Part III – Areas of opportunity and recommendations

On this page

  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

In addition to DAG and Network consultations, the Advisory Panel conducted virtual meetings with current and former members of the Defence Team who reached out to the Panel. Their insights enabled the Advisory Panel to put together the following problem identification synopses. Each one is an area of opportunity for positive change that will contribute to a more equitable, inclusive Defence Team. There are many challenges beyond each of these areas and as such the synopses are meant to be thought-provoking, but not exhaustive.

1. Establishing a Process for Reviewing Recommendations

As mentioned earlier in this report, the Defence Team has already received ample recommendations for positive change. Over the last 20 years, reports from 41 inquiries, climate surveys, and reviews have generated 258 recommendations to address diversity, inclusion, respect and professional conduct in DND/CAF. And, through the new Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture organization, several teams of experts have been engaged to find innovative recommendations to move the Defence Team towards a more inclusive culture.

To avoid redundancy and to honour the work of the inquiries and panels that preceded its efforts, the Advisory Panel tried to compile the recommendations from previous reports and to estimate any progress on them. It quickly became clear that many of those recommendations were poorly implemented, shelved, or discarded. Worst yet, the Advisory Panel could not get a response from the Defence Team on the progress of some recommendations.

The Advisory Panel’s conclusion is that few recommendations have been carried out with diligence and discipline. For example, exit surveys or interviews were recommended by several panels. They are not costly or labour-intensive and can provide the Defence Team with valuable insight into why members are leaving the CAF, particularly those who are women, Indigenous, persons with disabilities or visible minorities. Yet only 7.8 percent of members leaving the military have been surveyed upon exit, and the information collected has not been collated to properly provide the Defence Team with an understanding of why members leave.Footnote 96 Other examples of recommendations that have been ignored include standing up mentoring programs and promoting the use of inclusive language.

The Advisory Panel recommends that the work to compile relevant recommendations and assess the progress towards their implementation carry on as a high priority. Recommendations from external or departmental experts need to be recorded, collated, and reported on transparently, according to measurable outcomes and stringent timelines by the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture organization. If a recommendation is not to be pursued, the reasons for this should be endorsed by the Minister of National Defence. Such practices will allow leaders with a genuine desire for positive change to seriously consider recommendations and keep the Defence Team accountable for their implementation.


  • 1.1 The Defence Team, in particular the CPCC, should continue the work of compiling recommendations from previous studies, inquiries and panels.
  • 1.2 The CPCC should oversee the implementation of pertinent recommendations with the involvement of the Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs) and Network(s).
  • 1.3 Progress in the implementation of recommendations should be tracked down to the unit level and collated by the CPCC.
  • 1.4 The MND should be the endorsing authority for the rationale behind those recommendations that will not be implemented.

2. Elevating the Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs) and Network(s)

The Advisory Panel began its mandate by listening to the voices of the Defence Advisory Groups (DAGs):

  • The Defence Women's Advisory Organization (DWAO)
  • The Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG)
  • The Defence Visible Minorities Advisory Group (DVMAG)
  • The Defence Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities (DAGPWD)
  • The Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (formerly the Defence Team Pride Network) (DTPAO)
  • The Defence Team Black Employee Network (DTBEN)

DAGs were established over 20 years ago in response to the Employment Equity Act. They have been joined by “Networks” which are more informal groups representing distinct subsets of the Defence Team. As Canadian society evolves, informal groups that represent people such as Black people and Asian people, who do not fall within the outdated Employment Equity Act and therefore are not separately identified, are emerging and may evolve into DAGs over time, as did the DTPAO. The national and local, civilian and military Co-Chairs of these groups have always been volunteers in a secondary duty capacity. Their role is to represent the local DAGs across Canada, to be the voice of their members, and to be advisors to senior leaders. In addition, they influence policy changes that promote a more inclusive and accessible workplace. Champions, also a secondary duty, are selected from senior managers and senior officers of DND/CAF and are supposed to advocate for these groups and increase their profile. Some DAGs have staff officers, full- or part-time, to take up some of the administrative tasks. While the Co-Chairs of these groups and Network(s) are dedicated and passionate about their roles, Champions and staff officers have not uniformly shown interest, availability or competence.

Throughout consultations with them, it quickly became apparent that some of the DAG members were reluctant to speak with the Advisory Panel. While some were eager, others were cautious that they might be wasting their time with "another external panel." Others wanted to build a relationship first, then exchange ideas. Some of them were understandably protective of their time, given their demanding primary jobs within the Defence Team and the time and energy it would take to fully convey their experiences.

The DAGs and Network all had one thing in common: their recommendations for a more inclusive workplace were powerful, achievable and long overdue for action from the Defence Team leadership. The Advisory Panel concluded that it would not be fair to take these commendable ideas and offer them as its own, since that has been part of the problem in the past. The Advisory Panel has been stood up for one year. The DAGs and Network are in it for the long run. They need to be heard.

Both the national and the regional DAGs represent Defence Team members, military and civilian, from coast-to-coast-to-coast. They have recorded significant accomplishments such as gaining the commitment of the leadership to promote special days like the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30th, and Emancipation Day on August 1st (both observed for the first time in 2021). They have also enabled the upwards flow of recommendations to improve the situation of the Defence Team members they represent. To the extent the Advisory Panel could assess, their recommendations and subsequent outcomes have neither been catalogued nor measured.

Due to a more widespread recognition in society of the dire need to address pervasive systemic discrimination,Footnote 97 there is a new recognition of the value of DAGs. These teams are the “grassroots” means for DND leaders to receive valuable advice for a more inclusive workplace. As such, they must be invited to sit at the tables where decisions are made. Given that this will add to the workload of DAG members, it is imperative that extensive consultation be conducted with them to support their engagement. Their passion to represent their respective groups should not come at the expense of career progression or work/life balance. And a “one size” solution in this regard is not likely to fit all.

Insights from the members of the DAGs can lead the way towards a new culture where all Defence Team members can thrive. But for any significant change in the Defence Team culture to happen, the DAGs and the Network(s) must be elevated. They are the best innovators and catalysts for change. They should be listened to, provided with the resources they need to prosper, and empowered to be guides towards a diverse and inclusive culture. They are experienced and expert voices that have a wealth of information, ideas, recommendations, action plans, and suggestions to identify and tackle the underlying drivers of inequality and systemic barriers in the DND/CAF. They have the lived experiences that must inform efforts to eliminate racism and discrimination and achieve the vision of an inclusive culture. As part of the Defence Team family, DAGs are force multipliers.

Both CAF and DND leaders must work together to support the needs of the DAGs. Each DAG should be assigned a CAF/DND Staff Officer and two Champions: a DND senior civilian manager as well as a CAF Senior Officer. Given that needs will vary, consultation with individual DAGs can best define what will be required for each region and level. The Champions must be knowledgeable, competent, interested andvisionary. Not “any officer” is suitable for this work. A knowledgeable and interested Champion can help a DAG to have their concerns addressed by senior leadership. A Champion who is “too busy” or not really interested can be a negative influence, contrary to the desired effect. DAGs should interview potential Champions and form a positive bond in advance of committing to each other.

DAGs at the local level need to be supported with resources, time, and competent Champions. Given the limited number of potential representatives for each DAG on bases and wings, perhaps groups can be stood up differently. Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, for example, has decided to temporarily assemble members of different DAGs into one advisory group until each grows its team and gets its own Champion. This allows the members to exchange and compare best practices, and to advocate for change with one powerful voice until their groups are fully populated with members of the units.


