Canadian Armed Forces Second Progress Report Addressing Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour - Operationalizing Operation HONOUR


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While Canadian Armed Forces-level initiatives are pivotal in providing the over-arching institutional conditions needed to trigger organisational culture change, the process of permanently modifying behaviours and attitudes must transpire within the commands, formations and units where the majority of military members work and interact.

Most Canadian Armed Forces members, 77% to be precise, belong to two groups of organisations; the Services and Operational Commands. The Service Chiefs are responsible for training, fostering and developing military members, preparing them to be deployed in a wide range of operations across the country and around the world. Conversely, the Operational Commands are the entities that actually employ Canadian Armed Forces members in national and international operations at the behest of the Government of Canada, typically sourcing them from the services for the duration of operational deployments.

Royal Canadian Navy

The Royal Canadian Navy took a major step in creating enduring culture change by finalizing and implementing its new Code of Conduct in February 2016.

This was the product of the Navy’s Conduct Renewal Initiative, and is aimed at promoting a respectful professional environment for all Navy members, free of all forms of discrimination and harassment. It is fully aligned with Operation HONOUR’s keystones, reinforcing the core military values of duty, integrity, loyalty and courage. As significantly, it provides meticulously clear guidance on how Navy members must conduct themselves and treat one another.

The Code of Conduct has already begun to take hold, shaping leadership and mentorship throughout the Navy’s chain of command. As importantly, it is being applied through engaged ‘deck plate leadership’ – the core interaction from the most basic junior subordinate-supervisor levels through senior leadership.

This implementation will leverage Operation HONOUR in four important ways. It will lead to: (i) greater adherence to organisational core values; (ii) more steadfast and consistent application of related policies and processes, (iii) enhanced victim support, and (iv) increased diligence in responding decisively to situations of sexual misconduct.

The Royal Canadian Navy has developed a training strategy to embed both the new Code of Conduct and Operation HONOUR principles. A series of training modules has been developed by Naval training staff in coordination with Operation HONOUR subject matter experts. These are being integrated into training at all qualification levels, ensuring that members receive this instruction throughout their careers. Moreover, the focus and approach for these modules are specifically tailored to the experience and responsibility levels of the trainees at each qualification level. The Naval Personnel and Training Group is also currently integrating recently developed Canadian Armed Forces-level training packages for Addressing Inappropriate Behaviour and Witness Intervention into Navy curriculum. Finally, the organisation is establishing a case study library accessible to all units in support of professional development training across the organisation.

At a policy level, the Navy has adopted the Gender-Based Analysis Plus initiative, enhancing its capacity to understand and account for evolving gender realities and inequalities. Forthwith, all Navy personnel policy analysts must complete Gender-Based Analysis Plus training.

At the tactical level, the Navy has amended Ship’s Standing Orders to include an Away from Home Port protocol. Command Teams now brief a ship’s company prior to the first night in any port (other than the home port), reaffirming command guidance and expectations related to alcohol, conduct and safety. In addition, all Royal Canadian Navy seagoing and shore units have incorporated a conduct brief as part of the in-routine process upon arrival to the unit. The aim is to reinforce institutional and command expectations of behaviour and comportment.

The Navy is placing added impetus on tracking, and will soon put in place a pan-command incident monitoring methodology, improving its ability to identify situations, tendencies and trends, and respond to these. It is also conducting research related to the attitudes and behaviours of its members. This includes sponsoring a study by research specialists investigating the effects of operational stress on social behaviours, and any attendant correlations to incidents of personal misconduct.

In accordance with Chief of the Defence Staff’s intent, the Royal Canadian Navy has been decisive in taking action to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour. One area that has not progressed as definitively as intended is the implementation of a more rapid process for removal from appointment or workplace of alleged perpetrators of sexual misconduct while investigations are in train. However, the Navy has been decisive in responding to situations – as the removal of commanding officers has demonstrated. However, during this reporting period leadership actively sought a more proactive approach in taking immediate action in situations where a perpetrator is in a command or senior appointment and has lost the confidence of senior Navy command, pending investigation. This matters because the absence of swift, decisive action in such circumstances adversely impacts confidence in the chain of command and likely discourages victims from either reporting or having confidence in fair recourse. The ability to take decisive initial action, and communicate it to those concerned as well as to the larger constituency, will reinforce confidence in the institution’s commitment to eliminating harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

The development of such a process, which must consider the rights of victims and victim support needs, while ensuring procedural fairness for the alleged perpetrator has been more difficult than anticipated due to the rigidity of current policies. It is expected, however, that policy and related changes currently in development at the institutional level will facilitate the Navy’s desire for a more rapid, decisive initial response.

