Good morning, Madam Chair, and thank you very much.
I would like to start by thanking my colleagues, Mr. Baker and Monsieur Robillard, for their preceding interventions and their thoughtful commentary.
Madam Chair, you'll correct me, but I believe it's been a month that we've spent in this meeting. We started on May 21, as I think you reminded us a couple of sessions ago. It's been a month of fulsome discussion and thoughtful reflections and revisiting of incredibly important testimony with respect to where the Canadian Forces are today, where they should be, and where this issue should be directed internationally as well, with militaries that are going through the same processes or very similar processes. I'll make more elaborate submissions on that in a moment.
What I want to say at the outset is that although we have different reflections and perspectives of what the study is all about and also about how we should conduct our work, I think it's incredibly important that this committee remain seized with the issue of sexual misconduct. In fact, there is absolutely no way to conceive that we would somehow bring this to a close here today, or in the coming days, and divest ourselves of this work.
This is work that will continue. It is continuing at the executive level, with the leadership of the minister and his team. It's also continuing through the work of Madam Justice Arbour, who is conducting a review in parallel. It is my very strong sense that this committee also, going forward, will need to remain invested in the subject matter, will need to conduct assessments and reviews of whatever government action follows. That is extremely important.
We've looked at the experience of other countries that have done reviews and that, in response to those reviews, have tweaked or complemented an initial set of recommendations because they weren't working or weren't quite achieving, in the most expeditious way, solutions to the problems that needed to be addressed.
I think it goes without saying that going forward, the work on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces will remain front and centre for this committee.
I've said in previous submissions, Madam Chair, that there are two components to our work, or to the reason we have this work in front of us. The first component is the most important; it's the moral component, and it's the conclusion that sexual misconduct is wrong, is unacceptable. As an adjunct to that is the moral conclusion that women absolutely, unequivocally have a right to serve in the Canadian Forces and need to be protected if and when they choose to do so.
There is also—and I think my colleague Monsieur Robillard made reference to this a few minutes ago—an operational component to the work, and that relates to the effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces and its allied forces around the world with respect to sexual misconduct. If we don't take this work seriously, if we don't eliminate this egregious practice of sexual misconduct, deep rooted as it is, and if we don't eliminate it in the most expeditious way, there will be an operational impact on the effectiveness of the armed forces. It goes to morale, but it also goes to effectiveness in the field. It goes to trust, trust on the battlefield, trust in deployment, trust in the hallways of National Defence headquarters in Ottawa, trust across bases and everywhere in between, and also trust in the Canadian Forces as an international partner and ally within NATO and UN peace operations, and any other types of deployments involving other militaries in between.
If women in the Canadian Forces can't trust their chain of command, and if other militaries can't trust the Canadian Forces as an ally and a partner that takes this issue extremely seriously and is in the process of eliminating it, we will be weaker as an ally in all kinds of international contexts.
This moral and this operational component really are at the centre of why we're doing this work, and again, the moral component is paramount but the operational one is not to be ignored.
In the same vein, it's not just the threat of sexual misconduct within militaries, or potentially across militaries that are working together in a partnership arrangement, be it in a NATO deployment or a UN peace operation. It's also the risk, potentially, of vulnerable civilian populations, refugee populations that the Canadian Forces and its allied forces are charged with protecting. If the issue of sexual misconduct is not eradicated, is not given the utmost priority, there is a risk that civilian populations in areas of deployment will be vulnerable to sexual misconduct perpetrated by members of armed forces who are deployed in that setting. That is yet a third component that we need to be very mindful of.