  • 2.1 Elevate the DAGs. See them as powerful voices for change and for growth.
  • 2.2 Strengthen the DAGs. Give them the necessary resources to flourish and thrive.
  • 2.3 Seek advice from the DAGs. Ensure that their voices are heard, acknowledged and put into action.
  • 2.4 Appoint Co-Champions (military and civilian) for each DAG – with relevant lived experience whenever possible.
  • 2.5 Hold Champions accountable for commitment to the DAGs. Have the DAGs evaluate their performance and contributions through performance evaluations or surveys.

3. Re-Defining the Relationship Between the Defence Team and Indigenous Peoples

Canada's relationship with the original inhabitants of this land was established through formal alliances. These alliances were based on Nation-to-Nation agreements or “treaties” between Europeans and the Indigenous Peoples. The treaties respected the First Nations’ rights. Indigenous Peoples entered into these agreements as long-standing, complex, values-oriented societies.

Indigenous Peoples have unique histories, laws and cultures flowing from their relationship with their traditional territories. For thousands of years predating the arrival of Europeans, Indigenous Peoples developed different forms of governance, including rules on how to live together, solve problems and resolve conflicts. Some Indigenous Peoples lived in small communities while others were centralized in structure and organized into leagues, which established common rules for peace, reciprocal obligations or other shared interests. Some witnesses identified co-operation, respect for Elders, sharing, inclusion and fairness as important organizing principles. Other values were common across different nations, for example, Anishinaabe Elder Fred Kelly raised the concept of ‘[g]izhewaadiziwin’ or ’kindness’ as a value since it refers to the ‘the seven laws of Creation … the laws of life: love, kindness, sharing, truth, courage, respect and humility.’ Examples of these principles underlie the earliest articulations of the relationship between First Nations and settlers.”Footnote 98

With colonialism and settlement, the alliances and agreements between Europeans and Indigenous Peoples were not honoured. The relationship between Europeans and Indigenous Peoples became marred with exploitation and, eventually, systemic discrimination. It has taken a long time for Canada to acknowledge the troubling history of systemic discrimination inflicted on the original people of the land we now call Canada. There are many documented reports articulating this history including the 1967 “Hawthorn Report,”Footnote 99 the 1996 Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples,Footnote 100 the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation Commission report,Footnote 101 the 2016 Human Rights Watch report Make it Safe: Canada’s Obligation to End the First Nations Water Crisis,Footnote 102 the 2016 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s final decision in the First Nations Child Welfare Complaint,Footnote 103 the 2019 Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and GirlsFootnote 104, the 2020 Human Rights Watch report The Climate Crisis and First Nations’ Right to Food in CanadaFootnote 105, and many other documents at both the national and provincial levels. These resources can contribute to a better understanding of what Indigenous Peoples have suffered at the hands of settlers, and the ensuing perceptions and judgements from both communities that linger today.

Canada’s Defence Team has its own history of systemic discrimination against Indigenous People. This was detailed strongly in volume 1, chapter 12 of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples:

The ancestors of the Chippewas were allies of the British during the War of Independence and the War of 1812, and many served in this century's two world wars. Like many other bands, the Chippewas saw land pried away from their control despite treaty guarantees. Many other bands were pressured into long-term leases or outright sale, but the residents of Kettle and Stony Point had to submit to appropriation, and the provisions to negotiate for a return of their land — which was presumably needed for "efficient prosecution of the war" — were not acted upon after the war. The government invested great energy in acquiring such land, but it ignored or minimized its obligations after the war. Perhaps the government never understood the profound importance of land to Canada's Aboriginal people and what recognition of their service would have meant to them.Footnote 106

And additionally:

There is considerable injustice in the fact that while Indian land was being coveted to settle returning Canadian veterans, Indian veterans were not even being accommodated in the drafting of a new Veterans' Land Act (VLA).Footnote 107

The Canadian Government extended a public apology to Indigenous Veterans in 2003 and it continues to work towards reconciliation.Footnote 108

The Defence Team is making strong efforts to target Indigenous youth in order to meet its recruitment objectives, particularly for the CAF. These efforts to recruit more Indigenous members are an apparent and positive development in the CAF. Unfortunately, it appears that similar initiatives are not as pronounced on the civilian side of the Defence Team.

Existing CAF recruitment-oriented programs for Indigenous Peoples increase recruitment of Indigenous members while also linking First Nations cultures with Defence Team objectives. They include:

  • Aboriginal Leadership Opportunities Year (ALOY)
  • Canadian Forces Aboriginal Entry Program (CFAEP)
  • Summer Training Programs such as:
    • Bold Eagle
    • Raven
    • Black Bear
    • Carcajou
    • Grey Wolf

However, these Defence Team efforts seem concentrated on influencing individual Indigenous People to consider a career in the Canadian Armed Forces without subsequently offering them a culture that welcomes their unique perspectives or respects their traditions. Once these Indigenous recruits enter the military, ongoing initiatives to maintain or integrate Indigenous culture as advertised in the summer programs are not prevalent. The Programs for Indigenous Peoples almost appear to be an effort to “get them in the door” so that they can then be assimilated to the traditional military mould with no further regard for their cultural diversity. There is very little effort to promote access to traditional Indigenous medicines, or spiritual practices such as smudging ceremonies. There is no appreciation for their spoken languages and no accommodation for their lack of "bilingualism" in the official languages.

This sets up the member for culture shock (the feelings of uncertainty, confusion and anxiety that people experience when moving to a new country or experiencing a new culture or surroundings), which often leads to cultural dissonance (a sense of discord, disharmony, confusion, or conflict experienced by people in the midst of change in their cultural environment) and ultimately dissatisfaction. These members eventually go back to their communities and share their negative experiences, which further adds to Indigenous Peoples’ erosion of cooperation and trust towards Canada and its Defence Team.

The relationship between the Defence Team and First Nations, Inuit and Métis remains burdened by the reality that Indigenous People have been treated as a resource to assimilate, exploit and recruit when needed. To understand why there is a need for a real partnership between the Defence Team and First Nations, Inuit and Métis, it is imperative to properly retrace the steps of the troubled past.  History in Canada is fundamentally taught from the perspective of colonizers and settlers; if one looks at most primary education textbooks, it will be apparent that Canadian history starts with the “Discovery of America” by Christopher Columbus, and the subsequent steps leading to colonization of the lands and eventually the Confederation of Canada. Prior to our current time period, schools focused on the history of France, England and the other European nations, going back to antiquity. Even this “antiquity” often narrowly focused on Rome, Greece, Carthage and Hispania. The way that history is still being taught in Canadian schools neglects the fact that millions of people from hundreds of different nations existed on this land for thousands of years. Unless an individual takes specific elective courses on the subject of Indigenous Peoples, very little is taught about these nations and their history. This perpetuates the colonization mindset and, by doing so, maintains the system of discrimination and racism against Indigenous Peoples.

By the time many young recruits join the Defence Team, their mindset has already been ingrained with this skewed history of Canada. Their lack of knowledge regarding First Nations, Inuit and Métis and regarding the relationship between Indigenous People and Canadians influences their beliefs, attitudes and ultimately their interactions with Indigenous persons.

One could argue that Canadian educational institutions are responsible for correcting ignorance and imparting proper history, but until that is done, the Defence Team must step up to its responsibility of developing a knowledgeable workforce. The possibility of a reconciled, collaborative and mutually beneficial relationship with First Nations, Inuit and Métis in the future depends on this kind of understanding.

It would be worthwhile to have Defence Team leaders at every level understand Canada's troubled past so that history can serve as a lesson that First Nations, Inuit and Métis must be seen as partners in a strong, secure and operational Defence Team, rather than as mere boots on the ground. The relationship must not simply be about having a bigger pool of human resources from which to recruit. First Nations, Inuit and Métis have much to contribute through their deep understanding of and connection with the land, their knowledge of the vast geography of what we now call Canada, their linguistic diversity, and their unique perspectives on survival and teamwork. The Defence Team excludes them at its own peril given the safety and security challenges Canada faces.

The Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples strongly expressed the need not only for a better relationship, but for one that is importantly driven by the perspectives of Indigenous Peoples themselves:

Together these examples illustrate that, in a new relationship, Indigenous communities must be able to choose their own paths towards self-determination. The participation of Indigenous communities, organizations and groups whose voices are not often heard is vital to developing a new relationship and ensuring that Indigenous communities can pursue their own routes towards self-determination. Currently, several groups, including urban Indigenous Peoples, the grassroots and some Indigenous women’s organizations, have expressed concerns about their exclusion from federal government discussions and initiatives relating to the development of a new relationship. This ongoing challenge may limit the ability of Indigenous communities to actively participate and provide input as Indigenous Peoples forge a new way forward together with the federal government.Footnote 109

Visionary leaders within the Defence Team will see Indigenous People as essential partners in both domestic operations and international deployments, rather than as resources to exploit. Such leaders will endeavour to invest in a mutually healthy relationship in order to defend this land that we now share. Moreover, visionary leaders will seek mentorship, guidance and wisdom from First Nations, Inuit and Métis, not the other way around.

The Advisory Panel recognizes that this is not an easy paradigm shift, especially for a stringently hierarchical organization. From a chain of command point of view, be it military or civilian, to consider a junior ranking individual or even a civilian as a mentor goes against intuitive practices of traditional leadership. However, reverse mentoring has been used by many organizations to embrace new technology, promote strategic thinking, and embrace cultural diversity. The message a leader sends when visibly being mentored by a member of any minority group is powerful and inspirational. Most of all it is humbling.

From Indigenous Peoples’ perspective, the challenges in repairing the relationship with the Defence Team are even greater, since they have suffered broken promises, stolen lands and genocide at the hands of settlers and colonizers. The Canadian Government has yet to take significant steps towards reconciliation, “the restoration of friendly relations,” with Indigenous Peoples in Canada. As a result, asking members of the Indigenous community to mentor a senior leader in the Defence Team is contingent on establishing trust, a trust that has been violated on so many levels in the past.

The right conditions for this "restoration of friendly relations" to unfold are thus complex, yet crucial. They must be developed with an open mind, together with the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group. Only then will the Defence Team and First Nations, Inuit and Métis bring their "minds together as one."Footnote 110


  • 3.1 Improve education and awareness at all levels.

    In order to effectively improve relationships between Canada and Indigenous People, immediate implementation of educational and awareness initiatives is essential. Such initiatives can start addressing the simple ignorance of who Indigenous People are, the massive trauma inflicted upon them and the impact that the loss of land, culture and language has had on Indigenous People. There are many tools to do this and, with the collaboration of the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, a comprehensive curriculum can be developed to address this knowledge gap. Partnerships with the National Collaborating Centre for Indigenous Health,Footnote 111 Indigenous Canada courses such as the University of Alberta’s Indigenous Canada Course,Footnote 112 and other valuable resources can be a good place to start. High quality educational and awareness initiatives are foundational steps towards decolonization in Canada.

  • 3.2 Initiate dialogue on land return or compensation with First Nations communities who were affected by the seizure of land for military bases and installations.

    The issue of land claims and settlement is a complex one that Canada must resolve with urgency at the provincial and national levels. This includes land seized from First Nations communities for military bases and installations. Discussion about the return of, or compensation for, land is the keystone aspect of true reconciliation between Canada and the First Nations.

    This discussion must occur at a high level and include all affected First Nations. It cannot take place at the local or base level with individual First Nations. Positive transformational change and improved partnerships require a concerted effort to collaborate with Indigenous communities at a national level and avoid piecemeal settlements, inconsistencies in agreements, or pitting individual Indigenous communities against one another.

  • 3.3 Build alliances with Indigenous Nations.

    Alliance-building should always be one of Canada’s long-term goals, at home and abroad. As stated on the National Defence website:

    A military cannot be engaged in the world unless it is present in the world, and this includes building and sustaining strong relationships with allies, partners, other militaries and multilateral institutions. These cooperative relationships enhance knowledge, understanding and interoperability, allow for the exchange of best practices, and ultimately contribute significantly to success on operations.Footnote 113

    This view of alliance-building should be just as applicable to Canada’s relationship with its First Nations and merit just as much effort. Recognizing First Nations' right to self-government and valuing them as strategic partners in the defence of the land now called Canada should underpin Canada’s alliance-building with its Indigenous Peoples.

    Working with its Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, the Defence Team should develop a strategy to improve its relationships with First Nations. This might include a special Joint Task Force, a type of Defence Attaché, or even an Ambassador. It could also involve increased initiatives with local First Nations communities. The Advisory Panel observed some existing local initiatives, such as the successful collaboration between Canadian Forces Base Esquimalt and the lək̓ʷəŋən-speaking Peoples represented by the Esquimalt and Songhees Nations.

    The sharing of such best practices and experiences would benefit leaders from all bases and units across Canada, not just those with Indigenous communities close to their military installations. It would create mutual education and awareness-raising opportunities that could be deployed on a wider geographic scale.

    Leaders should be held accountable not only for such initiatives, but also for tracking them through measurable objectives and deliverables, and for exchanging best practices.

  • 3.4 Establish long-term culturally responsive initiatives for First Nations CAF and DND members.

    For Canada and First Nations to be successful together, the vision of what life in the military and at the Department of Defence is like for Indigenous members and employees must be reimagined. Again, this must be done with the input of the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group.

  • 3.5 Eliminate current and historical references of First Nations People as enemies of Canada.

    Symbols, names of distinguished people or historical references are often used in the interest of creating pride in and belonging to a specific unit or base. Within the CAF, these references sometimes include battle honours or hero worship of people who fought against Indigenous Peoples. Flags, statues, commemorative coins and names of bases or teams need to be revised if they portray only the colonialist/settler perspective and symbolize a system of "us against them." There should be no honour in flying a unit flag that bears symbols of victory against this nation's original peoples.

4. Addressing the Experiences of Black People – “Resilience” and “Tenacity” in the Absence of Progress

"Around 200 million people identifying themselves as being of African descent live in the Americas. Many millions more live in other parts of the world, outside of the African continent. Whether as descendants of the victims of the transatlantic slave trade or as more recent migrants, they constitute some of the poorest and most marginalized groups. For centuries, people of African descent were marginalized as part of the legacy of slavery and colonialism. There is a growing consensus that racism and racial discrimination have caused people of African descent to be held back in many aspects of public life. They have suffered exclusion and poverty and are often 'invisible' in official statistics. There has been progress, but the situation persists, to varying degrees, in many parts of the world."Footnote 114

United Nations

The Advisory Panel met with several internal and external stakeholder groups to identify the extent of anti-Black racism and systemic barriers within DND/CAF. It consulted with the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG), the Defence Team Black Employee Network (DTBEN), the Federal Black Employee Caucus (FBEC), the Equity, Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusion Secretariat of Justice Canada and Heritage Canada’s Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat. These entities, along with other secretariats and taskforces stood up across the federal enterprise focus on addressing systemic racism, including anti-Black racism, within the federal Public Service.

A recurrent theme during these consultations was the level of optimism and resiliency that Black people must have to survive the constant challenge of racism every day. The lack of progress to create a fair and equitable environment in many of the places where they live, work and gather is astounding. The Advisory Panel heard how the mental and physical health care system is designed for white people, and how Black people are unfairly passed over for career progression opportunities. In certain cases, Black people who applied for positions were unsuccessful and subsequently placed in a job pool only to have that pool expire without their knowledge. The Advisory Panel was awestruck at the level of strength and persistence they witnessed in these groups, despite the slow speed of improvement in their workplaces and the few opportunities granted to them.

