Section 1: Military Ethos and its Function in the Profession of Arms

Ethos is the heart of the military profession and operational effectiveness.

— Minister’s Monitoring Committee on Change in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, Final Report

The military ethos comprises values, beliefs and expectations that reflect core Canadian values, the imperatives of military professionalism, and the requirements of operations. It acts as the centre of gravity for the military profession and establishes an ethical framework for the professional conduct of military operations. In establishing desired norms of behaviour, the military ethos acts as an active and unifying spirit that brings all members of the Canadian Forces together from their different environments and branches. At the same time, the ethos permits environmental distinctiveness and allows for cultural adaptation. In fact, all three environments often manifest certain elements of the ethos in different ways, for example, the influence of history, heritage and tradition or how team spirit is promoted and manifested. These unique-to-environment expressions of ethos derive from and reflect the distinct military functions associated with sea, land and air operations.

More specifically, the ethos is intended to:

  • establish the trust that must exist between the Canadian Forces and Canadian society;
  • guide the development of military leaders who must exemplify the military ethos in their everyday actions;
  • create and shape the desired military culture of the Canadian Forces;
  • establish the basis for personnel policy and doctrine;
  • enable professional self-regulation within the Canadian Forces; and
  • assist in identifying and resolving ethical challenges.

The military ethos, therefore, is the foundation upon which the legitimacy,
effectiveness and honour of the Canadian Forces depend.  Senior officers and chief petty officers 1st class/chief warrant officers have special responsibilities as they are co-stewards of the profession as described in Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Leading the Institution. The uniquely Canadian military ethos is made up of three fundamental components: beliefs and expectations about military service; Canadian values; and Canadian military values.

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