Frequently Asked Questions: Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture

Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture

Q: Why has DND/CAF created a new organization and what will it be responsible for?

The Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture organization will unify and integrate all associated culture change activities across the Department and become the centralized expertise for professional conduct and culture.

The organization has been created to lead cultural transformation. This new Level 1 organization will be the functional authority and principal advisor to the Deputy Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff on all matters related to professional conduct and culture in the Defence Team. This L1 will establish a framework to achieve the following tasks:

Q: What is systemic misconduct?

Systemic misconduct is a term deliberately chosen, both to convey the gravity of these prejudicial behaviours listed below, and to indicate that these problems go beyond individual failures and are imbedded in institutional systems and practices. Systemic misconduct refers to: sexual misconduct, hateful conduct, any form of discrimination, harassment and violence, employment inequity, and abuse of power in the workplace.

Q: Will this L1 be responsible for anything else?

This group will enable the implementation of a number of changes that can be taken immediately, including:

In addition, efforts of Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture will closely align with the work being carried out by the Independent External Comprehensive Review. This will ensure that immediate steps are taken to address and act upon any interim recommendations made to provide better and more streamlined support to all those impacted by misconduct.

Q: How will this new L1 be structured?

The Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture organization will be led by Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan who will be directly supported by an Assistant Deputy Minister. The initial team will be inclusive of members of all ranks and classifications and will emulate the diversity that Canadians expect of it.

Q: What will happen to the teams already doing similar work across Defence?

This organization will work in coordination with existing groups in the organization doing complementary work while also capitalizing on ongoing consultations, conversations, external and independent reviews, and analysis. Research, expertise and complimentary strategies and initiatives the team can benefit from to date includes: GBA+, Total Health & Wellness Strategy, Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management, Anti-Racism Secretariat, CAF Diversity Strategy, Canada’s Anti-Racism Strategy, and Canada’s National Action Plan for Women, Peace and Security.

The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) will continue to operate independent from the Canadian Armed Forces Chain of Command, providing support to affected people, expert advice, and monitoring progress in addressing sexual misconduct. The SMRC’s mandate is expanding to include support for all Defence Team members and Veterans, work to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the military and support survivors. The Independent External Comprehensive Review will be examining the SMRC’s mandate and activities, including its independence and reporting structure, and offer recommendations for improvement to these elements.

Q: Will this new organization focus on issues related to military and public service employees alike?

All members of the Defence Team will actively contribute to culture change and will galvanize to eliminate harmful mindsets and conduct. Our organization will continuously and visibly demonstrate it has no tolerance for abuses of power, discrimination, sexual misconduct, hateful conduct, or harassment. We will have clear and simplified reporting mechanisms in place that balance multiple pathways with unified integration to allow for timelier and trusted processes, and victims/survivors and affected persons will be supported with compassion.

Additionally, as a task common to all members of the Defence Team, we will recognize that this effort is imperative for the future relevance of our institution. As such, fully commit to participating in this process, openly communicate with candour and respect, and fully cooperate and transparently engage with all Internal and External Reviews.

Culture Change

Q: How will the Defence Team ensure there is accountability in implementing culture change?

Q: How will the Defence Team ensure its people are included in the culture change?

The Defence Team—including all senior leaders—will listen to its people. This includes present, past, and at all levels to learn from and guide actions accordingly, finding solutions and making decisions reflective of their experiences and suggestions.

These lived experiences and suggestions will guide the Chief Professional Conduct and Culture’s actions, proposed solutions, and decision-making.

Q: How will this new organization be different than previous efforts to lead cultural transformation?

Through various initiatives, we have implemented policies, procedures and initiatives to address unacceptable conduct but we must dig deeper to root out the harmful attitudes and beliefs that have corrupted our desired culture and enabled misconduct.  

