Evidence of meeting #32 for National Defence in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was report.

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1:45 p.m.


Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I apologize. My “raise hand” function keeps going on and off on its own. I'm not sure why that's the case.

I want to take a few minutes to talk about the question that Liberal members keep raising in this committee and in the House, and that is the questioning of the motives of opposition members in dealing with this study. I raised earlier with the chair that I think this is actually a question of privilege. I think it is a violation of the rules of the House of Commons to reflect on the motives of other members and, in particular, to reflect on the way they do their jobs. Even if it's not found to be in violation of privilege, it's clear that it's not productive. We can sit all day and argue about motives and we will make no progress on anything.

I have to say on the charge of partisanship, at the risk of committing the offence that I'm actually complaining about, that I think this may be a bit more about projection on the part of Liberal members than it is about the reality we're facing.

Let me talk about my motives on this study very directly.

I'll talk first of all about why I believe this study is important and what I believe this study is about on principle. The purpose of this study, from the beginning, has been to look at why there was no effective action to combat sexual misconduct in the military over the last six years and, in particular, why no action was taken in 2018 when allegations of sexual misconduct were made against General Vance, why he was allowed to stay in charge of Operation Honour for nearly three years after that and why he was even given a salary increase.

The Liberal members persist in ignoring the fact that the status of women committee is conducting a study on what should be done in the future to address sexual misconduct. They are the ones who heard from victims. They are producing a report with those recommendations, which I understand will be tabled shortly in the House of Commons. For me, the key question here is that all those good recommendations that I believe the status of women committee will make will come to no good end if we don't understand why all the good recommendations made by Madam Justice Deschamps six years ago weren't implemented and didn't cause progress on this problem within the military.

How did we face more than 500 sexual assault cases while Operation Honour was in place? Why did we face a total of more than 800 cases, when you combine sexual assault and sexual harassment, while Operation Honour was in place?

All the good recommendations that any House of Commons committee can make will come to naught if we don't understand why the previous recommendations weren't followed, weren't implemented and there was no progress. To me, that is being concerned about survivors and helping survivors understand why nothing happened in their cases, and it's about future survivors and making sure there aren't as many as we've had in the past, and in fact trying to achieve the goal that there will be no more survivors of sexual misconduct. If we don't know why no progress was made, we'll never get there. That is the central part of this report.

Now I want to speak more directly and personally about my motivations in this study and how much I believe that this is about supporting victims.

As an adult survivor of child abuse, I know a lot about being a victim of sexual assault. I know a lot about what it feels like to try to tell your story and not be believed. I know a lot about what it feels like to talk to people who should have known or who did know and took no action. I know a lot about how it feels when no action is taken, and you find later, as in my case, that there were eight other victims of the same behaviour, some of them very close to me. So I do resent being told that I don't care about survivors because of the political positions I might be taking here. I resent it a great deal.

It took me a long time to accept that what happened to me happened as a child, but when I tried to bring these things forward as an adult, I faced all those same challenges that survivors of sexual misconduct in the military face now. Therefore, I believe that coming to a conclusion and examining very carefully why effective action didn't happen is taking the part of survivors and is the most important part of what we can do in the defence committee.

The status of women committee has heard from many survivors. They've heard much of the testimony that's being repeated here. It is shocking and disturbing testimony. There is no doubt about that, but as I said, the status of women committee, I understand, is very close to tabling their report, which will have recommendations about that.

I will leave that there, but I really will not tolerate people arguing that, because of what I think is important here and the way I wish to approach this, I don't care about survivors. It's just not true on principle and it's certainly very untrue personally.

Let's be clear. This is about the Minister of National Defence's record over the last six years. It's not about who he is as a person. Certainly, and I want to be very clear, the Minister of National Defence is not the victim here. The victims are those who were subject to sexual misconduct on his watch and who saw no effective action taken against it.

Let me turn to what I've said before: There needs to be a rule against gaslighting. There needs to be a rule against this creation of an alternative universe here. The reason we haven't gotten to the report on mental health and the reason we haven't gotten to finish the report on COVID is the Liberal filibuster that's been going on, whether it was on a previous motion about who was to be called as a witness or the motion in front of us. The Liberals say they don't understand why a motion would have time limits. The Conservative motion, it seems clear to me, has time limits in it because of the Liberal filibusters preventing us from being able to reach conclusions and issue a report.

