Minister Blair Announces Changes to the Canadian Armed Forces Grievance and Harassment Process
August 15, 2023 – Ottawa, Ontario – National Defence / Canadian Armed Forces
Today, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, announced changes to the military grievance and harassment process which implement Recommendations 7 and 9 of the Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR), led by former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, Louise Arbour.
Effective immediately, any Canadian Armed Forces members who have experienced sexual harassment, sexual misconduct or any other form of discrimination based on sex/gender while performing their duties have a new path to justice available to them. They can choose to bring their complaint directly to the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The Canadian Human Rights Commission is Canada's human rights watchdog and operates independently from the Government of Canada.
With this change, a CAF member who intends to file a complaint of sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of sex will have two options for lodging a complaint: (1) they can file a complaint through the existing CAF grievance and harassment processes, or (2) they can file directly with the CHRC. Members who choose to go directly to the CHRC will no longer be required to exhaust internal grievance and harassment processes first. The implementation of these recommendations applies to both new and existing complaints.
In particular, as recommended by Madame Arbour, the Canadian Armed Forces will no longer file objections based on section 41(1)(a) of the Canadian Human Rights Act in response to member complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of sex being filed directly with the Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). The Canadian Armed Forces recognizes the CHRC’s decades of experience in this area and is committed to learning from the CHRC’s expertise.
This announcement follows an extensive period of consultation and planning between National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, and the Canadian Human Rights Commission, to ensure a robust and smooth complaint process.
Modernizing complaint processes is a key component of our culture change efforts. We are working hard to make it easier for all members of our institution to access a range of services and find the best recourse options available to them. An effective complaint system ensures that affected persons are provided with support and access to recourse options that best address their needs. It also helps hold people accountable for their actions, within a process that is transparent and fair.
“The members of the Canadian Armed Forces are always there to serve Canadians – and it is my top priority to ensure that they are protected, respected, and empowered to serve. Today’s announcement demonstrates our commitment to implementing meaningful and transformative change. This new pathway to justice will better support our people in uniform and provide them with the procedural fairness that they deserve. Every day, we will continue to implement meaningful culture change for those who serve in our military.”
The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence
“Transforming and modernizing our grievance and harassment processes is critical to our culture evolution efforts. The implementation of Recommendations 7 and 9 of the IECR will support our work in fostering a safe and respectful workplace for all members. This change, along with all our culture evolution initiatives, will make our teams stronger and ultimately more operationally effective. Members will now have access to more options and services to find the best recourse options available to them.”
General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff
“We are making substantial and concrete progress on evolving DND/CAF culture across the organization. With today’s announcement, we are ensuring that our members have more options when it comes to reporting incidents and filing complaints related to sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of sex. Change takes time but we are seeing encouraging progress on many fronts, and we will continue with this important work to create a better workplace for all our members.”
Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan, Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture
“The Canadian Human Rights Commission wholeheartedly supports all of former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour's recommendations and welcomes the recommendations meant to ensure that CAF members experiencing sexual harassment or discrimination can choose to bring their complaint directly to the Commission, without restriction, delay or repercussion. The Commission hopes the implementation of these recommendations will help people access human rights justice swiftly.”
Charlotte-Anne Malischewski, Interim Chief Commissioner Canadian Human Rights Commission
The Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR) (led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour) was launched in April 2021 to shed light on the causes of harassment and sexual misconduct in the CAF, by reviewing policies, procedures, programs, practices, and culture within DND/CAF.
In December 2022, National Defence Minister Anita Anand presented a Report to Parliament, outlining the steps that the Government of Canada would take to respond to all 48 recommendations included in the IECR Final Report.
The CHRC has decades of experience handling these types of complaints.
Bringing a sexual harassment complaint to the CHRC is a free, safe and confidential way to seek resolution for what has happened to you. CHRC employees responsible for handling complaints receive ongoing training on trauma-informed approaches, all forms of systemic discrimination, and intersecting forms of discrimination.
CAF members who face harassment or discrimination based on factors other than sex can continue to report incidents or submit formal complaints through the CAF grievance and harassment processes. Conflict and Complaint Management Services can provide advice and guidance on mechanisms available.
The changes announced today apply specifically to CAF members. Department of National Defence (DND) public service employees can continue to make complaints of all forms of discrimination or harassment, including sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of sex, through existing systems. DND public service employees can file complaints through the Workplace Harassment and Violence Prevention Program. Conflict and Complaint Management Services (CCMS) representatives can provide support to all Defence Team members who would like to submit a formal complaint or are dealing with conflict.
Acting Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of National Defence
Department of National Defence
Canadian Human Rights Commission
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