June 29: Letter from the Defence Team Champion for Visible Minorities and Commander, Military Personnel Command (MPC), regarding racism and discrimination

June 29, 2020 – Defence Stories

MILPERSCOM

Dear Defence Team members,

Racism and discrimination exist and they continue to surface in violent and very tragic ways as we have witnessed with the violence experienced by black and Indigenous persons recently in the news.  This has prompted a discussion about where we are as a society in terms of respecting the dignity of every person, without prejudice based on race, colour, national or ethnic origin, or other prohibited grounds.

Unfortunately, we are not where we need to be in terms of accepting and respecting each other’s differences; discrimination, including systemic racism, continues to exist in the Canadian Armed Forces/Department of National Defence (CAF/DND) and must be addressed to every extent possible.

As the Defence Team Champion for Visible Minorities, and the Commander of Military Personnel Command, it is important to me that we address this issue, given its profound impact on many of our members and on our cohesiveness as a team . . . a family. I say this as a senior member of the CAF and, also, as a Canadian citizen, a human being, who has been appalled by the behavior of so many who do not wish to accept our values and who wish harm upon others. I have discussed this with many of you in our Defence Team; it is clear to me that we can do better and more must be done.

I wish to be clear, discrimination and racist conduct, be it through words or actions or inactions, is completely incompatible with our institutional values and ethics and will not be tolerated.

Each of us has a moral obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of our Defence Team members.  Embracing and pursuing diversity is one means we are addressing this issue.  We know that diversity and inclusivity creates strong, cohesive teams and enhances our military and departmental operational effectiveness. Diversity is a source of strength and flexibility, and plays a pivotal role in making the Defence Team a modern, forward-looking organization that walks the walk when it comes to inclusivity. The Defence Team remains committed to increasing the representation of visible minorities, Indigenous peoples, women and people with disabilities both in numbers and in senior leadership roles.  These efforts to foster diversity and inclusion will not, on their own, stamp out racist and discriminatory behavior. My pledge is to work with all members of the Defence Team so that we, together, are part of a prolonged and sustained solution.

Leaders are engaged and having discussions with representatives from our Employment Equity Defence Advisory Groups (DAG) which included the Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group, the Defence Indigenous Advisory Group, and the Defence Women’s Advisory Organization, Persons with Disabilities, and the Defence Team Pride Network. After last week’s roundtable, the Deputy Minister and Chief of the Defence Staff have voiced that we will work at being more coordinated and effective in how we address discrimination, including systemic racism. They have outlined immediate next steps, including more concrete actions in response to comments that were made during the roundtable.

I look forward to continued work with leadership in our department and with our DAG representatives as we, together, put a plan in place to make the necessary changes. As your Defence Team Champion for Visible Minorities I wish to emphasize that every member of the DND/CAF Team has a part to play here as we seek to eradicate racism and bias in all their forms, whether conscious or unconscious. We will listen, we will learn, we will act going forward; we expect measurable progress as we seek change.

Vice-Admiral Haydn C. Edmundson
Defence Team Champion for Visible Minorities
Commander, Military Personnel Command

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