This new approach refocuses our efforts to eradicate all forms of improper conduct, discrimination, biases, harmful stereotypes and systemic barriers across National Defence. To begin the steps necessary to achieve this culture change we have initiated to key measures:

Change is a process and it comes incrementally. These important first steps will set us on the right path and help us build momentum. 

Q.     What actions are you taking to re-establish trust in the chain of command and the institution?

We need to listen and learn from our people—present and past. This is how we will reconcile the wrongs of the past, rebuild trust, and energize and engage all our people in the process of building a better Defence Team for the future. 

These actions are a first step in a new approach. The initiating directive formalizes our intent and is testimony to leadership’s renewed commitment to the Defence Team and everyone’s right to work in an environment of mutual respect, dignity, and inclusion, where they have the opportunity to thrive and contribute to achieving mission effectiveness.

The long-term goal is culture change but that will come incrementally and will take time; however, this directive seeks to implement several immediate actions that address issues of concern, including:

External Review

Q: What is the purpose of the external review?

This review will build on the report prepared by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps in 2015. The Deschamps report was instrumental in identifying what the problem is; this new review will take a broader look at how and why our existing workplace dynamics enable harmful behaviours, and make recommendations on preventing and eradicating harassment and sexual misconduct.

External consultations and independent reviews are critical in ensuring the organization can learn, understand the problem and find constructive ways to address it.

Q: How will DND/CAF be held accountable for assessing and responding to implementing the recommendations of the external review?

The terms of reference for the review require the Minister, Deputy Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff to provide a response to the Reviewer within 30 days of having received the Draft Review Report. This response will be made public, which will ensure that the National Defence’s approach is clear and that it can be held accountable for any actions taken.

The review will also provide assessments and recommendations related to establishing external oversight and/or review mechanisms related to misconduct.

Q: DND/CAF has received external recommendations before. Will the recommendations from this review be acted upon and implemented?

Absolutely. We fully support and welcome an external review of our institution and its culture with the full realization that we do not have all the answers.

We are going to be taking action quickly.

The final report is expected in 12 to 15 months from the time of contract award; however, any interim assessments and any recommendations will be provided during the course of the review and we are committed to take whatever actions are required.

Related questions

Q: What is replacing Operation HONOUR now that it has culminated?

The new more holistic and coherent approach to address CAF culture will encompass efforts to address sexual misconduct. Nevertheless, all of the existing resources, supports, policies, and procedures remain applicable and available to all members of the Defence Team during this transition period.

To close out Operation HONOUR, we will conduct a thorough review to determine what has worked and what has not. While the issue of sexual misconduct persists, there is no question that the work accomplished through Operation HONOUR has had a positive impact and will provide a solid foundation for our efforts moving forward.

Through Operation HONOUR, the CAF has made steady progress, implementing a range of programs, policies and practices needed for addressing sexual misconduct and, most importantly, providing support for those affected by it. This has been important and necessary work but we know that if we are to achieve enduring change, we must adopt a new approach that targets the elements of our institutional culture that are enabling sexual misconduct within our ranks.

Q: How is the Defence Team supporting those who have suffered from offenses and harm?

The DND/CAF continues its important work in support of victims and survivors by following through on its commitment to consult with victims and survivors of service offences, which will inform the development of the regulations needed to implement the Declaration of Victims Rights from Bill C-77. Direct engagement with victims’ groups has been completed and an online questionnaire will be launched soon to allow for the collection of anonymous feedback from DND employees and CAF members.

Q: How is the Defence Team supporting the overall efforts in combating systemic misconduct?

The Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) recognize that those who have military sexual trauma need additional support, which is why in Budget 2021 the Government committed over $236 million so that DND/CAF and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) can jointly develop a professionally co-facilitated peer support program to assist CAF members and Veterans who have suffered harm as a result of experiencing sexual misconduct in connection with their military service. This program will include online and in-person group support: mental health professionals and peers with lived experience will co-facilitate these platforms in line with best practices. It also means expanding the reach of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) across the country to better support those who have experienced sexual misconduct.

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