Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada launch online peer support platform for those affected by sexual misconduct and their families

News release

June 22, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario – National Defence

The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) within the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) are pleased to announce the first feature of their Military Sexual Trauma (MST) Peer Support Program, an online peer support discussion platform.

Online discussion boards are hosted by an established third-party platform called Togetherall that offers confidentiality, anonymity and clinical oversight. Although this platform forms part of the MST Peer Support Program, it is available to current and former Canadian Armed Forces members as well as Department of National Defence public service employees and their families. They will have access to discussion boards as a safe space to foster peer-to-peer connection, mental resilience and wellness amongst persons with lived experience of sexual misconduct.

While the online peer support discussion platform is the first feature being launched by the MST Peer Support Program, other features such as text and chat-based peer support, one-on-one and group in-person peer support, will be launched as soon as the SMRC has hired and trained peer supporters. The program model illustrating the various features that will be offered once the program is fully launched is available online.

The SMRC is also announcing the expansion of the Response and Support Coordination (RSC) program beyond the National Capital Region (Ottawa/Gatineau) to Nunavut, Québec and Pacific (British Columbia and Yukon) regions. Response and Support Coordinators provide remote and in-person support and assistance that can include case coordination, advocacy, accompaniment, assistance with workplace arrangements and other practical matters. During the fiscal year 2022-23, the SMRC will continue to expand the RSC program to all regions across Canada.

The development of the MST Peer Support Program and expansion of the RSC program are examples of the existing work that has been ongoing to increase support to the community of people affected by sexual misconduct in the CAF/DND. They are also tangible examples of the departments’ commitment to implement the recommendations of the Independent External Comprehensive Review. By strengthening these programs, we are taking action to evolve the SMRC’s role to provide resources for victims and survivors of sexual misconduct; facilitate immediate access to legal assistance to victims of sexual misconduct across the country; and enhance the role and structure of the SMRC.

The SMRC, who is also delivering the Restorative Engagement (RE) program mandated through the CAF-DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action Final Settlement Agreement, wishes to communicate to class members that that the Minister of National Defence created an exception to the duty to report in the context of the RE program. Class members who haven’t yet expressed interest in participating in the RE program and that haven’t yet received their initial decision letter have 30 days from receiving it to opt into the program by contacting the claims administrator.

Quotes

“People affected by sexual misconduct often describe the isolation that they experience in trying to access support groups for sexual assault and online peer support. This online peer support discussion platform aims to allow all members of the Defence Team, Veterans and their families to feel comfortable in seeking support from their peers in a safe, confidential and user-friendly online environment. It is with comprehensive support services like the MST Peer Support Program as well as other expanded services such as independent legal advice that we can ensure members of our Defence Team have the resources they need and deserve in their healing journeys.”

The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence

“The MST online discussion forum will be a much-needed safe space to connect, learn and support each other through their healing and recovery for those who have experienced military sexual misconduct. This is the first of several new peer support options that will be available to Veterans and CAF members affected by military sexual trauma. We will continue to ensure Veterans have the supports they need and deserve.” 

The Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence

“Our team has been working diligently towards our long-term vision of offering a seamless continuum of care to those affected by sexual misconduct. We are happy to now be able to offer some of those important services. With the new online peer support group discussion platform, through Togetherall, the Response and Support coordinators now available in-person in Québec, Nunavut and Pacific regions and the exception to the Duty to Report within the context of Restorative Engagement, we are able to increase the range of services to help those affected by sexual misconduct heal from the harms they have suffered. We continue to work on developing other much-needed services and hope to offer those to the community in the coming months.”

Shoba Ranganathan, Acting Executive Director, Sexual Misconduct Response Centre

Quick facts

  • The Military Sexual Trauma Peer Support Program is one of many initiatives from the Budget 2021 investment of $236.2 million to the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada to expand their work to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the military and support survivors.

  • The SMRC offers 24 hours a day, seven days a week confidential person-centered support services to currently serving and former CAF members, and DND public service employees who have been affected by sexual misconduct. Individuals who need support can contact the SMRC 24/7 support line at 1-844-750-1648. Our trained counsellors can also be reached by email at DND.SMRC-CIIS.MDN@forces.gc.ca.  

  • Founded in 2007 in the UK, Togetherall is a clinically managed, online community designed to improve mental health. They have worked with more than 300 private and public organizations across the UK, North America and New Zealand to provide access to its community. They also provide services to Canadians through the Wellness Together Canada initiative, and provide support to the UK military.

  • The SMRC has awarded Togetherall an initial 18-month contract allowing end users to access the platform at no costs.

  • The SMRC has been delivering the RSC program since 2019 from a centralized location to individuals across the country. Response and Support (RS) coordinators provide remote and in-person support and assistance to current and former Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and Department of National Defence (DND) public service employees who have experienced sexual misconduct. Those who join the program can withdraw from it at any time.

  • On May 26, 2022, 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.

Associated links

Contacts

Daniel Minden
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Phone: 613-996-3100
Email: 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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