A Year In Review | Section 5: Looking Forward - Challenges and Opportunities

5.1 – SMRC Expansion

The SMRC has the following priorities for fiscal year 2018-2019.

5.1.1 – Mandate

Per the Charter, SMRC has responsibility for provision of victim support services, support to chains of command, and expertise to influence a range of CAF responsibilities, such as policy, prevention, training and research. Victim support encompasses a range of services delivered by several entities and there is a lack of coordination and even awareness across these entities. There is also a blurring of roles between some organizations. This is not consistent with a vision for seamless, accessible, and efficient services for affected members, due to potential for role confusion and duplication of services. Given this, a priority for next fiscal year will be to promote better coordination of victim support services across CAF. This may entail transfer of some responsibilities to SMRC. As well, there are currently no formal mechanisms to ensure that SMRC’s expertise is sought or included in areas under CAF responsibility or for SMRC to provide on-going feedback on issues of concern. These will need to be addressed next fiscal year.

5.1.2 – Clientele

For the last two years, a significant number of clients who contacted SMRC were not CAF members, primarily former CAF members and DND civilians. Despite not being mandated to serve these client groups, SMRC nevertheless provides appropriate support. A priority for the Deputy Minister is to enhance support services for DND civilians who are affected by sexual misconduct, and the CAF Leadership survey indicated that respondents believe that both former CAF members and DND civilians should be considered for inclusion in SMRC’s mandate. SMRC will explore expansion of clientele next fiscal year.

5.1.3 – Services

Victim Liaison Assistants

A priority for expanded service delivery in 2018 is implementation of a victim liaison assistant role and related case management function. These assistants will be a consistent point of contact for anyone who discloses an incident of sexual misconduct. They will perform a number of duties such as providing information on an on-going basis, assisting with completion of documentation, accompaniment, advocacy, and case management. Implementation of this role and functions will ensure wrap around support for victims, accountability for individual cases, and centralized data collection to allow better awareness of the prevalence of sexual misconduct incidents. SMRC’s current model of service delivery will be examined as part of this development, to determine whether a centralized or decentralized model of service would be most effective.

At present, several organizations provide some of these services to slightly different clientele. Successful implementation of this service expansion will require coordination and collaboration with all of these stakeholders. 

Restorative Options

A key initiative this fiscal year was an examination of the potential to use restorative approaches in a military context in order to address the harm caused by inappropriate sexual behaviour, restore broken relationships, and restore work units. These approaches are germane to the military where trust and unit cohesion are fundamental to operational readiness. To date, research and consultations with subject matter experts indicate that the proposed CAF Restorative Model (CRM) has the potential to be a complementary tool to existing processes. Further development of the CRM, and consultation with stakeholders, is planned for the coming year.

Specialized Groups

The Statistics Canada Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces indicated that the absolute number of male victims is likely higher than that of females. It also indicated that members of the LBGTQ2 community are victimized at higher rates than others. SMRC recognizes that the development of specialized services for these and other groups are a priority. Consequently, SMRC staff are currently researching enhancements to service delivery to better meet the needs of specialized groups, such as members of the LGBTQ2 community, males, visible minorities, and Indigenous members.  In particular, they are considering whether the prevalence, circumstances, dynamics, and impacts of sexual misconduct are different for these groups, whether they experience any unique barriers to reporting, and what service modifications might be necessary. At present, Counsellors receive training on male victimization, in recognition of the number of male victims within CAF. The results of a victim study currently underway by DGMPRA may be informative in these efforts.

Deployed Members

As already indicated, SMRC led a facilitated discussion with CJOC with a view to enhancing support to deployed members. Recent testimony before the Senate Committee on Defence and Security, which is conducting a study on sexual misconduct within defence and security environments, has raised the issue of support to deployed members.  SMRC will continue to advance this as a priority, working in partnership with CAF.

5.2 – Data Management

Several data-management modifications will be priorities for SMRC in 2018-2019. First, the ability of SMRC to effectively fulfill its mandate to provide expert advice to CAF is significantly impaired by lack of access to relevant data held by CAF. Consequently, SMRC can only provide advice based on the credentials, knowledge, and experience of its staff, and on the information held in our case management system.  Given the very small sample of individuals who contact SMRC relative to the prevalence of sexual misconduct, and relative to the number who make official reports, it is possible that the data upon which SMRC staff base their expertise is not an accurate reflection of the issues, trends, or needs that exist across CAF.