The DVMAG has been a strong advocate for visible minorities within DND/CAF for well over twenty years and continues to be a catalyst for positive change in the organization. From influencing dress codes to introducing culturally diverse foods in the mess halls, the DVMAG has been tireless in its quest to demand progress for visible minorities. It has taken the lead to galvanize different groups to unite for justice after events such as the horrific murder of George Floyd. In discussions with DVMAG, it is evident that while its members have done much work to advocate for Black members, they are also responsible to the broader visible minority communities and, as such, their initiatives have not been limited to Black experiences within DND/CAF.

Black people are not adequately represented at the senior leadership level. Their representation at mid-management level, such as director or senior officer, is also lower than that of other visible minority groups. The absence of Black representation and the failure of the organization to make meaningful strides in this regard at the leadership level have eroded trust in DND/CAF among Black Defence Team members. Of concern to the Advisory Panel is the sentiment shared by many it has spoken with, that they do not believe that the institution is able to address anti-Black racism despite assurances to the contrary. The Advisory Panel frequently heard reference to the “resilience” and “tenacity” required to forge ahead given this disappointing context.

DTBEN is a newly formed organization focused on addressing the well-being of the Black civilian and military members within the Defence Team. Its efforts are in large part dedicated to bringing Black employees and members together to share their experiences, explore, discuss and create meaningful actions to support the dismantling of persistent anti-Black racism in the Defence Team. Many within its membership have experienced marginalization, microaggressions and overt racism on a regular basis.

The existence of resource groups such as DVMAG and DTBEN is a good indication that the institution recognizes the importance of change agents. This said, not all Black Defence Team employees and members belong to DVMAG or DTBEN. Nevertheless, they should be empowered and feel safe to bring forward issues and suggestions as individuals. Black Defence Team employees and members should not have to join forces with Black DAGs or Network(s) to have valuable input into decision-making and policy change. Each of their voices is important. The barriers to inclusion can be identified and overcome only when DND/CAF becomes responsive to calls for action from the Black community and other visible minorities within the Defence Team, as individuals or as organized groups.

The experiences of Black employees and military members are diverse; particular attention should be given to the experiences of Black women and Black LGBTQ2+ individuals, who face racism as it intersects with gender and/or sexual orientation discrimination.


  • 4.1 Promote the history of Black service personnel.

    Black History Month should be optimized as an opportunity for the Defence Team to involve its personnel in celebrating the achievements of Black members, past and present. Black People have a strong and proud history within the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence. However, little is known, for example, of Black members’ brave participation in the Victoria Pioneer Rifle Corps of 1850-1865 or in the No. 2 Construction Battalion of 1916-1920. On Remembrance Day, the laying of a wreath to recognize the sacrifices made by Black service members should be an integral part of ceremonies in Ottawa and across Canada.

  • 4.2 Empower the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group and Defence Team Black Employee Network.

    These groups are valuable catalysts for positive change and, as such, should be elevated, recognized and given all the necessary resources to help the Defence Team identify and remove systemic barriers and eliminate racism. The Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture should immediately consult Black people from DND/CAF to listen to their issues and actively work towards eliminating systemic racist barriers.

  • 4.3 Expand the use of Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA Plus).

    Gender-Based Analysis has proven a constructive tool in the ongoing effort to support diversity, including of Black women and LGBTQ2+ people, and its use should be expanded.

  • 4.4 Track the career development progress of Black people within DND/CAF.

    The career progression of Black people should be part of a unit or department's diversity scorecard.  Reasons for failure, setbacks or lack of advancement should be closely monitored in order to identify potential systemic barriers. 

  • 4.5 Create a safe and credible environment for Black people to bring forth their complaints of racism.

    Leaders should understand the concept of racial microaggressions, the constant verbal, behavioural and environmental indignities that make a work environment hostile to Black people. By grasping the impact of this continued barrage of negativity, leaders will understand that when Black people report racist incidents, it is often the result of unbearable accumulations of repetitive microaggressions. As such leaders must take firm and fair actions to address these situations with urgency.

5. Fighting White Supremacy and Other Forms of Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE)

The Advisory Panel engaged with various groups to understand the scope of white supremacy and associated terrorism within Canada, as well as the participation of Defence Team members in Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE)Footnote 115 groups. This included briefings from the Canadian Defence Academy, the Judge Advocate General, Chief of Military Personnel, the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, Canadian Forces Provost Marshal and several external subject matter experts. A common thread was evident throughout these consultations: membership in extremist groups is growing, it is becoming increasingly covert, and technological advances such as Darknet and encryption methods pose significant challenges in detecting these members. The Defence Team is not immune to infiltration by these extremist groups and some units and departments may even be more vulnerable given their isolation from large metropolitan areas.

The suspected presence of members of extremist groups within DND/CAF is a pressing moral, social and operational issue. Individuals in the Defence Team who subscribe to white supremacist ideology are anathema to the ideals and aspirations of the Defence Team and, moreover, are corrosive to unit cohesion. Their presence also threatens the trust of the Canadian population in the Defence Team.

Adherence to a range of grievances against certain social groups tends to be at the core of extremist ideologies. In the context of extremism and white supremacy, the Advisory Panel particularly heard about antisemitism. Hatred and violence from IMVE groups is a constant threat for Jewish communities and individuals. Ignorance, poor education, and a narrow view of the traditional ideological spectrum contribute greatly to all forms of hate-motivated violence, including a hatred of Jews. This was a continuous area of focus for the Advisory Panel.

Another common theme from internal stakeholders in the Defence Team was that despite local, national and international exchanges of information about IMVE, the detection of extremist pockets or individuals is still very much siloed and inefficient. Some of the reasons for this include:

  • Some Defence Team leaders’ lack of knowledge about exactly who they should inform when extremist behaviour is identified;
  • The lack of a comprehensive understanding of how to recognize extremist-affiliated symbols: tattoos, patches and logos;
  • The perceived need to keep investigations confidential so as not to alert members being investigated; and
  • The lack of adequate resources to develop a comprehensive training and awareness program for all members of the Defence Team.

An ongoing concern for the Canadian Forces Intelligence Command is the challenge of keeping white supremacists from joining the Defence Team. A thorough review of social media posts from potential recruits is part of the filtering process. But members affiliated with IMVE groups are becoming more sophisticated in their use of technology, and they are finding ways to be surreptitious in their recruiting interviews. Recruiters are not all trained and knowledgeable about methods to detect certain types of behaviour that would indicate affiliation with extremist groups or a penchant for extremist behaviours.

White supremacy, terrorism, neo-Nazism and all forms of IMVE are complex and fast evolving. The need for education and training for leaders at all levels of the Defence Team was highlighted repeatedly during the Advisory Panel's consultations. Funding, expertise, and human resources are currently not adequate to address the imperative that every leader become the first line of defence in ensuring that members of these groups stay out of or leave the Defence Team.

In addition, the Advisory Panel heard some confusion among Defence Team members concerning the proper procedures for dealing with members who affiliate with hate groups or even for how to determine the gravity of such an affiliation. There was a consensus for zero tolerance of hateful behaviour, but the application of consequences for such conduct or for affiliation with hate groups is not standardized. Consequences can range from simple warnings to relief from duty.Footnote 116 Practices like the removal of uniforms and equipment while release proceedings are in progress or the suspension of Regular Force members during investigations are inconsistent.