The Navy raised awareness of the Canadian Armed Forces-wide Statistics Canada survey on sexual misconduct, and strongly encouraged its members to participate in the voluntary, anonymous survey. Assessing the extent of cultural change instilled within the Royal Canadian Navy as a result of the Code of Conduct and Operation HONOUR through other indicators will be a priority over the upcoming period.

Another priority will be the Navy’s continued pursuit of the initial response initiative outlined earlier. The organisation is also beginning its review of the Guide to the Divisional System, which provides essential guidance to the Navy’s application of leadership. A new chapter is being added emphasizing core military values and a culture of respect. This is one more key instrument ensuring that every Navy member understands what right looks like, and behaves in a way that reflects positively on the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Armed Forces and Canada.

Canadian Army

As the largest Canadian Armed Forces’ sub-organisation, the Canadian Army has been proactive in translating Operation HONOUR on the ground to inculcate enduring culture change. The Army has adopted an interactive leader-led programme, directing and empowering the chain of command at every level to engage personnel, reaffirming in the clearest of terms the organisation’s behavioural expectations of all its members, as well as underscoring the importance of supporting those affected by harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Tiger Teams in each Division have been stood up to support the chain of command effort.

Awareness remains a key element in instilling culture change. The Army has conducted extensive professional development sessions, commanders’ hours, Town Hall events and facilitated discussions dedicated to both disseminating information and generating action-focused interactions. Additionally, it has developed a Commanding Officer’s Toolbox, and other information products and vehicles such as multiple SharePoint sites, to facilitate information sharing and heightened awareness. Finally, it has partnered with the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre to hold sessions at major Army bases across the country, educating members on the Centre’s role and services offered to personnel adversely affected by sexual misconduct, as well as those seeking information on support options.

Training and education is an extension of awareness, and the Army has been active in developing and inculcating training curriculum and tools. Operation HONOUR-specific content is now included in all formal Army-run training courses. A Bystander Program for soldiers has been developed and is being instructed across the Army, as are Peer Support and victim support-focused First Responder packages. Vignettes and case studies designed to provide more practical instruction to soldiers have been integrated into the Army’s Operation HONOUR training and education curriculum.

Operation HONOUR objectives and principles have been embedded into the Canadian Army’s evidence-based Ethics Programme, addressing harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviours and attitudes as the ethical failure that they are. Tied to this, a full-day module on Operation HONOUR covering ethical scenarios, academic research, prevailing soldier beliefs and attitudes, bystander behaviour, ethical risk and ethical decision-making, has been incorporated into the Unit Ethics Coordinator Course. Harassment Advisor training has been temporarily delayed nationally pending changes to incorporate Operation HONOUR content. In the interim, the percentage of qualified Harassment Advisors throughout the Army has been reviewed, and the proportionality determined at one per every 50 soldiers.

In addition to leveraging pan-Canadian Armed Forces expertise in developing its Operation HONOUR program, the Army is also tapping into knowledge and experience from allied and non-military organisations. It has reached out to the Australian Army for example to better understand their sexual misconduct efforts and assess the viability of some of the measures they have implemented. The Army has also connected with governmental and non-governmental organisations and experts, including civilian care providers at the local and regional levels, such as shelters and health promotion offices. Moreover, academic research conducted by universities and Director General Military Personnel Research features prominently in the support information provided to all levels of leadership, including the Commanding Officer’s Toolbox. The American documentary film The Invisible War has been licensed for use at every Canadian Army base as an awareness and instructional tool.

In terms of the outcomes achieved to date, there are strong early indications that the behaviours of certain soldiers are shifting as a result of heightened attention on, and awareness of, harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour and its insidious effect on a professional fighting force. It has taken time for some to understand the prominence of the problem and the importance of solving it, however this perception has been strengthened throughout the Army due to the many educational and awareness initiatives conducted over the past year.

Though more structured measurement will be needed as the effort progresses, the extent of change will be partially reflected in the Unit Morale Profile Surveys that all High Readiness Brigades undergo. Moreover, the Canadian Army has instituted monthly reporting on related issues to track both the incidence rate and the speed and scope of response. As for the recent Statistics Canada survey on sexual misconduct, the Canadian Army fully endorsed this initiative, strongly encouraging its members to participate and provide their perspectives. Finally, the Army will facilitate supporting research to evaluate the changes triggered by Operation HONOUR over the coming period. For example, it is presently developing a Canadian Army Culture Survey in concert with researchers at Director General Military Personnel Research, which will enable an assessment of attitudinal change in terms of principles underlying Operation HONOUR.

