Succession Planning in the Canadian Forces


Succession Planning in the Canadian Forces

Case number


In the recent review of a grievance concerning allegations that the grievor had been passed over for subordinate command/executive development assignments, the Board found that the "succession planning" process employed by the Navy in 2008 discriminated against the grievor on the basis of age (a prohibited ground of discrimination).  The process could not be saved either as a Bona Fide Occupational Requirement or, using the Supreme Court of Canada test in Oakes, justified as a reasonable limitation pursuant to section 1 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Based on the evidence on file, as well as the Navy's response to additional inquiries, the Board noted that the discriminatory practice - use of the age-driven parameter of years remaining to serve (YRS) - was not confined to the grievor's individual case and that it did appear that this practice continues.  It also appeared, although the details were not clear since they were not directly relevant to the grievance in question, that similar processes are employed in the Canadian Army and the Royal Canadian Air Force.  There was also some mention in the case at hand that the Navy, at least, intends to introduce a similar process to address succession planning for non-commissioned Canadian Forces (CF) members.

The age-driven parameter of YRS was used twice in the 2009 Naval Succession Planning Board (NSPB) proceedings.  First, all officers were assessed on a number of parameters which included "future employability", defined as "Board Member's assessment of the candidate's (top) potential based on Potential ratings and assessments ... and the time remaining to serve to realize potential (35 years of service)."   Using this criterion (among others) a list of all candidates before the NSPB in order of assessed merit was prepared.  All officers were then separated into "bands" defined by the number of YRS - for example, those with 5-11 YRS were in one band, those with 12-14 YRS in another, and so on.  Less favourable career treatment was afforded those officers in bands with fewer YRS, notwithstanding that their performance, as well as other criteria, may have been rated higher.


The Board recommended that "succession planning" processes in the CF be changed in future implementation as may be required to eliminate the indirect age discrimination resulting from the use of YRS as an assessment criterion in determining whether a CF member will be afforded more favourable career treatment than his peers.

Final Authority Decision

The CDS was satistied with the Navy succession planning as it is. Given the stringent experience and education components involved in qualifying for promotion and considering that those requirements take years to accumulate, the CDS had no doubt that there must be some consideration of a member's YRS in this process. To this end, he believed that this type of careful succession planning does indeed consider a member's realistic potential, the present and future needs of the CAF, and the career aspirations of the member. He was confident that consideration of YRS is justifiable as a reasonable limitation of the right to be free of discrimination, in accordance with Section 1 of the Charter.

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