The members go on and on about why a committee report would not ask for a response from the government and how it always happens, but that's not true. The justice committee just issued a report on coercive and controlling behaviour, and the committee did not ask for a government response. Do you know why? They said the government had already testified before the committee and the government needed to get busy on the recommendations rather than writing a response to the committee. There was more important work to do than responding to the committee.

It isn't true that every committee report always asks for a government response. It's certainly not true that not asking for a response means you don't think it is an important issue. You might, in fact, think it's something the government should get busy on rather than spending time coming back to tell us in committee what they already told us many times.

I would very much like to have finished the report on mental health in the Canadian military, but Liberal members, including the chair of the committee, made the decision to stay on the topic of sexual misconduct, despite the offers of the opposition to finish the reports on mental health in the military and COVID in the military and then return to this question. Those overtures were rejected. I believe it was a form of placing pressure on the opposition members to give up our inquiry into why there was no effective action, in order to get to the reports on COVID in the military and on mental health.

Before someone says that never happened, I'll just remind honourable members that I don't delete my tweets. I don't delete the text messages that I receive from people. I hope that members won't bother denying that this was a pressure tactic placed on opposition members.

Where are we now? If we don't finish our report today, it will not be tabled before we rise for the summer. The Liberal filibuster today ensures that will not happen. That also means we will not finish the report on mental health in the military. It means we will not finish the report on COVID in the military. Given the sabre-rattling occurring all around the House of Commons, this in fact may be one of the last meetings of this committee in this Parliament. It is not the opposition that has blocked progress on all these other topics; it is the consistent filibustering by the Liberals.

Now, I'm not reflecting on why the Liberals have done this. I, frankly, don't understand it. We've been trying to get to the bottom of why there was no effective action taken against General Vance, why the recommendations of the Deschamps report weren't fully implemented and why sexual misconduct is still rampant in the Canadian military. I believe that answering those questions is the central task before us as the defence committee. I'm very disappointed that the Liberal filibuster prevents us from answering those questions.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

1:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much.

Mr. Robillard, you have the floor.

June 18th, 2021 / 1:55 p.m.


Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

In order to understand the problem of misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, the CAF, we have to understand the prevailing culture in the CAF. As my colleague Mr. Spengemann has done, I will deal with the subject of the culture in the CAF.

As Dr. Maya Eichler points out:

…even in an allegedly gender-neutral military, military culture continues to reproduce warrior masculinity as the ideal if there is not a concerted effort to change the culture. While the 1989 tribunal ruling led to the removal of legal barriers that discriminated against women, the military's gendered culture was largely left intact. This became evident in the continued challenges to women's full integration into the CAF.

This is a very important point, because only by observing the trauma caused in the past will we be able to avoid trauma in the future.

Soldiering remained a gender-specific, male experience. As research based on interviews with female soldiers reveals repeatedly, women in the military face a catch‑22: being perceived as too masculine or too feminine. In order to be recognized ‘real’ soldiers, women are encouraged to perform masculinity while maintaining their femininity. Common themes reported are: having always to prove themselves, being seen as less capable, being singled out, being treated like outsiders, being demeaned, sexually harassed, asked to perform feminized tasks, and more.

Once again, we can see that this is a long-standing culture. As a government, this is what we must be tackling.

These themes illustrate how unequal gender norms persisted, despite an official policy of employment equity and gender neutrality (Taber 2009). It has remained up to individual women to find “strategies to successfully negotiate their participation and identity or leave the military”.

As a result, women’s representation in the CAF is disproportionately low (standing at approximately 15%), and uneven across the organization. Women are sill concentrated in occupations stereotypically associated with femininity—medical, dental, and clerical work—and underrepresented among the senior leadership.

We must give serious consideration to these factors in our report and we must allow the government to give a response. Women’s limited integration is particularly evident when it comes to combat roles. More than 25 years after the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal decision, combat roles remain almost exclusively staffed by men and closely tied to a masculinized warrior image. In 2016, only 2.5% of the combat personnel in the regular force, and 5.5% in the reserve, were female.

Media coverage of Canada's war in Afghanistan illustrated the ways in which gender-neutrality became a key device for understanding the place of women within the Canadian Armed Forces. Captain Nichola Goddard’s death in 2006—the first death of a female Canadian soldier in combat—led to a spike in media reporting devoted to female soldiers deployed to Afghanistan. Military spokespeople and CAF members who were interviewed continued to assert that gender played no role in the military.