Upcoming Canadian Army priorities include a range of additional awareness and training endeavours, including the continued evolution of the Canadian Army Ethics programme. There is also a forthcoming structural re-organisation of the Army’s personnel organisation to integrate capabilities and workplace dynamics, which is being designed to deliver enhanced coordination of pan-Army Operation HONOUR, harassment, and Employment Equity initiatives. A point of emphasis during the upcoming reporting period will be on bystanders, both through wide scale use of the new Bystander Training package and via a robust Army communications and engagement programme designed to inform soldiers, as well as stimulate contemplation and change.

Royal Canadian Air Force

The Royal Canadian Air Force has invested considerable time and energy in enhancing awareness of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour and executing its Operation HONOUR programming. Sustained leadership engagement and awareness remains a critical tenet in maintaining the momentum of building trust and respect while promoting a cultural change. Command Team Town Halls, visits, briefings, professional development sessions and facilitated discussions, integrating subject matter experts and supporting professionals were delivered across the Air Force throughout the reporting period.

Operation HONOUR messaging has been embedded in Air Force policies, training, directives and the promotion of Royal Canadian Air Force ethics and values remains at the forefront. The organisation has mandated its leadership at all levels to nurture an ongoing conversation on the issue, encouraging discussion, learning and understanding. To this end, all unit commanders and Chief Warrant Officers were thoroughly briefed on the initiative at this year’s annual Command Team Orientation seminar and an Air Force Operation HONOUR aide-memoire was created to assist commanding officers in responding to incidents of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Additionally, an Operation HONOUR toolbox and website were created to assist command teams across the Air Force.

At local levels, tailored awareness initiatives were, and continue to be, encouraged – initiatives like personal character statements designed to trigger behavioural self-examination and the Respectful Workplace training package that can be customized for specific rank groups.

In terms of training, Operation HONOUR was a feature subject at the Combined Commanders Training Session. The Air Force has also reinvigorated its Harassment Awareness training, integrating Operation HONOUR objectives and principles. Additionally, similar content has now been introduced into annual Air Force ethics briefings provided across the organisation. Operation HONOUR is also now part of the briefing content for operational deployments, incorporated in every Air Force training course and is a standard item of the in-clearance procedure for newly posted members.

A range of additional training content was developed both at the pan-Air Force and subordinate levels. These include scenario-based discussion training packages on appropriate/inappropriate instructor-student relationships for the Flying Instructor’s Course and direction has been issued to ensure this valuable training is included in all Training Establishments throughout the Royal Canadian Air Force.

A holistic analysis was conducted on Harassment Advisor and Investigator training, which is driving an increased focus on Harassment resources, awareness and prevention. Furthermore, the annual Ethics Coordinators Training Workshop focused specifically on respectful behaviour, risk management and strategies for the elimination of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Training has been effective in identifying high risk situations within the Air Force environment, and tailored attention to prevent inappropriate behaviour. Finally, a sub-ordinate Air Force organisation developed a local course entitled Promoting Respect in the Workplace, which is now being further expanded for wider application within the organisation.

The tracking of incidents related to various forms of inappropriate behaviour has improved in the Air Force. In addition to reporting individual incidents as they are known to have occurred, these are now collated with greater granularity and evaluated on a monthly basis. This has increased command awareness and response, and is also being leveraged as a tool to assess leadership effectiveness in dealing with incidents.

On the policy front, amendments were made to existing Air Force Orders and new policies created specific to ethics, harassment awareness and prevention, Employment Equity and diversity. In particular, the Ethics Air Force Order was rewritten, embedding harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour issues firmly within it. As well, a new Air Force Order was created to formalize and strengthen the governance of the Air Force Harassment and Prevention Program. Concurrently, Wings and Squadrons have reviewed and updated their respective harassment policies, incorporating Operation HONOUR messaging and principles. Moreover, the newly created website and Employment Equity and Diversity Air Force Order firmly reinforce commitment to foster an Air Force culture that supports an inclusive workplace and intolerance of any behaviour that violates and degrades the dignity and respect of others. The Air Force has also assigned Gender Based Advisors and a significant proportion of Royal Canadian Air Force staff participated in related gender training.

The enhanced diligence of Air Force leadership in being alert to harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour, and responding diligently to it, is demonstrated by the fact that the chain of command has encouraged Air Force members to attend an upcoming court martial and two summary trials involving offences of a sexual nature. This is based on the correlation between decisive and visible responses by the chain of command and victim confidence and reporting. This relationship continues to be reinforced throughout the Air Force.

