Announcement of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre’s new and expanded support services

On June 22, 2022, the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) hosted a virtual event to announce new and expanded support services, including the launch of an online peer support platform for those affected by sexual misconduct. The webcast was recorded for those who could not attend the live event and is now available for viewing.

The event is the first of many that will be held to keep the community and key partners informed of the work being done to support those affected by sexual misconduct.

Please note that the live event was held virtually in Zoom. While the content is mostly bilingual, there is a presentation on the online peer support platform Togetherall that is in English only. We suggest activating the closed captioning for an enhanced experience.

Watch the event recording

Video / June 22 2022

Transcript

(Shoba Ranganathan) Good afternoon everyone, hello everyone. Thank you very much for joining us. My name is Shoba Ranganathan and I am the Acting Executive Director of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre – also known as the SMRC. I have the distinct honour and pleasure of leading us through today’s event and acting as your emcee.

[Icons and symbols of Indigenous communities on screen] Before we begin today’s event, I would like to recognize that I am speaking to you today from Ottawa, the traditional territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabe Nation. We extend our respect to all First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples for their valuable past and present contributions to this land.

The SMRC was stood up in 2015 and first established support services, including the 24/7 support line and the Response and Support Coordination program, primarily for CAF members affected by sexual misconduct. Since then, under the leadership of Dr. Denise Preston, we have expanded our services to former CAF, DND public servants, and in the near future, to family members as well. The purpose of today’s event is to announce the launch of some new and expanded services offered by the SMRC.

Many important projects have been underway over the last several months, and it is a true honour to be here today to share these announcements with you. I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the contributions which so many people have made, not only recently but also in the past, which has made all of this possible.

The presenters you will hear today come from our new programs, and they will be providing details on each of these new services, including how and when you can anticipate having access to them.

Before hearing from them, I would like to go over a few housekeeping items. 

First, I want to encourage participants to listen to today’s session in their preferred language. To access our simultaneous interpretation, please click on the “Interpretation” button in the control bar at the bottom of the Zoom window – and select your language of choice. Please note that interpretation unfortunately is not possible for participants dialling in.

[Interpretation instructions are repeated in French]

As you may have noted on the registration confirmation email, this event is being recorded. Please rest assured that because this is a webcast and not a standard ‘web meeting’, this is essentially a one-way stream of communication and your anonymity is therefore protected. Only panellists are being recorded, and the webcast functionality ensures that all participant microphones will remain muted and cameras off.

We also want to assure you that we are not collecting personal information from this session, and any information received – like the registered participants listed – will be destroyed following the session.

[Text on-screen: Agenda. Opening remarks. Peer Support Model. Online Peer Support Platform. Response and Support Coordination Program Expansion. Restorative Engagement. Upcoming programs and initiatives. Questions and Answers. Closing Remarks.]

We will have time at the end of the event today to answer your questions. Do not hesitate to submit your questions throughout the event by clicking on the Q&A icon located at the bottom or the top of your screen. Only the event host and presenters will see your name and questions. However, when you do submit, you can check off the “Send anonymously” button so that your name does not appear. Someone from my team will moderate the questions and my team and I will do our best to respond to as many as we can.  

[Shoba repeat the instructions on how to submit questions in French]

Finally, I want to remind everyone attending today that if you are in need of support during or after this session, we encourage you to speak with one of the SMRC’s Response and Support counsellors in English or French toll-free at 1-844-750-1648. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

On this note, I am happy to begin the presentations about our new and expanded programs. Our first presentation is Melissa Heimerl’s, National Program Manager of the Peer Support Program at the SMRC. Melissa will first be speaking to you about our new peer support model, and will then be joined by Lee Swain and Anne Gauthier, representatives from a company called Togetherall, to talk about the launch of an online peer support platform. Melissa, the floor is yours. 

[Text on-screen: Military Sexual Trauma Peer Support Program]

(Melissa Heimerl) Thank you so much Shoba and thank you everyone for joining us today. My name again is Melissa Heimerl and I am the National Program Manager for the MST Peer Support Program at the SMRC. We are very excited to share with you today the MST Peer Support Program model as well as our first program service, which will be launched later today.

I will begin by providing a brief overview of SMRC’s peer support program model, which was developed based on the consultations carried out with the community in the fall of 2021. You can find the full report from this consultation on the SMRC website. Afterwards, we will provide a demonstration of the first service launch of our program: an online discussion forum called Togetherall.

I would like to now show you the final program visual for the MST Peer Support Program.

[Text on-screen: Program Model for Peer Support, includes one-on-one in person support, in-person formal groups with mental health professionals, group virtual meeting platforms, in-person informal groups, group discussion boards, one-on-one text and chat mobile app, and one-on-one virtual meeting platform. Centre screen reads: “You have the flexibility to change from one format to another at any time”]

This development process was actualized as a result of the consultations held last fall and is solely based on a program model that represented the service programming that the community wanted to see. You will notice that the visual has 5 different program options that we will be delivering as part of this program:

The first launch will be an online discussion forum called Togetherall, which I will explain in further detail in a few minutes, and of which we will soon receive a quick demonstration as well.

The second is a text and chat application called Confide, which will allow the MST community to either text or chat with a counsellor on the 24/7 line, or with a peer supporter once they are hired and engaged. The app also has a wealth of resources compiled within it as well.

