A message from the Minister of National Defence regarding culture change

April 29, 2021 - Defence Stories

Every day, Defence Team members uphold the values of peace, freedom, and respect for the dignity of all people.

Recently we have seen sobering evidence that, for many of you, these values do not match your own lived experiences. We have listened and reflected on the words from those who have shared their accounts of sexual misconduct.

To every member in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and every person in the Department of National Defence (DND) who has been affected by sexual harassment and violence and felt that we were not there to support you, I am truly sorry.

Experts inside and outside National Defence have highlighted the gaps in our policies and practices that have led us to fail our fellow team members, and we recognize that bold action is needed to transform the culture of the Defence Team to one of dignity and respect. 

This culture change must be comprehensive, lasting and address the systemic challenges at the root of the problem, including any value, policy, or practice that results in discrimination, biases, harmful stereotypes, abuses of power, or other harmful behaviours.

To begin understanding and addressing these challenges, the Government of Canada is setting up an Independent External Comprehensive Review of our institutional policies, practices, programs, procedures and culture.

This review will be led by Madam Louise Arbour, former Supreme Court Justice, carried out transparently, and with input from appropriate stakeholders. It builds on the report prepared by former Justice Marie Deschamps in 2015, taking a broader look at how and why our existing workplace dynamics enable harmful behaviours, and how we must change to address them.

In addition and support to this review, we are also standing up a new organization—the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture.

Under the leadership of LGen Jennie Carignan this team will be responsible for creating the conditions for cultural transformation. They will unify, integrate, and coordinate efforts across the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Their goal is ensuring that our actions and behaviours reflect the very best parts of our organization, and Canadian society. We’re dedicated to creating lasting culture change across the Defence Team.

At the same time, we know we must do more to support people when they’ve been harmed. Recent announcements in Budget 2021 have outlined financial support for new programs to address sexual misconduct and gender-based violence across the Defence Team. These include a partnership with Veterans Affairs Canada to develop a peer support network for CAF members, and continued efforts to implement the Declaration of Victims’ Rights in our military justice system, to name a few.

These are just the first of many new steps that we are taking to build on the positive aspects of our culture while shedding the toxic and outdated values, practices, and policies that harm our people.

I remain grateful every day for the hard work I see from all members of the Defence Team. I am proud of the work you do. The efforts we are starting today are my commitment to ensure that every member of the Defence Team can go about their work with dignity, respect and a renewed trust in the organization that supports them. You deserve no less.

The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan
Minister of National Defence

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