Message from the Acting Chief of Military Personnel on Diversity, Inclusion, and Culture Change Short-Term Initiatives

November 1st, 2021 - Defence Stories


Major-General Bourgon, Acting Chief of Military Personnel

As Acting Chief of Military Personnel (CMP), I am fully committed to creating a workplace that is welcoming, inclusive, safe and respectful for every member of our team. Today I want to highlight some of the great work we are leading within CMP and Military Personnel Command to help us realize this vision. We have made important progress, but there is still much work to be done to achieve an environment in which all members see and experience the respect they deserve.

Canadian Armed Forces Dress Instructions Update

Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members can expect a refreshed Dress Instructions re-write, focused on removing the barriers to members’ choice of clothing and other aspects of appearance. The changes will eliminate binary choices by allowing members the freedom to choose the uniform that makes them most comfortable. Changes to our appearance policies will see a new approach to our look, one that provides a single standard applicable to all which is safe, inclusive and modern. By removing language related to gender, and eliminating separate instructions for men and women, this re-write allows our Dress Instructions to honour the diversity of our people in uniform, while continuing to prioritize operational effectiveness and safety.

Inclusive ranks in French

The CAF is exploring feminized options for ranks in French. Right now, the ranks are exclusively masculine, even when applied to women members. For example, in April 2021, the CAF announced the creation of the new position of Chief Professional Conduct and Culture, but in French, the head of the organization, “le lieutenant-général Jennie Carignan,” can only be addressed by the masculine rank.

Women have been able to occupy any rank or trade in Canada’s military for the last 20 years. They represent a growing ratio of CAF personnel, and are increasingly achieving higher ranks. An adjustment in our terminology is long overdue. In fact, our linguistic limitations may be contributing to the perception that the CAF is not welcoming for everyone.

The use of feminized ranks would be optional, and would not be reflected in the Queen’s Regulations and Orders for now. Members who are non-binary would have the option to describe themselves as they deemed most appropriate in any given situation.

Post-natal care and women’s health

The soon to be released Total Health and Wellness Strategy will be critical in ensuring that all of our members’ individual health needs are effectively and readily met. One key aspect of the strategy is the Women’s Health Framework, which focuses on sex and gender as contributing factors to health. The Framework aims to enhance women’s health care within the military context and increase knowledge of women’s health issues and topics, among other key goals.

Members can also expect important developments in post-natal care. Since March, CAF members have been permitted to wear nursing T-shirts while in uniform. Policy development for the reimbursement of these items is ongoing, and will be announced in the near future. We have released by CANFORGEN the CAF’s first Nursing and Pumping Policy which provides CAF leaders the necessary guidance on inclusive practices with respect to nursing infants. This includes requiring all Commanding Officers to establish a lactation plan to support their members, should they require it. The guidelines will require that a clearly marked, sanitary, private space be designated for nursing or pumping, and that supervisors make every effort to ensure that members are given the time they need to use the space. This guidance will be critical to breaking down the stigma that can sometimes affect members’ decisions to pump or nurse when they need to. It is also an important part of supporting our military families, who are the strength behind the uniform.

New Compassionate Leave Policy

The Director of Compensation and Benefits is introducing new sub-types of compassionate leave and short leave, in the Canadian Forces Leave Policy Manual (CFLPM). The initiative will help reduce personal and family stress for CAF members so that they can focus on the challenges at home.

Under this initiative, CAF members will be able to request compassionate leave under the following sub-types:

And short leave under the following sub-types:

This amendment to the CFLPM is aligned with one of the key messages of Canada’s Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, ensuring our people and their families are well-supported, diverse and resilient – physically, psychologically, and socially.

Duty with Honour

This fall, as part of the Duty with Honour renewal, the CAF will publish The CAF Ethos: Trusted to Serve. The CAF Ethos is founded on core Canadian values and professional expectations, and is the basis for our judgment, decision-making, and conduct in the profession of arms. Our Ethos emphasizes mutual respect and dignity for all persons and allows our forces to operate with the full trust of the citizens we serve. This renewal of the CAF Ethos includes core ethical principles including recognizing and embracing the diversity of our team’s talents and perspectives, challenging unacceptable behaviour, and making difficult but necessary decisions to support and champion cultural change across our organization.

Training Needs Assessment

The training our military personnel undergo sets the tone for what is expected of them, not only in their operational duties, but also in their interactions with one another. This includes reinforcing the Canadian Armed Forces Ethos, and the values of mutual respect and dignity for all. Recently, the Directorate Professional Military Conduct (DPMC) conducted a Training Needs Assessment that was primarily focused on sexual misconduct within the ranks. As a result of that assessment, several recommendations have been made, and the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture/DPMC organization will work with L1s, as well as MPGG, to develop a holistic approach to address training and education requirements across the conduct spectrum. This will be a critical part of targeting and eliminating harmful behaviours from our institution, and will bolster the broader CAF culture change efforts.

Employment Equity

The CAF is fully committed to Employment Equity throughout the organization. All members – no matter their race, gender identity, or sexual orientation – are entitled to work in an inclusive work environment that encourages them to contribute and thrive. The CAF Employment Equity Plan (2021-26) is critical to effecting the type of culture change that all of our members in uniform deserve. The CAF EE Plan aims to increase the representation, inclusion, and participation of underrepresented groups, across all levels of the organization. It also officially recognizes the Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (DTPAO) as one of the five Defence Advisory Groups. Importantly, the CAF EE Plan holds L1s accountable in measurable ways, by laying out specific reporting questions that they must answer each reporting cycle, to see where they are meeting their goals, and where adjustments need to be made.

Promotion and Selection

We are also working to improve CAF promotion selection processes. This will involve two key initiatives. First, all scoring criteria (SCRIT) will be subject to a GBA+ analysis to ensure that criteria do not adversely affect diverse groups within the organization. Second, the Fall National Selection boards now feature procedural improvements including mandating that one voting member be from an Employment Equity group, in order to prevent bias.

The CAF is also evolving its command and promotion processes to be more inclusive. The current merit-based process does not provide complete insight into the character of an individual member. Over the next few years, the CAF will implement new rigour and science to its leader selection process for both promotions and succession. Starting with General Officer/Flag Officer promotion selection boards in fall 2021, all candidates for promotion are now required to complete three evidence-based online assessments to evaluate their cognitive ability, leadership qualities, and personality. This assessment is then be converted to a numerical score, and incorporated in the board scoring criteria. Candidates are then subject to a post-selection board confirmation process that will involve a multi-rater or (360) assessment tool. The reports from this multi-rater assessment are then synthesized, and act similar to a reference check for promotion candidates. Raters are carefully selected, with specific attention given to diversity in order to minimize confirmation bias. These changes to our promotion processes are critical to ensuring we select the best leaders for our members – ones who truly embody CAF values, and are driven and motivated to effect change throughout our organization.

These initiatives are just a few of the steps being taken across the entire Defence Team to achieve lasting change. Our work cannot and will not stop there. We will continue building towards an environment where all members feel supported by their organization, and are able to achieve their fullest potential.


M.H.L. Bourgon
Acting Chief of Military Personnel

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