Part 3 – Culture Change


The Canadian Armed Forces’ operational culture has slowly developed over time and, like the culture within any institution, it has been impacted by internal experiences and external influences. The CAF has a proud history and an excellent reputation as a fighting force, earned in war and peacetime operations, and its culture reflects that. The overarching characteristics of duty and honour have remained constant within the institution; however, the deliberate refocusing of CAF culture needs to emphasize the understanding of the existing ethical standard of treating all persons with dignity and respect.

CAF’s Commitment

The commitment of the CAF to ensuring culture change is clearly articulated in the Canadian Defence Policy, which “…affirms our commitment to work towards solutions that result in positive and enduring culture change."Footnote 2

The CAF must reflect the highest values of Canadian society to attract and retain members and appeal equally to all Canadians, to meet our diversity goals. Establishing a lasting change will take a significant and ongoing effort, during which the CAF will continue to target sexual misconduct.

Duty with Honour: The Profession of Arms in Canada—the foundational document of the CAF—is built upon unwavering trust in peers and in the chain of command. The existence of sexual misconduct threatens trust; the need to maintain it is the driving force behind Operation HONOUR.

Culture change will come to the CAF from two directions—leadership inspired example and commitment from all levels of the organisation. The voices of those impacted by sexual misconduct in the past and their advocates will continue to play a major role in this evolution. In the long-term, every member of the CAF is vital to the effort to shift from the strong disciplinary approach to the stable, respect focussed norm that the CAF seeks. This change cannot simply be directed—it must grow out of individual beliefs, changing unit environments and institutional norms and values.

FRAG O 4 issued in March 2018 outlines the major elements required to support the shift from initial response to deliberate, values-based long-term change affecting attitudes and beliefs. This will ensure the cultural evolution necessary to permanently influence the CAF leading to the implementation of the ERA’s recommendations.

The need to develop a clear culture change model, supported by consistent and reliable performance measures that will guide the CAF change process, is essential to this effort. The CAF has been tracking the impact on behaviour of Operation HONOUR—it is now time to expand the tracking of incidents to assessing the effectiveness of the move towards culture change—moving from outputs to outcomes. Annex A presents a high-level summary of current Operation Honour statistics.

A permanent governance model will be developed and implemented to institutionalise the necessary elements of Operation HONOUR. A strategy will be articulated, and a campaign plan produced, illustrating how the CAF will institutionalise the culture change, resulting in a CAF where every person is treated with dignity and respect.

The culture shift necessitated by sexual misconduct within the CAF will not impact those aspects of the culture that have been critical to the operational effectiveness the institution has demonstrated in the past. Respect for and trust in our military colleagues is a fundamental tenet of military professionalism and will remain central to the culture.

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