The third service will consist of individual support (in-person or online) by trained peers, and will be facilitated by an external organization which will be responsible for the hiring, recruitment, and training of these peers. This approach, once again, stems from consultations we had with persons with lived experiences, who recommended an approach that is independent from the program so that community members would use it and have confidence in its process. The hiring of this external organization is currently in the procurement process.

The fourth service will be informal groups. We will be launching two different group formats; again, this approach was used due to the responses we received in the consultations in the fall of 2021. The first group type will be an informal peer support group, where members can come and go from the group as needed, and will have a more informal approach led by two trained peer facilitators, which again may be in-person or online.

The second group format is a formal peer support group. These groups will be led by a peer facilitator but will be co-facilitated by a mental health professional in order to do psycho-education with the group, and to help manage any group dynamics that may emerge. These groups will have a start and finish date with the same peers throughout, and again may be available in-person or online.

The last service offering of the program was also recommended to us during consultations. It consists of informal activities between peers on behalf of the clients who already have access to the program, for example, a hike or an equine therapy day. These activities are only potentially considered for now, this is why they are not depicted in the model at the moment. We want to ensure that the selection processes are appropriate for these types of activities before they are implemented. We would like to thank the community once again today for sharing their comments with us last fall, and we are confident that this model reflects the services needed to fill this critical gap.

[Text on-screen: Initial Programming Launch Online Platform: Discussion Board. 1. The MST community needed assistance first and foremost to replace existing online discussion groups. 2. Previous platforms were difficult to manage and to ensure confidentiality and anonymity of users. 3. The MST Peer Support Discussion board will be available as a main peer support priority to help replace these previously used platforms.]  

I would now like to further explain to you our first program service launching today which is an online discussion board platform. As we understood it, the community was in need of an online peer-to-peer platform that would ensure the anonymity and confidentiality of users that would also have clinical moderation 24/7. We also heard loud and clear that the preference was for this service to be at arm’s length from the Government of Canada. We therefore prioritized this as our phase 1 launch for programming for the MST Peer Support Program.

The SMRC carried out an environmental analysis and found a third-party company that will be able to offer this service to our users. I would now like to welcome Mr. Lee Swain and Ms. Anne Gauthier, who will guide us through a demonstration of how this application operates, and the way in which it will provide an essential service to our community. Lee and Anne, I’m going to hand it over to you.

[Text on-screen: Togetherall logo. Under the name and title of Lee Swain, Head of Account Management, NA and Anne Gauthier, Bilingual Senior Clinical Moderator.]

(Lee Swain) Thank you so much Melissa. Good afternoon everybody. My name is Lee Swain, I use he/him pronouns and I am the head of account management with Togetherall and we’re happy to be here with you today. I'm going to let my colleague Anne introduce herself.

(Anne Gauthier) Hello everyone, it is a pleasure to be a part of today’s demonstration. My name is Anne Gauthier I am a bilingual clinical moderator at Togetherall.

[Anne reintroduces herself in French]

In brief, my role at Togetherall is to ensure the clinical safety of our members on the platform within a multidisciplinary team of clinicians.

[Anne repeats her role in French]

If at any point in the demonstration with Lee and I you have any questions, do not hesitate. If you have any questions, I am happy to answer in French or in English.

I will take it back to Lee for the rest of the demonstration now.

(Lee Swain) Great, thank you so much Anne. To give you a bit of background on Togetherall, as Melissa mentioned we are an online peer support platform. We have been in place for fifteen years and currently work with the British military. We also work with the province of Alberta and the province of Nova Scotia, and the Wellness Together Canada initiative through Health Canada. We function around the idea of the value of the community as it relates to mental well-being, and obviously the SMRC recognizes that in developing a peer support model.

[Text on-screen: The Power of a Community of Support. The benefits: Sharing, supporting, normalization, lived experience, belonging. Barriers preventing people from seeking support: Isolation and withdrawal, stigma, access, mental health literacy. But High demand for digital support communities: 1.9 million+ mental health support groups on Reddit, 2.5 million+ mental health support groups on Facebook, 344 million+ mental health #hashtags on Instagram, and 23.1 billion+ mental health #hashtags on Tik Tok]

There are a number of benefits to having peer support: the ability to share and normalize what people are experiencing and get support from others through that function of sharing lived experience can help create an incredible sense of belonging and support which we know is very important in terms of mental wellness, and is a supportive protective factor when it comes to mental health. We also know there’s lots of reasons people don’t seek support, in-person support for mental wellbeing and that could be because they feel isolated, they might have stigma associated with it, and that’s particularly true for individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct. There’s often stigma associated with that. There might be legitimate reasons why someone can’t access care; it could be distance, it could be a lack of resources, and that is why I think it’s really good that the SMRC is creating a peer support model that offers many options for people to access so that there are multiple doors people can access at their level of comfort. We’re excited to be the first phase 1 part of that launch.

We do know that, online, in terms of people reaching out for peer support, in many social media platforms there’s an incredible amount of outreach where people are seeking help and support from others on more traditional social media platforms, and to that end, Togetherall has created, in essence, a social media platform that includes asynchronous message boards and opportunities to connect with others, but in a safer, clinically moderated way.

[Text on-screen: Who we are: An accessible (immediate access, available 24/7, mobile first), safe (24/7 clinically moderated, anonymous, risk escalation processes), and vibrant (20+ million have access, 300,000+ supported, 300+ commissioning orgs) community.]

