As you know, the very first thing I did when I was Chief of the Defence staff, when I took command of the Armed Forces, was address this matter of harmful behaviour. And I started and launched Operation HONOUR. Operation HONOUR is more than just dealing with harmful behaviour in the Armed Forces; harmful sexual behaviour in the Armed Forces. It’s part of a wider effort to insure that this institution and the people in it, treat each other with respect, with dignity, with the kind of maturity and measure of responsibility that insures that when we go into operations, when we conduct operations in the most difficult circumstances, you can trust who’s on your team.
It acknowledges that every member of the Armed Forces is important. If you wear this uniform, you deserve to be proud, you deserve to be treated with dignity, you deserve to be respected for who you are and what you are: a member of the Armed Forces.
Someone standing on guard for this country every day. The Deschamps report indicated to us that we’ve got a problem, and I took that very seriously. What we’ve got right now is a data-point, an important data-point given to us by Statistics Canada with feedback from over 43,000 members of the Armed Forces. And that feedback confirms, unequivocally, that we have a problem in the Armed Forces. And we have had a problem for quite some time. And that all things to do with Operation HONOUR are absolutely valid; critical that we carry on the work of Operation HONOUR in its operationalized form, to deal with this militarily, as well as with the support from wherever we can get it, to make certain that we eradicate harmful behaviour amoungst ourselves and with whom we work.
This report, the statistics tell us, that the prevalence of harmful behaviour, harmful sexual behaviour, in the Armed Forces is enormous. And that I need to take this information and place it in the context of Operation HONOUR. Just like we do on operations: we get an indicator that something has to happen and we launch an operation. That’s what the Deschamps report did. And just like operations, we gather intelligence to further refine our targeting. That’s what this Stats-Can survey has done. It’s refined our target set. Who are the perpetrators? And what we can do now with the operation, is target them. We know who they are, we know more about where they are in the Armed Forces, we know about what age bracket they’re in, and we know the prevalence that this is going on.
And so now I’ve got targeting information and the perpetrators will be targeted. And they’ll be dealt with. They’ll be dealt with through our military justice system or administratively. I have to tell you that it is critical to all of us that we understand what’s at stake. This is not simply a short-term matter that we think we can deal with a couple of pithy sentences, an indication of action, and then it sort of runs on autopilot then goes away. Well I’m CDS, and I’m sure future CDS’s will stay absolutely, will stay absolutely committed, to the idea that the Armed Forces has to be better. Because it’s a place of honour, it’s a place of service, it’s a place that has to be a source of pride for the country. And if it’s not, we end up failing on operations. We can’t imagine going into operations in the next, in the decades to come, with an Armed Forces that has in its midst, and amoungst each other, a lack of trust, a lack of faith, any sort of disrespect that would somehow cause you to have concerns about who’s on your left and who’s on your right. It’s an operational imperative that this institution stay strong and powerful into the future.
The military builds strong people. The military gives you focus. The military looks at service before self as an ethos. Part of that service means giving respect to those who you’re serving with. Part of that service means being respectful of even your enemy when they capitulate. So we can’t have an Armed Forces that has in its midst, people that would treat each other with disrespect or harm. I look to all the ranks of the Armed Forces, from the most senior leadership to the most junior leaders, to deal with this. To stop the behaviour before it starts. To make certain that people are educated about what constitutes harmful behaviour: from a stupid joke, to stuff on your wall that shouldn’t be there, to more aggravated and harmful acts, physical acts. All of it’s wrong. All of it counts. And all of it has to stop. What we have to do is recognize all of you in this audience, have to recognize, that the Armed Forces needs to remain a place where people want to go to work. Because it’s a good place to work, you’re doing valuable service for your country, it’s exciting and you’re doing important work in Canada and in the world. People will not come and join us, parents will not want their children to come and join us, if they think that there’s a high chance that they’re going to be somehow mistreated in any way. They want their children, and potential recruits, want to be able to see themselves in uniform doing valuable service for the country. Learning an exciting trade, being a leader, making a difference. So if we want that to happen, we need to change. We need to change. This behaviour has to stop.
I gave a direct order to the Armed Forces when I first took command: It stops now! Well I’m extremely disappointed to say, that based on this report, several hundred decided not to follow that order. Maybe they didn’t recognize it as a military order. I don’t know. Maybe they didn’t know what constituted bad behaviour or not. Maybe they don’t know what’s harmful. Maybe we didn’t train them well enough, but we’re going to. You will not enter the Armed Forces anymore, unless you totally and completely understand what this is about.
We will train people to understand more thoroughly what’s right and what’s wrong in this our institution.
We have to do this. Because we want more women in the Armed Forces, we need them. We need to draw from the entire, deep, broad talent pool that is the Canadian population. We need to be a diverse workforce, to take advantage of everybody that Canada has to offer, so that we can be the best Armed Forces, the most combat-capable Armed Forces imaginable. The only way we can do that is to draw from across the Nation, from all people who want to serve. And there can be no barriers to that service, save for the things that are demanded of an individual to be able to don this uniform: you gotta be trained, you gotta perform well, all the things necessary to become a recruit. But one of those things cannot be a willingness to withstand abuse from anybody else in uniform. That ends.
So Operation HONOUR, I believe, has been underwritten, validated, and is absolutely more crucial than ever because we need to make certain that everybody who’s in the Armed Forces is valued. If you are someone who feels that they can harm someone in any way, in any of the ways we’ve described ‘harm’ as being, then you don’t deserve to be in the Armed Forces. I will always side with the victim. Always. I will either support the military justice system in dealing with people, or administratively remove you from the Armed Forces. It’s as simple as that.
So I think you understand that here in this audience. Many here may have experienced this themselves, and that’s sad in its own right. But I have to tell you, and if you can’t tell by what I’m saying, I’m absolutely committed to changing the culture of the Armed Forces; starting this journey that will make certain the Armed Forces is the Armed Forces it needs to be – in Canada, for Canadians, for our own members, and for all the good that we can do in the world.
So it goes without saying that there will be a sense from the release of this report that things are all bad in the Armed Forces. There may even be people question whether or not Operation HONOUR is working. Well I believe it is. A huge percentage of people, most people in the Armed Forces, understand Operation HONOUR, its mission and its intent. That some people choose to violate it, we’ll get them and we’ll deal with them and they’ll be gone. But it’s more important than ever that we reaffirm our support to Operation HONOUR and to all things: the elimination of harassment, the basic valuing of our people.
And so, I’d encourage you to keep talking about it. I would encourage you to police yourselves. I would encourage you to report. The prevalence of reporting has increased dramatically; that’s a good thing. Victim support has increased dramatically; that’s a good thing. We’ve got new mechanisms in place for people to reach out; that’s a good thing. But people are still violating the direction of Op Honour, and that’s bad.
We will use all means available to us to insure that that stops. Education, preventative measures, and where necessary – and it seems to be necessary – removal from the Armed Forces. I want you to be confident in me and in the chain of command that I represent, that we’re taking this seriously, and we’re going to continue to take it seriously. Operation HONOUR doesn’t stop. Operation HONOUR intensifies from here on out. So that we can actually look back at this moment in time, at that benchmark, and say ‘ok, that’s where we were then, but the next time we do it, hey, we’ve made some improvements’. And those improvements aren’t statistics, those improvements are people in the Armed Forces that have been treated better. And that’s what counts to me.
I’d like to thank you very much for your attention today. I wish you all a good weekend. Thank you.