Executive Summary

The Advisory Panel's mandate was to provide the Minister of National Defence (MND) with recommendations on how to eliminate from the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) systemic racism and discrimination, including anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism, gender bias, prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, two-spirited people and others (LGBTQ2+), and white supremacy. The Advisory Panel also carried out consultations and assessments about antisemitism and Islamophobia because considering those forms of hatred added to its overall understanding of hateful conduct within the Defence Team.Footnote 2 The Advisory Panel likewise considered it important to assess discrimination towards persons with disabilities.

This final report consists of three parts:

  • Part I — Systemic Racism and Discrimination in the Defence Team: Origins and Current Reality
  • Part II — Envisioning a Diverse and Equitable Defence Team
  • Part III — Areas of Opportunity and Recommendations

All Canadians benefit when our national organizations are safe, healthy and inclusive environments in which all citizens have an equal chance to contribute. Consequently, Canada’s demographics should be proportionally represented at all levels of the Defence Team with regards to gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.Footnote 3 And yet, inequality in representation persists in every corner of the Defence Team: recruitment, retention and career progression are seriously hampered by systemic discrimination. The gap between Canada's diversity and the Defence Team's representation of this diversity seems to be growing so that any progress made to date for inclusion of women, Indigenous, Black, other racialized and ethnic communities, persons with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ2+ community risks reversal.

The failure of the Defence Team to be representative of Canadian demographics is rooted in the system that was created by European settlers. The systemic and cultural racism that is institutionalized in regulations, norms, and common worldviews in the Defence Team is a direct consequence of Canada’s colonial past and the associated treatment of Indigenous, Black and racialized people. Colonialism, “the policy or practice of acquiring full or partial political control over another country, occupying it with settlers, and exploiting it economically,”Footnote 4 is the root of inequality within Canada. The colonization of the land we now call Canada by both the French and the British saw the forced removal, genocide and attempted assimilation of Indigenous Peoples. The non-consensual establishment of Canada as a British colony furthered the control and economic exploitation of the country through slavery and forced labour. Historical and continuous racist and discriminatory actions towards segments of Canada’s population have led to internalized racism and prejudice that continue to shape biases and practices in Canada and within the Defence Team.

Today, Defence Team leaders have the responsibility to acknowledge and to respond to the persistent voices of Defence Team members calling out for equity and inclusive leadership. All members of the Defence Team deserve concrete commitments for positive change, tied to measurable actions. Most of all, they deserve accountability from every level of the organization.

The opportunities identified in Part III of this report have been flagged for further attention as a result of more than 75 consultations with various Defence Team stakeholders, both internal and external, since the Advisory Panel’s start of work in January 2021.

This Advisory Panel believes that:

  • DND/CAF do not need to wait for an external team such as this panel to tell them what to do, nor do they need new recommendations to address racism and discrimination. The Defence Team has access to recommendations submitted over the last twenty years, both from external and internal sources. Based on the Advisory Panel’s comprehensive review of previously completed studies, ranging from the Joint Union/Management Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion’s reportFootnote 5 to Strong, Secure, Engaged: Canada’s Defence PolicyFootnote 6 and the Perceptions of Racism and Harassment among Visible Minorities and Indigenous Members in the Defence Team paperFootnote 7 to the Defence Team Total Health and Wellness Strategic FrameworkFootnote 8, it is quite clear that the Defence Team knows how to move quickly in the right direction, if it has the will.
  • It would be dishonourable towards the Defence Team’s Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs) and Network(s) for the Advisory Panel to simply restate their many existing innovative recommendations. Doing so would perpetuate the condescending message to these groups that they need to go through an external panel to get their voices heard and acknowledged.

This said, having had the privilege to engage with these groups, the Advisory Panel has, together with them, identified systemic barriers to inclusivity which run deep and wide in the Defence Team: deep within all the levels of leadership, and wide across the different units and directorates of the organization. Out of the many potential areas of study, the Advisory Panel has called attention to the following opportunities to address these systemic barriers:

  1. Establishing a Process for Reviewing Recommendations
  2. Elevating the Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs) and Network(s)
  3. Re-Defining the Relationship Between the Defence Team and Indigenous Peoples
  4. Addressing the Experiences of Black People – “Resilience” and “Tenacity” in the Absence of Progress
  5. Fighting White Supremacy and Other Forms of Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE)
  6. Re-Defining Chaplaincy
  7. Ensuring Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities
  8. Re-Designing Military Policing
  9. Embracing Transgender Members of the Defence Team
  10. Employing the Diversity within the Defence Team
  11. Fostering Parental Allowance (PATA) Usage in the Canadian Armed Forces
  12. Measuring Initiatives and Progress – Scorecards
  13. Improving the Total Health and Wellness Framework

The Advisory Panel urges Defence Team leaders to consider the areas of opportunity identified in this final report with resolve and urgency.  It also recommends that these leaders be held accountable for the rigorous implementation of ensuing recommendations. Failure to remove existing systemic barriers will continue to negatively impact operational capabilities, undermine the well-being of Defence Team members, and put the security of Canada in peril.

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