Section 4: Sustaining the Profession

Maintaining the highest standards of professionalism is an ongoing challenge that requires a high level of commitment and effort on the part of all military professionals. Key factors essential to achieving this objective are outstanding leadership; supportive policies and programs; focused professional development; respect for history, heritage and tradition; and effective, credible self-regulation.


Leadership in the Canadian Forces is defined as directing, motivating, and enabling subordinates to accomplish their tasks professionally, while developing or improving capabilities to ensure mission success. Strong and effective leaders are at the heart of military professionalism. Such leaders ensure that the profession is constantly evolving to higher planes of effectiveness and performance. They set and maintain the necessary standards, and they set an example that inspires and encourages all members to reflect these standards in their day-to-day conduct. Leaders at every level contribute to professionalism through their influence on education, training and self-development, always seeking to make every aspect of military experience professionally instructive and rewarding. They demand excellence in performance and generally shape the environment to encourage all to contribute.

Above all, effective leaders exemplify the military ethos, and especially the core military values that are the essence of military professionalism. They make sure that all understand that their duty to country and colleagues is central to the profession of arms. They demonstrate that loyalty can and must be applied both upwards to superiors and civil authority and downwards to subordinates.

Such loyalty can only be sustained, particularly when the tension between achieving the mission and ensuring the well-being of subordinates is high, through exhibiting unassailable integrity. All must know that a leader’s decisions reflect an honest and truthful assessment of the situation. Professionals account for these decisions and stand by them.

Finally, leaders act courageously, both physically, but more especially, morally.

In sum, doing what is right on the basis of available information encapsulates all of these values.

Leadership in the Canadian profession of arms is differentiated between the leadership of people described in Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Leading People, and the more strategic leadership of the profession and the CF described in Leadership in the Canadian Forces: Leading the Institution.

Policies and Programs

Institutional policies and programs on personnel, ethics, education, training, doctrines, careers, or a healthy workplace must support and reinforce the military ethos and the attributes of military professionalism. All such policies must promote the core military values of duty, loyalty, integrity and courage, as well as discipline, fighting spirit, teamwork, and physical fitness. Human resources policies and qualityof- life programs should be grounded in the relevant attributes of responsibility and expertise, and reflect the member’s role, rank and responsibilities within the profession. Only through the promulgation of policies aligned with these principles will the identity of military professionals remain distinct from their civilian colleagues and fully reflect their primary purpose.

The senior leadership of the profession guides the policies, while the CMP has a special role in this area as the person responsible for ensuring that military personnel policies fully support the highest standards of professionalism across the Canadian Forces.

Professional Development

Professional development is central to a healthy profession of arms. In the first instance, it is the mechanism whereby new entrants are socialized into the profession as they are made aware of the military ethos and begin the process of internalizing its philosophy of service. As members increasingly take on the full identity of military professionals and accept the responsibilities inherent in this concept, the process of developing the necessary expertise is accelerated.

Early development is basically rules-based. Members acquire initial skills in which the need for keen judgement is not as pronounced. The fundamental basis for development must quickly evolve into a principles-based approach, however, so development for military professionals thereafter consists of encouraging them to think critically, to be innovative and to carefully weigh courses of action. Dilemmas, both intellectual and moral, are the norm in the complex operational and socio-cultural environments in which the military professional functions today and into the future. The highest standards of professionalism can only be sustained if the professional development system prepares members for this reality over their whole career.

Professional development is a cumulative process, with members acquiring the necessary professional qualifications, identity and understanding over time. The core body of knowledge that unifies all members of the profession must be mastered over a member’s career. New members are first exposed to this core body of knowledge, and as they progress, it is expanded in breadth and in depth. At the same time, the core knowledge required to apply military force directly is imparted to those responsible for this function at ever-higher levels of capability and understanding. The development of all support and specialist members occurs in a similar fashion. At the pinnacle of the professional’s career, he or she is truly expert and has developed the capacity for sound judgement on the application of military force.