Like other peer support platforms, everyone has immediate access. You can sign up, you don’t need to be prescribed by the SMRC and you don’t need a special link. They will be providing information on how to access the platform. It is available 24/7, it is a web-based platform but it’s built mobile first so it works well on phones, tablets, and any device.

It is anonymous, which we think is really important for a number of reasons but depending upon somebody’s comfort speaking about their mental health, we know that anonymity makes it more comfortable for people to do that. We also know that 55% of people on our platform have shared something for the first time because of that anonymity and that level of comfort they feel.

It is also clinically moderated 24 hours a day, seven days a week by people like Anne and our other clinical moderators who are constantly monitoring the platform and making sure that that anonymity is protected, that there is no breach of anonymity, but also that if there are any indicators of risk by any of the members that are on the platform, they are able to reach out, help assess that risk, offer supportive resources and escalate that risk to emergency services if needed. Anne will talk about that a little bit later but I wanted to share that here.

It is important for everybody here to know that nothing we collect from you is shared. As Melissa mentioned, since we’re a third party, we will collect some registration information from you when you join the platform. We will also obviously moderate that risk and monitor for risks, but we do not share any of that content or information back to the SMRC, the Government of Canada, the DND or VAC. It’s all kept by us and really just used for our purposes.

I did also want to share a sense of the size of the community. We work with varying commission organizations, like the SMRC, who provide the service for their populations. We have more than 300 commissioning bodies, more than 300,000 people are supported on the platform and more than 20 million have access. When you join the platform, you are interacting with people from around the world; you are interacting with people from the UK, the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Ireland, so English-speaking countries, mostly, and it allows for that large amount of anonymity and protection. But there are ways to hone in on the people you want to talk to and connect with around your personal lived experience and I’ll explain that in the demo.

I’m going to switch over to another screen.

[Text on-screen: Login page for Togetherall]

When you log into Togetherall, you are asked to create an anonymous username. Here [Text on-screen: Shows username or email address field] I've created one for the purposes of this presentation.

Also, when you register you are asked if you want to choose the English community or the French community, so for our Canadian members we do have a French community, and because they are separate communities I'm only going to be demonstrating the English community today, but know that everything I show you is duplicated within the French community and works in the same way.

[Text on-screen: Home page for Togetherall Reads: “A safe space, where people provide peer-to-peer emotional support, health, and guidance.” Top of the news feed is visible, with control including Categories, Type of Post, and Create Post]

When I log into the platform, I am brought into the home page which is very much like other social media platforms in that it is an infinite scroll of the latest activity that is within the platform. There are three main parts to the platform: the peer community [Points to the community tab with icons of two conversation bubbles], which is really core to this effort, providing an opportunity to connect with others who have similar lived experiences and who you want to connect with for support. That is core to our program, but there also courses [Points to the courses tab with an icon of glasses] and resources [Points to the resources tab with an icon of a book]. This home page pulls together all three elements of the platform and so I'm going to talk about each first and then come back to this home page.

[Clicks on community icon] Within the peer support community, again, when I click in here it is similarly the latest activity on the platform, and as a member I can choose to create a post and share how I'm feeling, and there's a couple of ways I can do that. I can click here [Clicks on Create a post] and create a post, and we have three different types of posts that you can create.

[Text on-screen: After clicking “Create Post” button, the screen reads “How do you want to share your thoughts?” Options are “Write a Talkabout,” “Create a Brick,” and “Group Talkabout”]

One is called a Talkabout, it is basically a text-based post.

[Clicks on “Write a Talkabout”]

I would be able to write a post title [Points to the Insert post title field] about how I’m feeling. I’m able to share what is going on for me, what I’m experiencing here within this box [Points to a field text box titled What’s on your mind?] and then I am able to select categories that apply to what I am talking about. I can click here [Clicks on the Categories field] and these are commonly used tags, you can see anxiety, depression, trauma, relationships, loneliness [Complete list of categories shown on screen include Anxiety, Depression, General Chat, Recovery, Relationships, Stress, Loneliness, Student Experience, Sleep, PTSD/Trauma, Anger and Choose from other categories], but if I click on choose from other categories, you can see that there is a much longer list of categories I can choose from too [Other categories shown on screen include Abuse, Addiction, Autistic Spectrum Disorders, Body Image, COVID-19, Cultural Identity, Disability, Eating, Eco-anxiety, Gender Identity, Gender/Sexuality, Grief/Loss, Happiness, Illness, Inequality, Money Management, OCD, Parenthood/Parenting, Phobias, Pregnancy, Psychosis, Race/Ethnicity, Relaxation/Mindfulness, Religion/Religious Identity, Seasonal Affective Disorder, Self-Harm, Working from Home], and it is a multi-select tool so you can select multiple categories that relate to what you’re posting about. I would then type what I’m feeling and post my Talkabout [Clicks on the button Post your Talkabout], and that would post it to the community, inviting others on the platform to weigh in and offer support and validation for how I’m feeling.

