the concept of unlimited liability. Its members possess a systematic and specialized body of military knowledge and skills acquired through education, training and experience, and they apply this expertise competently and objectively in the accomplishment of their missions. Members of the Canadian profession of arms share a set of core values and beliefs found in the military ethos that guides them in the performance of their duty and allows a special relationship of trust to be maintained with Canadian society.2

The Defence Ethics Programme (DEP) is a comprehensive value-based program that was put in place to meet the needs of the institution, both at the individual and organizational levels. The three principles described in the DND/CAF Code of Values and Ethics, requires all members to respect the dignity of all persons, to serve Canada before self, and to obey and support lawful authority.3

The expected behaviours associated with these three ethical principles are detailed in the table below.4

Ethical Principles Expected Behaviours
1. Respect the dignity of all persons At all times and in all places, DND/CAF personnel shall respect human dignity and the value of every person by:  1.1  Treating every person with respect and fairness. 1.2  Valuing diversity and the benefit of combining the unique qualities and strengths inherent in a diverse workforce. 1.3  Helping to create and maintain safe and healthy workplaces that are free from harassment and discrimination. 1.4  Working together in a spirit of openness, honesty and transparency that encourages engagement, collaboration and respectful communication.
2. Serve Canada before self At all times and in all places, DND/CAF personnel shall fulfil their commitments in a manner that best serves Canada, its people, its parliamentary democracy, DND and the CAF by: 2.1   Making decisions and acting at all times in the public interest. 2.2   Performing their duty or their responsibilities to the highest ethical standards. 2.3   Avoiding or preventing situations that could give rise to personal or organizational conflicts of interests. 2.4   Providing decision-makers with all the information, analysis and advice they need, always striving to be open, candid and impartial.
3. Obey and support lawful authority At all times and in all places, DND/CAF personnel shall uphold Canada’s parliamentary democracy and its institutions by: 3.1  Respecting the rule of law. 3.2  Carrying out their duty and their duties in accordance with legislation, policies and directives in a non-partisan and objective manner.

As a soldier and officer serving proudly in the profession of arms, we definitely know the difference between right and wrong. The CAF and Army provide guiding rules and standards through this ethical code of conduct. This ethical code guides us in our daily decision making. 

Sound ethical principles are rooted in the CAF Core Values. Our core values of Duty, Loyalty, Integrity, and Courage certainly define our identity. Every soldier and officer will learn these core values when they enter the profession. They begin by reading the core values, then they understand the core values, and finally live by the core values. These core values must also be expanded upon by practicing and demonstrating them in our everyday lives. We owe it to ourselves and the institution to continue our professional development by honing our quality edge. By frequently reflecting on the CAF Core Values, it helps us remain focussed on the soldier we need to be, and the example we need to set. 

When we look beneath the superficial layer and focus on its complexity, the core values are actually the basis for which the military profession is built. These values are all linked as they provide the primary concept of all military endeavours. Again, the four CAF Values of the Canadian Military Ethos are:5

Duty: First and foremost, duty entails service to Canada and compliance with the law. It obliges members to adhere to the law of armed conflict while displaying dedication, initiative and discipline in the execution of tasks. Duty further demands that Canadian Forces members accept the principle of the primacy of operations and that military leaders act in accordance with the professional precept of “Mission, own troops, self,” as mentioned previously.  

Performing one’s duty embraces the full scope of military professional excellence. It calls for individuals to train hard, pursue professional self-development, and carry out their tasks in a manner that reflects pride in themselves, their unit and their profession. Overall, this concept of duty motivates personnel both individually and collectively to strive for the highest standards of performance while providing them with purpose and direction throughout the course of their service. 

Loyalty: Loyalty is closely related to duty and entails personal allegiance to Canada and faithfulness to comrades across the chain of command. For loyalty to endure, it must be reciprocal and based on mutual trust. It requires that all Canadian Forces members support the intentions of superiors and readily obey lawful orders and directions. However, it also imposes special obligations on all leaders and commanders. 

Leaders must ensure their subordinates are treated fairly, and prepare and train them spiritually, mentally and physically for whatever tasks they are assigned. Subordinates must be given opportunities for professional development and career advancement. Downward loyalty further demands that Canadian Forces members be properly cared for, that their desires and concerns be heard, and that their personal needs be tended to, both during the time of their service and after it. This is especially so if they have been wounded or injured in the course of their duties. And this concept of loyalty extends to the immediate families of Canadian Forces members, who are entitled to official recognition and consideration for the important contribution they make to the morale and dedication of loved ones in uniform. 

