Background

Mandate

  1. The Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) Special Staff Assistance Visit Team (SSAV Team) was established by the Vice Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) on 19 October 2016 in response to an order by the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) to assess the situation at RMC as a result of growing concerns with the prevailing climate at the unit. A letter expressing the CDS concerns is attached as Annex A. The SSAV Team was organized by the VCDS, in cooperation with the Commander, Military Personnel Command, to assist in fulfilling the CDS’ direction. The VCDS mandate letter for the SSAV Team is attached as Annex B to this report.
  2. A SSAV is a tool used by the senior leadership of the CAF to obtain a full and accurate picture of the state of a unit or function. In that regard, the SSAV Team was asked to conduct an administrative, fact-finding investigation for the purpose of providing an objective assessment of the factors affecting the climate of RMC as a unit of the CAF. It was directed to identify issues and make recommendations to address all of the objectives set out in the VCDS mandate letter. The SSAV Team was not convened as a Board of Inquiry (BOI) and as such could not compel individuals to provide sworn testimony. The SSAV Team was not constrained by the procedural requirements of a BOI (including the recording of all testimony and production of transcripts), allowing it to proceed more quickly and to provide anonymity to the interviewees.
  3. Specifically, the SSAV was directed to assess the climate, training environment, culture and programme construct at RMC in the following areas:
    1. Command and Control;
    2. Selection and Responsibilities of RMC Staff;
    3. Stressors on N/OCdts;
    4. Morale;
    5. Support to N/OCdts; and
    6. Training and Learning – Four Pillars.
  4. While the SSAV Team mandate included the higher level Headquarters above RMC, namely Military Personnel Generation/Canadian Defence Academy Headquarters (CDA/MILPERSGEN HQ), the Team focused primarily on the effects the command and control, governance and policy environment of CDA/MILPERSGEN HQ had on the situation at RMC. The SSAV Team also visited and considered input from Collège Militaire Royale de Saint-Jean (CMR SJ) as the other military college. The SSAV Team received input that ranged over a wide timeframe of experiences at RMC - in fact over decades. However, in order to fulfill the VCDS mandate, it was necessary for the SSAV Team to place priority on assessing the current climate and environment at RMC. The SSAV Team therefore considered all the input it received, but emphasized in its observations, assessments and recommendations on the climate, training environment, culture and programme at RMC at the time of the SSAV Team’s engagement.
  5. The SSAV Team was cognizant of the expectations that may exist with regards to the content of this report. Shortly after the Team arrived at RMC and commenced its work, there was a period of scepticism and uncertainty amongst many stakeholders as to what the effort would be able to accomplish. The Team was grateful for the open, professional and supportive environment that the RMC chain of command, Academic Wing leadership and support staff provided for this effort. The Team was also impressed by the manner in which the Cadet Chain of Authority communicated the intent of the SSAV and solicited the support of the Naval/Officer Cadets (N/OCdts) to participate in the investigation. The SSAV Team would not have been able to execute its responsibilities without the supportive and collaborative environment that all members of RMC worked to achieve.
  6. This report contains the SSAV Team’s analysis of the Areas of Assessment described in the VCDS mandate letter. The report is not an academic thesis but is based on the substantial volume of data that has been collected and analysed. The report is a reflection of the honest, frank and open discussions and written input from the individuals and groups that the SSAV Team interviewed, as well as analysis of documentation that was available. Interest and response from all stakeholders was high. The report is the result of the combined efforts of the eight members of the SSAV Team. A civilian academic advisor, Dr. Phil Bates, Vice Principal Academic at RMC was asked by the VCDS to support the Team while at RMC in response to feedback received from College stakeholders when the SSAV was launched. His role was to assist the SSAV Team in understanding academic aspects of the RMC environment and providing a civilian employee perspective. It should also be noted that the SSAV Team heard civilian perspectives from many other sources as well, including civilian staff at the College and external stakeholders including parents of N/OCdts. The SSAV Team achieved consensus and this report represents the combined views of all Team members.
  7. The report contains descriptions of any relevant law, policy, direction or guidance, followed by the observations of the SSAV Team (i.e. what Team members heard through the interviews, received in writing, or gleaned from analysis of the pertinent documentation). Each question or issue is then the subject of an assessment by the SSAV Team, in effect providing the “so what” of the observations. Where it was believed that recommendations could be provided to address issues that were identified in the assessments, they have been included. The main body of the report summarizes the key issues and recommendations in each of the VCDS mandated Areas of Assessment. The Team’s full responses to the specific questions raised in the Areas of Assessment are contained in the respective annexes.
  8. The SSAV Team’s recommendations have also been summarized in Annex L at the end of the report. This annex could be used as a basis to guide any follow on action plans. Recommendations are categorized as “Key” or “Supporting.” Key Recommendations are those that the SSAV Team believes are fundamental to achieving improvements to the RMC climate, training environment, culture and ROTP programme. Supporting Recommendations are those that the SSAV Team believes will achieve specific and positive outcomes for RMC, but are not considered as fundamental to the overall ROTP programme. Where the SSAV Team believed that a specific recommendation could be made, this has been stated. Where the SSAV Team believed that they did not necessarily have the depth, clarity or certainty to provide a specific recommendation, a follow on review or assessment has been recommended. The SSAV Team has attempted to characterize recommendations so as not to impose artificial constraints or limitations on any follow on action that is decided.