[Text on-screen: Returns to the previous page, selects “Create a Brick”]

A second type of post is called a Brick, it is similar in a lot of ways in that you still put a title to your post [Points to the Insert post title field], you are still able to select categories for your post [Clicks on the Categories field], but there are also simplified drawing tools within the platform that allow me to creatively express myself as a member. Maybe I am not able to put what I’m feeling into words, but I am able to type some things in colour if I choose to [Clicks on the text tool], I am able to paint [Clicks on the paint brush tool] and draw with different colours and with different tools, I can also upload images related to how I feel [Clicks on the upload image tool].

Again, in uploading images, since it’s an anonymous platform, we certainly wouldn’t want people to upload any image that would indicate or be revealing as to an identity, but maybe, as you’ll see later when I show other parts of the platform, people may upload images of scenes that relate to how they’re feeling. I still can write a text-based caption if I choose to here to include with my post [Points to a text box field titled Description (optional)], and then I would post that to the platform [Clicks on Create a Brick]. Again [Clicks on the Go Back link], this is just a way some people choose to creatively express how they’re feeling rather than in text, and some people do this on a daily basis, just create an image as part of their recovery journey.

(Melissa Heimerl) Lee, is there a way to increase the font size for those who might be visually impaired?

(Lee Swain) I can do that, is that better?

(Melissa Heimerl) Yes, thank you.

(Lee Swain) I can also create a third type of post called a Group Talkabout [Points to the Group Talkabout]. Over time as you’re engaging in the community, you may get into a back-and-forth conversation with another member, you can choose to add them as a friend within the platform [Points to the Friends icon on the top right corner of the screen]. It is still an anonymous friend, we do not allow you to share personally identifiable information with other members but you can add them as a friend, you are able to direct message them if you choose to [Points to the Messages icon on the top right corner of the screen], and you can also create what’s called a Group Talkabout [Clicks on Group Talkabout].

So if there is a specific topic, you’d like to talk about but you don’t want it to be posted publicly on the public message board, you are able to create a Talkabout here [Points to the Insert post title field, Categories field and What’s on your mind? text box field], just like you would other Talkabouts, and then add members that you consider to be friends [Points to the Members field].

If for instance, you wanted to speak about your lived experience with sexual misconduct but you didn’t want to share that in the public message board, you could create a private group here where only the people you chose to see that message would be able to see it. It is important for you to know, however, that even things within the private Group Talkabout are still visible to our Wall Guides and clinical team. Nothing within the platform is hidden from them so even within those private group Talkabouts, we ask that you don't share any personally identifiable information, and if there are any indicators of risk, our clinical team will reach out [Clicks on Go Back].

If I go back to the community, as a member often I might not feel comfortable posting right away so I could just choose to read what other people are saying.

[Scrolls through news feed]

Here is a Talkabout post [Points to an existing Talkabout post]. You can see somebody's talking about their inner turmoil. They have tagged it anxiety, depression, relationships, and anger and this is their anonymous username, @puddlediver. I could click into this post [Clicks on Talkabout post],and read what they're sharing, I could read how other people have weighed in and offered support, see a couple of people have done that here @hopscotchporcupine, @potatoprints, and then as a user I could also offer support.

We know that it can actually be really therapeutic to offer support to others, so I could add my own comment here [Points to the Add a new comment field]. I could also star this posted if I want to favourite it and come back to it later [Points to a star icon titled Star post on the right hand side of the screen], and remember what people said. I can turn on notifications for the post [Points to a bell with a strike icon titled Turn on notifications icon on the right hand side of the screen] if I want to hear other advice or new activity within this post; it would then ping me up here in my notifications section. I can also report a post [Points to a flag icon titled Report post], which would send a note to a clinician if I have concerns about what is included here. Maybe I feel like it's not a supportive post, maybe I feel concerned for the member, maybe I feel that this person is bullying or trolling in the platform, I could use this report post button as well.

[Points to “Ask a Wall Guide” icon in the bottom right of the screen]

I'm also able, as a member, to ask the Wall Guide – at any point down here at the bottom right I can ask a question and that would open a direct message conversation with a Wall Guide. That could be about navigating the platform; that could also be about concerns.

So Anne maybe you want to share a little bit about when a clinician intervenes, what are the types of reasons clinicians might intervene and what that process looks like.

[Screen returns to Home page]

(Anne Gauthier) Absolutely Lee. So in many cases, in the clinical role at Togetherall, we are constantly monitoring for risk and, in particular, if a member posts any content that may seem concerning or is an indicator of risk towards the member, towards another member within the Togetherall platform. Within the team we would assess the urgency of the risk involved whether that's a community post, whether that's a community brick, and from there we would take additional steps including steps related to reaching out to the member within their direct messages. We can additionally provide members with additional resources; we can request further information on the member’s safety and in certain instances we could escalate the member to emergency services. But within the platform, all risk is moderated 24/7 as we mentioned, and a lot of the keywords do pop up on our end; as clinicians we would have that visibility to take a look to understand if it is a priority or if it is urgent and then act from there.

(Lee Swain) And it is important to point out our clinical moderators are that; they're moderators, they're not counselors. They do not engage in therapy with members of the platform, but they are there to connect with other resources and other services that might be able to help with that.

