DND/CAF Response to the Final Report by the Survivor Support Consultation Group
December 21, 2021
The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) acknowledge all those who have been harmed by sexual misconduct in the military workplace. We know that our collective failure to build an inclusive workplace culture free from sexual misconduct has deeply hurt our people, along with their families and communities.
When those who have experienced sexual misconduct have reached out for support – whether from their Chain of Command, or to address health, emotional, occupational, transitional, spiritual, justice-related or other matters as consequence of the sexual misconduct – the support they have needed often has not been there. Or that support has not been sufficiently trauma-informed, responsive, timely, nor tailored to their specific needs. It did not help them to feel safe, protected, valued, empowered, and heard. In some cases, in reaching out for support, survivors were further harmed. Many ultimately left the institution feeling profoundly unsupported.
Our goal is to transform the culture, which includes working to prevent sexual misconduct. But we also know that an inclusive and respectful culture has at its core support for people. That people will not disclose or report sexual misconduct and will remain in silence – and that they will not reach out for support and therefore be prevented from healing – if robust, compassionate and survivor-centred support is not there when they need it.
The Final Report of the Schedule N, Survivor Support Consultation Group (SSCG) is about building that support. It is about creating the conditions to ensure a system of support that upholds the dignity and respect of all of our members – one that honours the institution’s commitment to each member/employee and our commitment to each other.
The DND/CAF acknowledges this important Final Report for its value and contribution to ensuring that all of our members and employees are fully supported.
The Final Report reflects the work, insights, and recommendations resulting from a dedicated engagement process that took place in 2020-2021. That process brought together three Class Member Representatives of the DND-CAF Sexual Misconduct Class Action and three members of the Defence Team, who together formed the SSCG. Their work was supported and guided by three external Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) with expertise on issues central to supporting survivors. The consultation involved discussions with representatives from across the DND/CAF in order to better understand current approaches, policies, programs and services, and together explore where important gaps remain. From those discussions and building on other processes that have identified areas for needed change, the consultation group and SMEs were able to identify three principles, five themes, ten goals and 45 recommendations aimed at enhancing survivor support, which include insights on further engagement work that must be undertaken.
The DND/CAF acknowledges the principles, themes, goals, and recommendations outlined in the Final Report, along with the report’s central message that change will only occur if it is meaningful, holistic, firmly underpinned by a commitment to accountability and action, and addresses the underlying factors that have contributed to sexual misconduct in the military workplace. No consultation group, no leader, no policy, and no support-providing organization can effect change alone: it is a whole of DND/CAF community responsibility – one that the DND/CAF is fully committed to seeing through.
We thank all who have contributed to the development of the Final Report and its recommendations. We are particularly grateful to the three Class Member Representatives – Cassandra Elliott, Larry Beattie, the Reverend Susan F. Beare – for their commitment and bravery. We thank them for their service to others in using their own lived experiences to help effect positive change for other community members. We also wish to acknowledge all those who have experienced sexual misconduct in our workplace: the Final Report builds on and reflects survivors’ leadership and advocacy over many years – not only in the context of the class action but more broadly.
Our thanks are extended as well to the three SMEs – Rick Goodwin, Myrna McCallum, and Dr. Erin Whitmore – for their commitment to using their expertise to help inform, guide, and shape the work of the consultation group, and for their recommendations on tangible actions that the DND/CAF can undertake to better meet the needs of all survivors.
This Final Report – complemented by recommendations from other relevant processes, such as culture dialogues initiated in fall 2021 and external reviews – will be essential in guiding our efforts to create enduring transformational change. This Final Report is intended not as an “end point” nor as “another report” but rather as an important foundation upon which to build, in wider consultation and dialogue with diverse groups of survivors, a comprehensive and robust Survivor Support Strategy that first and foremost reflects and meets the needs of survivors.
Work is already underway to implement a number of recommendations identified in the Final Report, including those that relate to initiatives that received commitment in Budget 2021. Further action will be taken in relation to other recommendations moving ahead, while ensuring that survivors’ voices and views are sought, considered, and reflected in shaping the Survivor Support Strategy and implementation plan.
On November 25, 2019, the Federal Court approved a Final Settlement Agreement (FSA) that provides compensation to current and former members of the CAF and current and former employees of DND and Staff of the Non-Public Funds, Canadian Forces (SNPF, CF), who experienced sexual misconduct while serving in the military workplace. Under the FSA, sexual misconduct is defined as including sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.
The Final Report is one of the final outputs from the consultation mandated by the Survivor Support Consultations policy measure (‘Schedule N’) of the FSA.
Schedule N originated from class members’ wish to see the DND/CAF commit to enhancements to support survivors of sexual misconduct within the CAF. The objective was to ensure that those who are affected by sexual misconduct could, through their class representatives, directly influence the institution’s policies, programs, and services to respond to sexual misconduct and to support survivors. The schedule also mandated a final report from the SSCG.
