Internal Review of Workplace Policies, Programs and Leadership Engagement


  1. Recent articles in l’Actualité and MacLean’s magazines suggest that sexual assault and misconduct occur in the CAF at an alarming frequency and that the climate in CAF workplaces tacitly condones such behaviour by repressing complaints. MacLean’s highlights a similar article they published in 1998 and suggests that little has changed in the interim.


  1. CAF Approach. The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has established and maintains a firm commitment to the principles of fairness, safety, respect and strength through diversity for all of its members. There is a zero tolerance policy for all forms of misconduct, harassment and discrimination given the corrosive effect that they have on our people and the morale, cohesion and effectiveness of our operational units. As an institution, the CAF has developed and implemented numerous workplace policies, programs and leadership engagements designed to establish expectations of appropriate conduct, regulate behaviour, influence attitudes and heighten awareness of this commitment in a way that reflects the values of the military ethos - duty, loyalty, integrity and courage - and serves as a source of pride for all Canadians.
  2. Policy and Program Framework. In completing a review of workplace policies and programs, it should be recognized from the outset that they are broad in scope and involve numerous agencies within the CAF, the Department and wider Government agencies. For example, the Chief of Military Personnel provides the focal point for institutional leadership on issues pertaining to humanrights, diversity, social policy development, personnel research and career administration. The Vice Chief of Defence Staff assumes leadership in occupational safety, including such issues as Prevention of Violence in the Workplace, while the Assistant Deputy Minister (Human Resources - Civilian) is engaged in those areas as they pertain to the Department’s civilian employees. Issues related to conduct of a criminal nature are referred to the Military Police (VCDS) and Judge Advocate General. The Environmental Commands and Level 1s within the Department assist in the development of centralized policies and programs, and assume responsibility for their decentralized execution. In this way, it should be understood that workplace policies and programs are a shared effort implicating a number of organizations, depending on the issue. This reality complicates the formulation of a comprehensive picture and the integration of policies and programs.


  1. To provide a review of workplace policies, programs and leadership engagement including assessment and preliminary recommendations in order to advise the CDS on the formulation of a subsequent action plan.


  1. General. The CAF aims to have a respectful workplace for all CAF members where they are treated fairly, respectfully and with dignity. To that effect, the CAF has various policies, the aim of which is primarily prevention and, when required, the facilitation of a timely resolution at the lowest most appropriate level while ensuring procedural fairness to all concerned.
  2. Racist Conduct. The CAF policy is contained in Canadian Forces Administrative Order (CFAO) 19-43 (Racist Conduct). It was created to eliminate racist conduct by prohibiting this behaviour. This policy is being replaced by the  DAOD on Discriminatory Conduct.
  3. Human Rights. The CAF policy is contained in DAODs 5516-0 (Human Rights) and 5516-1 (Human Rights Complaints). These provide policy direction on the obligations of DND employees and CAF members regarding human rights in the workplace and standards of behaviour and conduct. The general policy (5516-0) reinforces the CAF’s intolerance of discriminatory acts and DAOD 5516-1 outlines the specific complaint process and the consequences for failing to adhere to the CAF policy.
  4. Sexual Misconduct. The CAF policy on Sexual Misconduct is outlined in DAOD 5019-5 (Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Disorders). It is primarily aimed at ensuring all incidents of sexual misconduct are reported, investigated and dealt with as soon as practicable.
  5. Personal Relationships (Fraternization). The CAF policy is contained in DAOD 5019-1 (Personal Relationships and Fraternization). The aim of the policy is to prevent the erosion of lawful command, avoid detrimental effect on operational effectiveness and maintenance of it, protect vulnerable CAF members, maintain standards of professional and ethical conduct.
  6. Harassment Prevention and Resolution. The CAF policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution is contained in DAOD 5012-0. The aim of this joint (CAF/DND) policy is to outline the organization’s zero tolerance of harassment and its commitment to providing a respectful workplace.
  7. Workplace Violence. The CAF policy on the Prevention of Violence in the Workplace (PVW) was announced via CANFORGEN 033/11 and 111/13 as a result of changes to the Canada Labour Code, Part II in 2008. The aim of the program is to provide a workplace free from violence and was implemented and promulgated through the General Safety Program outlined in DAOD 2007-1.
  8. Defence Ethics Program (DEP). DAOD 7023-1 governs the Defence Ethics Program which provides a framework to assist CAF members and DND civilians “in maintaining the highest ethical standards of conduct and leadership”. It is a values-based program which incorporates education and awareness, training, and a governance framework with ethics advisors and coordinators throughout the chain of command. A key DEP publication is the DND/CAF Code of Values and Ethics.
  9. Religious and Spiritual Accommodation. The CAF policy is contained in the CAF’s Interim Policy – Religious Accommodation. This interim policy is being replaced by a DAOD on Religious and Spiritual Accommodation for CAF members. The aim is to make every effort to permit the observance of religious practices (for example: wearing of specific dress items, dietary needs, etc.) while not imposing undue hardship on the CAF.
  10. Restrictions on Duty. The CAF policy is contained in DAOD 5003-1. The aim is to provide an appropriate mechanism to impose a restriction on a member based on a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act should it be required for operational reasons or for the safety of members of the public.
  11. Transsexual Members. The CAF policy is contained in CF Military Personnel Instruction 01/11. The aim of the Instruction is to prevent discrimination and harassment based on gender identity, provide guidance in regards to accommodating needs of transsexuals during their transition, as well as create general awareness in the CAF.

