External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces - Conclusion
Marie Deschamps, C.C. Ad.E.
External Review Authority
March 27, 2015
During the course of this Review, it became clear that one of the functions of the chain of command is to address problems before they reach the attention of senior leaders. While there may be logic to this structure in many areas of military life, in the case of sexual harassment and assault the unfortunate effect is to stifle complaints and leave problems unresolved. It also means that some senior leaders are genuinely unaware of the extent of the inappropriate sexual conduct that is occurring on the ground, the harm to individual members, and the damage to the CAF as a whole.
At the same time, the ERA found that there is an undeniable problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the CAF, which requires direct and sustained action. In particular, the CAF needs to engage in broad-based cultural reform to change the underlying norms of conduct that are giving rise to pervasive low-level harassment, a hostile environment for women and LGTBQ members, and, in some cases, more serious and traumatic incidents of sexual assault. Dismissive responses such as “this is just the way of the military” are no longer appropriate.
Cultural change is not an easy enterprise. Other organizations, including some which are historically male-dominated, are taking steps to meet this challenge, however. The CAF has a variety of tools at its disposal, including DAOD policies, training programs, administrative action, the disciplinary and military justice system, referral to local civilian authorities, and internal victim support services. The ERA has made recommendations about how to strengthen each of the policies that it was asked to review. In particular, important reforms can be accomplished through the creation of a center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment, which can serve not only as a hub for delivering services to victims and training for CAF members, civilian employees and senior leaders, but also as a meeting point for stakeholders. CASAH is therefore a point of departure for subsequent initiatives to reduce the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault in the armed forces.
Just as important, however, CAF leaders need to be prepared to use and implement the tools at their disposal strictly, fairly, and consistently. The failure to do so only exacerbates the perception of victims that their well-being is not a priority for the CAF, and the perception of aggressors that they can act with impunity. Responsibility for change therefore lies with CAF leaders. Not only must leaders serve as role models, but they must also intervene personally where inappropriate conduct occurs. Senior leaders, in particular, must drive the process of cultural reform by engaging in initiatives to prevent inappropriate sexual conduct, and to rebuild the trust of CAF members. As a modern military organization, the Canadian Armed Forces can no longer afford to accept lower standards for sexual conduct than those that apply to Canadians at large. On the contrary, more is expected from our Forces.
The willingness of the CAF to take a hard look at its own practices and procedures is just one indication that the organization has a strong future. Cultural change, improving the integration of
women into the most senior levels of the organization, rebuilding the trust of members in the chain of command, and reducing the prevalence of sexual harassment and sexual assault, will not be easy to achieve. Such goals require strong leadership and sustained commitment. But they are essential to the development of a modern military organization that not only embraces the principle of respect for human dignity, but is also able to optimize on the skills and talents of all its members. The Canadian public expects it, and CAF members deserve it.
March 27, 2015
Marie Deschamps C.C., Ad.E. External Review Authority
APPENDIX A - Example of a message sent to members before a visit
As you have probably heard, the Chief of the Defence Staff has asked me to conduct an independent external review of how the Canadian Armed Forces handles issues related to sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. As part of the review process, I will be meeting with a number of CAF members. The purpose of this letter is to invite you to participate in the external review when I visit the base in Halifax from August 21 to 23. I will be looking not only for information as to facts relating to sexual harassment and misconduct, but also for individual opinions and ideas on those subjects. Participation in the review is voluntary.
In order to benefit from as much input as possible, I will make myself available through focus groups (Wednesday afternoon), formal interviews on the base (Thursday and Friday) and off the base (Thursday evening)—as well as during an open session (Wednesday evening). If you would like to meet with me privately, either on or off the base, please do not hesitate to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You are strongly encouraged to participate; my door will be open.
|ADF||Australian Defence Force|
|ADR||Alternate Dispute Resolution|
|CAF||Canadian Armed Forces|
|CASAH||Center for Accountability for Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment|
|CFNIS||Canadian Forces National Investigation Service|
|CFHIS||ForcesCanadian Forces Health Information|
|CHRC||SystemCanadian Human Rights Commission|
|COID||Central Organization of Integrity of Defence (Netherlands)|
|CSD||Code of Service Discipline|
|DAOD||Defence Administrative Order and Directive|
|DGMP||Director General, Military Personnel|
|DND||Department of National Defence|
|DPP||Director of Public Prosecution|
|ERA||External Review Authority|
|JAG||Judge Advocate General|
|MGERC||Military Grievance External Review Committee|
|NDA||National Defence Act|
|PAG||Peer Assistance Program|
|QR&O||Queen’s Regulation and Order|
|RMCC||Royal Military College of Canada|
|SAPRO||Sexual Assault Prevention Office (United States)|
|SeMPRO||Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office (Australia)|
|SHARP||Standard for Harassment and Racism Prevention|
|SIR||Significant Incident Report|
|TOR||Terms of Reference|
|VPD||Vancouver Police Department|
|WRA||Workplace Relation Advisor|
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