Team Composition

  1. The RMC SSAV was composed of an eight person, multi-disciplinary Team of officers, former officers and Senior Non-Commissioned Members (NCMs). It was made up of four female and four male members. The Team was led by retired Vice-Admiral (VAdm (Ret’d)) Greg Maddison and retired Major-General (MGen (Ret’d)) David Neasmith assigned as the Deputy Team Leader. As retired flag/general officers, they benefitted the Team not only by their leadership experience in both operational and institutional settings, but through their knowledge and understanding of the strategic environment of both the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). The Team included members who also brought specific expertise that included medical (Colonel (Col) Annie Bouchard), legal (Lieutenant–Colonel (LCol) Marla Dow), and Chaplain (Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) André Gauthier). Two Senior Non-Commissioned Officers (Command Chief Warrant Officers Colleen Halpin and Chris Thibault) provided the SSAV Team invaluable perspectives on leadership, training and administration. Finally, in addition to being a member of the SSAV Team, the Chief of Staff (Brigadier-General (BGen) Virginia Tattersall) enabled the work of the SSAV Team assisted by the Team Logistics Officer (Major Andrew Vandor) and an Information Management Officer (Lieutenant Anthony Raymond). Of the SSAV Team members, four are graduates of the military college programme.

Methodology

  1. Initiation of the SSAV Team began in mid-October. A preliminary reading package was assembled based on the Areas of Assessment assigned to the SSAV Team and reviewed by the Team members. This included policy documents such as Queen’s Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Military Colleges (QR Canmilcols) and Cadet Wing Instructions (CADWINS); Commander CDA Training Directives; Commandant RMC Priorities; and general background reading on RMC and the ROTP programme.
  2. The SSAV Team deployed to Kingston on 1 November 2016 and began its work immediately. The Team was provided with an orientation to RMC’s mission and history shortly after arrival. The VCDS introduced the SSAV Team to the N/OCdts, the military, professors and civilian staff of both RMC and CDA/MILPERSGEN HQ, explaining its mandate and asking for their support in enabling the SSAV Team to accomplish its task.
  3. The SSAV Team gathered information through a combination of in-person interviews, briefings, and a review of the available documentation. Interviews were arranged in person and via email requests. The SSAV Team made themselves available evenings and weekends in order to adjust to the busy schedules of the N/OCdts. An email was sent out to all CAF members in Canada and abroad via the office of the VCDS soliciting written input to the SSAV Team from recent graduates of the RMC programme. The SSAV Team received more than 70 e-mails in response. As well, an open letter was published for the families of N/OCdts at RMC explaining the purpose of the SSAV.
  4. While at RMC, the SSAV Team endeavoured to create an environment conducive to open and frank feedback from the various stakeholders. Key to this was ensuring that anonymity was maintained for all the interviewees. Interview areas were set up to ensure individuals were put at ease as much as possible. The SSAV Team normally conducted interviews through a ‘two on one’ approach that allowed for the SSAV Team to have mixed gender teams, adding subject matter expertise such as in the medical or spiritual areas when conducting the interviews, and to conduct interviews in either English or French. It also assisted in ensuring that the perspectives of both Team members were included in the observations from the interviews. In several cases, members of the SSAV Team met with groups, such as a given class of N/OCdts, a leadership cadre of N/OCdts, members of the Academic Wing, Athletic Department, or a group of support staff.
  5. Over the span of five weeks, the SSAV Team interviewed 412 people in total, representing 209 N/OCdts across all programmes and academic years, 43 members of the Training Wing, 65 members of the Academic Wing and 95 others (representing headquarters staff, other military members and various support and external staffs). The interviews took many forms, with some arriving with a list of concerns or observations in hand, while others were simply curious to learn what the SSAV Team wanted to know. In all instances, questions that the members of the SSAV Team posed were consistent with the mandated Areas of Assessment, but were open-ended and intended to allow the interviewees the freedom to say whatever they wanted on a particular topic. In addition, the SSAV Team attended various RMC events (i.e. Varsity sports, a Drill Competition, the Remembrance Day Ceremony, and the Fall Convocation) and participated in elements of the N/OCdt experience (i.e. eating in the dining hall, attending physical education classes, an aeronautical engineering class project presentation, etc.). The interviews served as the basis for the SSAV Team observations. During the course of the five weeks in Kingston, the Team met on a daily and weekly basis to review key points gleaned from interviews and events and to document impressions and themes to begin to assemble the initial assessments of the climate, training environment, culture and ROTP programme at RMC.
  6. The SSAV Team returned to Ottawa in early December to begin the analysis of the information collected and conduct follow on interviews with other groups pertinent to the investigation, such as a video conference with the Canadian Forces Recruiting Group. Although not directly part of the SSAV Team’s mandate, Team members visited Collège Militaire Royal de Saint-Jean (CMR SJ) in order to gain an understanding of the similarities and differences between approaches to the ROTP programme. The SSAV Team then began to identify common themes and recommendations based on their own observations, the information collected from interviews, and the resulting assessment of policies and programmes. The SSAV Team Leaders provided a briefing on the SSAV Team’s initial observations to the CDS and VCDS in mid-December.
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