Part V – Key Themes, Goals & Recommendations

Overview of Key Themes, Goals, and Recommendations

The key themes and goals presented in this section have been summarized and categorized to align, to the greatest extent possible, with the priority areas of focus that the SSCG approved at the outset. The analysis also includes additional themes and comments that arose during the meetings and that were meaningful to the group. The key themes, goals, and recommendations and their discussion are by no means meant to be interpreted as being exhaustive. Several other recommendations are outlined in the SME reports, which have been annexed to this Summary Report (see Annex 8) in anticipation of their full and due consideration by the DND/CAF.

Further, key themes, goals, and recommendations identified here are not mean to be interpreted as mutually exclusive. There is interplay between and amongst them. For example, there is a theme pertaining to engagement, partnerships, and research, and a separate theme dedicated to training; yet, it must be understood that development of training initiatives should be informed by, and reflect, what is learned through engagement, partnerships, and research. Likewise, some recommendations do not distinctly nor neatly fit solely within one category and share applicability to other key themes and goals.

The following are the five key themes identified by the SSCG:

  • Engagement, partnerships, and research
  • Support, especially to address service gaps
  • Training
  • Communication and information
  • Accountability

Goals and recommendations presented alongside the five key themes are working goals and recommendations that require additional engagement. Further review should be done in conversation with CAF members, survivors, and external advocates/organizations, including those with specialization in working with distinct groups.

Finally, all information in this section must be framed within the overarching framework and guiding principles set out in Part IV of this Summary Report – meaning that all actions must be grounded in a commitment to broader culture change, and guided by the three principles: trauma-informed; cultural humility; and survivor-centred.

Table 3 provides a summary of goals mapped to each of the five key themes.

Table 3 – Goals by Key Theme

Key Theme Goals
Engagement, Partnerships, and Research
  • Elevate engagement, collaboration, and partnerships
  • Address data-related issues and continue to build the evidence base
  • Create a well-coordinated, seamless, and accessible model of support
  • Customize approaches to address the needs of distinct groups of survivors
  • Reduce stigma and break isolation at all levels
  • Modernize reporting options
  • Enhance support provider capacity and competency
  • Form leaders with relational skills
Communication and Information
  • Improve the quality, accessibility, and timeliness of information
  • Embed governance structures, accountability, and commitment

Engagement, Partnerships, and Research

Elevate engagement, collaboration, and partnerships

Prioritize survivor engagement

A key part of the SSCG’s mandate was to consider how best to engage survivors moving forward.

The SSCG heard about the types of engagement processes that have been undertaken by the DND/CAF with survivors of sexual misconduct up to now, particularly in relation to support. These engagement efforts have typically been time-limited or specific, such as: to consult on a particular initiative; collect information on a specific proposed change through surveys, focus groups, or online feedback forms; by having bilateral discussions with leaders of community-based organizations representing survivors of military sexual trauma (e.g. It’s Not Just 700, the Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group, the former It’s Just 700); or by holding meetings with survivors in the context of a formal review.

The SSCG firmly believes that a deeper and more consistent model of engagement is needed. Continuing on from the work of the SSCG, more inclusive and participatory models of stakeholder engagement must be implemented. To build a robust and responsive Support Strategy that will meet the needs of those it is intended to serve, there is a necessary shift that must happen – a shift to an approach that is relational as opposed to transactional. Such an approach moves engagement beyond simple “consultation” to developing meaningful relationships with CAF members affected by sexual misconduct; relationships characterized by more in-depth inclusion, feedback, and influence in the decision-making process.

In doing so, it will be important to continually ask whose voices and perspectives may be missing or under-represented from the discussion (e.g. specific groups or communities) and therefore must be brought to the forefront.

An effective model for engagement regarding support for members affected by sexual misconduct will ultimately be one that is survivor-centred, focusing on the needs of survivors, and putting those needs first rather than the roles, expectations, or desires of the individual and/or organization(s) doing the engagement.

The approach should additionally be ‘survivor-led’, which refers to an approach that equips, empowers, and builds the capacity of survivors to take a leadership role and have a voice. Survivor-led approaches strive to ensure that the experiences and expertise of survivors help to guide development and implementation of programs. Such approaches create environments in which survivors can participate in whatever way they feel comfortable.

Simply put, survivors should be at the heart of engagement. Survivor engagement is essential to crafting the right policies, programs, services, practices, and laws. Now more than ever, there is a need to build trust and increase transparency. It is critically important to incorporate survivor perspectives at all stages – including the earliest possible stages – in developing policies, procedures, and programs on sexual misconduct. Survivor engagement is a key aspect of establishing effective responses aimed at changing the culture and improving support, while upholding key core principles (i.e. trauma-informed, cultural humility, and survivor-centred).

Inclusive, participatory models of engagement would help to ensure that survivors are where they ought to be: at the center of things. Such models are important not solely in the context of developing a Survivor Support Strategy and implementation plan, but also in relation to other issues, programs, policies, laws, and initiatives that have a nexus with sexual misconduct.

Build community-based collaborations and partnerships

Along with engaging with survivors in a more relational, participatory, inclusive, empowering, and meaningful way, the SSCG also discussed the need to facilitate strong engagement and relationships with community stakeholders. This includes, for example:

  • Strengthening partnerships amongst support organizations and between those organizations and the CAF
  • Developing referral mechanisms, founded on secure communication channels, which can be used between support organizations and/or between the CAF and those organizations
  • Augmenting CAF service providers’ ability to collaborate with an expanded network of civilian partners and stakeholders agencies
  • Proactively seeking out opportunities to work in partnership within and external to the CAF
  • Adopting joined-up approaches and working together toward common goals
  • Developing networks to share good practice and learning
  • Undertaking outreach in ways that reflects a commitment to cultural humility

Engagement should include organizations with expertise in providing services to specific populations, and expand beyond traditional partnerships and service provision norms to craft comprehensive approaches to respond to survivors’ needs.

Recommendation 1: Develop and implement an ongoing, consistent engagement and collaboration mechanism/process that centers the expertise of survivors of sexual misconduct within the CAF, such as an Advisory Council or Community of Practice (CoP).

  • The mechanism must permit the DND/CAF to hear directly from a diverse array of survivors about their experiences, needs, and recommendations for improving support.
  • It should be involved in all aspects of the development, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of policies, procedures, and initiatives to support affected members and address sexual misconduct in the CAF.
  • Survivor members should represent a diverse range of backgrounds, experiences, and include distinct groups (e.g. women, men, 2SLGBTQ+, and Indigenous peoples, Reservists).
  • The DND/CAF can begin the process of engaging the survivor community by reaching out to organizations that advocate for those affected by military sexual misconduct and MST in the CAF such as It’s Not Just 700 (INJ700) and the Survivor Perspectives Consulting Group that facilitate survivors taking on leadership roles to determine the most appropriate structure.
  • Survivors, whether through a sub-committee of the Advisory Council/CoP or another mechanism, should be represented on the Seamless Transition Task Force – Transition Process implementation team, under the governance of the joint steering committee, to ensure their involvement in the development of programs and services related to transition.

Recommendation 2: Develop a broader stakeholder engagement strategy that prioritizes survivor engagement to hear directly from survivors about their experiences, needs, and recommendations for improving support, as well as from other stakeholders.

  • Refine and expand the CAF’s network of civilian partners and stakeholder agencies.
  • Ensure that all engagement initiatives with a sexual misconduct nexus include a diverse array of survivors and external advocates representing a variety of backgrounds, identities, and experiences.
  • Ensure that engagement with survivors and external advocates is designed or co- designed, and led or co-led, by an experienced, external facilitator rather than being designed and facilitated by internal staff.