[Emphasizes the Mid-screen Tool Bar]

Going back to the main community page, a couple of other things I want to point out. You are able to revisit your own posts here [Points to the My posts tab], you can revisit any post that you've starred here [Points to the Starred tab]. If I don't want to scroll through this whole feed of the latest activity, I can also filter by those categories [Clicks on the filter button that provides a list of popular categories such as Anxiety, Depression, General Chat, Recovery and Relationships with an option of showing more categories]. The reason people tag those categories is it helps members find other posts related to the topics that they want to see. If I want to read about anxiety and addiction, I can click those two links and hit OK and it will filter out the feed just for those types of posts, so you are able to filter by any of the categories that are present there. I can also filter my type of post if I choose [clicks on the Type of post button that shows View all, Brick, Talkabout], to either a brick or Talkabout.

One other thing I want to share is the concept of groups. When you click into groups [Clicks on Groups Beta] you will see any private Group Talkabout that you're part of, that you've been invited to, that you're engaged in with others, but we also have a number of groups that you can join.

[Selects “See all Groups” at the bottom right corner of the Group’s page]

Some of these are wellness-based groups which are topical, there's a space to share health and lifestyle tips, to share humour, to share gratitude, as we know sharing those types of things can be helpful for one’s mental health journey.

[Scrolls downwards]

But particularly, I want to point out down here some role-based groups, and there is a military community so if you want to connect only with other individuals who are affiliated with military service in some way, you can do that.

[Clicks on the group titled “Military Community”]

When you click here, it functions just like the main message board that I demonstrated except you're only posting to others with that military experience.

[Clicks x next to previously selected “Addiction” and “Anxiety” filters to clear them]

I’m just clearing those filters to give you an idea. Here I would create a post in the same way that I did before but within this military community. It is only posting to other people have opted into that military community. That's one of the ways you can hone in on others with similar lived experiences.

I want to share two other parts of the platform. Within the resources section [Clicks on the book-shaped icon for the “Resources” tool, in the tool bar at the top left of the screen], there are a couple of tools that are helpful. There's a private journaling tool [Points to the Journal tool], a goal setting tool [Points to Goal setter tool] which can be helpful in trying to change behaviours. Sometimes you might not feel comfortable posting to the community but you want to get your thoughts down in private; you can do that here. Again, Wall Guides would see this so if you're journaling about self-harm or suicidal ideation or something like that, they are going to reach out and offer support.

There are also a number of clinically validated self-assessments you can take here [Scrolls downwards, four self-assessment tools are presented. These pertain to General distress, Loss or Trauma, Self-esteem, and Anxiety about health], and if you assess severe or moderately severe a Wall Guide will also reach out, again, to offer support in a supportive way if you want their help.

When you log in, there are three specific resources.

[Scrolls downwards, three articles are presented. They are entitled CFMAP, SMRC, and SMRC Search Tool]

There will be the EAP or support line associated with whether or not you're a serving CAF member, a veteran or former CAF member, a DND public service employee or family or a supporter who would be the family information line. Those would be linked here [Points to CFMAP on the screen] and then you'll see a link to the SMRC itself, as well as the SMRC search tool where you can search for other supports around sexual misconduct by region.

In addition to those three resources, if I click view all [Clicks on View all button] there are a number of self-help articles that you can read to increase your knowledge around different topics, and you are able to sort and filter them by those same categories. So if I only wanted to read about depression, I could click on the “Depression” filter and it would just pull up the self-help articles related to depression.

[Clicks on the glasses-shaped icon for the “Courses” tool, in the tool bar on the top left of the screen. Scrolls downwards through the various course offerings.]

The last piece I want to share is Courses. The courses themselves are rooted in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy principles so it's about behavior change. There are some around managing anger, there are some around veterans’ grief and loss, veterans’ PTSD, PTSD in general, depression, and again you can load more to see more, but each of these is modular and self-paced so you work through them at whatever speed you would like to.

We do also leverage elements of the resources so sometimes you will be asked to take a self-assessment, sometimes you will be asked to use that journaling or goal-setting tool as part of these courses, and we also leverage the peer community. [Clicks on the “Home” icon in the tool bar at the top left corner of the screen.] For each of these courses, there is a group conversation for people who are taking the course or have completed the course where you can share with others on how it's working for you, what you're learning, how you're trying to change your behavior, and get support for that.

Those are the three main sections of the course. I brought us back here to the main news feed which again pulls in all of the recent posts, but as you scroll down you'll see here’s a self-help article about looking after yourself during COVID-19. If I scroll further down, here's a course. So it's reminding users, as they filter through this news feed, of the other resources that are available in addition to the community posts themselves.

[Selects the “Filters” tool in the middle-right section of the screen. A pop-up screen shows a variety of topics to avoid or include in filters]

Here you are able to also filter by those different categories. If there are certain categories that are triggering to you, maybe there are certain things you do not want to read about or maybe you only want to read about certain topics. For each of those tags, you can choose to avoid or include them in your news feed and then you will only see the content that you feel is relevant to you and that you feel is safe for you to read.

The last thing I'll share very quickly is what we call the wall [Clicks on the “Explore the wall” icon in the top right section of the home page. A grid of rectangular “Brick” posts compiled to form a “Wall” is presented, made up by various artistic expressions posted by community members.] and this is the way that we pull together all of those visual brick posts. That's why we call them bricks, so that makes a little more sense, we pull them into a wall. You're able to drag around the wall and see what visual posts are interesting to you and click into them.

[Clicks on a blue and yellow brick post]

If I see a post and I'm curious about what it means or it resonates with me, I'm able to see that @zazz1234 has posted this about sunshine.

