Part 2 – The CAF’s Immediate Response

The CAF’s immediate response to its sexual misconduct problem, as driven by Operation HONOUR, consisted of several initiatives across the four lines of effort including:

  • developing a support capability for affected persons, including the stand-up of the SMRC;
  • increasing awareness of the CAF’s sexual misconduct problem and the institution’s expectations of member behaviours and attitudes;
  • more assertive posture of military leadership at all levels in being vigilant regarding situations of sexual misconduct and diligent in responding to these both in terms of victims and offenders;
  • developing and implementing the start of a modern, tailored national tracking system providing the CAF with a recurring depiction of the problem;
  • assessing the CAF’s training and education content and delivery regarding sexual misconduct, an area which continues to be refined during implementation; and
  • launching a recurring comprehensive research program to provide a stronger short, mid and long-term understanding of the scope and prevalence of the CAF’s sexual misconduct problem.

Competing Imperatives

The ERA Report made it obvious that a sophisticated solution was required to address sexual misconduct in the CAF because of the sheer size and scope of the Canadian Armed Forces and the complex nature of the issue. The fix had to be multi-dimensional, specifically tailored to the unique circumstances of the CAF’s situation. That meant conducting extensive research, collaboration, conceptualization and development before such a solution was in place, all of which required time.

It was equally evident that CAF members continued to be victimized by sexual misconduct as time passed. For victims and those close to them the prospect of waiting for a solution until after all the deliberations were complete was intolerable. They were suffering and needed their situations to change quickly—they needed an immediate end to the malicious behaviours and access to improved care support to counter the harm already done.

Responding Immediately and Deliberately

It was this pressure to move both rapidly and slowly—immediately but deliberately—that shaped the dual-focused configuration of Operation HONOUR from the outset. The immediate response would be just that—a series of decisions made and actions taken quickly, aimed at curbing offending behavior and enhancing victim care and support. Concurrently, a sequence of long-term imperatives, such as modernizing policy, would be developed and implemented, intended to set the conditions for enduring culture change before institutionalizing it across the CAF. Operation HONOUR’s core focal points remain immediate response and long-term change.

This response, much like first responders arriving at the scene of a fire, prioritized minimising the impact on lives. Though they promptly fight the blaze to stop it from spreading, the most pressing objective is to get anyone in danger out safely. Once people have been taken care of, the full effort shifts to putting the fire out permanently.

For Operation HONOUR the approach is similar—the priority in the short term is providing support to persons affected by sexual misconduct and dealing with perpetrators. But as this is occurring, the much longer-term deliberate campaign to trigger the enduring attitudinal change necessary to eliminate sexual misconduct is progressively enabled, implemented and evaluated.

The Role of Leadership

Central to this two-staged approach of immediate response and deliberate culture change is the role that CAF leadership across the institution have to play—especially at the most junior leader level where the practice of sound leadership typically has its most profound effect. While a directed, top-down, and to a significant degree discipline-focused, approach to rapid behaviour change would likely generate quick preliminary results—as appears to be the case in the early going of Operation HONOUR—the reality is that enduring culture change cannot be imposed through orders and sanction.

Instead, sustained CAF culture change depends on the ability of military leadership across the organization to:

  • make the constituency aware of the required culture change;
  • enable CAF members to understand this change and its implications to both the individual and the institution;
  • provide alternate behavioural models to replace outdated and harmful behaviours that inhibit the desired change;
  • generate trust in this change by underscoring the new values, most notably through personal example, as well as demonstrating acute vigilance and diligence vis-a-vis situations of sexual misconduct;
  • encourage CAF members to embody this change as these new values become increasingly pervasive within their everyday professional environments; and
  • ultimately influence members to normalise these values as the new behavioural and attitudinal norms of CAF life.

So, while it was recognized that strategic leadership needed to both set the example and establish the tone and conditions required to catalyze culture change, it is clear that the true arbiter of whether the change would succeed would be the men and women of the CAF. They would buy into it, accept it but not be actively involved because they were not personally impacted, or dismiss it. And these grassroots members across the organization were most likely to turn to their immediate leaders—those they most implicitly trust with their safety and well-being—to decide whether to accept and embody the change, or not.

The Operational Approach

The operational approach adopted to address sexual misconduct differed from the previous corporately focussed attempts which had failed to produce decisive effects on sexual misconduct. A military operation is, by definition, agile and responsive to the fluid conditions inherent in most operational environments. Given the complexity of eliminating sexual misconduct from a multifaceted organization such as the CAF, the nimbleness of an operational approach was likely to deliver more decisive results.