The Air Force underscored the importance of the Statistic Canada Sexual Misconduct Survey at intervals throughout the survey, strongly encouraging all members to participate. Additionally, there are visible indications that culture change is underway throughout the Royal Canadian Air Force as a result of Operation HONOUR, reshaping behaviours involving language, humour or banter which were not sufficiently respectful in the past. There is, however, a requirement for structured outcome measurement, and the Air Force is working with subject matter experts to develop the mechanisms to better understand the extent of Operation HONOUR change taking root within the organisation.

Communicating regularly and robustly to stakeholders is a focal point of the Air Force’s effort. A range of support information products continue to be developed and disseminated within the organisation, including posters and a video series. The Royal Canadian Air Force will endeavour to exploit opportunities such as the Defence Team Ethics Awareness Week to promote the key Operation HONOUR messaging and creative communication products.

The Royal Canadian Air Force is steadfast in its commitment to eradicate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour and sustain the leadership efforts at every level to succeed with the Operation Honour mission. Its strategy will continue to address the four lines of effort (Understand, Respond, Support and Prevent) and maintain the momentum of building trust and respect while shaping and promoting a cultural change.

Canadian Joint Operations Command

The Canadian Joint Operations Command is unique compared to the Navy, Army and Air Force because: (i) its community fluctuates considerably from period to period depending on the number and scope of Canadian operational commitments; and (ii) many of the personnel under its charge originate from other organisations, chiefly the force generators. As such, the Canadian Joint Operations Command has had to adopt a somewhat different approach to Operation HONOUR implementation.

One element that is unchanged is the cornerstone of enhanced awareness and reaffirmation of organisational expectations. In April 2016 the organisation published two orders specific to harassment generally and sexual harassment particularly. The first addressed units in Canada and the second forces deployed on operations outside of the country. Also, a series of Town Halls, facilitated discussions and briefings on Operation HONOUR continue to be held across Canada and around the world for deployed personnel. Additionally, mission rotation in-briefings of key personnel now integrate an Operation HONOUR component, ensuring they are fully aware of conduct expectations. Operation HONOUR is equally integrated into Command Team communications, and reinforced in visits to and interactions with deployed units and personnel. Finally, a Canadian Joint Operations Command Tiger Team responsible for coordinating Operation HONOUR implementation is in place.

A key part of this awareness has been providing a stronger understanding of what appropriate behaviour tangibly looks like at the left end of the spectrum, where the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour can at times be less than obvious during a period of transition such as this. This challenge is exacerbated for the Canadian Joint Operations Command because it is, by definition, an organisation that brings together members mostly trained and educated within other commands. To address this challenge, active discussions are ongoing throughout the organisation on institutional expectations, reinforcing what is acceptable and appropriate from what is not.

The organisation also revamped its tracking system during the reporting period, improving its ability to identify situations related to harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviours and respond to them. This includes an updated sequence of interactions following identification of a situation, including the drawing in of key support, investigative and legal resources. An incident registration checklist/form for commanders at all levels has been developed to support this more robust tracking and response protocol.

For missions not large enough to sustain dedicated Workplace Relations Advisors, reach-back advisors will soon be connected to deploying personnel before deployment, providing them with a resource regardless of the size of the mission.

In addition to continuing the dialogue, reporting remains a primary focus for the organisation, especially in light of the nature of its composition. Building confidence and trust in the chain of command in its handling of reported situations of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour is even more critical within an entity that does not necessarily possess the same extended nurturing relationship with its members as the Navy, Army and Air Force. The Canadian Joint Operations Command is reinforcing the need for consistent, coherent response to incidents of sexual misconduct across the command, both because of the moral obligation to do so as well as the role this has in inspiring confidence and trust from those adversely affected.

The issue of confidentiality and immediate response to incidents is more challenging for missions involving small teams deployed to remote locations. While incidents have to be treated on a case-by-case basis, taking care of victims remains the primary concern.

The organisation has embraced its Gender Based Analysis responsibilities and is moving forward with its implementation. It has also established a productive linkage with the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, including web links, to ensure that members understand its role and are confident in reaching out to it.

The Canadian Joint Operations Command supported the execution of the Statistics Canada Survey, strongly encouraging its members to participate and ensuring that deployed personnel had full access to it. Concerns about accessibility, especially for those members rotating during the survey period, was a primary impetus for the extension of the deadline for participation to late June.

Communications is an overarching challenge for an organisation as widely dispersed as the Canadian Joint Operations Command. As such, it has integrated to its home web page highly visible links to Operation HONOUR sub-sites and content, ensuring access for all members regardless of where they are located. Command team email and posters are some of the supporting information products developed and employed to increase and sustain awareness.