Policy Assessment

  1. There are no assessed gaps in policy. Required policies are in place and are routinely reviewed and updated. Policy development and updating is a deliberate and complex process because of the nature of the issues, the diverse number of stakeholders involved and legal imperatives. Accordingly, the CAF has a methodical personnel policy development and governance framework to refresh existing policies when required. This policy framework is complemented by an ongoing personnel research program that includes surveys and other forms of data collection through which the views and concerns of CAF members are monitored. Such research is but one of many mechanisms of voice available to members of the CAF.

Policy Recommendation

  1. It is recommended that legal review priority be given to certain policies and in some cases to their accompanying instructions, such as the Harassment Instructions. Consideration should be given to publication of actions taken against perpetrators of misconduct when found guilty of an offence to heighten members’ awareness and confidence. It may also be advisable to confirm that policy and practice to support and address the needs of victims is sufficient.


  1. General. There are numerous elements in place to support the harassment policy framework. The mains areas are: training, reporting, awareness, research, outreach and alternative dispute resolution.
  2. Training. Training and awareness are important elements of how we address discrimination and harassment. All CAF members receive discrimination and harassment prevention training throughout their careers. All recruits receive a number of periods of instructions regarding their responsibilities and obligations. Further, throughout their careers, CAF members receive additional training on this topic. All CAF members are required to complete annual awareness briefings on ethics and harassment. There is also training for key players in the Harassment framework, specifically for Commanding Officers as Responsible Officers (RO), for Harassment Advisors (HA), for Harassment Investigators (HI), and for Workplace Relations Advisors (WRA). In the case of Commanding Officers, the CDS’ Guidance to Commanding Officers also provides an overview of the leadership responsibilities in harassment prevention and resolution. HAs, HIs and WRAs receive 5-day qualification courses.


  1. The primary mechanism to oversee reporting of harassment complaints is the de-centralized electronic tracking system to track individual formal complaints. A CANFORGEN was recently published to remind the leadership of their responsibilities to ensure the tracking system is kept up to date. The Harassment Complaint Tracking System (HCTS) is considered an antiquated database to manage this information and the need for a better system has already been identified in the recent Harassment Action Plan.
  2. In addition, the QR&Os impose a specific obligation on all members of the CAF to become acquainted with, observe and enforce the National Defence Act, the QR&O, and all other regulations, rules orders and instructions that pertain to the performance of the member’s duties. In addition, the QR&O, place a specific obligation on all members to report to the proper authority any infringement of a statute, regulation, rule, order or instruction governing the conduct of another member, if the officer or non-commissioned member is not able to adequately deal with the matter.


  1. There are a number of awareness activities that are conducted in the CAF to support harassment policy. Units are expected to provide annual briefings as a reminder of what constitutes harassment and to ensure all are aware that creating a respectful workplace is an important operational imperative. There are also a number of communication products such as websites, news articles, and DWAN messages that highlight the importance of diversity events and messages.