Dismantling Canada's white supremacy groups requires sustained and deliberate effort. It must involve an exhaustive review and elimination of discriminatory structures including laws and policies, while concurrently increasing the representation of racialized people to better elevate and integrate the voices of marginalized equity-seeking groups within all institutions, including National Defence.


  • 5.1 Expand cross-functional and inter-departmental cooperation between military, policing, and intelligence organizations.

    Collaboration is key: resources, findings, and best practices must be shared. Tools for an increased detection of white supremacists must be honed, deployed and optimized for maximum efficiency. Data on the presence, movements and actions of extremists must be diligently collected and shared across key stakeholders in the Defence Team, but also with external partner organizations.

  • 5.2 Leverage the insights of Defence Advisory Groups and Network(s).

    The Defence Advisory Groups and Network(s), particularly the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group, the Defence Visible Minorities Advisory Group, the Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization and the Defence Team Black Employee Network may be able to provide in-depth intelligence in the detection of extremists. Their insights should be sought and considered.

  • 5.3 Ensure reporting procedures and tools are made accessible and are well understood by all members of the Defence Team as they are the first line of defence.

    Members of the Defence Team must be knowledgeable in recognizing signs of extremism, white supremacy and hateful conduct. They must be aware of appropriate actions to take to counter IMVE.

6. Re-Defining Chaplaincy

For many members of the Defence Team, religion can be a source of solace, optimism and compassion. Whether members of the CAF are at their home base or deployed, they can reach out to their unit's chaplain. According to the CAF website, chaplains are “responsible for fostering the spiritual, religious, and pastoral care of Canadian Armed Forces members and their families, regardless of religious affiliation, practice, and/or belief. They have an open attitude and promote diversity within the Canadian Armed Forces by providing an environment that is caring and compassionate.”Footnote 117 The Defence Team also recognizes the importance of an individual’s potential need for effective support in ethical guidance or spirituality through the new Total Health and Wellness Strategic Framework.Footnote 118

It is necessary as well to recognize that, for some Canadians, religion can be a source of suffering and generational trauma. This is especially true for many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and two-spirited members of Canadian society. And Indigenous Peoples have suffered unimaginable generational trauma and genocide at the hands of Christian religious leaders through initiatives such as Residential School and Indian Day School programs.

Another important point is that, at present, some chaplains represent or are affiliated with organized religions whose beliefs are not synonymous with those of a diverse and inclusive workplace. Some of the affiliated religions of these chaplains do not subscribe to an open attitude and the promotion of diversity.

For example, some churches' exclusion of women from their priesthoods violates principles of equality and social justice, as do sexist notions embedded in their religious dogmas. In addition, certain faiths have strict tenets requiring conversion of those they deem to be “pagan,” or who belong to polytheistic religions. These faiths’ dogmas and practices conflict with the commitment of the Defence Team to value equality and inclusivity at every level of the workplace.

If the Defence Team rejects gender discrimination, anti-Indigenous discrimination, and racialized discrimination in every other area and is working hard to remove systemic barriers to the employment of marginalized people, it cannot justify hiring representatives of organizations who marginalize certain people or categorically refuse them a position of leadership.

The Advisory Panel has observed that there are varying degrees of misogyny, sexism and discrimination woven into the philosophies and beliefs of some mainstream religions currently represented in the cadre of chaplains in the CAF. This Advisory Panel does not seek to evaluate or categorize these religions in this report. Rather it is pointing out that the Defence Team cannot consider itself supportive of inclusivity when it employs as chaplains members of organizations whose values are not consistent with National Defence’s ethics and values—even if those members express non-adherence to the policies of their chosen religion. For example, it can be assumed that if a religion openly forbade a Black person to serve within its ranks, its members would be banned from the Chaplaincy in the CAF. The same scrutiny should be applied to those religions that forbid women to serve within their ranks or are against equal rights for same-sex couples.


  • 6.1 Do not consider for employment as spiritual guides or multi-faith representatives Chaplaincy applicants affiliated with religious groups whose values are not aligned with those of the Defence Team. The Defence Team’s message, otherwise, is inconsistent.
  • 6.2 Select chaplains representative of many faiths including forms of spirituality beyond the Abrahamic faiths.
  • 6.3 Review the selection process for chaplains to ensure that, in addition to listening skills, empathy and emotional intelligence, there is an intrinsic appreciation for diversity and a willingness to challenge one's beliefs.
  • 6.4 Find ways to grant educational equivalencies, for example to knowledge keepers, rather than strictly adhering to the prerequisite that all chaplains must have a master’s degree.

7. Ensuring Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

As former military members, the Advisory Panel well understands the principle of universality of service:

The principle of universality of service or "soldier first" principle holds that CAF members are liable to perform general military duties and common defence and security duties, not just the duties of their military occupation or occupational specification. This may include, but is not limited to, the requirement to be physically fit, employable and deployable for general operational duties.Footnote 119

The concept of universality of service ensures a proper rotation of personnel in order to alleviate repetitive deployments and exercises of a select few members of the CAF who are fit. This said, it also means that soldiers who have been wounded in service to their country and who are no longer able to serve in an operational capacity are automatically discarded, even if they could contribute in other ways. 

The Advisory Panel was told by the Chief of Military Personnel that reviewing this policy was not "on the table" at present. However, the Advisory Panel believes that the time has come to reconsider this concept. At the very least, it is a policy whose implementation should be adhered to with less rigidity in order to give injured members of the Defence Team an opportunity to continue serving their country in a different capacity if they are able and willing.

In addition, when consulting with the Defence Advisory Group on Persons with Disabilities, it became apparent to the Advisory Panel that the universality of service philosophy is too often applied to the civilian members of the Defence Team as well. For example, everyone is assumed to have the same abilities during presentations, briefings and meetings. As a result, simple acts of inclusion, such as using captions or assistive technologies, are not undertaken and members with disabilities are effectively erased from these settings.

The Advisory Panel heard from some Defence Team members whose contributions to their workplaces could be exponentially greater if leaders consciously considered potential impediments to communication from the point of view of persons with disabilities. Lighting, screen size, room layout, microphone quality, screen reader technology, ambient sounds, sign language interpretations, and ease of movement are all considerations that are not currently part of a routine checklist prior to events where civilian members are included.

In addition, the Advisory Panel was told there is no formal protocol for presenters before and during their address, which means that the disabilities of some of their audience members are not taken into account. For example, "going off the mic" is a common practice for presenters with voices that carry, but it can pose a significant challenge for audience members with hearing disabilities. Having music playing in the background during a presentation is one more example. This adds another layer of difficulty for members of the audience with hearing impediments.

Defence Team members with disabilities also commonly raised issues of mobility and adaptation to physical environments. Ramps, door width, access to washrooms, local transport and other barriers to inclusivity prevent people with disabilities from thriving in the Defence Team workplace.

Virtual or online meetings and presentations offer an additional challenge for persons with disabilities when they have not been designed with them in mind. The Advisory Panel was told that there are many assistive technologies available, but often they go unused as a result of applying the "universality of service mentality" of the CAF to their civilian counterparts.


  • 7.1 Reconsider the CAF’s universality of service policy to identify ways of valuing the contributions of members who have been injured or maimed in service to their country.
  • 7.2 Work with the Defence Advisory Group on Persons with Disabilities to better adapt the Defence Team's inclusive strategies, including checklists, coaching and mentoring, protocol definition, auditing guidelines, etc.
  • The Defence Team has an engaged, knowledgeable and experienced pool of experts in this DAG—it should draw on them.
  • 7.3 Leaders must exercise discipline in ensuring that their communications are accessible to all.