Second, based on two years’ worth of data analysis, it is evident that the current case management system requires a number of revisions to add additional variables, enhance the capacity to run specific reports, and change text entries to drop-down menus. As well, further training and quality control are necessary to ensure all data fields are reliably and consistently entered.

Third, implementation of a case management function will require a review of options, from revisions to existing systems to creation of a new system, depending on requirements.

5.3 – Enhancing Relationships with Partners and Stakeholders

As indicated, SMRC has instituted mechanisms for engagement with some victim stakeholders. This will likely become more formalized in 2018-2019 as it is determined the best way to include these stakeholders in the work of SMRC. In addition, SMRC will seek to expand stakeholder engagement to include members of the specialized groups referred to earlier: men, members of the LGBTQ2 community, visible minorities, and Indigenous members. This will assist SMRC to develop services tailored to their unique needs, and will provide an important mechanism to inform CAF of the unique experiences of these members, to contribute to culture change. As SMRC’s mandate and clientele expand to other groups, so will their stakeholder engagement strategies.

Following engagement with counterparts in all 5-Eyes countries, Canada has initiated a proposal for a meeting of 5-Eyes practitioners in Ottawa in late 2018. The purpose will be to focus on common challenges in responding to sexual misconduct within military environments and establish working groups to advance priorities. Topics under consideration are best practices in prevention, restorative options, and support to deployed members.

5.4 – External Advisory Council

As indicated earlier, one of the priorities for the ED was to collaborate with the Director General of CSRT-SM to establish an External Advisory Council. The purpose of the Council is to provide independent, third party advice to the Deputy Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff on their response to sexual misconduct. Eight subject matter experts from the Canadian public and private sectors have been engaged; each of them brings relevant expertise such as lived experience, experience in victim service delivery or victim advocacy, expertise with perpetrators, and representatives from academia, Veterans Affairs Canada, Justice Canada, and corporate Canada. The first meeting of the EAC was held in the first quarter of 2018-2019; it is anticipated that meetings will be held 3 to 4 times per year.

Canada has been a leader in recognizing the value of therapeutic justice from early work done in the Mennonite community in Elmira. Other nations have built upon this pioneering work, using restorative justice in cases of sexual misconduct. Research and consultations with experts indicate that the CAF Restorative Model developed by the SMRC will be a complementary tool to the military justice system and will foster cultural change by promoting offender accountability.  A pilot program will be proposed in late 2018.

Specialized Groups

The Statistics Canada Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces indicated that the absolute number of male victims is likely higher than that of females. It also indicated that members of the LBGTQ2 community are victimized at higher rates than others. SMRC recognizes that the development of specialized services for these and other groups are a priority. Consequently, SMRC staff are currently researching enhancements to service delivery to better meet the needs of specialized groups, such as members of the LGBTQ2 community, males, visible minorities, and Indigenous members.  In particular, they are considering whether the prevalence, circumstances, dynamics, and impacts of sexual misconduct are different for these groups, whether they experience any unique barriers to reporting, and what service modifications might be necessary. At present, Counsellors receive training on male victimization, in recognition of the number of male victims within CAF. The results of a victim study currently underway by DGMPRA may be informative in these efforts.

Deployed Members

As already indicated, SMRC led a facilitated discussion with CJOC with a view to enhancing support to deployed members. Recent testimony before the Senate Committee on Defence and Security, which is conducting a study on sexual misconduct within defence and security environments, has raised the issue of support to deployed members.  SMRC will continue to advance this as a priority, working in partnership with CAF.

5.5 – Defence Team Harassment Working Group

The #MeToo phenomenon and Bill C-65, An Act to amend the Canada Labour Code in respect of how harassment is defined and addressed, have prompted renewed examination of how federal departments are addressing harassment in the workplace. In late 2017-2018, the deputy minister tasked the executive director of SMRC to lead the development of an integrated Defence team harassment plan. The executive director established a working group, which will begin its work in April 2018. This will be a priority for 2018-2019.
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