  1. General. The CAF benefits from a comprehensive personnel research program, many elements of which contribute to our assessment of harassment program effectiveness as well as provide information on the opinions of CAF personnel, organizational climate, and monitor progress. The CAF will continue to conduct periodic surveys to monitor our progress on workplace climate and other personnel issues.
  2. Part of this research program includes the recently released research reports on the Canadian Forces Workplace Harassment Survey (CFWHS) and on Diversity and Employment Equity in the Canadian Armed Forces: Results of the Your-Say Survey Focus Section on Diversity Climate. These reports highlight areas of improvement, for which action has been identified in the April 2014 Harassment Action Plan, and also present a number of positive results and trends:  
    • a large majority of our members stated that they had not experienced any forms of harassment in the previous 12 months
    • the majority of Regular Force members (the population surveyed) believe that the CAF climate is positive and accepting of diversity
    • there has been a decline in those who reported being subjected to abuse of authority and personal and sexual harassment
    • discrimination on the basis of sex, national or ethnic origin, race, religion or sexual orientation reflected a decline
  3. So, while improvements are underway, it is important to note the downward trend of reported incidents of harassment. The table on the next page shows that since 1998 there has been a downward trend in the rates of all forms of harassment, including sexual harassment where the 1998 rate for women was 14%, down to 7.6% in 2012, and for men was 3% in 1998, down to 0.4% in 2012.

Percentage of males who answered Yes to “Have you been subjected to…. during the past twelve months?”

Abuse of Authority 19 15.6
Personal Harassment 19 15.6
Sexual Harassment 14 13.2
Hazing 2 1

Percentage of females who answered Yes to “Have you been subjected to…. during the past twelve months?”

Abuse of Authority 29 20.4
Personal Harassment 30 22.8
Sexual Harassment 14 7.6
Hazing 2 0.5

  1. Following the 1989 Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision to open all occupations in the CAF to women, and CAF policy reviews leading up to the ten year anniversary of that date, as well as with the coming into force of the Employment Equity Act and the development of the Canadian Forces Regulations, the face and the climate of the Canadian Armed Forces of 2014 has changed since 1998. Many of the policies and programs outlined in preceding sections were developed and implemented since that time and, while programs and policies to support diversity have evolved, and Canadian society writ large is more inclusive, combat units have become accustomed to women in their workplaces, something that was rare in the 1990s. All of these factors, military and societal, have contributed to an evolving Canadian Armed Forces and improved workplace climates.


  1. The Department and CAF conduct a number of activities and outreach events that remind our members of the importance of building strength through diversity. Each year the Department and CAF commemorate the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, International Women’s Day, Aboriginal Awareness Week and the International Day for Persons with Disabilities. Further activities are organized during Black History Month, Asian Heritage Month and Islamic Heritage Month in order to further enhance our members’ awareness of these respective communities, their histories and challenges. There are also regular articles and announcements on discrimination and harassment prevention in CAF publications such as the Maple Leaf, Departmental Bulletins and local newspapers such as Guard of Honour, and the Chief of Military Personnel web site.

Programs Assessment

  1. The framework for training, reporting and other programs exist to address workplace policy requirements. While these elements are in place, there is a need for better training coherence and standardization, along with greater emphasis on leadership training. The other area that requires some attention is in the areas of reporting and tracking as the existing system is old and cumbersome.

Programs Recommendation

  1. Continue to review training and address any gaps identified, and continue to ensure that surveys and other appropriate research is conducted on the CAF population writ large as well as with smaller segments, such as recruits, deployed personnel. Develop an improved and effective harassment complaint reporting and tracking mechanism.