Recommendation 3: Work to address any potential gaps in the membership of the SMRC’s External Advisory Council (EAC) on Sexual Misconduct (e.g. to include representation by those who engage and support male victims of sexual misconduct, those with expertise on Indigenous survivor issues, and/or others).

Recommendation 4: Invest in projects that promote collaboration, relationship-building, survivor leadership development, and community capacity building.

Recommendation 5: Build CoPs on CAF bases and wings.

  • As part of this work, consider how to reach and engage all CAF members, including those in junior ranks, non-commissioned Members (NCMs), Reservists, and those in smaller units. Consideration should be given to initiatives that are already underway or being developed, such as a working group with NCMs, an expansion of the SMRC to the regional level, and implementation of the VLO role (i.e. through implementation of Bill C-77).

Recommendation 6: Build relationships, partnerships, and collaborate with organizational staff, other relevant health and social service organizations, and key external stakeholders in the development of strategies and practices to promote the three core principles (i.e. trauma-informed, cultural humility, and survivor-centred).

  • Define the terms ‘trauma-informed’, ‘cultural humility’, and ‘survivor-centred’; apply a consistent definition across units within the DND/CAF.
  • Seek DND staff and CAF member feedback on the mainstreaming of such principles; promote collaboration to make organizational improvements as needed.

Address data-related issues and continue to build the evidence base

Another central element of partnerships and collaboration is research. Survivor-informed research and effective research-related partnerships amongst data holders and with internal and external research communities and service providers are needed to ensure that the CAF’s approach to support is:

  • evergreen and continues to evolve
  • nimble and responsive in addressing support gaps so as to develop policies, programs, and services that reflect and meet the needs of diverse CAF members affected by sexual misconduct

While the CAF now has a better understanding of the general prevalence of sexual misconduct, thanks in part to information obtained from confidential, anonymous surveys such as the SSMCAF, data gaps remain. For example, there is much less information available about the contexts, risk and vulnerability factors, organizational responses, and outcomes and impacts of reporting.

Additionally, there is a limited amount of data on incidents of unreported sexual misconduct.

The CAF’s ability to fully understand the nature, complexity and severity of its sexual misconduct problem has thus far been impaired by a number of data-related issues.Footnote 41 This gap in knowledge has implications for the development of evidence-based support, response, and prevention programs.

For example, there are many entities with a role in preventing or responding to sexual misconduct and they have a need to maintain their own databases. This means that there are multiple information management and data source systems within the CAF, and each one records and reports different information. Moving forward, there is a need to focus on enhancing individual databases to attempt to capture the range of information identified as important, and to design these through an institutional data analytics lens. Ultimately, a centralized repository of this information should be created to facilitate centralized organizational reporting, program development, and research.

Research that focuses on better understanding the lived experiences of sexual misconduct must also continue to be prioritized. The SSCG received a presentation on the Victim Support Study undertaken by the DGMPRA. Dr. Silins presented the first in a series of Scientific Letters (February 2020) to the SSCG on 15 October 2020; the findings related to “perceptions of support”. Dr. Silins noted that 67 serving and retired members of the Regular and Reserve Forces shared their lived experiences in relation to: the types of help they had sought, both formal and informal; the quality of care received; and challenges and gaps in available services. Future reports will examine these findings and additional themes in greater detail; what is learned should be reflected in the Survivor Support Strategy. Dr. Silins noted that other scientific letters are planned that will describe these findings in more detail, and a final report will include additional findings regarding first disclosures, impacts, and special considerations for various sub-groups. Planned studies (delayed by COVID-19) include focus groups with service providers. Moving ahead, this body of research will be invaluable to the work to develop and continually improve the Survivor Support Strategy.

The Survivor Support Strategy must draw, as well, on the wider evidence and research base which includes, for example, Canadian and international research on military sexual trauma, promising approaches to support, and lessons shared by partner defence institutions (i.e. United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand).

It must additionally be informed by observations and recommendations gleaned through surveys, reviews, pilot projects, stakeholder engagement initiatives, service provider experiences, and new programs such as the DND/CAF’s Restorative Engagement Program, which will include participatory research. Collectively, that knowledge base will help expand understanding of issues, gaps, needs, and opportunities for further change.

Finally – and importantly – is ensuring that CAF members affected by sexual misconduct are actively involved as co-creators and participants in research and performance measurement processes.

This goal focuses on:

  • Identifying research gaps and systems gaps; and where there is no research available, developing a research plan
  • Breaking down barriers to data access
  • Actively monitoring and sharing key trends
  • Fostering and participating in fora and spaces to share lessons learned, promising practices, and emerging practices, such as research-focused CoPs
  • Learning from, and contributing to, the international knowledge base on sexual misconduct in military forces, as well as dialogue to influence global policy and service delivery (e.g. NATO and United Nations peacekeeping policies)
  • Actively integrating the best available research – based on the experiences of CAF members affected by sexual misconduct, community input, professional expertise, academic research, and other sources – to guide services
  • Ensuring that services for CAF members affected by sexual misconduct are consistent with promising practices
  • Supporting new research and pilot projects, including to further explore promising and emerging practices

Recommendation 7: Deepen the evidence-based understanding of the diverse experiences of CAF members who experience sexual misconduct and the context around sexual misconduct. Research should:

  • be developed in collaboration with allied community-based organizations and others with expertise in research focusing on experiences of diverse populations
  • collect disaggregated data on various identity factors

Recommendation 8: Establish a formal method to capture DND/CAF best practices and lessons learned related to supporting persons affected by sexual misconduct, and identify key barriers and strategies for bridging the gap between research and practice.

Recommendation 9: Continue work amongst internal partners to inventory and coordinate available data assets and systems that are currently used across DND/CAF to capture and manage files related to systemic misconduct, which includes sexual misconduct.

Recommendation 10: Leverage partnerships to standardize and use consistent definitions and terminology related to sexual misconduct, ensuring that definitions and terminology are applied consistently in the context of data, research, and knowledge translation and dissemination strategies.

  • Moving forward, there should be greater precision and consistency in the use of language in reports and in the dissemination of data (e.g. the differences between incidents, reports, investigations, charges, etc.).
  • Further, data sources should be clearly identified and limitations of the data should be clearly noted in reports as to avoid any misrepresentation or misinterpretation of results.


Create a well-coordinated, seamless, and accessible model of support

The 2018 OAG Report recommended that all CAF members affected by sexual misconduct (i.e. no matter their stage of career, rank, geographical location, gender, culture, race, religion, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, or status as a Regular Force member or Reservist) should be able to access an integrated system of support.

The SSCG observed that approaches to sexual misconduct support currently vary from program to program and organization to organization in the DND/CAF. It is very challenging to identify a common approach to sexual misconduct support. This reality, in and of itself, is a powerful barrier. Much work needs to be done to build a common base of understanding between and across programs and organizations of the DND/CAF. Increased clarity and transparency around training, program eligibility, as well as policies and practices – and how policies and practices are being interpreted and applied – is needed.

The SSCG notes the importance of establishing a well-coordinated, holistic, comprehensive system of programs and services that meets members’ specific needs. Every affected member ought to be able to enter the system through any point – essentially, through any service provider or military authority – and be assisted to access, connect with, and receive the tailored support they want and need. Further, every affected member should be able to access a full suite or range of support as needed, from immediate and practical assistance, to mental health support, safety planning, clear and timely information and referrals, case management and navigation, career- related and transition-related support, and longer-term therapeutic intervention as applicable.

A well-coordinated model requires identifying and addressing gaps in service, and ensuring that clear and consistent policies and practices are in place, along with clearly defined roles. Confusion about roles and responsibilities can inadvertently deny procedural fairness and lead to a range of other negative outcomes for survivors.

Coordination also involves creating a system wherein there is no wrong door and no single track. This means ensuring that survivors have multiple “doors in” to support but, once in, all of the pieces link so that survivors have seamless care.

