Part 5 – Progress on the ERA Recommendations

While the CAF has undertaken various tracking and research initiatives designed to measure Operation HONOUR’s progress in triggering sustainable culture change, the ten recommendations put forward in Mme Deschamps’ ERA Report remain the primary barometer of progress.

The CAF has been working diligently in the period since the tabling of her report to successfully implement these recommendations across the institution, an obligation embedded in Canadian Defence Policy.

We recently reassessed our implementation of the 10 recommendations, in light of the Auditor General’s findings and our own internal review of Operation HONOUR.

In some cases, we have determined that we need to go further or adjust our approach to achieve the intent of the recommendations.

Two of the ERA recommendations have been fully achieved, one has been achieved in a manner that meets the intent of the recommendation to the extent possible without breaching existing CAF structural, functional or jurisdictional parameters, and the remaining seven continue to progress toward implementation.

ERA Recommendation 1: Acknowledge the problem and undertake to address it

The recommendation requiring the CAF to acknowledge that sexual misconduct is a serious problem permeating the institution and commit to addressing it as a top institutional priority has been fully achieved, and it remains an ongoing imperative. CAF leaders at all levels, directed by senior leadership, will ensure that all CAF members continue to be fully cognizant of the threat that sexual misconduct poses to members’ health and well-being, the operational effectiveness of the institution, and the long-term success and viability of the Canadian Armed Forces. 

ERA Recommendation 2: Establish Culture Change Strategy

Senior CAF leadership is unequivocally committed to implementing this recommendation and they have identified it as one of two Operation HONOUR focal points as the endeavour currently shifts from the immediate response to the inculcation of long-term culture change. Consequently, this recommendation while not yet fully achieved, will soon be, with the Operation HONOUR Campaign Plan set for approval and implementation by October 2019.

Currently there is no model for culture change to address institutional level belief system change, however, a formal campaign plan mapping out how the CAF will translate heightened awareness into permanently changed attitudes and beliefs has been initiated. 

ERA Recommendation 3: Establish a Centre of Accountability

It is assessed that this recommendation, arguably the ERA’s key recommendation, is not yet fully achieved but is moving forward expeditiously and will be completely implemented in 2019.

The seminal step in achieving this recommendation was the establishment and ensuing expansion of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre. As the SMRC evolves, its’ responsibilities will increase to eventually cover the full spectrum outlined in the ERA report. The CDS has given clear direction, endorsed by the Deputy Minister that the campaign plan is to feature the accelerated handover of responsibilities to the SMRC. These include aspects of sexual misconduct-related policy development; training modification, delivery and evaluation; data collection and tracking; and overall Operation HONOUR program evaluation to the SMRC.

ERA Recommendation 4: Allow independent reporting without triggering a formal complaint process

The recommended independent reporting, while not yet fully achieved, is available to victims of sexual misconduct. Members can report an incident to the SMRC anonymously and be confident that their report will be treated with discretion and their confidentiality respected. Regarding the duty of CAF members to report incidents of wrongdoing, the CAF will develop updated direction and guidance to clarify CAF members’ obligations relating to sexual misconduct. The CAF will launch a working group, led by the CSRT and supported by the JAG, to achieve this.

ERA Recommendation 5: Develop definitions

This recommendation has not yet been fully achieved although much work has been accomplished.

The principal reason for the delay in the approval of the modernized definitions is a bureaucratic failure—the approval process for policy and definitions is laborious with legal and institutional ramifications. Nonetheless, the Operation HONOUR-related definitions should have been finalized by this juncture.

The lack of formal approval of definitions has slowed Operation HONOUR initiatives, causing confusion about terminology and creating some tracking confusion. Modification of existing definitions have been drafted and integrated into training and education content. The CAF will finalize most definitions by summer 2019.

ERA Recommendation 6: Develop unified policy approach (in a single policy using simple language)

This recommendation is assessed as not yet fully achieved. The cause of the delay is once again a bureaucratic failure—the approval process for policy is complex and protracted. The principal sexual misconduct policy document has been drafted and is set to be promulgated by Spring 2019 or sooner.