    They should either recruit experts to audit their preparations or adhere to guidelines for adequately preparing a room for presentations. As well, they should regularly invite feedback from persons with disabilities and share recommendations for improvement throughout the Defence Team.

  • 7.4 Complete mobility audits for all defence infrastructure and accelerate efforts to ensure that every building is accessible.

8. Re-Designing Military Policing

The persistence of high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence within the Defence Team underscores the critical importance of professional, non-discriminatory investigation of these crimes.Footnote 120 The 2015 Deschamps report outlined specific recommendations with regards to external investigations of sexual misconduct.Footnote 121 They were largely ignored by the Defence Team. As a new external review led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour is now underway, this Advisory Panel focussed on systemic barriers in Military Policing with regards to structure and functionality.

The Advisory Panel engaged with several members of the Defence Team, mostly women and some men, who expressed a strong reluctance to report sexual misconduct crime to the Military Police (MP). Their reasons varied: some were concerned about the rank structure (for example, Captains having to report an incident to a Military Police Sergeant). Others considered the Military Police to be untrustworthy given their track record in dealing with this type of investigation.

The investigation of sexual misconduct or assault, domestic abuse and harassment is complex and as such must be undertaken by a specialized team of investigators who are equipped with in-depth training as well as substantial experience. The same is true for hateful conduct. These types of investigations require arms-length, unbiased, culturally-sensitive and trauma-informed approaches that are not synonymous with the current state of Military Policing.

Also, the rank structure of the Military Police is not conducive to creating a non-hierarchical relationship between complainant and investigator. An MP can be perceived as being more focused on his/her/their career progression, rather than on the need for justice in the case of a victim whose perpetrator is a senior member of the organization with power to influence careers either directly or indirectly. There is undoubtedly a conflict of interest that cannot be ignored within the current rank structure of Military Policing. In former Supreme Court Justice Morris J. Fish's 2021 Report of the Third Independent Review Authority to the Minister of National Defence, he writes:

“The Military Police Complaints Commission (“MPCC”) was established pursuant to Bill C25 in response to recommendations contained in the Somalia Inquiry Report and Dickson Report...As Chief Justice Lamer noted in his report in 2003: “Both reports highlighted the perceived conflict of interest to which military police are subject given that they are soldiers first, peace officers second. Due to this dual role, both reports noted the existence of a potential vulnerability to the influence of the chain of command that military police may feel when fulfilling policing duties in their unit.Footnote 122

The Advisory Panel applauds the very early action by MND Anand to implement recommendations in this matter.Footnote 123

In addition, the Advisory Panel received correspondence that leads it to conclude that many members of the CAF are unaware of the procedures for placing a grievance against the Military Police. The Military Grievances External Review Committee and the Military Police Complaints Commission of Canada are not easily accessed by many victims of injustices caused by Military Police investigations.

As described in Part III, section 5 of this report, in addition to sexual misconduct and domestic violence, hate crimes, extremist behaviours and affiliations to white supremacy groups are growing at an alarming rate in both Canada and its Defence Team. This, too, requires new investigative tools for the Military Police to better identify the activities of white supremacists and understand cyber-security. The Advisory Panel's consultation with the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS)Footnote 124 revealed that there are significant gaps in the recognition of early warning signs, and in subsequent sharing of intelligence between police forces-both internal and external to National Defence. These discussions also highlighted the inadequate resources, both financial and human, to properly train military leaders in the recognition and reporting of extremist behaviour. The role Military Police can play in this arena is improperly defined and silos exist between them and the CFNIS.


  • 8.1 Review the traditional rank structure of Military Police.

    The distinction between Military Policing responsibilities such as traffic control, crime prevention, and security patrolling and those requiring more complex criminal investigation, especially when related to sexual misconduct, should warrant a separate rank structure that is outside the current military ranks. Also, a specialty trade could be set up to undertake more complex investigations.

  • 8.2 Ensure that all members of the CAF are knowledgeable about the Military Police Grievance Process.

    Members of the CAF should be given information and guidance on the possibility of submitting a grievance as soon as they are subjected to a Military Police investigation.

9. Embracing Transgender Members of the Defence Team

Through consultations with three transgender women of various ranks and positions within the Defence Team, the Advisory Panel was made aware of some of the discriminatory practices inflicted upon transgender members. Although this information is anecdotal given the limited number of transgender women with whom the Advisory Panel consulted (and no consultations were done with transgender men), there were similarities in their stories and challenges.

Because of their gender non-conformity, many transgender members within the Defence Team face psychosocial burdens, challenges and barriers that range from adverse social attitudes to open hostility. It is important to note that 27% of transgender patients attempt suicide while waiting for gender affirming medical procedures.Footnote 125

For the transgender persons consulted, gender dysphoria (a state of general unhappiness or unease) led to serious bodily dissatisfaction and a strong desire for medical gender affirmation surgery. All three of the members interviewed by the Advisory Panel reported a lack of understanding from the military medical community, with poorly written and homophobic notes included in their medical files (which ultimately followed them whenever they tried to get new, unbiased opinions). This meant that, in addition to the unbearable hostility and discrimination they received from their units, these members had to fight the medical system instead of obtaining much needed support during the most vulnerable time of their transitions.

These members reported that CAF doctors seemed to have little to no knowledge of gender dysphoria and were unwilling to recommend gender affirmation surgery because they were certain that the members would regret such surgery. However, according to Dr. Laura Mechefske from Canadian Forces Health Services Centre Ottawa, informed consent models produce a regret rate of less than 0.8%, with only 0.1% of patients wishing for action reversal.Footnote 126

For the transgender members interviewed by the Advisory Panel, the steps to providing psychological proof of their commitment to this surgery were not only lengthy and tedious, but they were also often traumatic and devoid of compassion. In addition, these members felt that the consultations they were forced into were biased, as the psychological team had been briefed by the same medical doctors who refused to recommend surgery in the first place.

The prejudices and social stigma faced by transgender persons daily are an immense challenge that no member of the Defence Team should have to face. To further fuel that trauma with inadequate medical, moral and psychological support is detrimental not only to these valued members of the Defence Team, but to the entire organization. Instead of doing everything in its power to ensure that these members thrive, with all the unique contributions that they can make towards collective performance, the Defence Team alienates them. The resistance these members face often leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, mental health issues and extreme loneliness. This alienation and trauma often impacts the member’s family as well.


  • 9.1 The Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization should be given the opportunity to provide recommendations to address the systemic discrimination transgender members of the Defence Team suffer in their workplaces.

    This group has unique perspectives, lived experiences and astute observations on workplace barriers that are invaluable to Defence Team leaders who are serious about improving the situation of transgender members.

  • 9.2 The Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization should be consulted to develop more adequate training and education for the CAF Medical Branch.

    In particular, the DTPAO could offer insight on the psychological and emotional needs of members seeking gender affirmation surgery. Their input should also be used to create a support network for families of transgender members who need it.

10. Employing the Diversity within the Defence Team

Within the Defence Team, the representation of Indigenous and racialized people—and particularly of women from these groups—is far lower than in the Canadian population (see Part 1 of this report). Nevertheless, the Defence Team contains untapped talent and skills within this underrepresented diversity as there are treasures of language and cultural skills that remain undervalued and ignored. For Canada to become a world leader in anti-racism, diversity and inclusion, it is imperative to reflect, embrace and employ a diverse workforce in operations at home and abroad.

One opportunity to do so is within the corps of Canadian Defence Attachés (CDA). These are Canadian officers who work alongside their Global Affairs Canada colleagues in a semi-diplomatic role. At present, approximately 30 CDAs are deployed in Canada's Embassies and High Commissions around the world.Footnote 127

Most of these positions are filled by senior officers. The Advisory Panel was told that the people sent to fill these positions are often competent officers who have been advised that they will not make the cut for an additional promotion prior to their release and that a posting as a CDA is their “reward” as they approach the retirement phase of their career. Many of these appointees work hard to subsequently gain a basic competency in the language of the country where they will serve.

