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

Marie Deschamps, C.C. Ad.E.

External Review Authority

March 27, 2015

9. Training

Formal training with respect to sexual harassment appears to have been first integrated into Canadian military curriculum in 1998, with the Standard for Harassment and Racism Prevention program (SHARP). Members referred to the SHARP era with various degrees of respect.353 Some described SHARP training as the high point in harassment awareness and training. Others, by contrast, viewed it as a caricature. For example, one long-time member recalled young male members laughing and saying: “I was SHARP-trained”, implying that the training in fact gave them license to act with impunity.354 The reality appears to be that after a few years, the program lost its lustre. This seems to be related, in part, to the fact that while experts were hired to carry out training in the early years, this did not continue over time.

9.1 Policies

DAOD 5012-0 mandates that there should be programs for the prevention of harassment. Specifically, it states that it is the responsibility of the CAF and the DND to:

inform all CF members and DND employees about behaviour that constitutes harassment; their rights and responsibilities under this policy, ways of dealing with conflict and harassment; and the resources available to them; and

provide supervisors and Responsible Officers with guidance, support and training to carry out their responsibilities to prevent harassment and resolve any conflict and harassment situations that may occur.

The ERA also notes that CAF policies provide that one of the “direct obligations” of leaders is to engage in the prevention of harassment:

  • One of the most important factors in preventing and dealing with harassment is the development and maintenance of a positive and supportive ethical climate. The ideal organizational foundation is one of respect for the rights and dignity of others, rather than fear of punishment. Creating this ethical foundation is a direct obligation of leadership. The Defence Ethics Program requires leaders to be ethical persons and to build ethical organizations. It also provides the basic ethical expectations of respect, fairness, obligations for the welfare of others and accountability, necessary to mitigate harassment issues.355

More specifically, the Harassment Prevention and Resolution Guidelines establish that all CAF staff should be provided with “sensitivity and awareness” education through a variety of means:

  • Sensitivity and awareness education of all staff through orientation and information sessions and the use of continual reminders such as staff meetings, memos, e-mails, notices, posters and videos, is important.356

In addition, DAOD 5019-5 indicates that the sexual misconduct policy should be made known to applicants for enrolment, members during recruit and officer training, and members on leadership courses. Those persons are to be informed about the content of DAOD 5019-5, the meaning of sexual misconduct, the expectation of the CAF with respect to a respectful workplace, the requirement for CAF members in positions of leadership to take an active role in providing guidance and information on sexual misconduct, and the availability of health services.

In practice, the duty to inform members of the CAF about what constitutes sexual misconduct, and their rights and responsibilities, is discharged through training programs provided to members at all levels.

9.2 Current Practices

Throughout their career in the armed forces, members receive training at regular intervals. Inappropriate and prohibited sexual conduct, however, is not a stand-alone topic, but is integrated into broader training programs dealing with a range of subject matters.

During basic training, a number of topics compete for priority and time. Recruits receive, in the same session, training on personal conduct policies, human rights, and employment equity.357 Personal conduct covers harassment, sexual misconduct, racism and personal relationships. The component on harassment includes all the different types of conduct covered by the DAOD 5012-0, sexual harassment being only one of these. The components on sexual misconduct and personal relationships address, respectively, the policies under DAOD 5019-5 and 5019-1.358 The length of time allocated for training is not mandated in any policy, however in recent years the total training time devoted to all of these topics for recruits has only been one two-hour lecture. At the end of the course, recruits are required to pass a test and sign a form saying that they understand the policy and know of no reason why they cannot follow it.359

After enrolment, and every year thereafter, members undertake training in ethics. There are different options about how to take the ethics training. The preferred course for many members appears to be unit-led, including with on-line training. In recent years, the approximate time allocated to the yearly ethics training has been 200 minutes.360

For leaders, training on all policies is included in the leadership program. ROs can also review the Responsible Officer Guide to Harassment Prevention and Resolution Policy. However the ERA is not aware of any specialized training offered to ROs about the Guide or their responsibilities under it.

The CAF also trains HAs and WRAs on their specific responsibilities in a five-day training course which includes interactive approaches. While HIs used to receive specialized training, no HI has completed all of the required steps for accreditation in the last six years, apparently because of the lack of opportunity to conduct sexual harassment investigations as a result of the small number of complaints that proceed to an administrative investigation.361

MPs receive training on how to conduct investigations and support victims. However, as previously noted, the ERA heard repeatedly from interviewees that victims of sexual assault are frequently rebuffed or not believed. The prescribed training is therefore either not being properly carried out, or MPs too often do not implement what they are taught.

