Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my good friend, the member of Parliament for Oakville North—Burlington, whom I have the privilege of working alongside on so many issues, including in committee on public safety.
Once again, I am thankful for the opportunity to rise today to address the House on a subject that concerns all of us: the well-being of the members of our Canadian Armed Forces and those who support them.
In recent months, Canadians have heard the heart-wrenching accounts of Canadian Armed Forces members and civilian colleagues who have been subjected to behaviours, treatment and experiences that are completely unacceptable. For far too long, their accounts have been ignored.
For instance, opposition members knew of the rumours against General Vance in 2015, yet still appointed him. They appointed him while there was an active Canadian Forces national investigation service investigation into him, and appointed him to the most senior position within the Canadian Armed Forces. The current leader of the official opposition said that he passed along sexual misconduct rumours about General Vance in 2015, claiming those were looked into. I ask my fellow Conservative members, how is this possible, if General Vance was appointed at the same time and the investigation was suddenly dropped?
What our members have endured is wrong. The Canadian Armed Forces is entrusted to keep Canadians safe at home and abroad. The organization owes survivors more. Every Canadian Armed Forces member makes enormous personal sacrifices to protect Canadians and, regardless of rank or gender identity, has an undeniable right to serve in safety. We must and we will live up to that expectation.
The Minister of National Defence has always followed the processes that were put in place when allegations were brought to his attention. This is something he has said publicly, in this House, and it is something he will continue to do. However, as members have no doubt heard from my hon. colleagues, our government is taking important steps to address systemic misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces to bring about cultural change within the organization.
The need to change the military's culture is born of the reality that the lived experiences of many defence team members are completely out of line with the values professed within the organization and by the organization, which are values of integrity, inclusion and accountability. That needs to change, and we are committed to bringing about that change.
If we want that change to be significant, if we want it to be meaningful and if we want it to last, then we need to reflect honestly on what has been happening. Where we find failings and fault, we must accept responsibility. Where we are able to learn lessons, we must seize the opportunity to build a better organization. Where members of the defence team share their accounts and experiences, we must listen and we must listen very carefully.
The end goal is simple. It is to ensure that every member of the defence team, every member of the Canadian Armed Forces is valued and respected. Defence culture and professional conduct must reflect the core values and ethical principles our military aspires to uphold as a national institution, which is what Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, recruits, public servants and Canadians deserve and expect of the organization.
It is clear that the measures we have taken already since forming government have not gone far enough and have not moved fast enough. This is why we announced last week that Madame Arbour will conduct an independent review into the Canadian Armed Forces, including the creation of an external reporting system that is independent from the chain of command and meets the needs of those impacted by sexual misconduct and violence. It is also why, in budget 2021, we committed over $236 million to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the Canadian Armed Forces, including expanding the reach of the sexual misconduct response centre and providing online and in-person peer-to-peer support. All options to create a safer future for women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces are going to be considered to change the culture of toxic masculinity that exists in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Last Thursday, the Minister of National Defence announced the creation of a new organization to lead us there. Among the many other initiatives I just talked about, the Department of National Defence appointed Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan as DND's new chief of professional conduct and culture. Under her leadership, the professional conduct and culture organization will unify, integrate and coordinate all of the policies, programs and activities that address systemic misconduct and support culture change within the forces. The organization will include a new assistant deputy minister who will directly support Lieutenant-General Carignan. The team will bring together members from all ranks and classifications, reflecting the diversity that Canadians expect. Make no mistake. This is not a generic prepackaged solution to a long-standing problem. Before any future steps are taken, those working to bring about change will actively listen to the accounts of people affected, people at every rank, every level and across all regions of this country.
As so many members of the defence team have already shared experiences and recommendations, we do not have to wait before implementing a number of much-needed changes. Lieutenant-General Carignan and her team will take a number of steps to bring about change right away. To start, they will wrap up Operation Honour. Much has already been said about drawing this initiative to a close, but it bears repeating. Lieutenant-General Carignan and her team will review all of the research conducted under Operation Honour so its findings can inform renewed culture change efforts.
This new team will also develop mechanisms to implement the workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations of Bill C-65. It will also support ongoing efforts to bring the remaining provisions of Bill C-77 into force. This includes introducing the declaration of victims rights into the National Defence Act.
The next order of business will be to form a team to establish a framework that will help achieve a number of longer-term goals. It will realign responsibilities, policies and programs that address elements of systemic misconduct across National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. It will also simplify and enhance misconduct reporting mechanisms, including for people outside of the chain of command. It will give greater agency to, and strengthen support mechanisms for, those who have experienced misconduct. It will enhance tracking mechanisms, from initial reports of the misconduct to case closures. It will also integrate additional data points, such as intersectionality, reprisals, member satisfaction and retention. Finally, it will lead institutional efforts to develop a professional conduct and culture framework that tackles all types of harmful behaviour, biases and systemic barriers.
So much work has already been done within the department to build healthy, safe and inclusive workplaces. So many organizations are focused on developing programs and policies to move us in the right direction, whether it is the gender-based analysis plus, the integrated conflict and complaint management program, the anti-racism secretariat, the Canadian Armed Forces diversity strategy, Canada's anti-racism strategy or Canada's national action plan on women, peace and security.
The professional conduct and culture organization is being established with the clear understanding that previous culture change efforts have fallen short of what was needed. With the standing up of this new organization, the defence team is taking a fundamentally different approach, an approach that will be more holistic and coherent in addressing the complex challenges faced by the Canadian Armed Forces.
In closing, I would like to reiterate our deepest concern for the well-being of every member of the Canadian defence team. The standing up of the professional conduct and culture organization is a testament to our genuine commitment to protect members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Our government has shown that we are dedicated and committed to creating a lasting culture change across the defence team. That is the goal, and we will do just that.