A formal operation order establishing Operation HONOUR was initiated in August of 2015. This was subsequently buttressed by four fragmentary orders, a CANFORGEN, and a formal CDS directive on the retention of affected persons. Written orders covered a number of aspects of the CAF’s sexual misconduct problem, adjusting and refocusing certain components of the endeavour as circumstances changed.

As a deliberate effort to shape and support long-term change, Operation HONOUR is firmly anchored in the 2017 Defence policy Strong, Secure, Engaged, institutionalizing the commitment in the most substantive way possible.

Finally, also intended to support long-term change, Operation HONOUR has influenced several evolving legislative initiatives including Bill C-77 tabled in May 2018 on military justice reform. This bill focuses specifically on Victims’ Rights and includes a formal Declaration of Victims’ Rights, Victim Liaison Officers, a formal Complaints Process, specific direction on Victims’ Rights at courts martial, as well as Indigenous sentencing considerations.

Immediate Response

Operation HONOUR’s immediate response was designed to provide improved access and support to CAF members affected by sexual misconduct, curb sexual misconduct-related behaviors, and increase vigilance at all levels of leadership.

The CAF’s immediate response to sexual misconduct hinged on sending a strong, clear and highly visible message to all CAF members. The CDS did this with the launch of Operation HONOUR, which was broadcast live on multiple national news networks, conveying in the clearest of terms the CAF senior leadership’s commitment to eliminating sexual misconduct.

This announcement was followed by periodic Operation HONOUR-specific media engagements by the CDS and senior leaders on his behalf to deliver formal updates or respond to specific interest. This proactive approach had internal and external impacts: (1) it expressed the CAF’s predominant concern for the victims of sexual misconduct while outlining the resources at their disposal and the methods of accessing these (2) it communicated to all audiences the CAF’s ongoing and unequivocal commitment to eliminating sexual misconduct among its ranks; and (3) it reiterated to serving military members precisely what the CAF’s expectations were, and are, regarding both behaviours and attitudes related to personal interaction and gender, orientation or background.

These interactions were reinforced by a series of written orders expanding upon Operation HONOUR by providing guidance needed for initial implementation and subsequent execution. These were issued to the chain of command, reinforced by in-person direction provided by the CDS to his senior commanders and then repeated throughout the various levels of the organization. The same process was replicated by the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer to senior Non-Commissioned Members, ensuring a parallel communication throughout that network. This resulted in briefing sessions held from coast-to-coast where leaders communicated to their subordinates exactly what Operation HONOUR was, why it mattered and what was expected of everyone in uniform.

Every member of the CAF received a Pocket Card soon after Operation HONOUR’s launch, outlining its objective, how to access related information or support, how to report an incident, and how to actively contribute to Operation HONOUR-driven change. The card was followed up with the development of the Respect in the CAF mobile application providing a single stop online source of all relevant Operation HONOUR information, including the range of options for those who were experiencing or witnessing a situation of sexual misconduct.

Additional content supporting Operation HONOUR was developed and disseminated through an array of platforms including CAF Internet and intranet sites and social media platforms, national and local internal newspapers and journals, and embedded video messages and clips. Finally, a manual expanding on the mobile application with more comprehensive content bringing all key Operation HONOUR information and references together in a single product is currently being developed and will be distributed in early 2019.

An important part of this pan-CAF awareness campaign focused on the fundamental responsibility of the chain of command at all levels to respond assertively to situations of sexual misconduct—which the ERA Report observed was not occurring consistently within the CAF.

Getting the word out to members and leaders identifying the importance of Operation HONOUR while reaffirming the behaviours and attitudes expected of all those wearing the uniform was only part of the immediate response. Another was reaching out to internal and external partners, including practitioners, researchers and advocates, to gain a better understanding of the problem and how best it could be addressed. Canada’s major international allies were consulted as part of this process, as were national organizations and institutions with structural similarities to the CAF (e.g. the Vancouver Police Service, Calgary Police Service and Peel regional Police). The objective was to gain as much insight from other organizations with similar challenges as practicable, including best practices, lessons learned, approaches and methodologies that might be applicable to the CAF.

A cornerstone of Operation HONOUR’s immediate response was rapidly improving support to CAF victims of sexual misconduct. In the span of only several months, the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre was created and stood up. Another first for the CAF, it was independent of military leadership and thus able to provide CAF victims with a support option outside of the chain of command. This meant that victims, as well as other CAF members, could anonymously consult a trained subject matter expert about sexual misconduct without initiating an obligatory reporting process. While the preliminary range of services and operating hours were initially limited, the stand-up of the SMRC represented a landmark development in terms of the CAF supporting victims of sexual misconduct.

