Independent External Comprehensive Review

Learn about the objectives, recommendations, and timeline of events of the Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR).

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The Independent External Comprehensive Review was presented to the Department of National Defence (DND) by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour. It contains 48 recommendations for DND and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to address current cultural issues within the organization.


On April 29, 2021, the DND announced that former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour would conduct an Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR) of policies, procedures, programs and culture within DND and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) .

The aim of the review was to:

  • Shed light on the causes for sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, despite efforts to eradicate it, within DND/CAF
  • Identify barriers to reporting inappropriate behaviour and assessing the adequacy of the response when reports are made
  • Make recommendations for preventing and eradicating sexual harassment and sexual misconduct

Additional details about the instructions provided to the IECR are in the IECR Terms of Reference.

From May 2021 to May 2022, Madame Arbour and her team conducted an extensive review, which included a review of:

  • the CAF recruitment, training, performance evaluation, posting, and promotion systems
  • the military justice system’s policies, procedures, and practices to respond to allegations of harassment and sexual misconduct
  • the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre’s (SMRC) mandate
  • the progress made in addressing the recommendations contained in former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps’ 2015 report
  • existing external oversight and/or review mechanisms related to misconduct

On May 20, 2022, Madame Arbour delivered the final report of the IECR to the Minister of National Defence, The final report provided 48 recommendations.

The Minister of National Defence welcomed the report and has directed the DND/CAF to move forward on all 48 recommendations. On December 13, 2022, the Minister provided a report to Parliament on culture change reforms related to the IECR. The report outlined progress on IECR recommendations where implementation was already underway and outlined the way forward for implementing the remaining recommendations.

Read a timeline of important milestones for the Independent External Comprehensive Review.

Response to the recommendations

While the IECR was underway, Madame Arbour provided four interim recommendations for immediate attention. The Minister of National Defence accepted the interim recommendations and directed DND/CAF to immediately begin work to implement them.

In the final IECR report, Madame Arbour put forward 48 concrete recommendations to the DND/CAF to:

  • prevent and address sexual harassment and sexual misconduct
  • identify barriers to reporting inappropriate behaviour
  • evaluate the adequacy of responses to reports of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct

These recommendations were focused on:

  • Definitions of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment
  • Duty to report sexual misconduct
  • Military justice
  • Conducting administrative action
  • Submitting complaints of sexual harassment or sexual misconduct
  • Military grievance system
  • Support to affected persons and the Sexual Misconduct Resource Centre
  • Recruitment of CAF members
  • Military training and professional military education
  • Military Colleges
  • Human Resources: performance appraisal, promotions, career management, postings, and succession planning

On receiving the IECR report, the Minister of National Defence:

  • Directed the Defence Team to immediately begin working to implement 17 of the IECR recommendations (#12, #13, #14, #15, #17, #18, #20, #21, #22, #32, #33, #35, #41, #42, #45, #47, #48) through new efforts or by strengthening existing programs.
  • Committed to studying, analyzing and developing plans to respond to the remaining 31 recommendations.

In December 2022, the Minister of National Defence directed the DND/CAF to move forward on all 48 recommendations.

External Monitor

On October 24, 2022, the Minister of National Defence announced the appointment of an External Monitor, in line with Recommendation #48 of the IECR.

The External Monitor, Madame Jocelyne Therrien, is responsible for monitoring the progress of DND/CAF’s implementation of the recommendations in the IECR, as per the IECR External Monitor Terms of Reference, and reporting back to the Minister.

The External Monitor publishes reports for the public bi-annually.

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