Every action taken to date has generated dialogue, which the Canadian Joint Operations Command believes is the key to Operation HONOUR success. Anecdotal indicators reveal a palpable sense that culture is occurring, though there is not yet specific empirical measure of the extent of this shift. Efforts will be made to keep demonstrating the organisation’s commitment to preventing harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour to inculcate a common understanding of acceptable behaviour.

Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

As with other commands, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command has adopted a leadership-centric implementation approach in response to harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour. Command teams at every level are leading from the front, ensuring full visibility of Operation HONOUR objectives and tenets, reinforcing organisational behavioural expectations, and emphasizing victim support measures and options.

On the awareness front, Operation HONOUR is a regular focal point of Orders Groups and associated sessions, and unit activities such as Town Halls, Commanding Officer Hours and Leader’s Councils broaching this specific imperative have been held across the organisation. Local initiatives have also been encouraged, resulting in one unit creating a Commanding Officer’s Advisory Committee on Harassment, which is currently being evaluated for potential application across the Command.

Other measures include the appointment of additional Harassment Advisors and Workplace Relations Advisors, along with recent training for them. Some of these have necessarily been contracted resources to counter the ongoing challenge of availability of qualified military personnel due to high operational tempo. The net result is not merely more advisors, but advisors who are more alert to the situation and more responsive to potential issues and transgressions.

As for other related training, behavioural and attitudinal norms and expectations has been interwoven into professional development and ethics sessions. Of note, Operation HONOUR best practices are being fed into training curriculum on an ongoing basis, enhancing awareness and reinforcing solutions. The overall training challenge is expanding curriculum on this and other requirements in the midst of ongoing high operational tempo and compressed preparatory cycles. This also has the corollary effect of precluding some members from participating in regular training. Accordingly, a mid-year orientation session has been added to the training cycle for personnel not present for initial training. Finally but significantly, a Leadership Toolbox available via the intranet as a resource for all command teams has been put in place and is being used.

Victim support remains a top priority. Apart from enhanced awareness and high-visibility leadership engagement, links to care professionals have been strengthened and more intensely communicated throughout the Command.

The situational awareness gained from the command-level focus groups conducted in late 2015 has been sustained over the reporting period by maintaining Director Force Management, the senior serving female within the Command, as a conduit and sounding board for leadership to engage.

A more holistic initiative entitled the Optimized Performance for Force and Family, currently in development, is also expected to yield positive results. While not Operation HONOUR-triggered or focused, the program will provide another layer of support for members adversely affected by sexual misconduct through an extensive network of care professionals.

Of particular note, the command will continue to emphasize the female recruiting imperative as part of its recruiting presentation, as initiated recently. There has been a marked increase in the number of female members in the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command – the result of an increasingly larger candidate pool. Furthermore, the number of female instructors delivering command-level training has increased appreciably, with the added effect of providing more aspirational and mentorship opportunities for incoming personnel.

Prompted by a previous investigation that crossed over from one command to another, which complicated effective follow-up, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command recently enhanced its protocols for future situations involving transitioning/transitioned members, in the aim of both ensuring decisive consideration and investigation as warranted, as well as prompt, compassionate support for affected members.

In terms of outcomes, awareness of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour and its nefarious impact upon operational effectiveness and health is much higher as a result of this sustained multiple-front engagement. Members possess an appreciably stronger understanding of the importance of this issue, and the professional expectations of them in terms of their behaviours and attitudes.

Some punctual measurement occurred over the reporting period, and its results were equally positive, though there is a requirement for more structured evaluation of the effects triggered by Operation HONOUR over the mid-term. Forthcoming Unit Morale Profile results will be analyzed closely through the Operation HONOUR lens, as will the comprehensive Statistics Canada Survey analysis expected later this year.

Reporting remains a concern due to continued scepticism regarding fair and objective chain of command/system follow-up, as well as lingering perceptions of adverse career implications for those coming forward. Greater awareness is required, as is more – and more visible – demonstrations of the chain of command taking decisive and appropriate action in situations of sexual misconduct, with victims not experiencing unwarranted career implications.

In terms of upcoming developments, the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command will integrate the recently developed Bystander Intervention and Leadership Toolkit packages into its current curriculum over the next reporting period. Additionally, it will hire its Gender Advisor forthwith, a process that is underway. Finally, the Command’s current review of the Canadian Armed Forces Diversity Strategy will be completed shortly, as follow-on to participation at the Diversity Strategy Working Group.

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