The SMRC has evolved appreciably since its establishment, now providing 24/7 access to an expanded range of offerings including one-on-one, private and confidential interaction with qualified counsellors who help victims explore care and support options and make informed choices. These counsellors know the CAF environment and have experience working with people who have experienced sexual trauma, sexual harassment, and other inappropriate sexual behaviour. If following this consultation the victim wishes to access other services, this follow-on interaction is facilitated by the SMRC.

This creation of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, and the heightened awareness of the chain of command in terms of the crucial early support needs of victims, increased the overall level of information and advice provided. Though this represented but a waypoint in the evolution of victim support to CAF members of sexual misconduct, it nonetheless provided them with greater attention and more viable options than were available before Operation HONOUR.

Data collection and tracking of the CAF’s sexual misconduct problem was also addressed as an immediate Operation HONOUR priority. The ERA report identified that the CAF possessed an inadequate empirical understanding of the prevalence of sexual misconduct within its ranks, a finding subsequently buttressed in the 2016 Statistics Canada survey on sexual misconduct in the CAF. This survey provided significant insight into both the nature and scope of sexual misconduct in the CAF, including sexual harassment and sexual discrimination. Previously the CAF relied on a largely piecemeal perspective of the issue, resulting in inference and extrapolation.

To address this gap, the existing CAF-level sexual misconduct tracking protocol was completely re-engineered, leading to the recent inception of the Operation HONOUR Tracking and Analysis System, or OPHTAS, which reached initial operating capability on 1 October 2018. OPHTAS will provide the capability to track and manage information more effectively and present a clearer picture of sexual misconduct within the CAF. However, even when fully implemented, OPHTAS will still rely on the willingness of members to report and the quality of data entered into the system.

Once mature, OPHTAS, alongside several other databasesFootnote 1, will equip CAF strategic leadership with a much better awareness of the sexual misconduct situation as it evolves, enabling the CDS and senior leaders to quickly adjust Operation HONOUR in response to prevailing and emerging trends.

Training and education were a key part of Operation HONOUR’s early response. Understanding that awareness alone was not likely to be enough to modify behaviours and eventually change attitudes, a training needs analysis was conducted. This review, although it lacked external expertise and advice as noted by the OAG report, spanned the entirety of the CAF’s education spectrum, from initial recruit training through to advanced professional development. Operation HONOUR is now embedded in education and training programs across the CAF as an outcome of this review.

Two key training products emerged from this evaluation to fill gaps identified in the review. The first was a Bystander Intervention training package, designed as a rapid training package to reiterate CAF member understanding of institutional behavioural and attitudinal norms regarding sexual misconduct while reinforcing consistently appropriate member comportment. As the name implies, much of the focus was on mobilizing bystanders—seen as a key to promptly altering offending behaviours. This is a common training approach within other Canadian institutions.

This training was rapidly developed and implemented across the CAF’s bases and wings, as well as to internationally deployed personnel, as part of the CAF’s immediate response. The training is compulsory for all personnel within the CAF.

While lacking independent confirmation, Bystander Intervention training appears to have contributed to shaping member awareness of Operation HONOUR.

The second output of the sexual misconduct-related training review was the creation and implementation of the Respect in the CAF Workshop. This workshop, delivered by trained individuals, provides an in-depth perspective of institutional behavioural and attitudinal expectations and norms in a dynamic interactive format. As with the bystander intervention training package, the workshop is being refined as it evolves. However, even in its initial form it represented a significant improvement over the training content on offer to CAF members pre-ERA Report, and has made a positive difference in the immediate response.

The final element of Operation HONOUR’s immediate response was the extensive research effort launched by the Director General of Military Personnel Research Analysis (DGMPRA). A tremendous amount of valuable information has been produced that can provide CAF leadership with a much better understanding of the sexual misconduct problem, although a challenge remains in ensuring this material is effectively communicated. This research was punctuated by the introduction of the recurring Statistics Canada CAF-wide surveys on sexual misconduct—the first of which was conducted in 2016. This survey is designed to provide the CAF with comprehensive pan-institutional data points on a two-year cycle, allowing it to plot Operation HONOUR’s progress in eliminating sexual misconduct. The results of the second iteration of the CAF-wide survey will be published in the spring of 2019.

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