The complex governance challenge inherent in this process is met through centralized planning and concept development and decentralized execution. CMP has overall responsibility to guide and coordinate professional development in the CF. Commander Canadian Defence Academy is responsible for all common professional development and executes this responsibility primarily through the Royal Military Colleges, the Canadian Forces College, and the NCM Professional Development Centre. Each environment participates in the delivery of some of the core body of knowledge, focussing primarily on the educational, training and experiential pillars at the tactical level.

History, Heritage and Traditions

Knowing Canada’s military history, heritage and traditions reinforcesthe profession by demonstrating and valuing the importance of intangibles.

These intangibles include the pride that comes with celebrating battles won and conflicts prevented, as well as an appreciation of the motivating capacity of military traditions and ceremony. It calls for honouring past accomplishments and celebrating the unique customs of the three environments. Commemorating the proud history of Canada’s armed forces, while preserving customs and traditions that enhance cohesion and esprit de corps, are vital requirements for maintaining and sustaining Canadian military professionalism.


Controlling what it does is an essential characteristic of any profession, including the profession of arms.

This control is accorded the profession by society at large because its function is essential to the well-being of that society and the ability to execute it cannot be found anywhere else. Members of the profession of arms must therefore self-regulate in a manner that sustains the trust and confidence of the government and society it serves.

Admission, progression and exit from the profession are regulated with due regard for the equality provisions of federal statutes and the principles of merit adopted by Canada’s democratic society. This ensures that suitable candidates become members and those who fall short of the standards are removed lawfully, pursuant to the organizational responsibility to respect constitutional norms and legislated obligations.

The profession must also regulate the systematic, theory-based knowledge that forms its foundation. Many educational and training institutions throughout the Canadian Forces are continuously developing professional expertise. These institutions include the schools that teach leadership and operations courses to officers and NCMs, and the Canadian Defence Academy and its subordinate elements: the Canadian Forces College, the Royal Military College of Canada, Le Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean, the Canadian Forces Leadership Institute and the NCM Professional Development Centre. The three environments also have distinct and unique bodies of knowledge that enable them to dominate their particular spectrum of the modern battlespace, and they are responsible to ensure that this knowledge remains current.

The overall body of professional knowledge is usually codified into various forms of doctrine. While it borrows freely from a wide range of external disciplines, these are all incorporated into the central expertise necessary to apply military force. The profession encourages and promotes discussion and debate on these issues to inform decision-making, maintain an ongoing dialogue among the full membership and improve the overall health of the profession itself. Such debate occurs in professional journals, doctrine boards, committees and institutions of higher learning throughout the profession.

The profession is managed on an ongoing basis largely according to such internal instruments as the Queen’s Regulations and Orders and a wide variety of policies and doctrines. Progression, status, awards and rank are normally internal matters subject to review by the senior leadership of the profession. The profession’s own Code of Service Discipline sets the standards of good order and discipline. This Code provides the legal basis for the profession to address breaches of discipline through the use of service tribunals (Summary Trials and Courts Martial.) Beyond these formal mechanisms, military professionals act with a high degree of self-discipline, minimizing resort to these instruments to ensure good order.

In addition to the Code, a variety of other investigative instruments internal to the profession, such as Summary Investigations and Boards of Inquiry, support administrative decision-making and managing personnel and material. The CDS also provides for the regulation of the profession by issuing orders and instructions such as his Guidance to Commanding Officers, as well as establishing and controlling rules of engagement for operations. The CDS may also from time to time call for special boards and committees to report on matters subject to professional regulation. The Chief of Review Services carries out program evaluations and conducts independent internal audits. This office provides a focus for professional ethics and conflict of interest.

While the profession is granted a certain latitude for self-regulation, it is nonetheless accountable to civil authority. Parliament has an important oversight duty, and in fact the CDS reports to it annually on the state of the institution and the profession. Senior military professionals frequently appear before Parliamentary committees to tell them about a wide range of institutional and professional issues.

The Canadian Forces and the profession are also subject to oversight and review by certain central agencies whose arm’s-length review of all departments is essential to running the government effectively. These agencies have the formal statutory status to intervene when necessary and include the Privy Council Office, the Treasury Board and the Office of the Auditor General. The latter reports annually to Parliament on its assessment of the Department of National Defence, including the Canadian Forces, and these reports invariably have some impact on the profession of arms.

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