As a practical matter, the training of members on prohibited sexual conduct, while mandatory, does not appear to have had any significant impact on members.362 In one of the focus groups, five out of six female participants did not remember having received any training on sexual harassment at all, 363 and other interviewees mentioned that many members sleep through briefings364 or play with their phones.365 Indeed, a large number of interviewees reported that the classes are not taken seriously and that harassment training is laughed at.366 The course was criticized for being too theoretical,367 “lost” in the diversity program,368 and given too late in basic training.369 Power-point training is dubbed “death by power-point”,370 and training on-line was severely criticized as being unhelpful and insufficient371 because it is not complemented with any interactive exercises.372

Participants in the Review observed that the training of members had failed to change the dominant boy’s club mentality of members, and that members neither learn what constitutes acceptable conduct in the military, nor what is prohibited under the policies. A number of interviewees also commented that COs are insufficiently trained, and show weakness in recognizing that inappropriate sexual conduct is occurring, assessing the situation, and addressing it.373

Interviewees also expressed scepticism about unit-led training because of the common view that those carrying out the training were often themselves complicit in the prohibited conduct.374

With respect to the obligation of leaders to engage in the prevention of sexual misconduct, the ERA found that the engagement of leaders was highly variable. On some site visits, it appeared to the ERA that leaders had shown minimal interest in reducing the incidence of inappropriate sexual conduct. At other locations, however, the ERA understood that the issue is of considerable concern to senior leaders. Indeed, at a number of sites where sexual harassment and assault were perceived to be a particularly serious problem, special efforts were being made to promote awareness, generally by engaging NCOs in updating programs with respect to the prevention of inappropriate sexual conduct.

Overall, the ERA found that the reality on the ground supports the assessment of numerous interviewees who indicated that the training currently being provided is failing to inform members about appropriate conduct or to inculcate an ethical culture in the CAF. In the ERA’s view, current training efforts not only lack credibility, but also further reduce member confidence that inappropriate sexual conduct is an issue that the CAF takes seriously. Part of the problem appears to be that while efforts have been made to carry out training on issues of diversity and harassment in general, there has been little focus or attention on the particular problems of sexual harassment and sexual assault. More broadly, however, it was very apparent throughout the consultations that conducting training on such serious and complex matters through lectures or power-point is ineffective, particularly when recruits lack sleep and are preoccupied by other tests. Nor is unit-led training an appropriate alternative, given the broad perception that many of those carrying out the training are in fact part of the problem.

Finally, as previously discussed, the ERA found that military police require considerably better training with respect to how to interact with victims of sexual assault, as do many physicians.

9.3 Avenues for Improvement

The CAF’s policies on sexual harassment and sexual assault will not be effective if they are not supported by training to inform members about the CAF’s expectations and the consequences of violating the policies. Unfortunately, training on sexual harassment and sexual assault can too easily become the subject of ridicule, or, worse, can encourage members to misbehave and violate the policies.

Skilled professionals with expertise in training in the area of sexual harassment and sexual assault need to be involved to ensure that the right tone and appropriate examples are used. In addition, it was clear to the ERA that one-time lectures and on-line training are inadequate.

Sufficient time must be devoted to training if it is to contribute to cultural change, and regular face-to-face sessions to discuss sexual harassment and sexual assault should be mandatory. Training should include a variety of interactive techniques, as well as concrete examples to help members understand the scope of acceptable behaviour. This is particularly important when addressing deeply embedded cultural behaviours such as the use of sexualized language and sexual innuendo, which contribute to a broader organizational culture that is hostile and inappropriate. The use of real-world scenarios, applicable to the day-to-day experiences of members of the CAF, is therefore essential in imparting to members the boundaries of acceptable behaviour and the importance of cultural change.

While junior members need to rapidly internalize the notions of professionalism and respect for dignity, senior NCOs and officers should also undergo regular refreshers and reinforcement training on sexual harassment and sexual assault. Equally important, such concepts as consent should be incorporated into training for both junior and senior members. Given the importance of the broad cultural reform previously described, regular training should therefore be required at all levels of the CAF, including senior leaders with general oversight responsibilities.

While in many cases members of the MP undertake training with civilian law enforcement authorities, closer attention should be paid to the content of this training to ensure that it includes sufficient training on sexual assault, and particularly on how to interact with victims of sexual assault.

In order to ensure that training is conducted with sufficient expertise and that the focus is on sexual harassment and sexual assault, CASAH should be assigned, with other CAF subject matter experts, the responsibility for the development of the curriculum and the primary responsibility for the monitoring of training for all members, including senior officers, military police, medical professionals and chaplains. CASAH should also be responsible for ensuring the accountability of other groups involved in providing training.

Recommendation No. 10

Assign to the center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment, in coordination with other CAF subject matter experts, responsibility for the development of the training curriculum, and the primary responsibility for monitoring training on matters related to inappropriate sexual conduct.

353 Coordinator interviews
354 Coordinator interview
355 Harassment Prevention and Resolution Guidelines, p. 2-1
356 Guidelines, sub-section 2.3 Education and Training
357 Coordinator interview
358 Curriculum of basic training provided as a follow-up to a Coordinator interview
359 Coordinator interview
360 Coordinator interview; another Coordinator interview evaluated the length of time as an average of 45 minutes per year.
361 Coordinator interview
362 Focus group, female reserve; Coordinator interviews
363 Focus group: female lower rank
364 Coordinator interviews
365 Coordinator interview
366 Focus group: female trainees; Coordinator interview; Volunteer contributions
367 Coordinator interview
368 Coordinator interview
369 Coordinator interviews
370 Focus group: female lower rank
371 Coordinator interview
372 Coordinator interviews
373 Coordinator interview
374 Focus group: female reserve; Coordinator interviews

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