Again, sometimes people are doing this as part of their daily recovery – drawing something, making something creative, making some art – as part of the recovery journey and they're doing that here. When you open a brick from the wall, it opens just like it does in the community. You can do all the same things you did before; you can comment, you can star the post, report the post, whatever you might want to do.

[Returns to the Home Page]

So that is a quick summary of the platform itself. I do want to show you how to register. The MST peer support program will share these links with you all. [Switches tabs to the Togetherall registration page.]

There is an English registration page and a French registration page [Changes tabs to show the registration page]. On each one, you will see some background on the service, some more information about the service if you'd like. Down at the bottom there's some frequently asked questions; we’ll get to questions, of course, at the end of today's session but there are also more frequently asked questions here [Scrolls down the bottom of the page and points out the questions in the French platform].

There are four registration buttons [Points to the four registration buttons on the French platform: Vous êtes un membre des Forces armées canadiennes (FAC)? (Canadian Armed Forces Member?) Vous êtes un vétéran/ancien membre des FAC? (Veteran/Former CAF member?) Vous êtes une employée ou un employé de la fonction publique du MDN? (DND Public Service Employee?) Vous êtes membre de la famille ou un proche? (Family Member or Supporter?)]. and you would choose the button that is applicable for you, so if you're a serving CAF member, if you’re a former CAF member, a DND public service employee or a family member or supporter, you would choose the registration pathway that is appropriate for you.

[Clicks on the “Joignez-vous dès aujourd’hui” (Join Today) button]

If I click on that link, this will then take me to the registration page [Registration page shows Create account followed by Check if Togetherall is available to you and two fields: Which describes you? With I’d like to search for my organization in the field and Find eligible organization with Forces armées canadiennes – Membres de la famille et sympathisants (Canadian Armed Forces – Family Member or Supporter) in the field] and you will be asked for (it's not letting me, I'm already logged in) but basically would then be asked for an e-mail address, a phone number, a postal code. That is the only personally identifiable information that we collect from you and we only use it in the event of risk escalation. That information is never shared with SMRC or anybody at the Government of Canada. Once you click submit, you'll receive an activation e-mail to then complete your registration, that's how we verify that you're a real person, and then you will be able to access the platform after answering a couple of demographic questions and presenting issues and conditions.

I'm going to stop there because I think we're out of time, but know that Anne and I are both sticking around to the end to answer questions you might have about the platform, so I’ll pass it back over to Melissa.

(Melissa Heimerl) Thank you, Anne and Lee.

[Returns to SMRC’s slide deck. Screen reads: Interested in getting involved? Email us at SMRCPSP-CISSPSP@forces.gc.ca]

We’d like to thank you again for your attendance today as we discussed the plan for the MST Peer support Program and we hope this will be a valuable service to the community. We will continue to update you on the phased launches of the other parts of the peer support program through our SMRC website and social media platforms. You will also find there today the versions of the models as well as registration links to register with the Togetherall application. You can also email us at our positional mailbox if you have any questions, feedback, or interest in the peer support program itself. I would now like to welcome my colleague, Elizabeth Cyr – Manager of the Response and Support Coordination Program – to share her program announcements. Thank you.

(Elizabeth Cyr) Thank you, Melissa. Good afternoon. Today, we are very pleased to be making an announcement about the Response and Support Coordination Program. Before I get into details, I want to first give you some context about the Response and Support Coordination Program – which I will refer to from now on as the ‘RSC Program.’

The RSC Program is one of the programs of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre or SMRC. It neither reports through nor to the Chain of Command – it is truly an initiative that has been set up to meet the needs of those who have experienced sexual misconduct. It is separate from, but works alongside, the SMRC’s 24/7 support line.

In the context of this program, people who have experienced sexual misconduct are paired with a case coordinator who provides them with support, assistance, and help with navigating the systems, as per their own situation. Given that each person has unique and specific needs and objectives in relation to their experience, the coordinator works in collaboration with the person to develop an approach which prioritizes their needs and objectives first.

[Text on-screen: RSC Program graphic is shared, the 6 components include liaison and coordination, practical assistance, accompaniment, workplace arrangements, information and referrals, and support]

It is not necessary for the person to have officially reported their experience with sexual misconduct nor to have any intention to do so in order to get access to the program. Nevertheless, if they have reported it or if they intend to, the coordinator can accompany them through this process.

The RSC Program has been in place for about three years, since the summer of 2019. It began as a program for currently serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces who had experienced sexual misconduct. As of last fall, the Program grew to also serve former members and veterans, as well as public service employees of the Department of National Defence.  

Since its launch, the RSC Program has been offered from a central location to individuals across Canada and worldwide. But recent funding has allowed us to start working on the next phase of the program, which includes hiring staff in different locations across Canada to set up regional locations. 

This brings me to today’s announcement, which is the fruit of this work. Today, I have the great pleasure to share with you the official launch of the first three regions of the Response and Support Coordination program: the regions of Quebec, the Pacific, which includes the Province of British Columbia and the Yukon Territory, and the National Capital, which includes the Ottawa-Gatineau region, as well as the Nunavut Territory.

Staff have been hired in these regions so that persons who have experienced sexual misconduct can work with a coordinator who is familiar with their particular geographical context and who is capable of assisting them at a more local level.

