Defence Minister Anand amends duty to report regulations to provide an exception for Restorative Engagement program participants
May 26, 2022 - Ottawa, Ontario - Department of National Defence
The Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are committed to building an inclusive and respectful workplace, free from sexual misconduct. As we work towards this goal, we must acknowledge and seek to understand the wrongs experienced by those affected by sexual misconduct in our workplace, so that we can make meaningful changes to the aspects of our institutional culture that contribute to harm.
Today, Defence Minister Anita Anand amended the Queen’s Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Forces (QR&O) to create an exception to the duty to report regulations in the context of a restorative engagement program. Currently, this exception only applies to the Restorative Engagement program for the CAF-DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action Final Settlement Agreement.
The Restorative Engagement program enables class members to share their experiences, knowledge and/or understanding of sexual misconduct in the DND/CAF workplace and provide ideas on how to achieve positive and enduring institutional culture change. Class members have indicated that the duty to report poses challenges to the success of the Restorative Engagement program. The duty to report would require the CAF Defence representatives who have volunteered to listen, acknowledge and learn from class members’ experiences, to report incidents of wrongdoing, regardless of whether the affected person is ready or wants to report them.
DND/CAF acknowledges that confidentiality is a critical component of any restorative process, and it is hoped that this amendment will help build trust between all involved and enable all participants to have honest and open conversations. This amendment does not limit a class member’s ability to report their own experiences of sexual misconduct; it removes the legal obligation of CAF members to report in the context of restorative engagement.
The duty imposed on CAF members to report all incidents of sexual misconduct has been identified as a critical area for reform by subject matter experts, external reviewers, public service employees, people affected by sexual misconduct and CAF members. DND/CAF is currently working towards addressing the duty to report issue on a broader basis, as per the recommendations identified in the Third Independent Review of the National Defence Act.
“The Restorative Engagement program is an important step in our efforts to restore relationships with members of our institution—past and present—who have been harmed by sexual assault, sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. We truly appreciate class members’ willingness to share their experiences with us and we want to do everything we can to ensure that we provide a safe space for them to do so. It is my hope that this amendment provides tangible proof of our commitment to listen to their experiences and recommendations, and take meaningful actions to address them.”
The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence
“The duty to report is intended to provide a safeguard within the CAF to maintain discipline and safety; however, we acknowledge that it has had unintended effects and may have caused harm to individuals affected by sexual misconduct, which is a consequence we are working to address. This amendment for the restorative process will clear the path for meaningful and open dialogue, which is fundamental to the learning and understanding that we hope will come from the Restorative Engagement program.”
General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff for the Canadian Armed Forces
“Restorative Engagement was designed to empower class members to share what they are comfortable sharing about their experiences, knowledge and understanding of sexual misconduct. The exception to the duty to report in the context of this important restorative process is a key component to help class members feel safe, protected, and in control of their experiences and healing journeys. The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre applauds this regulatory amendment as it addresses a concern raised by people with lived experience who have been waiting for changes like this one.”
Shoba Ranganathan, Acting Executive Director, Sexual Misconduct Response Centre
In accordance with QR&O article 4.02, General Responsibilities of Officers, and QR&O article 5.01, General Responsibilities of Non-Commissioned Members, all CAF members have a duty to 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.
This amendment to the QR&O establishes an exception to the duty to report in the context of a restorative engagement program organized by the Department, the Canadian Forces or on behalf of either of them.
A DND/CAF working group is currently analysing issues in the application of the duty to report for incidents of sexual misconduct, as per recommendation #70 in the report from the Third Independent Review of the National Defence Act.
Over 5,000 claimants in the CAF-DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action Settlement out of the total number of claims received (approximately 19,500) opted to take part in the Restorative Engagement program (as of 28 March 2022), which was mandated as part of the final settlement agreement.
Since the launch of the Restorative Engagement program in November 2021, over 100 class members have been contacted to participate in the program and Restorative Engagement sessions with class members have begun.
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Department of National Defence
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