Part 4 – Operation HONOUR—What Worked and What Did Not

The complexity of addressing sexual misconduct within an institution as diverse and unique as the Canadian Armed Forces necessarily imposes challenges in developing and executing an initiative of the magnitude of Operation HONOUR. Not surprisingly, the endeavour has experienced both success and shortfalls in the first three years of the operation.

The CAF considers the following initiatives as successful outcomes of Operation HONOUR. The organization recognizes the significant amount of effort invested by members and leaders across the institution in bringing about this success:

  • Enhanced CAF-wide awareness of sexual misconduct within the institution and Operation HONOUR’s role in eliminating it;
  • The CAF’s ability to assist and advise victims, primarily through the expansion of the SMRC, but also through the awareness training of front-line personnel, such as military police, legal and medical staffs across the CAF about sexual misconduct and its impact on victims;
  • Improved response to victims’ complaints at regional and local levels through the continuing development and establishment of the Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management (ICCM) program;
  • Growing ability of the CAF to track incidents of sexual misconduct nationally, enabling more informed leadership engagement and intervention;
  • The improvement in military police capability to support victims and process incidents, including the maturation of the sexual offence response teams;
  • A more victim-centered approach to the prosecution of cases within the court martial system;
  • The implementation of positive steps to ensure that all cases, including those of sexual misconduct, are tried in the most efficient manner possible;
  • Comprehensive evaluation of existing sexual misconduct–related training and education content, and subsequent development of Bystander Intervention Training and Respect in the CAF Workshop packages;
  • Integration of external collaboration, advice and guidance, primarily through the establishment of the External Advisory Council;
  • An enhanced understanding of sexual misconduct in the CAF through a range of research initiatives including the cyclical Statistics Canada CAF-wide surveys; and
  • Amendments to CAF release policy for victims releasing from the CAF. Specifically, that all CAF members known to have medical employment limitations that are attributable to sexual misconduct are given every opportunity to continue their service and are not administratively disadvantaged by their illness or injury while they recover, during their transition to another occupation, or to life outside the CAF.

Awareness

Members of the CAF exhibit a high level of awareness of sexual misconduct and the actions being taken to combat it across the organisation. The senior leadership, led by the Chief of Defence Staff, have made it very clear that such behaviour will not be tolerated, and that the chain of command is to be fully engaged in ensuring such behaviour ends. At the same time, the importance of encouraging victims and bystanders to come forward, ensuring they receive the necessary support throughout the process, has grown significantly.

Victim Support

The CAF must make enhanced victim support a priority. The SMRC is an essential element in providing victim support for the CAF and their assistance in ensuring effective culture change for the CAF is equally important.

In response to the OAG recommendation to develop a comprehensive and integrated victim case management service, the SMRC, in support of the VCDS, will develop an integrated, national case management system. To facilitate this collaboration, the SMRC Charter will be updated to enable greater engagement with the CAF, without jeopardizing the SMRC’s independence. Linked to this initiative must be a fully implemented national victim support plan which will ensure access for all CAF members to a minimum level of support, regardless of geographical location.

The CAF/SMRC partnership will continue and evolve even as other CAF organisations assume greater roles in driving cultural change. The recent OAG recommendation clearly identifies the need for clear definition of roles and responsibilities between the SMRC and CAF. The intent is for the SMRC to be the “authoritative voice” with regards to all relevant aspects of victim support and advocacy. The CSRT-SM will function as the strategic level planning and coordination staff within CAF. The result will be clearer lines of authority and a more integrated victim support capability across the institution and a higher level of awareness that will promote a focus on the dignity and respect of the individual. 

Tracking

There has been an improvement in the basic capability for the CAF to track the prevalence of sexual misconduct incidents across the organisation. The information gained from these improvements has allowed more decisive leadership intervention in identifying and intervening in situations to ensure appropriate disciplinary and administrative action and to emphasize victim support.

To increase this capability further, the CSRT-SM will develop an enhanced Performance Measurement Framework (PMF) in collaboration with the Director General of Military Personnel Research Analysis (DGMPRA), SMRC and other relevant stakeholders. The PMF will assess the output performance of activities as well as the effectiveness of the outcomes identified, and it will be incorporated into the Operation HONOUR Campaign Plan, also under development. This initiative supports the OAG recommendation that identifies the need for a more robust and comprehensive performance measurement framework.

Military Police/JAG

There have been important developments in the way sexual misconduct incidents are investigated. The Military Police have introduced innovative initiatives, for example the Sexual Offence Response Team (SORT) that has improved victim support and allowed relatively rapid processing of incidents.

Both the Canadian Forces Provost Marshall (CFPM) and Director of Military Prosecutions are responding to incidents of sexual misconduct by implementing a victim centered approach resulting in an improved balance between due process and compassion for the victim.