The SSCG heard about multiple areas of the CAF where there are inconsistencies, gaps, or where roles and responsibilities need to be further clarified. The following are some examples:

  • Roles and responsibilities amongst people providing direct service to victims in the context of the military justice system must be clear. The various roles across the DND/CAF that provide services to victims of sexual misconduct must work together to avoid overlap and confusion. CFNIS Victim Service Coordinators (VSCs), SMRC Response and Support Case Coordinators (RS Coordinators), and the forthcoming military justice system’s Victim Liaison Officers (VLOs) will need to work out a coordinated approach so that victims do not feel overwhelmed or burdened with having to figure out the different supports provided by each role. Continuity of care as a case transitions through the military justice system is important. Currently, both CFNIS VSCs and SMRC RS Coordinators can support a victim from complaint through to case completion. While the roles and responsibilities of the VLO are still being developed, it is an opportune time to ensure that continuity of care issues are addressed.
  • Currently, each DAG addresses sexual misconduct differently, including how to handle disclosures, and this, too, should be addressed.
  • There is a lack of consistent screening for MST at the point of transition from the CAF. Some members have encountered difficulties when they are seeking medical release due to MST because of how the CDS Directive – Retention of CAF Members Affected by Harmful and Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour is being interpreted and applied. While retention is part of overall CAF Transition Group services, there are currently no built-in policies that address medical releases due to MST. This appears as both an inconsistency and a gap.

Another key component of a well-coordinated system involves creating a supportive referral culture across and within the support community, so that those affected by sexual misconduct will not have to negotiate access to, and deal with, multiple services on their own. As part of a broader support system, each service must be able to offer appropriate and assisted referrals to other services that can best support the affected member, if required.

Creating a well-coordinated, seamless, and accessible model of support means:

  • Increasing coordination and connections between, and reducing horizontal and vertical silos amongst, programs and services that support those affected by sexual misconduct
  • Providing assistance in navigating and accessing various levels and types of support – eliminating the “ping pong” effect of being referred from provider to provider
  • Expanding case coordination and navigation support, including by having SMRC Counsellors located in the regions
  • Improving consistency within and across services
  • Eliminating gatekeeping as a barrier to accessing support
  • Identifying and addressing service gaps
  • Creating choice and autonomy in choosing and accessing support; providing flexible programs that are best suited for each person
  • Expanding the range or “menu” of holistic services the member can access
  • Augmenting survivor choice and options, such as by:
    • Facilitating well-coordinated, respectful, barrier-free, and seamless transition to appropriate support systems outside the CAF
    • Exploring innovative, compassionate, and fair employment options in collaboration with affected members to facilitate continuation of or return to work, if they so choose

Recommendation 11: With funding from Budget 2021, improve access and direct support by expanding the SMRC’s Response and Support Coordination (RSC) programFootnote 42, putting in place regional coordinators at bases, units, and wings.

  • RS Coordinators must be allowed to escort survivors to any meetings they have and must be available to assist the chain of command in helping to develop a safe work environment should the survivor wish to remain in that work environment.

Recommendation 12: Undertake a comprehensive analysis/study of current support services across the DND/CAF, with a focus on identifying specific support gaps and barriers and ensuring consistent application of approaches that are trauma-informed, survivor-centred, and that promote cultural humility.

  • Fully examine governance, recruitment, policies, and application of policies.
  • Fully map vulnerability points within the DND/CAF that impede victims’/survivors’ access to support and/or create risks for “falling through the cracks”.
  • As part of the analysis, place emphasis on workplace accommodation and transition-related gaps, along with solutions for addressing them that prioritize survivor choice.
  • Undertake a detailed analysis of how trauma survivors are served by Health Services (e.g. Is there universal screening of all issues of trauma as a matter of procedure? What is the standard of training of mental health professionals at Health Services? For contracted external services? What qualities of best-practice care, including best practices for various specific populations, are implemented?)
  • Ensure that issues of trauma are included in the assessment screening tool in the military career transition process.

Recommendation 13: Ensure equal access to services for all CAF survivors regardless of where they are located in Canada, and/or CAF survivors who require support while serving outside of Canada.

  • As part of this, undertake scenario-based facilitated discussions such as real-time tabletop exercises amongst DND/CAF organizations to map out the support landscape and find ways to continuously improve service delivery for deployed CAF members.

Customize approaches to address the needs of specific groups of survivors

This goal focuses on how to enhance support in relation to specific groups, with the understanding that:

  • the groups addressed are not the only ones requiring consideration for tailored services
  • survivors’ needs are often informed by multiple identity factors and not just one; all parts of identity overlap and intersect with one another to shape experiences, needs, and trauma
  • the SSCG agreed that findings from engagement with diverse stakeholders, as discussed under the theme of “Engagement, Partnerships, and Research”, must be applied to further inform holistic approaches to survivor support for under-served groups

Male survivors

Gender affects experiences of victimization and the expression of trauma; this reality must be reflected in supports for male survivors. There is a need to provide support to men in a manner that supports their masculinityFootnote 43, as they define it; this may require the use of different or tailored approaches and language.

There are internalized barriers to recognizing abuse or assault, and reporting abuse or assault, due to social stereotypes about men, masculinity, and sexuality. For these and other reasons, CAF support services and programs may be underserving male survivors of sexual misconduct. As well, it is important to recognize, when referring men to external support services, that most sexual assault centres historically only serve women and do not typically serve men; as such, referrals to, community-based sexual assault services should ensure that these services have the demonstrated capacity and ability to work with male survivors.

For the CAF to meaningfully support male survivors of sexual misconduct, it must first consistently acknowledge and recognize male victimization. The same cultural and socialization processes that produce men who are violent toward women also produce men who verbally, physically, and sexually assault men. At the same time, the CAF must recognize that women can also be perpetrators of sexual misconduct.

The needs of male survivors must be considered:

  • Many male members may not wish to officially report their experiences of trauma, including sexual misconduct, and thus may only engage with a service that features anonymity
  • Males who have had sexual misconduct experiences are less likely to disclose them, overall – including less likely to disclose them than are females – and are also less likely to disclose them to police
  • Men do not engage in reporting with the chain of command on issues of sexual misconduct and other traumas for many reasons, including: the constraints of conventional masculinity; shame; the perception that support services are for females; the perception that a male will be considered the offending gender; a fear of lack of advancement; fears of retaliation; and the lack of dedicated male-centred services
  • Men are reluctant to engage with sexual assault centres or other traditionally female- defined spaces.

Disclosure about sexual misconduct can come out in the context of other presenting issues (e.g. combat trauma, substance use); if men receive a net positive and supportive response, it may encourage them to disclose lived experiences of sexual misconduct. However, the available supports to men are minimal even if they do disclose.

These realities highlight the need for trauma-informed services that understand and can competently and affirmatively support male survivors. There is also a need to apply a broader trauma lens beyond sexual misconduct. In mental health work with men, most case presentations involve more than one form of trauma (e.g. abuse or exposure to abuse; the normative developmental and ritual traumas within male socialization). For example, in Canada, researchers found that about half of Canada’s soldiers have a history of abuse or exposure to it; the likelihood of having had any childhood abuse experience was higher for members of Regular Forces (47.7 per cent) and even higher among Reservists (49.4 per cent) compared to 33.1 per cent in the general population.Footnote 44 In the US, researchers found that men with military service had twice the odds of reporting forced sex before the age of 18 years.Footnote 45 When it comes to survivor support, it is therefore necessary to take a more holistic approach, one that centers trauma, while also recognizing that some traumas are more common in one sex than another, and that sex role socialization affects how trauma is experienced and presented.Footnote 46

Recommendation 14: Develop a male-centred framework of services, and overall approach to understanding sexual misconduct, that reflect and meet men’s specific service needs.