Schedule N committed to a series of engagements with Class Member Representatives in order to provide them with presentations on initiatives put in place since Operation HONOUR in 2015, as well as new initiatives that are being planned, and then to formally consult with them on other enhancements or priorities that should be considered.
The Schedule also required participation by DND/CAF representatives (Executive Director, Sexual Misconduct Response Centre; Director General, former CAF Strategic Response Team – Sexual Misconduct, now called Directorate Professional Military Conduct; and one additional designate from one of the following: Canadian Forces Health Services, Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, Judge Advocate General, Chaplain General or other DND/CAF representative with responsibilities related to support to survivors of sexual misconduct, as determined by Canada), and provided for external subject matter experts to assist the consultation group in its deliberations. It allowed for the work of the consultation group to inform a Survivor Support Strategy for CAF members affected by sexual misconduct, as well as a plan for ongoing engagement with survivor stakeholders moving forward.
Consultations began in winter 2020 and involved:
- A desk review of literature on sexual misconduct, with a focus on survivor support;
- A series of meetings held by the three Class Member Representatives, three members of the Defence Team, and three external Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who formed the Survivor Support Consultation Group (SSCG);
- Consultation with representatives of the DND/CAF through a series of informational briefs and presentations held between 19 August and 10 December 2020, as well as follow-up correspondence and outreach;
- A presentation and report from each of the three SMEs; and
- Development of a Final Report, providing recommendations to the DND/CAF.
The Final Report describes the work of the SSCG, outlines the key learning from the consultation process, and sets out the Group’s findings and a total of 45 recommendations. The report:
- Provides an overview of the broader context of work, reviews, and recommendations aimed at enhancing support for survivors of sexual misconduct in the CAF;
- Provides an analysis of what was observed about support gaps and needs;
- Considers the experiences of diverse groups of survivors, including those with distinct needs; and
- Identifies principles, key themes, goals, and recommendations intended to serve as the foundation for further engagement in developing a comprehensive Survivor Support Strategy and implementation plan.
The Final Report echoes many of the troubling findings of other reviews, and affirms the importance of culture change – that culture change and survivor support are inextricably linked, and that work on one cannot proceed without work on the other. They are mutually reinforcing areas.
Another clear and overarching message of the Final Report is the need to meaningfully engage and involve survivors of sexual misconduct in the development, implementation, and ongoing monitoring of all policies, programs, projects, laws, and initiatives relating not only to sexual misconduct but also broader culture change. Ongoing engagement mechanisms will be vital to building trust with the community, and to ensuring that the DND/CAF continuously centers its responses on the needs and lived experiences of diverse survivors.
At the same time, the Final Report emphasizes the need for DND/CAF to engage a broader range of external experts, including community-based partners, academics, researchers, and others with expertise in supporting diverse groups of survivors. Involvement of a greater range of stakeholders and increased openness to good ideas from diverse sources will help to ensure a Survivor Support Strategy that is modern and responsive. As stated in the report, “the CAF must learn to ‘lean in’ to listen to best practices and lessons learned elsewhere.”
The Final Report also affirms that “one size does not fit all” when it comes to support, and that there is a need for support that is responsive to gender, culture, race, language, and other factors, and thus tailored to meet distinct needs (e.g. women, men, BIPOC, 2SLGBTQ+, and others).
The DND/CAF acknowledges these central messages of the Final Report and commits to using the Final Report to guide follow-on engagement and action.
Actions and Priorities
The Final Report identified five key themes around which the proposed goals and recommendations were organized:
- engagement, partnerships, and research
- support, especially to address service gaps
- communication and information
The report makes clear that actions in each of these thematic areas is needed to support meaningful long-term change.
With funding from Budget 2021, the DND/CAF has already begun to put in place some of the supports deemed early on – both by the Schedule N consultation group and the broader survivor community – as being most pivotal at this time, particularly those relating to the “Support” theme of the report. For example, the DND/CAF is working to:
- Develop a Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Peer Support Project. A dedicated MST Peer Support program has not previously existed; peer support is vital to empowerment, reducing stigma and isolation, and healing. The process to develop and launch a peer support program is being driven by a human-centred design engagement focusing on meeting the needs of the MST community. Hour-long engagement interviews with survivors who expressed interest in response to a call-out for participation took place in fall 2021; analysis of those engagement interviews is helping to learn more about survivors’ specific preferences, views, and needs, including in relation to diverse populations. Additional engagement will take place to further explore, refine, and elaborate what was heard. At the same time, advisory committees have been implemented; these committees, which are helping to guide project and program development, include survivor representatives in order to ensure that the focus remains on meeting the needs of the MST community.