In the meantime, Madam Chair, as I have outlined in a series, now, of previous submissions, we've seen that numerous other countries are doing very similar work in parallel and in some cases have, in fact, been able to publish follow-up reports on first rounds of initiatives and responses. I think that I indicated early on that in the course of a very quick round of research one Saturday afternoon, I was able to come up with a good half-dozen examples. I've made submissions on the experience in the U.K. I've started to talk about New Zealand. I will, in a subsequent submission, talk briefly about South Africa. There are other countries, like Australia and Sweden, that have done this work. Given the timing of these initiatives elsewhere, which roughly coincide with ours—in the last five years from 2015 or 2016 through the present—again, it is an important impetus for us. Because so many of these other countries have taken note of our early initiatives, it's important that we remain seized and that we remain in a leadership role and don't lag behind the initiatives that our friends and allies are doing and conducting elsewhere, for the same reasons I've outlined above: the moral reason and the operational reason.
The review and analysis of the insight from other countries into the systemic nature of sexual misconduct is fundamental to our own work. I think it would be unimaginable that this committee would simply ignore a whole host of experiences elsewhere, good and bad, some with different approaches and different recommendations and conclusions but equally important with respect to solving the issue in each jurisdiction. That we would simply choose to not look at that and to say, “Well, you know, we have our own problems,” that we'd have our eyes to the ground and lose sight of what is going on elsewhere in the world.... We need to look at these examples. We need to glean from them the important insights that have been put forward in these reports. In some cases, the insights were simply that not enough has been done quickly enough, that a whole bunch of gaps exist. The frustration on the part of the teams that are operating on these initiatives is as manifest as our frustration across party lines that this work is not proceeding quickly enough. Therefore, if there are lessons, if there are examples that we can impart on others but in return also take back from others, then we should absolutely, without question, look at them.
The focus in many of those initiatives has been the scope of the problem. We've heard a lot about definitions of various forms of misconduct, between physical and sexual assault and rape and other forms of misconduct, including bullying, intimidation and harassment; the search for mechanisms to achieve culture change in a more expeditious manner; mechanisms to ensure the empowerment of victims to report misconduct; accountability; the independence of oversight, the democratic control of armed forces to Parliament, to the executive; the search for data and the search for leadership on this issue at all levels of the service, be they military or civilian; and then the importance of communication and training as well.
These are complex issues. Upon review of them, we see some general currents emerging on how this problem might be solved, and it comes to leadership, communication, independence and empowering victims to report. Some of those commonalities are, I think, now manifest and apparent to us. However, when it comes to putting forward our own report, I think it is important that we are able to deliberate as parliamentarians; that we unleash the parliamentary process that is there for reasons of its efficaciousness, its democratic value, its wisdom in arriving at better outcomes when parliamentarians are able to get together in an in camera setting. We need to debate the recommendations, ideas and approaches that may be controversial; where there may be differences in views we must not limit ourselves to a single two-minute intervention but really have debates, and sometimes tough debates, potentially not reaching agreement after those debates, in which case the mechanism of a dissenting or supplementary report is absolutely appropriate and has been used frequently in the past.
However, we need to do the work to be able to figure out what we, as this particular committee, can put forward to add value. There has been reference in a number of ways before the committee—in previous sessions and this one as well—on the value that we have coming from other parliamentary committees. In parliamentary custom, each committee is the master of its own destiny.
Just because another committee is conducting the work does not mean that our committee, or any other committee, should say we're not doing it because committee X is doing it. There is tremendous value, especially with an issue that's as important and profound and as entrenched as this one, if multiple lenses are used, multiple angles, multiple mechanisms of amplification through the democratic process of particular recommendations of testimony. In his previous submission, Mr. Baker made reference to the importance of bystander training, which was raised at the status of women committee and has come up in other jurisdictions as well.
These insights are important and we need to cross-fertilize them and find a horizontal way of looking at them. This committee is seized, then, not only with protecting the women who are currently serving and who have served. That's front and centre, finding mechanisms to protect victims, empower victims, support victims all the way along. This committee is seized with it as much as the status of women committee is seized. However, without wanting to speak for the status of women committee and its interpretation, which it's free to undertake, this committee, our committee, the Standing Committee on National Defence is then very much seized with the governance structures of the Canadian Forces, the leadership questions, the resourcing questions, the accountability and review questions, the parliamentary oversight questions of this work, and we should make recommendations that fall into the historical role, and the future rollout, that we will play in looking after the Canadian Forces and making sure that the Canadian Forces correspond to the expectation of current and former serving members, of Canadians, of our human rights framework, of our justice framework, all those things.
Therefore, it is important for us to do this work. It is equally important that we look at the work that other committees are doing and making sure that we are amplifying those of their recommendations that we feel are fundamentally important.
With respect to the government response, it is absolutely crucial that the government is asked for a response. Again, that creates the accountability feedback loop to this committee, through which we are overseeing government action as parliamentarians, as elected members and as members of this particular committee.
To do all this work and then say at the end that we don't want to hear a government response, in my mind, it gets us not even halfway there, because unless we push the government....
From other jurisdictions, we've seen the value of repeated reviews. In the case of the U.K., there was a review conducted in as tight a time frame as one year, where recommendations and insights came back and new recommendations were developed. It's then very important for this committee to have a way to go back to government to say, okay, you've told us x during this parliamentary period; you've done y, and we have taken a look and we feel that you should also do z. That would give the government, then, through the parliamentary democratic process, the mandate or the impetus to further refine the work.
As I said, this is work that will be ongoing. It will have to be subject to some sort of ratchet effect where we can't backslide but have to move our way forward, and each time a good set of recommendations is put forward that work and that seem to be working, government needs to be encouraged to keep them in place. Those recommendations that don't work need to be either changed or eliminated, or adjusted in such a way that they can precipitate the results that so urgently need to be brought about.
It's not enough for either this committee or the government to say, look what we've done; here's our answer, and then leave it to the wind to see if the results actually materialize. We need to stay engaged; we need oversight, and for that reason, we need a continued insistence on a government response to the work that this committee generates. I think that's fundamentally important.
It's those two things: being able to deliberate as parliamentarians in the way we normally do, to have frank and robust debates, and yes, disagree with each other; and then ultimately our product being put forward to government with a mandate for government to respond.
I'll go back briefly in the same vein to do what I didn't have a chance to do last time, which is to highlight some of the recommendations that came out of the New Zealand review. You'll recall that New Zealand had an operation roughly similar to Operation Honour in its conceptualization, called Operation Respect. I presented to the committee a one-year review that was tabled in June 2020 by an independent team that had looked at New Zealand's Operation Respect and determined that a number of things were still missing, many of which reverberated in the same way as things that are still not satisfactory here in Canada. They came out with, I think, a set of 44 recommendations. I'm not going to go through them all.
I think some of them are very specific to the New Zealand context and some of them we have already debated and, I think, implicitly accepted in some ways. I want to highlight some of them for the committee's consideration and benefit before turning it back to you, Madam Chair.
The fundamental challenge that the New Zealand review identified resulted in a recommendation that the minister of defence of New Zealand request that every two years, for 20 years, its auditor general carry out an audit of the New Zealand Defence Forces' progress in regard to Operation Respect's specific outcomes, paying special attention to the elimination of harmful behaviour and sexual violence.
This takes me back to the comments I made a couple of minutes ago. The minister says that the time for patience is over and culture change needs to happen now. Yes, the time for patience is over in the sense that we need to act and put forward the recommendations that will bring about change, but New Zealand has framed this as a problem that will take time to solve. The most egregious behaviour will hopefully be solved very quickly, but overall, their conclusion is they want an audit every two years for 20 years to make sure that the problem is actually eradicated. It's a semi-generational problem for them, if you look at that 20-year time span. There's absolutely no possibility to backslide. New Zealand sees these audits as fundamentally important.
It has also made a recommendation to limit the scope of Operation Respect to two distinct streams of work, mirroring the approach that some other jurisdictions have taken. The first is the elimination of sexual violence, which is the most egregious and harmful behaviour—rape, sexual assault and actual violent, physical behaviour. The second tier would be the elimination of discrimination, harassment and bullying. These are subsidiary behaviours that nonetheless stem from the same completely inappropriate culture that needs to be changed and eradicated.