Recommendation 15: In order to address the needs of male-identified members, consider the development of male-specific strategies such as a portal, which could:

  • Include a “menu” of options, such as reporting, accessing online survivor support services, and/or bridging to dedicated resources of Health Services or allied services not normally associated with a Survivor Support Strategy (e.g. services for domestic violence perpetration, sexually compulsive behaviours).
  • Help men connect to dedicated and allied services and bridge to mental health services for men regardless of their base or mission or transfer. By doing so, the services offered could meet national standards of care, offer greater access and privacy, increase the timeliness of support, and not be dependent on the size or scope of local community resources.
  • Be labelled as a “men’s wellness” initiative or comparable term (i.e. avoiding any victim-identified or offender-identified language), in recognition that men are reluctant to engage with sexual assault centres or other traditionally “female- defined” spaces.
  • Be organized by language, culture, and/or other factors.

Recommendation 16: Increase support options for men by working with service providers with demonstrated competency in supporting male survivors through initiatives such as the SMRC’s Transfer Payment Program and other initiatives.

  • Community sexual assault services or other community agencies that are not able to develop or sustain dedicated male-centred services should not be utilized as civilian partners for the CAF to serve male survivors.

2SLGBTQ+ / SGM survivors

Addressing the distinct needs of 2SLGBTQ+ survivors of sexual misconduct within the CAF was identified as a priority by the class action members of the SSCG. It has also been raised in numerous reports and reviews. 2SLGBTQ+ members of the CAF are more at risk for experiencing sexual misconduct in all its forms.

2SLGBTQ+ survivors experience additional forms of discrimination and violence when seeking support, and often feel invalidated accessing services due to inappropriate language, assumptions, microaggressions, and lack of understanding. The majority of SGMs anticipate not receiving fair treatment from the police and legal systems if sexually assaulted; this is particularly true for racialized 2SLGBTQ+ people. Such experiences are relevant to, and impact, help seeking and reporting.

2SLGBTQ+ competent, trauma-informed care is needed to build trust and safety, in recognition of experiences of interpersonal and systemic oppression, and the fact that some institutions and professions have a history of pathologizing and/or criminalizing 2SLGBTQ+ identities.Footnote 47

Compounding this, 2SLGBTQ+ people have faced structural discrimination within communities, including the CAF (e.g. the 2SLGBTQ+ Purge within the CAF), with deep and lasting impacts.

When it comes to addressing the distinct needs of 2SLGBTQ+ members, there appear to be significant gaps in understanding the prevalence and nature of experiences of sexual misconduct, and limited information available about the steps being taken to ensure that 2SLGBTQ+ survivors of sexual misconduct in the CAF have access to specialized services that respond to their diverse and distinct needs. There is also a need for more information about best practices in supporting 2SLGBTQ+ members who are affected by sexual misconduct in the CAF. Despite the increased prevalence of sexual violence that SGMs experience, they often face additional barriers in accessing support. Understanding the nature of these barriers within the CAF is important to providing effective services.

Recommendation 17: Adopt an intersectional approach to all aspects of the development and implementation of supports for SGM survivors that centres their experiences and expertise.

  • An ‘intersectional approach’, analysis, and orientation to addressing sexual misconduct considers how gender, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, race, language, ability, Indigeneity, and other identity factors intersect with various structures, systems, and forms of discrimination within and outside of the CAF.

Recommendation 18: Develop and foster SGM-specific understandings of, and responses to, trauma and violence including to:

  • Develop and adopt a trauma-informed framework for supporting survivors that is inclusive of the additional and distinct forms of trauma experienced by SGMs that go beyond sexual misconduct.
  • Ensure that supports are built upon recognition of the continuum of sexual and other forms of harm that disproportionately impact SGMs, and reflect an understanding of the additional and distinct forms of violence and tactics of power and control used to commit violence against SGMs.
  • Promote a wrap-around service delivery model capable of responding to the distinct and varied mental health and health care needs of SGMs.

Indigenous survivors

Informational briefings provided to the SSCG highlighted “a significant lack of Indigenous-specific or culturally responsive services for Indigenous survivors of sexual misconduct”Footnote 48 in the CAF. Key gaps were identified in relation to Indigenous survivors of sexual misconduct across several organizations of the DND/CAF. It is imperative that these gaps be addressed.

In a 26 November 2020 presentation to the SSCG, the Indigenous Advisor to the Chaplain General (IACG) identified a lack of awareness of Indigenous history and culture as the biggest challenge to integrating Indigenous-specific support within the Chaplaincy. Efforts to increase awareness of the intergenerational impacts of colonialism, genocide, and residential schools must be increased across the CAF as an institution.

There must be truth and reconciliation for Indigenous members of the CAF. It is insufficient to have employment equity-oriented groups comprised of volunteers, such as DAGs in place; it is clear from the SSCG’s 12 November 2020 briefing on the DAGs, which included information on the Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG), that these important groups are under-resourced and face governance challenges.

Further, there is a need to implement efforts much more along the lines of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) by putting resources and people to that effect. To be clear, a commitment to reconciliation must be understood as inseparable from efforts to support Indigenous survivors of sexual misconduct in the CAF.

Both through her presentation and report, Myrna McCallum, SME to the SSCG, has articulated recommendations that would help to put in place a framework of support for Indigenous survivors of sexual misconduct in the CAF rooted in core principles of trauma-informed practice and cultural humility.

Recommendation 19: Identify the specific barriers that Indigenous survivors face to accessing supports as well as the type of supports that best help Indigenous survivors through their healing process.

Recommendation 20: Work to address the gaps and barriers noted in the Report to the SSCG provided by Myrna McCallum. Specific recommendations in the Report apply to each of: the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service (RCChS)/IACG; the Canadian Forces Health Services; the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS); Canadian Military Prosecution Service (CMPS); Office of the Judge Advocate General (OJAG);

Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management (ICCM); Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG); and Army Reserves.

Recommendation 21: Prioritize recruitment and retention of self-identifying Indigenous and Two Spirit judges, lawyers, prosecutors, VLOs, Elders and cultural leaders to reflect the diversity among Indigenous peoples and to communicate a message of transformation, commitment to representation (e.g. race, culture, gender identity, and values), and to inspire credibility and trust.

Recommendation 22: Any departments, offices, or leaders developing strategies to support Indigenous members who experience sexual misconduct in the CAF must first address the realities and failures set out by Anna McAlpine in her thesis, An Intersectional Analysis of Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces: Indigenous Servicewomen, dated 9 April 2021.Footnote 49


The 2016 and 2018 iterations of the Statistics Canada Survey on Sexual Misconduct in the CAF (SSMCAF)Footnote 50 have revealed that the prevalence of sexual assault is higher among Primary Reserve members than it is among Regular Force members. This could be because there is a higher proportion of younger Reserve Force members than Regular Force members. It could also be that a significant proportion of Reservists, particularly the Canadian Rangers (although Rangers were not part of the SSMCAF sample), are Indigenous, also a population with higher sexual misconduct prevalence rates.