With respect to the obligation of CAF members to report incidents of sexual misconduct, the CAF will develop updated direction and guidance to clarify CAF members’ obligations. To accomplish this, the CAF will launch a working group, led by CSRT-SM and supported by the JAG.

Education and Training

Education is an effective means to encourage long-term attitudinal change in order to understand the destructive impact of sexual misconduct. Several noteworthy successes have occurred in this area. For example, the institution has identified training and education gaps and rapidly developed and delivered sexual misconduct specific education where needed. Bystander Intervention Training and Respect in the CAF Workshops are now supporting increased incident reporting and victim support. Both increased awareness and increased third party reporting are essential characteristics of the positive culture change being pursued.

External Collaboration

With a view to broadening the CAF understanding and response to sexual misconduct, an External Advisory Council has been established to allow collaboration with and input from external subject matter experts, victim advocates and other experienced persons who will advise the Executive Director (ED) of the SMRC on how the CAF can better understand and respond to issues surrounding sexual misconduct while, at the same time how to prevent and better support victims.

The results of the 2018 Statistics Canada report on sexual misconduct in the CAF survey, to be released in late May 2019, will allow the CAF to establish how specific sexual misconduct related issues are progressing within the institution, with further surveys to be conducted on a biannual basis in order to establish and measure trends. Ongoing YourSay surveys, administered by Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis to provide academic independence, will continue to provide a snapshot in time of the opinions from serving members and insight into how well initiatives are being received at the working level. As the CAF knowledge base concerning sexual misconduct continues to grow, further internal and external research will be triggered to allow the institution to continue to learn how to address relevant issues.

Less Successful Initiatives

The following initiatives are assessed to be areas where the CAF effort has been significantly less successful:

  • The delayed development and implementation of a unified updated policy on sexual misconduct;
  • The failure to produce strategic direction and a campaign plan to guide the necessary culture shift;
  • The absence of a plan against which to assess performance, creating an emphasis on statistics vice performance measures;
  • The establishment of an optimal governance structure between the SMRC and the CAF which protects the independence of the SMRC while allowing enough integration to meet the institutional needs of the CAF;
  • Implementation of a consolidated CAF-wide tracking capability to provide a comprehensive institutional picture of sexual misconduct in the CAF;
  • Effective strategic communications with CAF members to avoid subject matter fatigue and ensure the continued relevance of Operation HONOUR;
  • Sufficient interaction with external entities and stakeholders; and
  • Capturing the experiences and lessons learned during the implementation of Operation HONOUR.

Policy

Implementation of the unified sexual misconduct policy has been bureaucratic and taken far longer than was anticipated. The process originally sought to update a wide range of policies, however this came at the cost of added complexity which diverted focus from key policy areas. This approach is in the process of being streamlined and will deliver the key policy documents in 2019.

Campaign Plan

The need for strategic direction and a fully coordinated and resourced campaign plan has now been recognized, however, the production of such a plan has not been completed. Significant effort will be devoted to rectifying this deficiency in the coming months, and the CAF will also develop and publish an over-arching strategy to accomplish the necessary culture change.

Governance

A straight forward governance relationship has not been developed between the CAF and the SMRC, apart from establishing the clear independence of SMRC operations. This deficiency has resulted in a loss of synergy amongst organisations with the shared objective to work on behalf of victims to end sexual misconduct within the CAF. As the role of the SMRC as a major service provider to the CAF expands, this relationship will be addressed as an immediate priority.

CAF-Wide Tracking

Inherent in any successful strategic plan is the capacity to assess how well the plan is progressing. In the case of Operation HONOUR, much of the initial focus was placed on improving senior leaders’ situational awareness by providing a more accurate, more meaningful picture of sexual misconduct, resulting in an inordinate focus on numbers of incidents.

Statistical reports on their own do little to explain the effectiveness of specific measures—indeed, in some cases an effective measure may result in an initial increase in reports. A more mature and sophisticated performance measurement approach is essential and is being developed as the CAF looks to the future.  

Internal Interaction

The Operation HONOUR message has been circulating within the CAF for more than three years, however in some quarters anecdotal evidence suggests that fatigue with the content is occurring. In light of this and to ensure the continued relevance of the Operation HONOUR message, there is a need to validate and refresh the materials being used; to examine the engagement strategy to ensure all rank levels are involved; and, to encourage leadership at all levels to communicate interactively.

External Interaction

From an external point of view, the CAF has been slow to consult and collaborate with key external stakeholders, especially victims and victim advocates. The initial focus was on connecting external stakeholders, including the establishment of an External Advisory Council, but this area has not progressed as rapidly or as inclusively as was originally intended.

Lessons Learned

Many of the lessons learned over the first three years of Operation HONOUR have not been systematically captured, inhibiting the learning that could take place. This deficiency will be addressed in the campaign plan and will result in a continually improving process. 

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