- Expand support to the regions and to additional survivors. The SMRC’s Response and Support Coordination (RSC) program was first launched in 2019. Those referred (or self-referred) to the program have an assigned Response and Support (RS) Coordinator to ensure continuity of contact and provide ongoing support, accompaniment, advocacy and personalized case management services to help them navigate systems and processes, as needed. The SMRC will decentralize the RSC program to five regional locations in bases/wings across Canada: the National Capital Region (NCR)/Ontario; Quebec; Atlantic; Central; and Pacific. Regional RS Coordinators will provide the full range of services. This regional expansion will help more survivors to be reached and connect with ongoing support services, and help improve awareness of support services, overall, at the regional level. Further, the program is expanding from CAF members to also include former CAF members and DND public service employees.
- Expand the “Contributions in Support of Sexual Assault Centres in Canada” program. The SMRC’s funding program, which currently funds projects from civilian sexual assault centres located near nine of the largest Canadian Forces bases/wings, will be broadened with respect to both its organizational and geographic reach, and to better meet the needs of underserved communities. The aim is to put in place new terms and conditions for a grant-based model of funding – transitioning the program from contribution-only funding to primarily grant-based funding. Specific changes include to expand;
- eligible recipients from sexual assault centres-only, to any community-based service providers that are able to support survivors, victims, and persons impacted by CAF sexual misconduct, thereby increasing the reach of the program to those who may face service gaps under the existing program (e.g. including underserved diverse groups and men, who have been identified in the Final Report as requiring specifically targeted outreach and initiatives to address unique barriers they may face in seeking support)
- geographic eligibility requirements beyond “close proximity to CAF bases with highest client base” to any region which is impacted by the presence of the CAF, including community-based service providers outside major urban military centres, thereby increasing the reach of the program to additional locations in Canada
- collaboration between community-based and CAF service providers
The DND/CAF is also mobilizing on necessary processes to engage in deep dialogue, learning, and listening – which the Final Report outlines as being fundamental to building better survivor support. For example:
- The Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture (CPCC), which was established in April 2021 to align CAF culture and professional conduct with the CAF fundamental values, and to strengthen professionalism across the Defence Team in order to create a healthy, effective, and inclusive organizational culture, has developed and launched a comprehensive engagement effort. The effort includes CPCC leadership consultations and culture dialogues conducted by external experts, both department-wide and with external participation. Consultation visits at bases and wings across Canada (inclusive of sessions with Public Servants, Junior and Senior Officers, Cadets, Non-Commissioned Officers of both the Regular and Reserve Forces) led by CPCC senior leadership, are already underway. Dedicated culture dialogues with survivors of sexual misconduct are forthcoming. Throughout, supports are provided at all CPCC sessions to ensure the safety of participants. To date, 37 sessions have been held by CPCC leadership, connecting with approximately 1,850 people. In total, more than 80 sessions are planned to take place until February 2022. Following these efforts, continuous engagement and open lines of communication will continue with Defence Team members and partners and external stakeholders.
- The Restorative Engagement (RE) program, jointly led by the SMRC and Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management (ICCM) and in consultation with internal and external stakeholders and subject matter experts, launched on 15 November, 2021. The initial group contacted to participate will be small in order to ensure that all of the necessary resources, supports and systems are in place to proceed to contact a larger group of class members in 2022. The program will remain in place until all eligible claimants of the CAF-DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action Settlement have had the opportunity to participate. The RE program has the following goals:
- Create opportunities where class members are supported to share their experiences, knowledge and understanding of sexual misconduct and its causes and impacts.
- Create opportunities for representatives of the DND/CAF/SNPF to acknowledge, understand, and learn from class members’ experiences of sexual misconduct and to take responsibility, individually and collectively, for its causes and responses.
- Create opportunities for class members and Defence representatives to identify lessons learned and to take action, in real time, to contribute to broader DND/CAF/SNPF culture change efforts.
- Model, learn about, and build capacity for the use of a principle-based restorative approach as a response to harm and as a way to build an inclusive and respectful institutional culture now and into the future.
What is learned through both the culture dialogues and the RE program will be instrumental in helping to inform the type of holistic broader culture change sought by the Final Report.
The DND/CAF is also supporting Madame Louise Arbour to fulfill her important mandate; Madame Arbour was commissioned in April 2021 by the Minister of National Defence to undertake an independent external comprehensive review. The review is taking a broad look at Defence Team workplace dynamics – including current policies, procedures, programs, practices, and culture within the DND/CAF – and will make recommendations on preventing and eradicating sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. In November 2021, the DND/CAF announced that we will implement Madame Arbour’s interim fall 2021 recommendations to the Minister of National Defence regarding the transfer of allegations of sexual offences outside of the CAF and the military justice system.