Overall, support does not seem to be as robust for Reserve Force members compared to Regular Force members. This is primarily due to differential entitlements to benefits and support for Reservists than for Regular Force members. It is also related to their often remote locations of service, and their part-time status. These unique working conditions for Reservists mean that they face unique challenges in accessing support as follows:

  • receiving adequate training about sexual misconduct
  • accessing services and support
  • knowing where to go or who to contact for support; many Reservists leave within their first five years – a time when they are most vulnerable to experience sexual misconduct – without a good understanding of the CAF and what supports may be available to them

A key barrier is the Reserve Force administration and compensation plan, which the SSCG heard is complex, cumbersome, and not well understood, and which results in Reservists not having the same entitlements to care and support as Regular Force members. Another persistent issue is confusion about what type of support is provided when a member is transitioning between classes of services. Misinterpretation of policies, along with the fear of stigma and of jeopardizing future employment, could dissuade a Reservist from disclosing sexual misconduct to their chain of command.Footnote 51

Leaders often find themselves in a position where the timeliness and accuracy of information and advice matters, yet they do not have the knowledge to provide either. At the same time, senior leaders acknowledged the challenges in communicating information within and to the Reserve Force given that most Reservists serve part-time, and may miss training sessions at the unit. Given the voluntary nature of service in the Reserve Force, commanding officers have little visibility into the day-to-day activities of Reservists. For example, they cannot compel Reservists to complete post-deployment follow-up activities, to continue to participate with the unit, or to seek support post-deployment. During the meeting, Reserve unit leadership noted this dynamic as a challenge.

One upcoming support mechanism will focus on Reserve Force members being supported by the CAF Transition Group (CAF TG) during their transition out of the military, which will take away the administrative burden on reserve units. However, actions needed to support sexual misconduct survivors in the Reserve Force include looking not only at access to external supports, but also support for survivors within their own units; there is a need to strengthen the responsiveness within Reserve Force units. Often, survivors in the Reserve Force do not know where to go or who to call, and some are being advised to release from the CAF after disclosing experiences of sexual misconduct.

Recommendation 23: Consider revising the terms of service for Reservists to enhance entitlements to care, particularly for sexual misconduct they experience during military service.

Recommendation 24: Improve the clarity and administration of the Reservists’ entitlement and eligibility for support in relation to sexual misconduct.Footnote 52

  • Develop a strategy to better reach Reservists in order to increase awareness of available support. A coordinating function should be considered as part of the strategy.

Recommendation 25: Explore options to modernize Reserve Force practices so that survivors can more easily access services.

  • Since members of the Primary Reserve can be as young as 16 years of age, there is a need for the Reserve Force to think about supporting survivors who are under the age of 18.

Reduce stigma and break isolation at all levels

Shame, stigma, silencing, and isolation are integral to sexual misconduct. They are profoundly damaging and act as powerful barriers to seeking or accessing support and reaching out to others, thus compounding the impacts of sexual misconduct, and must be addressed at several levels:

  • institutionalFootnote 53
  • social
  • chain of command
  • unit

The institutional level is distinct in some ways as it relates to things like policies, processes, practices, or systems that are not sufficiently trauma-informed, survivor-centred, or informed by cultural humility. The two other levels cover a range of negative experiences such as: blaming and shaming; not being believed or properly supported; being marginalized, sidelined, or gaslighted; institutional betrayal; and retaliation, retribution, and reprisals.

This goal was identified by, and originated from, Marie-Claude Gagnon, Founder of It’s Just 700, when consulted on the Survivor Support Strategy in the context of her former work with the EAC on Sexual Misconduct. It was affirmed as a goal by class member representatives who attended the inaugural meeting of the SSCG in February 2020.

This goal is ultimately about:

  • Challenging the silence, stigma, isolation, and barriers faced by those affected by sexual misconduct at all levels (social, institutional, chain of command, unit)
  • Promoting awareness and understanding of affected members’ needs
  • Building policies, responses, spaces, and environments that promote support and empowerment

Implement peer support

Military sexual misconduct survivors have long advocated for the need for funded, sustainable, high quality, professionally co-facilitated peer support initiatives tailored to the needs of those affected by sexual misconduct. Connecting with other survivors who have also experienced sexual misconduct is acknowledged to have several tangible and intangible benefits, including to reduce stigma and isolation, while also increasing empowerment and resilience.

Recommendation 26: With funding announced in Budget 2021, reduce stigma and break isolation by implementing a professionally co-facilitated online and in-person peer support program for CAF members and Veterans who have experienced sexual misconduct during their service in the CAF.

  • Involve those affected by sexual misconduct as co-developers of the program.
  • Ensure that in-person peer support group meetings are held regularly and during work hours (e.g. during physical training). This will help promote a sense of relationship building, encourage maximum participation, and reduce the potential for disrupting the survivor’s time spent with their regular support networks or external therapy treatments.

Explore innovative technology options to facilitate reaching survivors

Ultimately, a Support Strategy must be able to reach everyone, everywhere; failing to do so adds to isolation. The SSCG discussed the need to leverage technology to the extent possible. As so many different interactions move to online and mobile platforms in people’s day to day lives, exploring technology options is also central to ensuring the DND/CAF can meet survivors’ desires to interact with service providers and other professionals via mobile devices from wherever is safest and most convenient for them. However, one caveat is that use of technology should be understood as a choice or option, not an obligation.

Recommendation 27: Partner with national technical assistance providers to enhance knowledge around the use of technology to reach more survivors. This will create a long- term network of experts to whom service providers and survivors can turn to for advice on best practices and advances in the field of virtual advocacy and support. Further, the network could be explored in relation to training for providers on best practices in virtual advocacy and safe technology for survivors, including survivors in underserved populations, young CAF members, and Reservists.

  • As part of this work, the DND/CAF should explore the feasibility of building chat and text components into the functionality of survivor support services.
  • Professional standards for use of technologies should be assessed, along with any reviews previously done of technology in relation to survivor support.
  • Recommendation 15 (online portal for men) should be considered in the context of this work.

Address retaliation, retribution, and reprisals

A ‘code of silence’ prevails because many personnel will not raise a complaint or report sexual misconduct as they fear repercussions and do not trust the processes and systems. The culture of military discipline and command makes it difficult for members to raise concerns or speak out. A chilling effect is also created by witnessing or hearing about reprisals and negative outcomes experienced by other survivors, especially in cases where perpetrators hold more power (e.g. are in leadership positions) and act with impunity.

According to the results of the SSMCAF for 2016 and 2018, fear of negative consequences (such as being removed from one’s unit, or repercussions for career progression) are amongst the top reasons why those affected by sexual misconduct do not report incidents.Footnote 54

Recommendation 28: Acknowledge and document the pervasive problem of reprisals and other forms of secondary wounding experienced by CAF survivors following disclosures of sexual misconduct. This may include, but is not limited to:

  • Undertaking further investigation of:
    • the various types of reprisals and secondary wounding already identified by CAF survivors;
    • changes in treatment by unit members;
    • job relocation or changes;
    • career interruptions or endings; and
    • lack of trauma-informed responses from those in helping positions, as well as from investigators or others involved in investigation and prosecution related to sexual misconduct.
  • Ensuring that analyses document how reprisals and secondary wounding are embedded in the gendered and sexualized military culture, and how certain groups, such as women, men, 2SLGBTQ+, and Indigenous members are distinctly impacted.

Recommendation 29: Ensure that support and services for survivors are designed to address the significant psychological, physical, economic, spiritual, and employment impacts of sustained reprisals and secondary wounding as an additional component of military sexual misconduct and MST.

Modernize reporting options

The SSCG discussed in depth the need to transform the current reporting policies and options. Doing so would help to center the safety and empowerment of survivors.

Duty to Report

The duty to report was a recurring topic of concern for the SSCG. Currently, all CAF members are bound by a regulatory duty to report all misconduct, including sexual misconduct. The SSCG identified several areas of concern for survivors in relation to the duty to report incidents of sexual misconduct, building upon issues outlined by the 2018 OAG Report and recommendations by survivor groups such as the former IJ700. Of particular concern is how the duty to report sexual misconduct impacts a survivor’s autonomy over whether, when, and how to report their experiences, and whether and how to seek support following an incident.