Leadership Engagement

  1. General. Leadership commitment and the creation of effective command climates are the most effective means of preventing and addressing harassment, discrimination and other forms of unacceptable behaviour. Leadership engagement is a critical component that is affected through governance mechanisms, structure elements and directed events and activities. This feature of our leadership culture is enshrined in the QR&O, which specifically impose an obligation on leaders at all levels to promote the welfare, efficiency and discipline of all subordinates.
  2. Governance Mechanisms. Workplace policies and programs are featured in briefings to Defence Management Committee (DMC), Armed Forces Council (AFC), Canadian Forces Personnel Management Committee (CFPMC) and other venues where CAF leadership can shape and direct their development and implementation. The most recent briefing on workplace policy occurred at AFC on 18 Feb 14 with the presentation of the CAF Harassment and Diversity Climate Surveys along with the CAF Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Action Plan. In this Action Plan, the CDS directed CAF leadership to communicate the importance of harassment and discrimination prevention, complete annual training, ensure structures and procedures for incident response are in place, and conduct accurate and timely reporting.
  3. Structure Elements. Leaders in the CAF are supported by the appointment of advisors, particularly for harassment prevention and employment equity. With respect to harassment prevention, the structure elements include L1 Advisors, to advise Commanders of Commands, and Responsible Officers, Harassment Advisors, Harassment Investigators and Workplace Relations Advisors to advise commanders at the unit/base/wing level. Employment equity involves the assignment of L1/Commanders as Champions for each of the four EE designated groups – women, visible minorities, Aboriginal people and Persons with Disabilities. (A fifth Champion, for Multiculturalism, is being staffed for approval.) These Champions ensure that there is a proper focus and adequate voice provided to these groups on issues that they confront in their careers. Finally, as a further layer, the CAF leadership is aided by the Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) regional offices that provide training, advice and intervention services where their involvement is deemed necessary and appropriate.
  4. Directed Events and Activities. Leader engagements on workplace policies and programs are further managed through directed activities and events. As has been highlighted, unit Commanding Officers receive harassment and social policy training as part of their preparations for assumption of command. Leaders are required to complete annual unit training during which it is expected that they will emphasize the importance of these programs to their members. Professional Development forums were highlighted by the CDS in the Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Action Plan as ideal opportunities to engage the leadership in promoting these policies and programs. Employment Equity Champions and other leaders provide direct leadership engagement to events such as Black History Month Aboriginal Peoples’ Awareness Week, International Women’s Day and other diversity events.

Leadership Engagement Assessment

  1. Sufficient opportunities exist for the leadership to engage and reinforce workplace policies and programs, in addition to the routine exercise of leadership and engagement with their units and subordinates. Reinforcing a positive workplace climate is not merely a function of periodic events and activities but is intrinsic to command and the exercise of leadership at all rank levels. With regard to activities geared specifically towards workplace policies and programs, involvement is often left to the individual leader without a formal accountability framework. Briefings to strategic governance bodies, such as AFC, tend to be issue-based rather than regular feedback on how the CAF is progressing in such areas as Harassment and Employment Equity. The recent inclusion of quarterly Harassment Statistics review is considered a positive step in heightening leadership engagement and creating a sense of shared responsibility and accountability. Emphasis on the assignment and training of advisors for leadership should be considered, as should a means to verify that harassment program structures are adequately filled and incumbents trained.

Leadership Engagement Recommendations

  1. The CDS Direction on the Harassment and Discrimination Prevention Action Plan has the elements of what the leadership should strive to achieve with respect to harassment. Other elements of workplace climate are well supported through the other policies and programs enunciated above. Regular updates on workplace policies and programs to such forums as AFC and DMC at the national strategic level and to similar bodies throughout the chain of command should be considered. An accountability framework through which leaders would be responsible to report on their activities periodically should also be considered.


  1. Overall, it is assessed that there is an effective workplace policy and program framework. As has been identified in recent surveys, it is believed that these mechanisms are having a positive effect in improving trends, particularly in harassment prevention and diversity acceptance. A significant overhaul is not considered necessary, although some additional improvements have been identified; i.e., harassment reporting/tracking mechanism.
  2. It is clear from this review that there is a robust program for harassment prevention and resolution that is supported by evidence-based policy development and that benefits from regular monitoring and research. A healthy workplace is reinforced by numerous other policies and programs that have been highlighted in this review, and establishing effective, healthy workplaces and ensuring that behaviour of subordinates is appropriate are key leadership activities. Criminal behaviour, however, may not be explicitly addressed as frequently in related training and professional development sessions. It may be that consideration should be given to determining whether explicit messaging that sexual assault is criminal and should be reported to the police, as part of awareness, training, and leadership engagement, should be increased. Sexual assault, indeed any assault, is not a matter for alternative methods of resolving issues; it is criminal.
  3. Unfortunately, policies and leadership engagement aside, zero tolerance does not mean, and will never mean, zero incidents. There will always be those who violate our norms and values, and there will always be those who break the law. That is why the CAF, and indeed Canadian society, have systems of policing and justice and why there is a Code of Service Discipline. And it is why the CAF not only established policies and programs aimed at awareness and knowledge of what conduct and behaviour is expected of a member of the CAF, but it is why our policies and practice aim to ensure that, when there is unacceptable conduct, it is dealt with appropriately, swiftly and with full attention to our duty of care for all concerned. A CAF woman who was sexually assaulted emailed the CDS in the wake of last week’s articles to highlight that, while “there are deviant and evil people everywhere”, the aftermath was handled exceptionally well by everyone. In her words, “That counted for a lot. Perhaps everything.”
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