Government releases final Independent External Comprehensive Review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces and outlines next steps to address and eradicate sexual harassment and misconduct

News release

May 30, 2022 – Ottawa – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces

Today, the Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Anita Anand, was joined by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, as well as the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Wayne Eyre, and Deputy Minister of National Defence, Bill Matthews, to discuss the final report of the Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR) of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, and to outline the Government’s immediate next steps with respect to the IECR’s recommendations.

On May 20, 2021, Mme Arbour was engaged to conduct a review of policies, procedures, programs, practices, and culture within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Department of National Defence (DND).

The IECR was informed by submissions from 350 people, 4000 documents in response to requests for information, hundreds of interviews with stakeholders, Defence Team members and other government entities, and more. It outlines the causes of the continued presence of sexual harassment and misconduct in the CAF, and provides 48 recommendations that fall within eleven areas of focus that seek to prevent and/or eradicate sexual harassment and misconduct in the CAF. Those areas range from the CAF’s definitions of sexual misconduct and harassment, to the mandate and activities of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) - including its independence and reporting structure - to issues around recruitment, military training and colleges, and internal and external oversight mechanisms.

The Minister thanked Mme. Arbour and the Independent External Comprehensive Review team for their dedication and professionalism in the delivery of this report, and confirmed that she accepts the IECR in its entirety. To this end, the Minister welcomed all 48 recommendations in the IECR, and announced that while work to implement 17 of them will begin immediately, DND/CAF will work to quickly analyze and provide the path forward for the remaining recommendations.

In the last year, the Defence Team has established the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture, expanded the reach, independence, and services offered by the SMRC, stood up the External Comprehensive Reviews Implementation Committee (ECRIC), started to provide quarterly updates to Canadians on our progress, has introduced changes to promotion and selection processes beginning with those for General and Flag Officers, and continues to work with partners to implement Mme. Arbour’s interim recommendation relating to the transfer of investigation and prosecution of Criminal Code sexual offences from the military justice system to the civilian justice system.

These efforts align with some of the IECR’s areas of focus and recommendations, and will continue in earnest, while the Government works to immediately implement 17 of the IECR’s recommendations, including the recommendation to appoint an External Monitor. This will help ensure that the recommendations in the IECR and in other reports are implemented.

The Minister also confirmed that per Mme. Arbour’s recommendation, the Government will work to quickly expand the focus of exit interviews at Royal Military Colleges to include cadets’ experiences with sexual misconduct or discrimination.

Going forward, DND/CAF will quickly analyze how best the various other IECR recommendations can be acted upon and will engage, in short order, with stakeholders, survivors, current and former Defence Team members and more. The Minister confirmed that the Government will take the opportunity, afforded by Mme. Arbour, to inform Parliament no later than the end of this year, of the final set of IECR recommendations that the Government does not intend to implement.

The IECR report charts our path forward, and with its help, the Government will deliver meaningful reform. The Minister thanked Madame Arbour for her comprehensive and detailed report, which will be a cornerstone of our culture change efforts going forward, and which will help ensure we deliver reforms that stand the test of time – to strengthen, grow, and improve this crucial institution.

Quotes

“The report released today charts our path forward and will serve as the basis on which we will deliver meaningful reform. We will continue to work every single day, alongside General Eyre and Deputy Minister Matthews, to do so. I thank Madame Arbour for her comprehensive and detailed report, which will form the cornerstone of our culture change efforts going forward – and I thank all members of the military and the Department of National Defence for their contributions to Madame Arbour’s efforts. The time for action is now, and together, we will deliver reforms that stand the test of time – to strengthen, grow, and improve this crucial institution.”

Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence

“Budgets 2021 and 2022 provided funds for a number of initiatives, including the expansion of services for the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, engagement and consultation on culture change, and the modernization the military justice system, all of which are essential components to making change. While much has already been undertaken, there remains much to do and I know that the Defence Team will meet the challenge.”

Bryan May, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

“Every member of this Defence Team should have a work environment free from harassment and sexual misconduct. We know there is much more work to do to create this necessary culture change and strengthen accountability mechanisms, and we will keep working to get there.”

Bill Matthews, Deputy Minister of National Defence

“I thank Madame Arbour for the dedication and passion she has put into this report and for helping us to become a better institution. We will do our utmost to ensure that all of the valuable information we’ve received, in this, and other reports is strategically considered and that nothing is overlooked. I also thank members of the Canadian Armed Forces, past and present, who have come forward to share their lived experiences. Your perspectives are being heard and integrated into the critical work underway. We will continue to build on this momentum, and the desire for change, setting the conditions for positive and lasting cultural growth.”

General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff

Quick facts

  • Since May 2021, Mme. Arbour and her team conducted an extensive review of the CAF recruitment, training, performance evaluation, posting, and promotion systems, as well as; the military justice system’s policies, procedures, and practices to respond to allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct; the SMRC mandate; external oversight and/or review mechanisms related to sexual misconduct; and, provided an assessment of the progress made in addressing the recommendations contained in the Deschamps Report.

  • Mme. Arbour’s External Review Team was contacted directly by 350 people; received more than 4000 documents in response to requests for information; received 70 written statements from stakeholders; conducted over 245 confidential interviews with stakeholders, and over 115 interviews with Defence Team members and other government entities; met with approximately 485 people at CAF learning institutions; conducted 12 focus groups; and met with hundreds of Defence Team members during their tour of select bases and wings across Canada.

  • This report builds on the recommendations made by former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, Morris J. Fish, in his report of the Third Independent Review of specified provisions of the National Defence Act and their operations, tabled in Parliament on June 1, 2021, as well as on the report on sexual misconduct and harassment in the CAF prepared by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps in 2015.

  • The DND/CAF has indexed more than 500 culture-related recommendations and tasks from 19 different sources, which include both reports where the DND/CAF are the recipient and DND/CAF reviews of reports from other defence departments, such as the  United Kingdom and the United States, in a proactive effort to apply lessons learned from our allies. This centralizing of data will help in identifying trends, as well as with prioritization, and in developing a holistic approach to implementation.

  • The release of this report may evoke a range of personal responses. Should you or someone you know have experienced an incident of sexual misconduct, there are resources available to support current and former members of the Defence Team. The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) provides 24/7 confidential support by telephone at 1-844-750-1648 and by email at DND.SMRC-CIIS.MDN@forces.gc.ca. A trained counsellor will take the call, listen, discuss the kind of resources best suited to the individual’s needs, and help with any next steps. The SMRC is independent from the CAF chain of command and counsellors do not have a duty to report.

Associated links

Contacts

Daniel Minden
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-3100
Daniel.Minden@forces.gc.ca

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

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