It must be noted, however, that while the overarching unified policy approach identified in the recommendation is not yet in place, some interim policy direction on sexual misconduct has been implemented, temporarily filling the gap as policy development continues.

ERA Recommendation 7: Simplify the harassment process

This recommendation has been achieved and will continue to evolve over the next 12 months. Currently, the Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management (ICCM) program is offering a range of options to deal with harassment, complaints, conflict resolution and grievances with a single point of contact. One of the strengths of the ICCM is its regional model, providing CAF member access at their home bases and wings across Canada. User feedback has been very positive to date, with results being captured in the ICCM Performance Management Framework (details to be published in the spring of 2019 in the ICCM Annual Report). Consequently, the ICCM will play an important role in the CAF’s effort in assisting to rectify issues of sexual misconduct at the lowest level.

ERA Recommendation 8: Allow victims of sexual assault to request transfer of the complaint to civilian authorities

This recommendation is assessed to be achieved to the extent possible within existing CAF legal and jurisdictional limitations. Any complainant of a sexual assault in the CAF always has the choice to make his or her report to either military or civilian authorities. Further, even though a complainant of sexual assault initially reported the allegations to the military police, he or she may, at any time, request that the complaint be transferred to civilian authorities. However, there may be instances where investigating or prosecuting authorities may, as a function of their own discretion, take a decision that is contrary to the wishes of the complainant.

Recently, the Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP) has updated several policy directives including those that address consideration of the views of the complainant regarding jurisdiction for prosecution of the offence between military and civilian authorities. The DMP has directed that a prosecutor must seek and consider the views of the complainant when determining the most appropriate jurisdiction for the matter to be dealt with and has set out a number of different factors that a prosecutor must take into consideration including:

  • the urgency of resolution;
  • safety concerns about possible reprisals from the suspect or others;
  • concerns relating to conditions imposed on the suspect following release from custody;
  • access to victim support services;
  • physical or mental trauma resulting from the alleged offence;
  • physical or mental trauma resulting from participation in court proceedings; and
  • the needs of any children or other dependents affected by the alleged offence.

Further, if a prosecutor determines that the information in the investigation report does not adequately describe the views of the complainant, the prosecutor is required to follow up with the investigator and request additional information that would assist him or her in taking a decision with respect to jurisdiction. Although the decision of the military prosecutor on whether a matter should proceed within the military justice system is one of prosecutorial discretion, the DMP has also directed that once such a decision has been taken, that the prosecutor responsible for the file shall ensure the complainant is informed of that decision and the associated reasoning behind that decision.

ERA Recommendation 9: Assign responsibility for providing, coordinating and monitoring victim support to the support centre

This recommendation is not yet fully achieved, although the planned expansion of the SMRC mandate, giving that organisation the “authoritative voice” on victim support, will go far in that direction. New approaches to victim advocacy such as the case management initiative are in the development phase through the SMRC.

Within the CAF, a range of victim support initiatives have been implemented, however, the role of advocating for victims of sexual misconduct will continue to be shared across the CAF by various entities, including medical care providers and the chain of command.

ERA Recommendation 10: Assign to the center, in coordination with other CAF SMEs, responsibility for the development of the training curriculum, and for monitoring training on matters related to inappropriate sexual conduct

This recommendation is not yet fully achieved but will be advanced in 2019. As outlined, the migration of some key Operation HONOUR functions will occur during the current shift. The SMRC will become subject matter experts and standards authority with respect to sexual misconduct education and training. In addition, the SMRC will be engaged throughout the development—delivery—evaluation cycle of training programs—specifically related to victim support and perspective. In the interim, the SMRC has had an active influence in new and revised Operation HONOUR-related training curriculum and standards, providing their unique subject matter expertise, advice and assistance to CAF Training Authorities. The central role of the SMRC will increase markedly as it assumes increased responsibility for sexual misconduct training in 2019. 

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