Having staff right in those regions will increase in-person support; help Coordinators build relationships both within and outside the military at a local and regional level; and help raise awareness about the Program. Regional Coordinators will be better aware of the specific cultures and realities that people face where they are.

We started with three regions to learn and adapt, so that we are as responsive as possible. We want to get this right. We are working to ensure that the remaining three regions: Atlantic, Ontario and the Prairies, will be open over the next year. In the meantime, we have Coordinators in place who will continue to provide services and support individuals no matter where they are – across the country and worldwide – until all of the regions are fully operating. 

I want to leave you with a few thoughts about the RSC Program. We know that word-of-mouth is really important in terms of letting people know about the services that are available to them.

The RSC program works to uphold the dignity and respect of those who have experienced sexual misconduct. We recognize and affirm the diversity of our clients and meet every person where they are to support them around their specific lived realities, goals, and needs.

Always with the person’s consent, Coordinators work with other service providers, members of the Chain of Command and managers, to remove barriers, help clients get information or access services, and ensure their needs are heard, understood and considered. This can also include working together to set up workplace arrangements that meet their needs.

Finally, Coordinators can accompany clients to appointments, meetings or events, to support them. For example, they could be present at meetings with police, during legal or administrative proceedings, or at a meeting with their supervisor.

We invite you to inform the people whom you think might be interested about our regional expansion. This expansion is largely due to the people with lived experiences of sexual misconduct who have so clearly expressed the necessity of a regional model, in order to better meet their needs. We thank you for your engagement.

Those interested in joining or learning more about the program are invited to call the SMRC 24/7 line, which is the point of entry for the program. A counsellor will explain the program’s offerings and can refer you to a coordinator, in accordance with your location and your preferred official language.

Thank you very much. I will now hand it over to my colleague, Nadia Lécuyer.

[Text on-screen: Restorative Engagement Program]

(Nadia Lécuyer) Thank you, and hello everyone. Thank you for taking the time to join us. I will be speaking to you today briefly about the Restorative Engagement Program, the Duty to Report exception, and the impact of this exception on the program.

[Text on-screen: Restorative Engagement Program. Part of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) / Department of National Defence (DND) Sexual Misconduct Class Action Settlement. A collaboration between the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre and Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management. Supported by internal and external stakeholders and subject matter experts.]

The Restorative Engagement program is part of the Canadian Armed Forces-Department of National Defence Sexual Misconduct Class Action Final Settlement Agreement.

It was designed by the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre in collaboration with Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management and in consultation with internal and external stakeholders, affected persons, and subject matter experts.

The goal is to assist class members interested in sharing their experiences and/or their ideas related to sexual misconduct with representatives from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence, as well as contributing to the improvement of institutional responses to sexual misconduct and to changing the culture that promotes it.

[Text on-screen: Purpose of Restorative Engagement. Create supportive sharing opportunities for class members. Create learning opportunities for representatives of the DND/CAF. Identify the lessons learned and take action toward broader culture change efforts across the DND. Model, learn about, and build capacity for the use of a principle-based restorative approach.]

More specifically, the objectives of the Restorative Engagement program are as follows: 

Giving class members the option of choosing which aspects of their experiences, their knowledge, or their understanding of sexual misconduct they’d like to share, including its causes and impacts. 

Secondly, to create opportunities for CAF and DND representatives to recognize, understand, and learn from the experiences and knowledge of the class members, and to assume both individual and collective responsibility for its causes and institutional responses.

A third objective of the program is to create opportunities for class members and Defence representatives to identify lessons learned and to take action, in real time, to contribute to broader institutional culture change efforts; and lastly, to

Model, learn about, and build capacity for the use of restorative approaches as a response to harm and as a way to build an inclusive and respectful institutional culture, now and into the future.

The Restorative Engagement Program was launched on November 15th, 2021, and is in its initial phase. What this means is that the initial group of class members contacted to participate during this initial phase will be small (about 150-250) in order to ensure that all of the necessary resources, supports and systems are in place.

Engagement between class members and Defence Team representatives has begun, and the feedback from the first participants up to now has been extremely positive. The team is committed to continually ensuring that the program is flexible and agile in order to achieve its goals and objectives, as well as to remain receptive of the needs of class members.

One area of concern in launching the program was the application of Duty to Report.

Class members, affected persons, members of the SMRC external advisory council, voiced their concerns that the Duty to Report could come into play depending on what information would be shared with CAF representatives in the program.

[Text on-screen: Duty to Report. On 25 May 2022, the Minister of National Defence amended the QR&Os to create an exception to the Duty to Report within the context of a Restorative Engagement Program. This means that Duty to Report will not be acted on should a class member decide to share details during their participation in the RE program.]

Through this incredible advocacy, I am thrilled to say that on May 25th, 2022, the Minister of National Defence amended the Queen’s Regulations & Orders to create an exception to the Duty to Report within the context of a Restorative Engagement Program.

This means that there will be no obligation to report if a class member decides to share details during their participation in the program.

As mentioned, the Restorative Engagement program seeks to assist class members in sharing their experiences, knowledge, and/or understanding of sexual misconduct. The class members can decide on what to share in the context of the program, and now, with no concern about the duty to report.

The Restorative Engagement program was not intended, nor designed, to address individual accountability, which is one of the purposes of Duty to Report. The intent and spirit of the program is to enable sharing in a safe, supportive and confidential environment.

