External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces - Introduction

Marie Deschamps, C.C. Ad.E.

External Review Authority

March 27, 2015

1. Introduction

The men and women who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces are required to make great personal sacrifices on behalf of their country. They should not also be required to tolerate violations of their dignity or security as a result of inappropriate sexual conduct.

The problem of sexual misconduct in society at large cannot be overstated. In the wake of unprecedented public discussion about the harms of sexually inappropriate conduct, 1 the prevalence and impact of sexual harassment and assault has become an issue that employers, universities, governments and other organizations across Canada are struggling to address. The time is right for the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to tackle the problem of sexual harassment and assault. The members of the armed forces need to see that such conduct will not be tolerated in the Canadian military.

To that end, it is not enough for the CAF to simply reiterate the mantra of zero tolerance. Given the everyday experiences of CAF members, this would only feed the existing scepticism that zero tolerance is easily spoken, but rarely implemented. Instead, CAF leadership, including both junior and senior leaders, need to take concrete steps to improve the experiences of members and their confidence in their leadership. Such change will not occur simply by revising the CAF’s policies on paper. Rather, there must be a multi-faceted effort, with the genuine commitment and involvement of senior leadership—particularly those with general oversight responsibilities—to embrace change at all levels of the organization. In particular, there must be recognition that a truly professional culture requires respect for the dignity and integrity of all persons, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. This requires CAF leadership to acknowledge and address the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the armed forces. Perhaps most importantly, for any real change to occur the CAF must accept that the problem of sexually inappropriate conduct is not a woman’s problem, or the problem of any single individual. Instead, it is a problem affecting the integrity, professionalism, and efficiency of the CAF as a whole.

1.1 Terminology

As discussed in greater detail below, one of the findings of the External Review Authority (ERA) is that the term “sexual misconduct” as defined in Defence Administrative Order and Directive (DAOD) 5019-5 is confusing and misleading because the DAOD’s use of the term is inconsistent with its plain language meaning. In this Report, the term “sexual assault” is therefore used to refer to acts that would be considered offences under the Canadian Criminal Code, while “inappropriate sexual conduct” is used broadly to include a range of conduct of a sexual nature, from prohibited personal relationships, to sexual harassment and sexual assault.

In most cases, this Report uses feminine pronouns (she and her). This reflects the fact that, in the vast majority of cases, victims of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the CAF are women. Most often, quotations from interviews are from female members.

The use of the term “policy” also requires clarification. In the context of the CAF, the word “policy” is sometimes used to refer to formal policies, such as DAODs issued by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), but it may also refer to rules that are universally accepted within the CAF, but which are not named in a particular document. For example, the CAF’s policy of zero tolerance towards sexual misconduct is not found in a formal document, but is nevertheless accepted as an operating policy within the organization. In yet other instances, the term “policy” is used broadly to refer to a set of rules contained within a number of different policy instruments. In this Report, when the word “policy” refers to a specific policy instrument, the originating document is cited. Otherwise, the expression “policy” is used in its broad meaning to refer to the system of principles in place in the CAF to guide organizational decision-making, whether by virtue of a written document or common practice.

Finally, a third expression needs to be explained. “Leadership”, in the military context, is exercised by anyone who is charged with the supervision of members of a lower rank. As such, all junior non-commissioned officers (NCOs), senior NCOs, Officer cadets and junior officers are encompassed in this expression. The term “senior leadership” comprises all majors and above.

1 In the fall of 2014, allegations of inappropriate sexual conduct were made against CBC host Jian Ghomeshi leading to his dismissal. At the same time, claims of sexual assault by members of the Canadian House of Commons led to the expulsion of two members from the Liberal Party caucus, and charges of sexual assault against American comedian Bill Cosby continue to surface. All of these allegations have been widely covered by the media and have generated considerable discussion within the Canadian public about sexual misconduct.

Page details

Date modified: