June 21, 2021 – Ottawa
After some 26 meetings totalling 66 hours of testimony from some 25 witnesses, the Liberal Committee members of the Standing Committee on National Defence releases 24 recommendations to help create meaningful and lasting change in the Canadian Armed Forces. Unlike the Conservative Party of Canada, our focus is and has always been on those members in the Canadian Armed Forces who have experienced sexual harassment, assault, and abuse of power and we are committed to learning from them.
Given the impasse that the committee has faced, the Liberal Party of Canada members have released the following recommendations to the Minister of National Defence and to former Supreme Court Justice, Madame Louise Arbour, to inform her work as she undertakes an independent review of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Based on the Standing Committee on National Defence’s study of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, the following recommendations are crucial to ensuring a safe workspace for all servicewomen and men in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF):
INFORMATION BUILDING & INFORMED STRATEGIES
- Recommendation 1: The Department of National Defense and Canadian Armed Forces must collect disaggregated data, including by sex and rank, and use this data to inform CAF decision-making.
- Recommendation 2: Any plan to combat sexual misconduct in the CAF must ensure the wants and needs of those impacted by sexual misconduct and other forms of non-inclusion are met. Meeting these needs and wants should be a guiding principle in decision-making, especially in terms of research, policy, programs, services and benefits.
- Recommendation 3: The Department of National Defense and Canadian Armed Forces must collaborate with Justice Louise Arbour to do a strategic and transparent review of the existing sexual misconduct-related processes, including oversight processes, from beginning to end through a trauma-informed, survivor-centric lens in collaboration with independent experts and MST survivors. This strategic review must include the roles and responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Health Services to prevent, identify and using the best evidence, treat and support those whose health and well-being is negatively impacted by sexual misconduct.
- Recommendation 4: The sexual misconduct reporting process must include a Quality Assurance process to ensure that trauma awareness and respect for the dignity of the individual impacted by sexual misconduct is always be reinforced and adopted as a guiding principle at all levels of work.
- Recommendation 5: The number of victims and survivors who voluntarily release and has been medically released should be tracked. The number should be made available in the annual reports on sexual
MILITARY SEXUAL TRAUMA AS AN OCCUPATIONAL / OPERATIONAL STRESS INJURY
- Recommendation 6: It must be defined that military sexual trauma (MST) is not a women’s issue; it is a human being issue, and military sexual trauma can be experienced by anyone and cover both the trauma arising from the sexual misconduct and the CAF response. MST should always be considered as a gender-specific issue.
- Recommendation 7: Most importantly, MST should be supported on par to other service-related injuries
throughout the Government of Canada, including:
- Enabling access by MST-impacted CAF members and Veterans, as well as their designated support person, to a tailor-made bilingual National MST Peer Support Network available to all genders.
- Ensuring that the Government of Canada to officially recognize MST as a full Occupational and/or Operational Stress Injury and include it within the scope of the Federal Framework on PTSD.
- Recommendation 8: The mandate of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) must be expanded. This includes making the SMRC the primary reporting resource for criminal and non-criminal sexual misconduct and outfitting the SMRC with additional resources to support their work. Additionally, the expansion of SMRC services to Veterans should be examined by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
SYSTEMIC CULTURE CHANGE
- Recommendation 9: Systemic cultural change is needed in the CAF. To achieve this end, the CAF will need to develop a comprehensive, prioritized, transparent and measurable plan with timeline. The plan must be informed by both independent and Defence Team expert advice including: knowledge of gender-based analyses (GBA+), trauma awareness, and lived experience of military culture from both from within the CAF dominant group and CAF members identifying as outside the normative culture.
- Recommendation 10: To achieve systemic culture change, the attributes of the ‘ideal soldier’ must be modernized to reflect the realities of the actual military needs of the 21st century. Specifically, a critical
examination of the CAF’s present dominant heteronormative, assumed masculine, white/European culture is essential. To support this recommendation, we recommend that a Defence Advisory Committee or Secretariat on Women in the CAF is formed.
- Recommendation 11: The CAF must also examine promotion criteria and review career incentive structures to create a more supportive environment, based on the principle of ‘rewarding the behaviours you wish to encourage’. Attention and care must be paid to the use of gendered and racialized phrases in the CAF. Both positive and negative connotations of gender and race attributes presently in common usage must be considered when developing promotion and performance management criteria. All those in leadership role—both commissioned and non-commissioned officers—have to be fully engaged in this process.
- Recommendation 12: Efforts to achieve culture change must be informed by the principles of the Women, Peace and Security agenda. The Champions for Women, Peace and Security, the Ambassador for Women, Peace and Security, as well as civil society must be integrated into consultations.
- Recommendation 13: To equalize servicemembers irrespective of gender, sufficient affordable high-quality childcare and before and after school care nearby CAF workplace must be made available to the families of all CAF members in a timely manner. This childcare must be available at all hours (including up to 24/7) of operational demand in the official language of their choice.
ROBUST STRATEGIES TO COMBAT SEXUAL MISCONDUCT
- Recommendation 14: More robust strategies to combat sexual misconduct and foster an environment favorable to the retention of victims and survivors who wished to remain in service and facilitate a trauma-informed release process are needed. They must go beyond gender integration to fostering gender inclusion and belonging. Funding for full meaningful and accountable integration of women into traditional male environments must be purposefully dedicated and protected.
- Recommendation 15: Abuse of power must be addressed. Increased education, guidance, intervention, oversight and anonymized mandatory exit interviews with all CAF members will be key to better
understanding and addressing abuse of power and authority. Building awareness of issues, including how power can be misused and abused and available recourses requires increased attention and consistent education throughout a CAF member’s career.
- Recommendation 16: Barriers to reporting sexual misconduct in DND/CAF must be alleviated. There should exist a single, independent body to deal with CAF/DND sexual misconduct. The CAF must establish a single, public, web-facing portal for information on sexual misconduct support, medical and mental care options, recourse and reporting processes which is easily accessible to survivors and their designated support.
- Recommendation 17: The CAF in collaboration with the Defence Team must consider the implementation of alternative to reporting sexual misconduct outside the chain of command, including through the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC). Additional considerations should be given to possible response and interventions to anonymously flag and address systemic barriers and concerns arising from these official and non-official reports.
- Recommendation 18: Experts recommend the elimination of the current ‘Duty to Report’ requirement. Instead, to create a survivor-centric reporting process that encourages survivor agency, the CAF should:
- a. Consider ‘Duty to Respond’ as a possible replacement for ‘Duty to Report’;
- b. Investigate the possibility of anonymous reporting of events/locations and perpetrators to identify
problematic concentrations or trends.
- Recommendation 19: On the topic of military justice reform, the Committee eagerly welcomes the speedy adoption of the report of Justice Fish.
- Recommendation 20: The Canadian Armed Forces, Department and National Defense, and Government of Canada are encouraged to establish an independent, external oversight mechanism. It could be established primarily to deal with sexual misconduct but its mandate could evolve to include other serious issues.
- Recommendation 21: Further, Parliamentary oversight over the issue of culture change and sexual misconduct behaviours should be expanded. On a recurring basis, the Standing Committee on National
Defense will invite the Minister of National Defense to testify on the progress being made on tackling sexual misconduct and culture change in the CAF and Department of National Defense.Where the opposition members have ignored the testimony of subject matter experts and victims, the Liberal members of the committee are committed to creating a safer and more welcoming Canadian Armed Forces.
“Unlike the members from the Conservative Party of Canada, we have been focused on listening to survivors and experts on how we can make a positive impact on the toxic culture of the Canadian Armed Forces. We have learned from their experiences and are committed to bringing about positive and lasting change in this institution. The opposition members should be ashamed of themselves for attempting to use this committee for cheap partisan attacks, rather than delivering real change for those in the Canadian Armed Forces.”
Yvan Baker, Liberal MP, Etobicoke Centre, and Member of the National Committee on National Defence
- The Standing Committee on National Defence (NDDN) began hearings on sexual harassment and misconduct in the CAF on 9 February 2021.
- The committee heard from expert witnesses such as Dr. Allan English, Dr. Alan Okros, Dr. Stefanie von Hlatky, former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps and Dr. Denise Preston.
- NDDN is chaired by Karen McCrimmon, Liberal MP, and a 31-year veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces.
- Liberal MP Yvan Baker is a member of NDDN, former management consultant, and former MPP for Etobicoke Centre.
- Liberal MP Sven Spengemann is a member of NDDN, holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School, and Chair of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs.
- Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld is a member of NDDN, former senior advisor to the OSCE, and current Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence.
- Liberal MP Larry Bagnell is a member of NDDN and current Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages (Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency).
- Liberal MP Yves Robillard is a member of NDDN and Member of Parliament for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin. On April 2021, Minister Sajjan announced the creation of a new internal organization to be led by Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan as the Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture. She will head a unit specifically dedicated to hearing, receiving, and supporting anyone who comes forward with
allegations of unacceptable conduct or harassment or assault.
- Minister Sajjan also announced that Madame Louise Arbour will lead an Independent External Comprehensive Review into DND/CAF policies and culture, including harassment and sexual misconduct.
- In early June 2021, Minister Sajjan tabled the third independent review of the National Defence Act (NDA) conducted by former Justice Morris J. Fish. This review will inform steps forward to strengthen the military justice system.
- Budget 2021 commits over $236M to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the Canadian Armed Forces, including expending the reach of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre and providing online & in-person peer to peer support.