New Zealand also makes the following recommendations to its government:
Build collective ownership of leadership by developing a long-term strategy in collaboration with base and camp commanding officers. Using a phased approach, the strategy should build on the current foundations of Operation Respect and allow for flexibility in implementation so that each service can tailor to their culture, state of change readiness and prioritised needs.
Madam Chair, we've had discussions on the various cultures—plural—that exist in the Canadian Forces. Some of them are salutary and very positive with respect to excellence, teamwork, not leaving your teammates behind, readiness and all the good things that go with the Canadian Forces and that its current and former members cherish and can be very proud of. There are also the negative aspects.
New Zealand recognizes that there are differences within the various branches of its forces. These differences need to be taken account of and given back to the leadership of each branch to solve.
They recommend the appointment of a “change communications specialist to work solely on this project in conjunction with a specialist in sexual violence (such as the head of the [sexual assault response team]) to implement regular strategic and nuanced messaging.”
We've seen elsewhere, in other recommendations, the importance of outside perspectives and expertise in change management, communications and other parts. The tension is always if somebody is too far removed from the organization, they will not understand the nature of its internal problems, but if somebody's too close to the organization itself, she or he will be captured by the organization's interests and not be able to solve the problem effectively. Appointing a change specialist to work in conjunction with the existing leadership structure is New Zealand's answer to that. They've put it forward as a recommendation.
The engagement of all leaders at all levels to own the management of harmful behaviour, including sexual violence, discrimination, bullying and harassment in the NZDF, is of foremost importance behind that recommendation, in the sense that unless there's ownership by the leadership of the behaviour, there's no accountability and no prospect for change.
In Canada, obviously, we've had an experience that's very different from that of other jurisdictions. The very head of the armed forces—the person in charge of the former Operation Honour and the person who was to be at the top of the accountability chain—was then actually accused of having engaged in the same kind of behaviour that he was mandated to prevent. That's different from other jurisdictions. Nonetheless, New Zealand sees it as essential that the management at all leadership levels own the responsibility for eliminating this behaviour.
They also recommend the allocation of a significant budget to develop key tools for leadership in all personnel. Here, they make reference to the “Respect in the Canadian Armed Forces” mobile app.
It's important to recognize that we need leadership and communication strategies, but we also need tools. I raise this recommendation because New Zealand is in fact very closely looking at Canada and has in many respects indicated that it has taken action as a result of having reviewed the Deschamps report in 2015. I don't want to overstate this in the sense of saying that the eyes of the world are on us, but certainly the eyes of some key allies and partners are on us. For that reason, in addition to all the other ones I've mentioned, I think it's incumbent upon us to continue to move forward and to review the kinds of tools that we have put in place, including the Respect in the CAF mobile app, to see if they will serve the purposes of current and former members of the Canadian Forces in solving the issue.
New Zealand is also quite concerned about data management, so they recommend a comprehensive and integrated data management system to routinely and systematically collect data and report on complaints and outcomes of incidents of harmful behaviour, including sexual violence and discrimination, harassment and bullying.
As parliamentarians, we know that good governance cannot happen without good data, without accurate, properly disaggregated data. There have been comments by colleagues on the intersectionalities of sexual misconduct, the close relationship to diversity and inclusion, and the impact on members of the LGBTQ2S+ community and others. For all these reasons, we need good data. We also need good data to see if any of the branches of the Canadian Forces are leading or lagging. Maybe there's one branch that has particular innovations in solving this issue and has come out front. Data would capture that. Then it could be a competitive race to the top in solving the issues among the other branches. There could be a constructive, competitive spirit that emerges from data that reflects positive action that actually works to resolve the issue in the most expeditious way.
Other recommendations touch upon organizational learning strategies, education, communication, making sure that members of the armed forces in New Zealand are actually aware of the various options that exist, not only with respect to governance of diversity and inclusion in their branches, but also reporting.