Integrity: To have integrity is to have unconditional and steadfast commitment to a principled approach to meeting your obligations while being responsible and accountable for your actions. Accordingly, being a person of integrity calls for honesty, the avoidance of deception and adherence to high ethical standards.  

Integrity insists that your actions be consistent with established codes of conduct and institutional values. It specifically requires transparency in actions, speaking and acting with honesty and candour, the pursuit of truth regardless of personal consequences, and a dedication to fairness and justice. Integrity must especially be manifested in leaders and commanders because of the powerful effect of their personal example on peers and subordinates. 

Courage: Courage is a distinctly personal quality that allows a person to disregard the cost of an action in terms of physical difficulty, risk, advancement or popularity. Courage entails willpower and the resolve not to quit. It enables making the right choice among difficult alternatives. Frequently, it is a renunciation of fear that must be made not once but many times. Hence, courage is both physical and moral. Both types of courage are required because of their essential complementarity and to meet the serious demands the profession of arms makes on individuals. Courage requires constant nurturing and is not suddenly developed during operations. Ultimately, “Courageous actions are dictated by conscience, of which war is the final test”.6

Adherence of these core values means that soldiers seek out and complete developmental opportunities, they constantly work hard to stay in physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual shape, they continue to enhance their professional competencies; and work-hard to maintain their skills, knowledge, and personal readiness. Soldiers must have a passion for continuous improvement and innovation that drives the Army forward in leaps and bounds towards greater success and performance. 

Soldiers who are firmly grounded in these core values and rooted in the warrior spirit will certainly contend with the stresses of deployment and the daily garrison demands with the spirit, courage, and sacrifice needed to be successful. We all have these characteristics, which surface often during times of great difficulty or unforeseen circumstances. Soldiers must be diligent and stay on target, whether deployed on operation, exercise, at home or abroad, on or off-duty with the trust our institution places and requires of them. This level of trust represents respect for all Canadians and contributes to reveal the best in everyone. It is the duty of all soldiers to always pursue excellence and commit to a high personal standard of conduct and ethics. We not only give our personal best, but also challenge and motivate each other to do theirs. Essentially, we must value who we are as soldiers within the profession of arms and demonstrate a desire to serve and sustain the Army into the future. 

From the perspective of Canadians, and as written in Duty with Honour, “it is not only what the profession does, but how it does it. In other words, the profession must meet public expectations of consistent and exemplary behaviour and conduct—a requirement that can best be met by insisting and ensuring that Canadian military professionals are always seen to be performing their duty with honour”.7


Our commitments as soldiers is very different. There is probably nothing more fundamentally important to soldiers than our CAF Values - Duty, Loyalty, Integrity and Courage. Soldiers adhere to a demanding way of life based on special obligations that clearly separate them from the Canadian society we serve. New recruits need to comprehend the core value of the CAF, the DND/CAF Code of Values and Ethics, and their principles, as well, seasoned soldiers need to continue to process these guiding values. These values form a solid structure, and are relatively easy to understand. The true challenge is to live by them. It is a commitment that will never ends, no matter how long you have served. As a member of the CAF, we have all placed ourselves in a position of greater purpose. It is bred into each one of us during initial training, we have a desire to achieve excellence in all that we do. Yet, there will be moments when living and acting by our core values will be a challenge. We can’t fall short, these moments are also opportunities to prove our actions, that we truly embody and honour the CAF values. We all need to work at making the extraordinary, ordinary. 

Our military life, the profession of arms, has been described earlier as service before self, and the acceptance of an unlimited liability. This means we must reduce our own self-interests to the overall interest of the organization. This visibly sets soldiers apart from society as a whole. We carry our own weight, and whenever necessary, help our fire-team partner carry theirs. We serve in the greatest army in the world, and in order to maintain that reputation, soldiers must continue to live the CAF values, and Duty with Honour. As soldiers of the profession of arms, we will always be loyal to Canada, and have a duty to respect all people. Your mission and obligation to Canada demands the best in each of us today as well as tomorrow. Our legacy to the generation that follows must be a selfless one, coupled with strong and positive leadership. By doing so throughout a career in the Army, it can be said that you have Duty with Honour.  

Keep the Army Strong, Proud, Ready! 


Image of College Entrance used for a section break.

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