In accordance with the Queen’s Regulations and Orders (QR&O), article 4.02, General Responsibilities of Officers, and QR&O article 5.01, General Responsibilities of Non- Commissioned Members, all CAF members must “report to the proper authority any infringement of the pertinent statutes, regulations, rules, orders and instructions governing the conduct of any person subject to the Code of Service Discipline.”Footnote 55 Officers who can “deal adequately” with a sexual misconduct incident are not required to report.Footnote 56 If an officer determines that they cannot deal adequately with a matter, they must report it to the proper authority. However, there has been long-standing ambiguity regarding what it means to “deal adequately” with sexual misconduct. As well, there is ambiguity regarding the specific rank or level of authority an officer must have to be able to “deal adequately” with sexual misconduct.

In the Departmental Response to the 2018 OAG Report, the CAF made a commitment to clarify CAF members’ obligations in relation to reporting incidents of sexual misconduct. A recently updated directive on sexual misconduct, DAOD 9005-1, provides clarification on reporting, including guidance on determining whether an officer can “deal adequately” with sexual misconduct, without having to report. Ultimately, however, the determination of whether an officer can deal adequately with a sexual misconduct matter involves an exercise of discretion. Thus, there is still the potential for third party reporting of sexual misconduct in instances where the survivor is not ready or does not wish to do so. Furthermore, survivors are still technically required to report their victimization to a “proper authority” even if they do not want to – a policy that is not at all survivor-centred. It is a service offence for any CAF member not to report misconduct to the proper authority who can “deal adequately” with the matter.

There are still uncertainties in many situations regarding duty to report within the health care context, particularly for those who are required to comply with confidentiality standards of their professional governing bodies, which contradict the duty to report regulations. This has a number of impacts. It puts these professionals in an ethical and legal bind, contributes to inconsistent practices across health care professionals, and results in different legal requirements between the uniformed and civilian professionals who provide health care services to CAF victims.

There is also a great deal of uncertainty regarding Chaplains and their ability to provide confidential support to survivors. Currently, only Catholic priests are legally protected from disclosing information revealed to them under the seal of the confessional, and it is not common for Chaplains to receive disclosures exclusively in such a formalized context. This also results in inconsistent practices across Chaplains. It was suggested to the SSCG that clarification is needed on official policies regarding confidentiality and duty to report so that more survivors feel confident in seeking chaplaincy support, and so that there is consistency in how Chaplains themselves understand their obligations.

Taken together, the ambiguity and inconsistencies in health care and Chaplaincy add to the vulnerability of survivors at a critical time. DAOD 9005-1 states that “regardless of whether or not a sexual misconduct incident has been reported, those affected by sexual misconduct may access support and medical treatment as needed.” While Canadian Forces Health Services and the Royal Canadian Chaplain Service are supports that a survivor may want to access, if CAF members working within these groups are still bound by the duty to report, survivors may be reluctant to seek the support that they need.

Survivors need to be able to choose if, when and where they feel safe to report. In the CAF context in which investigations are not conducted by independent authorities, the ability of victims to choose and to receive support without reporting is essential.

It is clear that the duty to report provides an important safeguard within the CAF to maintain discipline and safety. Recent changes to the directive on sexual misconduct are a step in the right direction, but still do not provide the requisite flexibility to fully address concerns regarding duty to report and its impacts on the needs of survivors. It is also inconsistent with the intent of the Declaration of Victims Rights which is to empower survivors.

In actual practice, judgment is exercised every day with respect to the duty to report, even without the explicit allowance in the QR&O language. The same discretion should be permitted to survivors of sexual misconduct to protect them from being re-victimized and to enable them to safely seek support from professionals and support persons in uniform.

DAOD 9005-1, issued on November 18, 2020, improves the situation by providing more reporting options to victims. However, all reporting authorities remain within the CAF, except for the civilian police. This does not address the problem of mistrust in the institution identified in the Deschamps Report and the fear of reprisals or other negative consequences resulting from a report.

The recent announcement signaling the end to Operation HONOUR and a shift from a duty to report to duty to respond has led to confusion; in the absence of clear updated guidance in place, SMRC and others are being contacted by members who are unsure how to proceed.

As we prepared this Summary Report and recommendations, the Third Independent Review Authority of the Military Justice System concluded. As part of his review, Justice Fish recommended to create exceptions to the duty to report for victims of sexual misconduct, their confidants, and the health and support professionals consulted by them, noting that victims who wish to report must be provided the support they need to do so “without fear of harm to their well-being, careers or personal lives.”Footnote 57 He further recommended the establishment of a working group to consider exceptions to the duty to report for witnesses of sexual misconduct.

Recommendation 30: Establish an explicit exemption for victims/survivors, as well as designated health and support professionals who provide support to victims/survivors, from prosecution for failing to report sexual misconduct, with limitations for such cases as risk of imminent harm, harm to children, national security, etc.

Alternative Reporting

CAF members who are survivors of sexual misconduct have limited autonomy over how and to whom they can report, and which authority will oversee the conduct of the investigation.

The ERA Report, submitted by Madame Justice Deschamps in 2015, highlighted the difficulties experienced by victims who have limited reporting options and significant mistrust in their chain of command’s involvement in investigations.

The complexities around the obligatory reporting and investigating of sexual misconduct were also noted in the 2018 OAG Report, which flagged a number of unintended and negative consequences of the duty to report. The Auditor General noted that, given duty to report and duty to investigate, formal reports and investigations move forward regardless of the survivor’s preference, which ultimately discourages some survivors from reporting at all.

Furthermore, the 2016 and 2018 SSMCAF identified that CAF members perceive other barriers to reporting incidents of sexual misconduct, such as being afraid of negative consequences, not believing reporting would make a difference, and having concerns about the formal complaint process. They point to ongoing lack of trust in the institution to appropriately handle incidents of sexual misconduct and to effectively support victims.

The restrictive requirements and processes for reporting (QR&O 4.02 and 5.01) and investigating (QR&O 106.02 and 106.03) sexual misconduct in the CAF often trigger formal administrative and justice processes that are outside of a survivor’s control, leaving them fearful of reporting at all. Furthermore, some survivors may want to report, but may not be comfortable doing so to their own chain of command, which they may not trust to take the complaint seriously or to conduct a proper investigation.

Clarification on reporting authorities was provided in the recently revised DAOD 9005-1, providing a non-exhaustive list of proper authorities who can receive reports of sexual misconduct and allowing survivors (or others) to report to any person or organization they may choose without having to go through their supervisor. However, survivors may also not feel comfortable reporting to others in the list as outlined in DAOD 9005-1, particularly if the survivor is of junior rank. All reporting authorities are within the CAF, leaving survivors without the option of reporting to an independent authority.

Establishing an alternative reporting mechanism would enable survivors to receive services and supports such as medical treatment, legal assistance, and counselling services, and to disclose – instead of officially report – sexual misconduct without triggering an official investigation. An alternative reporting mechanism would:

  • increase the survivor’s agency and control over what happens to them after an incident and hence be more consistent with trauma-informed practices
  • enhance survivors’ access to justice
  • balance the need to protect the overall safety of the CAF as an organization with the need to support individual survivors
  • likely lead to an increase in reporting of sexual misconduct, providing a more accurate understanding of the nature of the issue across the CAF

Other armed forces have recognized the benefits of providing survivors of sexual misconduct with different reporting options. The United States Department of Defense’s Restricted (Confidential) Reporting Policy allows reporting of sexual assault to specified individuals (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator; Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Victim Advocate; or health care personnel) for military personnel of the US Armed Forces (and their adult dependents). This ensures that the survivor can receive healthcare (medical and mental), advocacy services and legal advice without notifying command or law enforcement officials. As a consideration for organizational safety, the relevant commander is notified that “an assault” has occurred but is provided with very limited details; the survivor’s identity is never disclosed.

