Section 3: Canadian Values

The values held by Canadians play a fundamental role in determining the ways and means by which the military function is exercised. Indeed, the legitimacy of the profession of arms requires that it embody the same values and beliefs as the society it defends. Because the profession is not an entity unto itself and military members come from and return to civilian life, the values of the profession must be in harmony with the values of its parent community, limited only by the functional requirements of the military.

As a people, Canadians recognize a number of fundamental values that the nation aspires to reflect. We believe that such values can be woven into the fabric of our society and expect our leaders to preserve them throughout the governance system. Canadian values are expressed first and foremost in founding legislation such as the Constitution Act of 1982 and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (the Charter) contained therein, and key values that affect all Canadians are anchored in a number of pieces of foundational legislation and articulated in their preambles.

Understanding this legal-political framework permits Canadians to express such values as the democratic ideal, the concept of peace, order and good government, the rule of law, and the strength to be drawn from diversity. These overarching ideals have resulted in the enumeration of a number of other basic rights and freedoms in the Charter. These ideas have in turn powerfully influenced the Department of National Defence’s ethics program, resulting in the three principles of the Statement of Defence Ethics, which requires members of the Department to respect the dignity of all persons, to serve Canada before self, and to obey and support lawful authority.

Canadian values have also shaped Canada’s role on the international stage. For example, Canada’s lead role in peacekeeping is founded on the principles of diplomacy articulated by Prime Minister Lester Pearson, and current policy and missions are informed by the concepts of human security, international stability and viable international relations.

Incorporated in the military ethos, Canadian values mandate members of the Canadian profession of arms to perform their tasks with humanity. Members of the Canadian Forces understand the inherent violence of armed conflict, characterized at an extreme by death and destruction. While they must act resolutely, and sometimes with lethal force, the concept of humanity forbids any notion of a carte blanche or unbounded behaviour. Further, it demands consideration for prisoners, non-combatants and items of cultural worth. Performing with humanity contributes to the honour earned by Canadian Forces members and helps make Canadians at home proud and supportive of their armed forces.

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