The DND/CAF takes note of the Final Report’s important recommendations around leadership and training. To that end:
- A working group, led by CPCC, has been formed to undertake a joined-up and holistic process to all training initiatives, including to ensure that they foster the core principles identified in the Final Report (survivor-centred, trauma-informed, cultural humility) and promote character-based leadership.
- The DND/CAF is also improving the way it selects, trains, and promotes its leaders, and working to ensure a more inclusive process is integrated throughout. In September 2021, CPCC issued an Initiating Directive on the Integration and Measurement of Inclusive Behaviours in the Defence Team. This provides strategic direction to the Defence Team as it seeks to strengthen the ways to realize an inclusive and effective work culture. Directions will be issued to personnel on how to measure inclusive behaviours of senior leaders across the Defence Team. This will help ensure that “what gets measured, gets done.
- CPCC is launching a new program that supports the chain of command in the pursuit of a healthy, respectful and inclusive work environment. The Leadership Intervention Support Team (LST) will work with military and civilian leaders and provide recommendations to help them: understand the cultural dynamics of their workplace; make informed decisions; and take action via interventions in a timely manner. As of Fall 2021, LST will conduct a pilot project with Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School (CFLRS) and the Osside Institute, a center of excellence in leadership, which is part of the Royal Military College Saint-Jean. The program will be rolled out on a larger scale in spring 2022.
The DND/CAF acknowledges that the fifth theme – accountability – identified in the Final Report is one that survivors have identified as being needed for real change to occur; simply stated, there is no real change without accountability.
DND/CAF commits to accountability and transparency to the public and to its employees to foster a healthy, respectful and inclusive workplace and is committed to continuous monitoring of progress on survivor support and culture change.
DND/CAF will move to review, consider, and where appropriate, accept and implement the recommendations as quickly and effectively as possible. DND/CAF will also establish an External Comprehensive Reviews Implementation Committee (ECRIC) that will develop an integrated plan to implement all remaining recommendations from other external comprehensive reviews, including the report of the Third Independent Review of the National Defence Act and the ongoing Independent External Comprehensive Review that will build upon the 2015 External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces prepared by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps.
A holistic approach will be taken to socialize the Final Report across the DND/CAF, to foster uptake up of its principles, themes, goals, and recommendations in a way that is informed by the survivor community’s needs (i.e., inclusive; grounded in survivor-centred, trauma-informed, and cultural humility principles, along with culture change; seamlessly coordinated across the DND/CAF; clear with respect to roles and responsibilities; and integrated with all other key strategic priorities and external review processes).
Our intent is to initiate a deliberate, collaborative, and synchronized approach within DND/CAF to address all external comprehensive reviews recommendations while establishing the linkages necessary within the Whole of Government to achieve interdepartmental coherency. Taking a trauma-informed, survivor-centered approach and leveraging our robust governance system, the execution of the integrated implementation plan will highlight interdependencies, priorities, and sequencing issues, enable multi-horizon timeline planning and de-confliction between recommendations, and facilitate timely updates to the chain of command, Parliament, and the public.
The Final Report reflects a dedicated engagement process involving Class Member representatives with lived experiences of sexual misconduct in discussion with representatives from across the DND/CAF. It is an important outcome of the measures outlined in the FSA for the CAF-DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action.
With this in mind, the DND/CAF must live up to our professed values of integrity, inclusion, and accountability. The Final Report is unequivocal in articulating that the current survivor support systems do not met the needs of survivors of sexual misconduct. We acknowledge our failings and will use the Final Report to help improve resources and supports to ensure that they are survivor-centered, trauma-informed, reflect the principle of cultural humility, and meet the needs of the community.
We will continue to undertake critical examination of lessons learned, listen carefully to those affected, and take deliberate action to ensure that we achieve long-term culture change which provides the needed supports to those who have been impacted by sexual misconduct. We have been actively engaging with survivors and experts to listen to their experiences and the devastating impact that sexual misconduct has had on their lives, careers, and families. We are committed to creating a space where all members of the Defence Team are able to report misconduct free from any fear of reprisal or retribution so that members feel safe to come forward and can easily access the resources and support they need.
These efforts incorporate recommendations from our people, experts, and stakeholders, and are part of the Defence Team’s next phase of institutional evolution. These initiatives are the next determined steps we take together to ensure everyone’s right to work in an environment of mutual respect, dignity, and inclusion, where they have the opportunity to thrive and contribute to achieving mission success.
DND/CAF remains fully committed to making the necessary changes to continue its progress to achieve this vision. We will continue to advance meaningful actions towards a healthy, respectful and inclusive workplace free from sexual misconduct.
Changing the culture at National Defence is a whole-of-Defence Team endeavour, requiring effort and contribution from every level across the organization to achieve enduring success.
General Wayne Eyre
Chief of the Defence Staff
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