The armed forces of Australia and New Zealand have adopted similar systems, with the Australian system also receiving disclosures of sexual harassment. In addition, the Netherlands Armed Forces has two separate independent channels to report sexual harassment, with one being independent of the chain of command but localized within each of the service branches, as well as an external reporting mechanism. The system also uses “confidants” – other military members who volunteer – to assist survivors in the complaint process and who are exempt from the duty to report. The French military created the Cellule Thémis, to receive reports of sexual harassment outside of the chain of command.

Increasing the pathways for reporting through such mechanisms as Third Party Reporting and on- line reporting options can be useful in giving back control to survivors.

Recommendation 31: Enhance supports to survivors of sexual misconduct in Canada’s military justice system by providing access to alternative reporting options external to the chain of command.

Independent Legal Advice

Over the past few years, there has been recognition that the provision of free independent legal advice is an important mechanism that assists survivors of sexual assault to navigate various justice processes, make informed decisions about reporting, and prepare for investigations and proceedings, thereby increasing their access to justice and ability to exercise their rights.Footnote 58 The 2016 Victim Support Needs Analysis conducted by the DPMC-OpH identified lack of CAF- supported access to legal assistance as a service provision gap. This gap has been identified as an ongoing issue whenever the needs of survivors of sexual misconduct in the military justice system are discussed.

In the civilian criminal justice system, it was raised in a 2018 Report of the Coordinating Committee of Senior Officials Working Group on Access to Justice for Adult Victims of Sexual Assault.Footnote 59 As well, the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada has been instructed by the Prime Minister to “work with provinces and territories to provide free legal advice and support to survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence.”Footnote 60

Several Canadian jurisdictions (e.g. Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, British Columbia, Saskatchewan, and Alberta) currently provide independent legal advice programs to survivors of sexual violence. These are generally vouchers for two to four hours to receive advice from an independent lawyer, usually on a roster.

In the US Armed Forces, there is a confidential legal support function for victims of sexual assault, called the Victims’ Legal Counsel (or Special Victims’ Counsel), who are employed directly by the Armed Forces. A survivor can access free legal guidance and advice, as well as representation, regardless of whether or not they have reported the incident or how they have reported (e.g. restricted vs unrestricted reporting).

Survivors would benefit greatly from independent legal advice to help them navigate the intricacies of the military justice system, particularly as their rights under Bill C-77 come into effect in the next few years. Access to legal advice would empower survivors to make informed choices both in the aftermath of their victimization, including regarding reporting, and throughout military justice processes.

One of the commitments made by the Department of National Defence during the parliamentary debates on Bill C-77, was to develop a program that provides victims of sexual violence in the military justice system with access to legal advice. Further, in 2018, the concept of providing independent legal advice was approved by the Deputy Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff at a Defence Executive Policy Committee meeting.

Recommendation 32: With funding from Budget 2021, put in place a pilot project to provide independent legal advice to those affected by sexual misconduct whose cases are proceeding in the military justice system.


Enhance support provider capacity and competency

This goal focuses on ensuring that support to affected members is of a consistently high quality by implementing role-based certification and training, trauma-informed standards for service providers, and a quality assurance system. Promoting and developing expertise by advancing internal professional knowledge and skills will help the CAF improve its response and support in the context of sexual misconduct. It will also help to ensure a consistent standard of care and support, so that all CAF members affected by sexual misconduct, no matter where they are, can access both basic and specialized support.Footnote 61

The need for training on sexual misconduct that focuses on the unique dynamics of sexual violence and that is trauma-informed, survivor-centred and grounded in cultural humility for all service providers (including Military Police, health care providers, Chaplains, and others) recurred throughout the consultation process. A key focal point was on the need to provide ongoing training and education to the chain of command on how to respond to disclosures and conduct investigations in a trauma-informed way.

An important distinction was made that trauma-informed training must be role appropriate. The personnel leading and managing programs and/or providing direct support to members affected by sexual misconduct should develop and maintain role-based competencies through learning activities, such as online training and webinars, conferences, workshops, and other professional development opportunities offered internal and external to the CAF. At the same time, external partners can also benefit from additional training to understand the needs of military survivors, including the needs of specific groups of military survivors.

Recommendation 33: Enhance the subject matter expertise of those who provide support to CAF members affected by sexual misconduct, including education and training on trauma-informed approaches, cultural humility, and vicarious trauma (i.e. resilience training). This includes:

  • Providing service providers with the tools to appropriately respond to reports and/or disclosures of sexual misconduct.
  • Developing and implementing role-based certification and training, standards of training and certification, professional standards for service providers, and quality assurance systems.
  • Ensuring that support providers have the training, supervision, monitoring and oversight commensurate with their responsibility.
  • Providing adequate staff support for training.
  • Developing protocols and policies to encourage support providers to enhance their skills and knowledge relating to sexual misconduct, including with respect to vicarious trauma.
  • Promoting a culture of commitment to ongoing training through annual refreshers and foundational courses.

Recommendation 34: Explore options for seeking accreditation of certain services by a recognized accrediting body, where appropriate.

Recommendation 35: Implement mandatory and continuous CAF-wide education and training on preventing sexual misconduct and responding to disclosures of sexual misconduct that is developed, facilitated, and evaluated in partnership with external SMEs and trainers. In general, training and education initiatives on sexual misconduct should be:

  • Conducted by trauma-informed professionals and not the chain of command.
  • Developed and delivered in collaboration with external advocates/experts and in keeping with evidence-based best practices in sexual violence prevention and response training protocols.
  • Backed by national standards (e.g. language, messaging).
  • Include content on consent, being an effective bystander, understanding the distinct experiences of sexual misconduct for various groups, the intersection of sexual misconduct and colonialism, transphobia, racism, sexism and misogyny, and address the distinct ways in which the history and culture of the military create conditions in which sexual misconduct happens.
  • Repeated regularly throughout an individual’s career as opposed to being limited to a single training.
  • Engage learners and leaders in meaningful and difficult conversations, and require demonstration of a competent understanding of key concepts and skills introduced in the training.
  • Tailored to reflect the distinct responsibilities and roles of different organizations and positions. This will require the development and delivery of additional specialized, unit and department-specific training to CAF leadership, health services personnel, the CFNIS, Chaplains, SMRC counsellors/staff, and others who occupy distinct roles within the CAF.
  • Subject to external monitoring, evaluation, and revision as needed.

Recommendation 36: Ensure that the development and delivery of Indigenous-specific content to those who work to serve Indigenous survivors and complainants is delivered by Indigenous experts and includes an emphasis on the following:

  • Trauma-informed engagement strategies
  • Cultural humility
  • Implicit bias awareness and safeguard strategies
  • Stereotypes, myths, and stigmas targeting Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) and Two Spirit survivors of sexual misconduct
  • The TRC Calls to ActionFootnote 62
  • The MMIWG Calls for JusticeFootnote 63

Form leaders with relational skills

The role of an engaged and informed leadership is pivotal. Leadership includes the ability to lead, guide, direct, inspire, influence, and empower people. It also includes thinking through the organization’s mission, defining it, then clearly and visibly using organizational resources to accomplish it. The organizational leader clearly sets goals and priorities and defines and maintains standards. In the context of survivor support, leaders must model and integrate trauma- informed, cultural humility, and survivor-centred principles.

Although the role leadership plays in addressing sexual violence or harassment is under- researched, the available research evidence consistently suggests that satisfaction with the reporting experience is associated with positive outcomes, including organizational commitment, post-incident well-being/functioning, decreased distress, and increased intention to remain in duty.Footnote 64 In contrast, negative experiences with reporting sexual victimization have been associated with impairments in job performance, satisfaction, commitment, and a reduction in willingness to seek help for future issues.Footnote 65

Given the important role leadership plays in shaping a culture tolerant or intolerant to sexual violence and harassment, leaders – at all levels – should be equipped with appropriate training to foster effective strategies and responses, as well as to be able to engage in, and apply, a critical, structural analysis of the CAF’s culture.

