Canadian Armed Forces announces comprehensive sexual misconduct response strategy

News release

October 28, 2020 – Ottawa, ON – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is striving to create an environment free from sexual misconduct, where all people are treated with dignity and respect. As an organization, we have made it clear that any form of sexual misconduct within our ranks is unacceptable. It harms our people, jeopardizes our operational effectiveness, and is inconsistent with our values and ethical principles.

Today, the CAF released The Path to Dignity and Respect: The CAF Sexual Misconduct Response Strategy. This comprehensive strategy focuses on aligning organizational culture to prevent and address sexual misconduct, and improve support for affected persons. It provides an in-depth analysis of CAF culture, and identifies what aspects the CAF must eliminate, change or strengthen to address sexual misconduct. It also establishes a prevention-based implementation plan and a performance measurement framework to ensure continuous evaluation and improvement.

The strategy expands Operation HONOUR into a holistic and sustained institutional effort designed to align behaviors and attitudes of CAF personnel with the principles and values of the profession of arms in Canada. As part of the strategy, the CAF is refocusing the Operation HONOUR mission. Moving forward, while always working to eliminate harmful behaviours, the mission will focus on ensuring personnel never minimize, ignore or excuse sexual misconduct, which is key to building a safer work environment and trust among personnel and the chain of command.

The strategy builds on the CAF initiatives already underway through Operation HONOUR and coordinates with existing complementary strategies and programs. It is shaped by research and informed by evidence and subject matter experts, including the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre. The strategy also reflects recommendations received from the Auditor General of Canada and parliamentary committees, as well as recommendations from the external review conducted in 2015 by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps, which the Defence Team committed to fully implementing in Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure and Engaged.  

The strategy is intended to be an evergreen document and the CAF welcomes all feedback. Comments and suggestions will be considered as part of a planned annual review and update process, which the CAF will use to incorporate feedback, as well as lessons learned, into the strategy on an ongoing basis. Individuals who wish to contribute to the strategy, can submit their views and ideas via the Operation HONOUR website.

Quotes

“This strategy builds on our continued efforts to fight sexual misconduct across the Canadian Armed Forces and create a workplace free from harassment. We are committed to a zero-tolerance approach regarding sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. The recommendations made by the Auditor General of Canada and other experts will continue to support the culture change in the Canadian Armed Forces.”

Hon. Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

“The Path to Dignity and Respect is a comprehensive strategy, which intends to further advance our efforts to address sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. The strategy establishes direction for a fully coordinated and sustained approach to guide our efforts.”

General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff

“This strategy puts into one document, our principles, goals and methods of how we will continue to work together to prevent sexual misconduct from occurring in our Canadian Armed Forces. The Path to Dignity and Respect gives expression to what we aspire to be, and what Canadians expect of us, and it will provide invaluable guidance to ensure the thousands of decisions our leaders make every day align with our values. It is a major step forward.”

Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau, Vice Chief of the Defence Staff

“We are encouraged by the comprehensiveness of this strategy, and the steps that the CAF is taking to address all aspects of sexual misconduct. Sexual misconduct is a pervasive and complex issue in the CAF and in society as a whole, and there are no simple solutions. This strategy incorporates important, evidence-informed approaches that will help the CAF better address the factors that contribute to sexual misconduct.”

Dr. Denise Preston, Executive Director, Sexual Misconduct Response Centre

Quick facts

  • In 2015, the Canadian Armed Forces launched Operation HONOUR to address sexual misconduct within its ranks.

  • Operation HONOUR was initially shaped by recommendations from an external review conducted by Former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps, which underlined the need for a culture change strategy.

  • The Path to Dignity and Respect establishes the long-term strategic direction for Operation HONOUR, thereby replacing the CAF Action Plan on Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour released in April 2015.

  • The strategy is a key deliverable for initiative #18 (full implementation of the 10 recommendations in the Deschamps Report) in Strong, Secure and Engaged (SSE): Canada’s Defence Policy. It also contributes to SSE initiatives #19 and #21.

  • The strategy is based on research from a diverse group of national and international experts in culture change and change management.

  • It is also based on extensive social-science research conducted by research experts supporting the Operation HONOUR Research Program.

  • In addition, the CAF worked collaboratively with the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre to ensure the strategy considers key themes and issues identified by subject matter experts in supporting survivors, psychology, criminology, and other areas, as well as persons affected by sexual misconduct.

  • The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre operates independently from the chain of command and is a key resource for anyone affected by sexual misconduct. The Centre provides 24/7 confidential counselling, response and support coordination, information and assistance to CAF members affected by sexual misconduct.

  • The strategy includes a performance measurement framework, which the CAF will use to measure progress on a routine basis to ensure a continuous cycle of improvement as we move forward.

  • The strategy aligns with other current and emergent CAF and DND strategies that are complementary to the efforts to address sexual misconduct, such as the CAF Diversity Strategy, Operation GENERATION, the Canadian Armed Forces Human Resources Strategy, and the Total Health and Wellness Strategy, among others.

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Contacts

Media Relations

Department of National Defence
Tel.: 613-904-3333
Email: mlo-blm@forces.gc.ca

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