The amendment will not limit a class member’s ability to report; it will rather ensure that the CAF representatives, who have volunteered to listen, recognize, and learn, are not put in a position where they are obligated to report the incidents of misconduct.

It is our hope that this amendment will allow the program to be delivered as it was intended. Thank you.

(Shoba Ranganathan) Thank you, Nadia, Elizabeth, Melissa and the Togetherall team.

The development of the MST Peer Support Program, the expansion of the RSC program, and the work the team has done towards the exception for the duty to report are some of the examples of the existing work that has been ongoing to increase support to the community of people affected by sexual misconduct in the CAF and DND.

They are also tangible examples of the department’s 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.

To conclude these presentations, I am pleased to share that what we have spoken about today only reflect a few of the SMRC’s upcoming initiatives.

[Text on-screen: Upcoming Programs and Initiatives.]

Today’s session has shed light on some of the new SMRC services which were immediately ready to be announced. However, we plan to organize another information session near the end of summer 2022 to share additional details on many other programs and services which we are preparing to offer in the months to come.

Without giving too much away before these initiatives are ready for a full-scale launch, I would like to provide you with a little sneak peek at what’s ahead.

[Text on-screen: Upcoming Programs and Initiatives. Expansion of the existing Sexual Assault Centre Contribution Program to a Grant Program. Development of an Independent Legal Advice Program. New Partnership and Engagement team. Launch of a mobile application for text and chat support.]

I am happy to share that we will be launching a Grant Program. This will expand the existing Sexual Assault Contribution Program which funds projects from civilian sexual assault centres, to make it more responsive to the needs of those with lived experiences. The new Grant Program takes a broader approach and seeks to support survivors of sexual assault in the wider CAF community by increasing access to services and resources. 

Two types of grants will be available to eligible not-for-profit community-based service providers: one-time funding of up to $50,000 per project, and recurrent funding of up to $75,000 per year.

Funding will be available for a wide range of potential projects and initiatives. I am talking here about the production of research related to supporting persons affected by sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, the creation of support groups, and the provision of support services adapted to the needs of diverse underserved people and groups, such as women, men, LGBTQ+ communities and gender diverse communities, among others.  

I also want to speak about the new legal support services that SMRC will be launching in the near future. The access of legal advice is a significant gap in survivor support. To address this gap, the SMRC’s Independent Legal Advice Program will provide legal information, advice and legal representation to people with lived experiences of military sexual misconduct.

The goal will be to provide services which respond to the needs of victims and survivors, in order to give them the means to make informed decisions.

Under a temporary benefit model, the SMRC with reimburse victims for the cost of legal fees incurred. A complete and permanent program model, taking feedback from people with lived experiences into account, will be implemented next.

The next item that I look forward to sharing with you at our next session relates to the advancements made on the SMRC’s approach to Partnership and Engagement.

A dedicated Partnership and Engagement team has been developed and is working diligently to draft a new robust stakeholder engagement framework to guide all engagement activities. 

The Partnership and Engagement team strives to reimagine partnership and stakeholder engagement by expanding the availability of feedback methods.

This team will serve as a hub for all engagement activities and will ensure that consultations are safe, thoughtful, coordinated, and inclusive. These principles will help guide enduring partnerships with people with lived experiences of sexual misconduct as well as the wider stakeholder community.

As mentioned in our Peer Support Program model, the SMRC is also planning to launch a mobile application that will serve as a centralized online portal for support services and resources.

The mobile application is being designed and tailored specifically for the SMRC. Initially, it will offer access to text and chat functionality which will allow users to connect virtually with an SMRC counsellor, and then will later be the platform to connect peers with peer supporters as part of the overall peer support program.  

This application is linked to a wealth of information and supplementary resources and will include an integration with the Respect in the Canadian Armed Forces (RitCAF) application, which is already available.

This service will be offered not only to active members but also to former members, as well as to public service staff at DND and to their families.

Finally, I would like to say that SMRC is taking proactive measures to reinforce its independence. We are enthusiastic about the idea of providing you with further details on this subject, as well as on all the other programs and services that I have just mentioned, during our next information session.

[Text on-screen: Thank you! If you have any feedback on this presentation, please send it to SMRC.Partnerships-Partenariats.CIIS@forces.gc.ca]

But more importantly, I would like to thank each of you for participating and joining us today. We thank you for your thoughtful questions and your continued support and patience as we work towards preparing these programs for launch.

The SMRC is proud to adopt a trauma-informed, survivor-centred approach in its work. We hope that events like this one will continue to expand our reach within our community with the goal of being more inclusive and representative of the diversity we know exists within the Defence Team and the people with lived experiences of military sexual misconduct.

If you wish to be more involved with the SMRC and consulted on future programs, like those which we have presented today, I encourage you to send an email to our Partnerships and Engagement Team at the address on the screen (SMRC.Partnerships-Partenariats.CIIS@forces.gc.ca).

Please do note that the recording of today’s session will be made available on our website, which is at Canada.ca/defence-sexual-misconduct-response-centre.

To stay tuned for our next event and other programs and services, please make sure to follow the SMRC on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

Thank you again, so much for your participation in this event. Thank you, Merci, Megwich.

Get involved

If you would like to be notified of our upcoming events or would like to provide feedback on the SMRC’s programs and initiatives, please send us an email at: SMRC.Partnerships-Partenariats.CIIS@forces.gc.ca.

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