Going back to Mr. Baker's comments earlier, he made reference a number of times to the importance of bystander training in reference to witness testimony that the Canadian House of Commons has received through committees. New Zealand recommends contracting the evaluation of bystander training programs to independent assessors. Again, bystander training seems to be one of those issues that are fundamentally important in accelerating progress. They have recognized that and they say, okay, to do that, let's put an assessment process behind that and make sure that bystander training actually does what it seems to be doing in so many other contexts. Does it also work in the military?
Again, monitoring of performance and reviews translates into absolutely critical recommendations that this committee absolutely must be mindful of, in my view.
“Conduct annual audits of the [sexual assault response team] to ensure that both the safety and wellbeing needs of the team are being met, alongside those utilising the service.” That's not necessarily something we've turned our minds to yet, and I'm raising it for that reason. Those teams that are going to conduct the work to eliminate sexual misconduct in the armed forces, those men and women officers and NCOs who are part of that organizational effort, are going to see some ugly things. They're going to potentially see or hear testimony. They're going to see or hear all the bad things that are going on, and have gone on for far too long. We need to make sure those teams are looked after with respect to mental wellness.
The change agents, the change managers, in the armed forces are breaking down a culture that is harmful, insidious and destructive, and we need to keep them strong. I think it's an excellent recommendation. I think it's very worthwhile for this committee to take a look at it to make sure that we look after those who look after the women and the victims of inappropriate sexual misconduct.
“Prioritise work to increase the individual personal safety factors of barracks, ablutions and toilet facilities” is a very pragmatic recommendation that looks to current operations and bases across the New Zealand Defence Force. We could certainly match that granularity in our work and make sure that women of the Canadian Armed Forces continue to use their physical facilities and are safe and protected, and changes are made if they're not.
Lastly, “Ensure consistent and regular communication to clarify what is and is not appropriate behaviour including hazing and initiation rituals to improve consent culture and reduce coercion and peer pressure.” Communication is crucial, but we have to look all the way to the beginning of the chain of thought of somebody considering a career in the Canadian Forces, to the recruitment process and the kinds of communications on sexual misconduct she or he will receive when walking in the door of a recruitment centre. Anybody who is contemplating a career in the Canadian Forces at this very moment will most certainly ask herself or himself those questions. Is this a safe place? Yes, I want to serve, but where are we in light of the recent weeks of headlines, and where are we in light of this committee's work? Am I walking through a door where I have a greater assurance of safety?
I think it's crucial that communication be clear to recruits who have taken the decision to join the Canadian Forces, that inappropriate hazing or initiation rituals, which really set the stage with respect to the perception of what kind of culture exists with respect to hazing.... When you go through a hazing ritual, you walk away with certain perceptions that this is a place where this kind of thing will continue throughout your career and perhaps in different and even more harmful forms.
It's an excellent recommendation by New Zealand. It takes us all the way to the beginning of the process for somebody who decides, with the most noble of aspirations, to serve her country or his country by going into a recruitment centre and obtaining some information on a career in the forces.
I will leave it there. I've taken you through only a segment of the recommendations. There are many more, but again, my emphatic suggestion is that this committee be seized with and turn its attention to the experiences elsewhere as a fundamental starting point, if you will, for our discussions on what has worked, what hasn't worked, and what we could borrow to make our recommendations stronger, more effective and more efficient.
As Madam Justice Arbour's work goes forward, potentially she will also have the opportunity to review, I would think, the work of other countries. I think it's important that we look at the systematicity of sexual misconduct that's going quite a ways beyond Canadian borders and in so many other countries being seized with the same issue. If a best practice emerges somewhere, it should be harnessed quickly by all other jurisdictions that are involved in solving this issue, for both the moral reason and the operational reason that I described at the beginning of my submission.
Madam Chair, I'll leave it there for the moment and turn it back to you, with my thanks.