Recommendation 37: As an intrinsic part of character-based leadership initiatives in the CAF, develop a plan to foster leadership tools that focus on emotional intelligence, compassion, responsiveness, approachability, and cultural humility. The application of these core interpersonal skills will go beyond the focus on individuals and extend to understanding structural power imbalances and the ways in which this understanding is essential for those in leadership roles. The CAF’s historical institutional structures of oppression should be part of the analysis, while fostering ongoing self-reflections about leadership’s own privilege and responsibility.

  • Avoid use of the term “soft skills” in relation to these training initiatives, as such terminology will not resonate and will marginalize the value of these critical leadership competencies and perspectives; instead, link to a “people first” approach.
  • Develop a plan for each of: Non-Commissioned Members (NCMs), Non- Commissioned Officers (NCOs), and Officers.
    • Ensure that middle leadership is included.
    • Ensure that the NCM core is included; such skills should be reflected in the NCM Leadership Course, in recognition that NCM leadership is critical to solutions.
    • Explore models that include civilian or former military members co-facilitating leadership training with the military.

Communication and Information

Improve the quality and accessibility of information

Finding relevant information can be frustrating at the best of times, but when dealing with experiences of sexual misconduct, can be insurmountable. Robust trauma-informed and survivor- oriented communications and information approaches are needed as part of an overall approach to survivor support.

The SSCG noted that, at this time, information regarding available types of support for those affected by sexual misconduct has not been systematized nor made accessible via a single database.

Access to relevant information, documentation, and policies must be addressed internally and externally to be supportive. Relevant documents, policies, procedures and forms must be easily accessible on the Internet, and information must be kept current.

While clear policies are imperative for fairness, having knowledge of those policies is just as important. Governing documents, such as those clarifying entitlements to support, should be easy to find and written in plain language. Any policy updates should also be clearly communicated.

The need for information is clear as the SSCG heard that, despite years of raising awareness through Operation HONOUR and other channels, survivors said more needs to be done to raise/improve awareness of where and how survivors can get support. In results from the 2016 and 2018 SSMCAF, low awareness of specific programs was identified as a reason why the majority of sexual assault victims in both the Regular Force and Primary Reserve did not consult services.Footnote 66

Information should be available in as many locations as possible. Survivors should have high quality information so that they know more about what to expect from different agencies. This should include clear information about their rights as they navigate the military justice system, and when it comes to reporting.

Other key aspects of this strategic goal include ensuring that affected members are provided with information about potential referrals to other support services, including to external support services, as appropriate; and that they are able to access information and updates in relation to their complaint or case (e.g. status of investigations, outcomes of their case, and opportunities for participation in processes, as applicable).

The SSCG and its subject matter experts comprise a group of people with varying degrees of experience working for or with the CAF – whether through current or past work, or as a CAF member, civilian, or expert contracted for service. All came to SSCG meetings with many questions about the current landscape of support; many of these questions remain unanswered even as the Consultation Group provides its Summary Report.

The DND/CAF organizational landscape is complex, especially to an outsider/civilian. The SSCG was challenged to understand current support protocols and limitations, even with the benefit of a series of DND/CAF informational briefings and follow up questions directed to the DND/CAF.

As noted previously, in order to move ahead with the development of the Support Strategy, it will be necessary to do a complete and thorough mapping or audit to identify organizational gaps and opportunities within the support system. That knowledge base is essential to being able to systematically identify and address gaps.

Most external advocates and CAF members will not have prior knowledge of how the CAF support system works nor the support that is available within it. Without a very clear and readily explainable picture of the support within the DND/CAF and its gaps and limitations, the ability of the DND/CAF to meaningfully engage and collaborate with external partners around support will be compromised. Affected members’ ability to seek support and to make informed choices and decisions will likely be compromised. Clear, high quality, and accessible information about the available support options and their parameters is a key building block of access to support.

The SSCG considered the needs of younger members of the CAF and those new to the CAF, including Reserve Force members who face different levels of entitlements to benefits, and discussed how important it is that information about sexual misconduct and available support be made proactively and readily available from the earliest point in a person’s career, including at military educational facilities. Information about the support options that are in place and how to access them should also be available to family members and the public. External advocates should have an opportunity to review the information and provide feedback on it.

Recommendation 38: Ensure that timely, accurate, up-to-date, and clear/plain language information about services and how to access them is widely available to all CAF members, their families, and the public, such as through a centralized online portal.

Recommendation 39: Establish an information package for victims/survivors on their rights, the impacts of victimization and on the support services which exist in the CAF, along with external and/or partner organizations.

Recommendation 40: Materials created for survivors need to be carefully examined. Survivors should receive a debriefing package that highlights what they can expect, and who they can contact; however, information should be provided in such a way so as to avoid overloading a survivor with too many materials too soon.

Recommendation 41: Add information on available services for MST to CAF retirement/release processes.

  • Offer a retirement/release package that includes information on MST and services as well as a screening service for all CAF Regular Force and Reserve Force personnel.


Embed governance structures, accountability, and commitment

Recognizing that any strategic framework is only as strong as its implementation and application in practice, the Survivor Support Strategy must be supported by an implementation plan that sets out the details of a five-year approach and specific actions to be taken – when, how, and by whom.

The implementation plan must have commitment at the highest institutional level, clearly identify roles and responsibilities, and be supported by strong accountability measures in order to track progress, measure outcomes, promote understanding, and assess the impact of the Support Strategy.

Further, returning to the SSCG’s guidance that support initiatives are inseparable from the need for broader culture, structural, and systemic change, there is a need – at the highest levels but also mainstreamed throughout the DND/CAF – “to change the system that has created and continues to foster a culture that allows sexual violence to happen in the first place”Footnote 67, by committing to the three key principles identified by the SSCG: trauma-informed (which includes adopting a more expansive understanding of “trauma”, one which also recognizes additional forms of trauma); survivor-centred; and cultural humility.

Recommendation 42: Issue a directive to establish a Working Group to fully analyze recommendations in this Summary Report and the SSCG’s SMEs’ recommendations.

  • The Working Group should attach both a timeline and an appropriate lead organization or organizations to ensure the recommendations get turned into implementable action items across DND/CAF organizations through development of an implementation plan.

Recommendation 43: Develop and implement a performance measurement framework for the Survivor Support Strategy and implementation plan to measure, monitor, and report on progress across the continuum of services.

  • Adopt a results-based and lessons learned-oriented approach to performance measurement – one that promotes continuous improvement.

Recommendation 44: Performance indicators that reflect initiatives and their outcomes must be tracked with regard to support for sexual misconduct survivors; leaders at all levels must be monitored, and incentivized to participate.

Recommendation 45: Commit to trauma-informed, survivor-centred principles, and cultural humility principles, practices, policies, and procedures across the DND/CAF, including at the individual, group, and institutional or systems level.

  • Define the terms ‘trauma-informed’, ‘survivor-centred’ and ‘cultural humility’; apply a consistent definition across units within the DND/CAF.
  • Integrate these core principles into organizational policies, procedures, and practices.
  • Ensure that diverse cultural factors are reflected (e.g., race, gender, sexuality, disability).
  • Build relationships, partnerships, and collaborate with organizational staff, other relevant health and social service organizations, and key external stakeholders in the development of the principles and their application.
  • Seek DND staff and CAF member feedback on the implementation of the principles and their application; promote collaboration to make organizational improvements as needed.
  • Cultivate an environment for all members and staff that reflects the principles.
  • Be aware that trauma can impact anyone. Promote an environment of self- care/wellness and take organizational measures to prevent vicarious trauma.
  • Expand the area of concern from “sexual misconduct” to all forms of trauma for service members, while continuing to recognize the specific and distinct dynamics of sexual misconduct as a source of trauma.

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