It would be advantageous for Canada and its Defence Team to select more diverse CDAs. Quite often, these senior officers are the only visible representation of the Canadian military in the countries in which they serve. It would send a strong message of commitment towards valuing our rich cultural diversity as an operational capability if Canada chose its CDAs from a pool of multilingual, multicultural, Indigenous or otherwise diverse officers.

In recommending that CDA positions be filled by an increased representation of diverse members of the Defence Team, the Advisory Panel is conscious that doing so in the present context would assign these officers to positions relegated to the "end of career" category. This would negatively impact the potential career progression of visible minorities, Indigenous members, and women assigned to these roles. In fact, it is not the actual assignment to a CDA role that is problematic, but rather the way the Defence Team views these "second class" appointments.

The same is true for other positions within the CAF. Recruiters would benefit greatly by having more diverse personnel employed to recruit a more diverse workforce, since they would then represent the change that the Defence Team wants to see in its personnel. Recruiters who look like and speak the language of the racialized communities whose Labour Market Availability is yet untapped by the CAF have proven to be successful in attracting members from those groups. A collateral advantage is that this success would also benefit the civilian side of the Defence Team as families and friends of these new recruits would also be introduced to DND as a potential workplace.

Another opportunity for the CAF to better reflect and employ Canada’s diversity is the appointment of Honorary Colonels, Captains (Navy) and Lieutenant-Colonels. According to the CAF, Honorary members are tasked with:

  1. being a sounding board for the CO [Commanding Officer];
  2. being available to all members of the unit for advice and support;
  3. being a representative of the unit within the community, at public gatherings and at conferences;
  4. learning and help maintain the customs and traditions of the unit.Footnote 128

Honoraries provide a valuable connection between the CAF and their communities.  They are generally resourceful business people, highly respected in their communities.  There is no prerequisite for them to have had a military career, although knowledge of the Defence Team can be an asset. They are chosen by the units and appointed by the Minister of National Defence.

As members of the Defence Team, Honoraries should be educated in the value of diversity and be knowledgeable, articulate and competent in this field in order to be coaches and positive influencers with their units. And, given that there are significant numbers of highly qualified candidates of all ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and levels of disability, there is no reason for Honorary appointments to be unrepresentative of Canada's diversity.

Due to an informal MND directive that mostly members of Employment Equity groups will be considered for these roles until further notice, much progress has been made to represent Canadian demographics within honorary positions. However, complacency, lack of effort in identifying members of diverse gender and cultural backgrounds, and a failure to commit to challenging the old boy network play a part in many of the candidatures being put forth today. 


  • 10.1 Let CDAs be officers on their way up, not on their way out.

    Send to Canadian allies CDAs who are fluent in the local language and sensitive to the cultural nuances as only a native speaker can be. Embrace this practice whenever possible, including amongst the approximately 1,500 members of the Defence Team who are employed in out-of-country positions across 70 countries in the world.

  • 10.2 Build on the successful experience of sending CAF recruiters to ethnic communities who are themselves reflective of those cultures.

    Value these assignments as a stepping stone to fast-tracked development opportunities instead of a stumbling block on an already snail-paced career path.

  • 10.3 Continue a strict policy of ensuring that all Honorary positions go to members of underrepresented groups until all barriers to these appointments, unintentional or otherwise, no longer exist.

11. Fostering Parental Allowance (PATA) Usage in the Canadian Armed Forces

When it comes to childcare, elder care, and household chores, most research in Canada and elsewhere in the world reveals that women continue to do more and sometimes considerably more than men, even when those women work full-time.Footnote 129 The impact of this disparity is often reflected in almost every aspect of career progression, performance at work, levels of stress, self-care, and physical and mental health. It also impacts recruitment, retention and attrition. The only way that gender equity will be achieved is for men to take on more of these responsibilities, including through parental leave.

Through consultations with members of the Defence Team, the Advisory Panel heard that there is still a very negative perception of men taking parental leave. According to anecdotal evidence from CAF members, that stigma comes from a culture entrenched in the mindset that a man taking the full allotment of parental leave (37 weeks)Footnote 130 is demonstrating a lack of dedication to the CAF. Some male CAF members reported that taking PATA is seen as a sign of disloyalty or a lack of ambition. They feared the intense scrutiny and negative judgement that would result from prioritizing their family over work.

This mentality is a contributor to systemic discrimination. It places a disproportionate burden on women for the care of children and perpetuates the notion that women are the primary caregivers throughout the life of a child. The Advisory Panel heard that women in service feel an unequal weight of responsibility when it comes to bringing their children to doctor and dentist appointments, being on call when situations arise in schools, or simply getting their children off to school in the mornings. Many CAF servicewomen also expressed that, within service couples, women are the ones expected to sacrifice their careers when it comes to deployments.

The Advisory Panel consulted with Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis (DGMPRA) to better understand Maternity Allowance/Paternity Allowance (MATA/PATA)-related leave usage rates in the CAF. These usage rates are derived primarily from the quantitative data in the CAF human resources system. Based on an analysis of that data,Footnote 131 the average estimated annual MATA/PATA-related leave usage rateFootnote 132 in the Regular Force over the past five years has been 4.5% for women versus 3.2% for men. Of note, this data is not entirely indicative of the difference in time off for mothers and fathers as only biological mothers (and surrogates) can take MATA, while both parents can take PATA. In addition, this data includes all MATA/PATA leave regardless of the amount of time taken.

Further analysis is required to understand the duration of MATA/PATA-related leave by gender. However, a study from 2018 examining maternity and paternal leave in the Regular Force showed that women were far more likely to take the full allotment of MATA/PATA-related leave compared to men.Footnote 133 Additionally, the analysis showed that in Quebec, where a five-week paternity leave could not be transferred to the partner, men were more likely to take the five weeks of leave than were those in other provinces.

In 2021, DGMPRA conducted an analysis of MATA/PATA-related leave within CAF Military Occupations.Footnote 134 This study highlighted that the highest MATA/PATA-related leave rates are all under the Health Services occupation group, with a strong correlation between representation of women in an occupation and MATA/PATA-related leave usage. It was also noted that this correlation does appear to be weakening as time progresses, which could indicate that fewer women are taking MATA/PATA-related leave and/or more men are using MATA/PATA-related leave. DGMPRA does not have a dedicated survey that asks about perceptions of MATA/PATA usage but have assured the Advisory Panel that they will design one.

Additionally, in 2021, a gender-focused analysis of Naval Technical Officers’ human resources data was published.Footnote 135 This study found that attrition following periods of maternity or parental leave was higher among women than among men. Furthermore, when looking at time in rank at promotion, even when excluding time on MATA/PATA-related leave, women were in rank longer than men before promotion (on average 3 months from Lieutenant(N) and 8 months from Lieutenant-Commander (LCdr)). Although the study only looked at a small subset of the overall CAF population, these findings point to the need for further analysis in this area.

Studies on retention in particular have provided some insights. For example, in a 2018 study on retention and attrition in certain sea occupations (Combat Operations, Technicians, Naval Warfare Officers and Naval Technical Officers) it was noted that some perceive male members taking PATA as an unfavourable career option and as stigmatizing.Footnote 136 This aligns with what the Advisory Panel heard throughout its consultations.


  • 11.1 With insights from the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization, the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture organization should conduct a climate survey to examine perceptions of military personnel with regards to fathers taking PATA leave.

    From this survey, systemic barriers should be identified, an approach to changing cultural stigma should be developed, and measures—including education—must be implemented to enable CAF fathers and their families to benefit from the available weeks of PATA.

11.2 Ensure that ALL CAF fathers take PATA leave.

It is the Advisory Panel's opinion that the participation of men in childcare is a contributing factor to improving workplace gender equality. As such, it must be normalized, first artificially, then naturally.

12. Measuring Initiatives and Progress – Scorecards

The Advisory Panel requested a compilation of and progress report on measurements of inclusivity and diversity objectives at the unit or departmental level; for example, data on mentoring initiatives, exit interviews, harassment complaints, failure/success rates of National Defence members from designated groups (women, Indigenous, visible minority, LGBTQ2+ people and persons with disabilities), recruitment and retention.

The Advisory Panel was informed that some of this data may be available at the highest organizational level of the CAF but is not kept at the unit or subunit level, or on the civilian side. There is a disconnect in the fact that the Defence Team is aiming for a diverse workforce, but apart from targets set at the CAF level as a whole, disaggregated dataFootnote 137 is not kept.

Measuring progress at the unit and departmental level is the only way that recommendations regarding diversity will be effectively implemented. A comprehensive and elaborate scorecard that measures the performance of a unit with regards to such things as its culture, inclusivity, prevention of sexual misconduct, training, and resolution of misconduct incidents must be kept at every level of the Defence Team.

For example, it is not enough to report on the "annual number of Health Services clinical encounters in which Regular Force personnel were treated for Sexual Misconduct," or the “annual number of courts martial ofCAF members charged with sexual misconduct” in a fiscal year.Footnote 138 It is essential to drill down to the unit level so that unit commanders and department heads know they are being monitored, assessed and expected to perform. This would enable the Defence Team to identify where there are weaknesses (or pockets of resistance) and provide those units with necessary training, education or support.

There is a wealth of resources with which to develop these scorecards, using the proper key performance indicators and the appropriate methodology to measure them. What is most important is to develop these measurements hand in hand with the DAGs and Network(s). Those groups will know what to measure, and how they themselves want to be measured. Such an approach would follow the sensible principle nihil de nobis, sine nobis: “nothing about us without us.”

Becoming a data-driven organization is a tall order for the Defence Team, one that requires a solid plan and team buy-in. It is also one which has, appropriately, made its way into the Defence Team strategy:

Requirement to measure and report on outcomes: The Policy on Results states that all government departments must develop and report on a Departmental Results Framework (DRF) and their Program Inventory (PI). To effectively and efficiently report on the outcomes delivered by DND/CAF, the organization must have the tools and skills to find and analyze data, while also ensuring that the underlying data are of sufficient quality.Footnote 139

The Advisory Panel has yet to see the implementation of this framework with regards to any diversity initiatives. An even bigger challenge is to audit the data, tailor it to the changing needs of the team and use it to identify areas where success can be celebrated and shared. Audits of data keepers (leaders at every level) must be part of the culture, routinely incorporated in regular meetings and reviews. Every leader visiting or reviewing a unit, department, base or wing should request to see the relevant scorecard to engage in meaningful ways to ensure progress.


  • 12.1 The Defence Team must become a data-driven organization.

    Much the same way that leaders are assessed on the operational readiness of their teams, leaders should also be evaluated based on the measurements that will impact inclusion, diversity, equity, anti-racism and accessibility. DAGs and Network(s) should be recruited to help design these scorecards.

  • 12.2 Reviewing scorecards should be part of a strict protocol when visiting units and departments until representation is so evenly distributed that there is no need to give it any additional attention.
  • 12.3 The performance and progress of units, departments and teams should be charted so as to identify areas where additional resources may be needed.

    For example, if a recruiting centre is consistently failing to meet diversity recruitment targets, an analysis should be done to identify its areas of potential improvement. Also, the team in place should be given additional training, mentoring or human resources to address the deficiencies. The same should be done to units with high attrition rates of its diverse workforce.

13. Improving the Total Health and Wellness Framework

There is an abundance of research that draws a correlation between racism and discrimination and mental wellness, including depression, self-esteem issues, psychological stress, distress and anxiety. Life satisfaction is impacted which extends to negative affect, post-traumatic stress and post-traumatic stress disorder, and even suicide ideation, planning or attempts.

Racism can impact health via several recognized pathways: (1) reduced access to employment, housing and education and/or increased exposure to risk factors (e.g., avoidable contact with police); (2) adverse cognitive/emotional processes and associated psychopathology; (3) allostatic load and concomitant patho-physiological processes; (4) diminished participation in healthy behaviors (e.g., sleep and exercise) and/or increased engagement in unhealthy behaviors (e.g., alcohol consumption) either directly as stress coping, or indirectly, via reduced self-regulation; and (5) physical injury as a result of racially-motivated violence.Footnote 140

Put simply, the experience of being subjected to racism and discrimination has a direct negative impact on the health and wellness of a person.

The Advisory Panel was asked to consider discrimination and racism in the Defence Team through a focus on anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, anti-LGBTQ2+, gender-based prejudice and white supremacy. Throughout consultations, discussions with DND/CAF members, and the review of documents, the Advisory Panel observed time and again evidence of racism and discrimination in its many forms, ranging from microaggressions (that were sometimes not particularly “micro”) to blatant statements or acts. The Advisory Panel observed that these actions originated from subordinates, peers and senior leaders alike.

Given these observations, the MND Advisory Panel was eager to learn how the Defence Team would be approaching prevention and intervention for such incidents. The Panel was introduced to the Defence Team’s Total Health and Wellness Strategic Framework which outlines the conditions contributing to a healthy workspace environment for its members.Footnote 141

Within the domain of the psychosocial work environment there are a number of underlying determinants that affect health, wellness and productivity in the workplace. The Unit Morale Profile V2.0 Model of Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace developed by military and civilian researchers within Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis (DGMPRA) provides a conceptual representation (see Figure 3-2) of the relationship between positive workplace factors (i.e., resources such as role clarity, job competence, and organizational support), negative factors (i.e., demands such as workload, and job stress), and indicators of individual well-being in the workplace (i.e., outcomes such as morale, and job burnout). This conceptual model is grounded in Canada’s National Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace 5 and is the foundation of the Defence Workplace Well-being Survey (DWWS).Footnote 142

This document goes into great detail to describe how the Defence Team views physical, mental and spiritual wellness. But the lack of attention to anything related to racism or discrimination, individual or systemic, is a significant omission. This ignores the real health and wellness impact on people experiencing racism and discrimination and fails to highlight the importance of these factors so that leaders can take notice.

The Defence Team has mechanisms to intervene when inappropriate acts are committed, including a formal Grievance Process, an Informal Complaints and Conflict Management process, the DND/CAF Ombudsman, and the submission of human rights complaints. Although these processes could be better coordinated and made more accessible to members, they do provide some support and resources.  However, most of these courses of action are meant to address problems only after they have occurred. Very few preventative measures have been implemented. The Total Health and Wellness Strategic Framework, as it stands now, is a missed opportunity to support prevention. If addressing racism and discrimination is not an integral part of the Defence Team's Total Health and Wellness Strategic Framework, it is unlikely that a healthy workplace can be ensured for all.


  • 13.1 Prior to its publication and dissemination, the Total Health and Wellness Framework should be revised with a lens identifying what racism, discrimination and biases look like in actual practice.

    The Framework should consider:

    • the impact of racism and discrimination on individual service members from a physical, mental and spiritual wellness perspective,
    • the impact of racism and discrimination on unit cohesion and force capability,
    • what actionable initiatives could address racism and discrimination from both a prevention and intervention mindset.

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