For example, an article on Captain Goddard's death in the Toronto Star quoted a Department of National Defence (DND) spokesman as saying that the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence regard a soldier as a soldier. No emphasis is given as to gender. The notion of gender neutrality was an explicit strategy of DND in managing public relations around the death of Captain Goddard.

An internal email exchange released under Access to Information shows that there was a real effort to downplay the gender of Captain Goddard. One of the emails states that everyone in theatre is a soldier.

Dozens of media requests to interview or profile women in combat roles were declined. To try to remove attention and emotion from the gender issue, the Department of National Defence was concerned about a female combat soldier's death and the public reaction it might trigger. They therefore chose a gender-neutral approach in response. As Claire Turenne Sjolander and Kathryn Trevenen point out, it seems possible that Captain Goddard's own assertion of her gender-neutrality was not a simple affirmation of gender integration, as the military and press assert, but rather, a common and tactically smart response to the high cost of being a woman in a highly masculinized environment. This message was reinforced by public statements from female soldiers. Goddard herself did not want to be singled out for being a woman. She made a concerted effort to fit in with her male colleagues. Similar statements were made by other women who were interviewed by the media. For example, Major Eleanor Taylor, Canada's first female infantry commander in combat, made it plain that she did not want attention for being a woman when male company commanders were doing similar jobs. “I don't really consider it relevant [that I am a woman]," she said. “The fewer people in my organization think about it, the better.”

Gender neutrality places the onus of change on female soldiers. Gender neutrality means that women are expected to fit into the norm of military masculinity; therefore, gender neutrality does not drive military culture towards change, it allows it to remain unchanged. Indeed, there is research that shows the persistence of a gendered military culture despite the official posture of gender neutrality. Donna Winslow and Jason Dunn have argued that the combat arms in particular “emphasize the values and attitudes of the traditionally male-oriented military organization and, in particular, masculine models of the warrior, thus resisting female integration”. For example, the prevalence of misogynist and homophobic attitudes among male combat personnel was documented in a 2005 study conducted by the CAF.

Even as legal barriers were removed, an ideal of soldiering centered on the male warrior undermined women's social integration into the military, especially in combat roles.

Once again, we must really consider this as a factor in our response, and we must allow the government to provide a response so that the matter can be settled.

As Taber argues, “The employment equity policies of the Canadian military do not counteract the embedded ideology of the warrior narrative.” That gender neutrality was indeed not sufficient to change a deeply gendered military culture was confirmed by the Deschamps Report.

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

2:05 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much.

Mr. Spengemann, go ahead please.

2:05 p.m.


Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I want to start by thanking our colleague Randall Garrison for his passionate intervention just a few moments ago. He and I served on this committee in the 42nd Parliament. I have a great deal of respect for him. We've done some great work together, including, as I mentioned in previous interventions, the report on diversity and inclusion in the 42nd Parliament, through this committee, which also made reference to sexual misconduct.

With respect to other committees doing their work—he mentioned the work going on in the status of women committee—Madam Chair, I think it's important for us to keep in mind that each committee is the master of its own destiny. Just because one committee is doing a report doesn't necessarily mean that another committee should or should not do a similar report.

In this case, one might well argue that, in fact, if two committees were to come to similar conclusions, this would strengthen the importance of the issue and would further catalyze government action. In fact, it's the systematicity of the issue that's the opportunity for this committee. We have the chance to study the case of the former chief of the defence staff, the behaviour we've been focused on for the past months and also the question of culture change, and to put forward recommendations or a report that addresses this issue in its entirety and really gets to the bottom of what the challenge is.

I want to circle back for a moment to the submissions I had made on New Zealand. I want to put to colleagues that this independent review of their operation in New Zealand, which is called Operation Respect, exposes in a non-partisan way some of the reasons—or the questions, anyway—that Mr. Garrison was pointing to as to why it is so difficult to achieve action, or has been difficult here in Canada since the Deschamps report. Even with a commitment from government, there are structural and systemic barriers that the New Zealand case exposes, which this committee could and should focus on and make recommendations to overcome.

I will outline some of those for the benefit of members. I will conclude with a couple of portions from that report on culture change. I understand that my colleague, Mr. Bagnell, wishes to address that issue later. I think that will connect well with what he will likely say with respect to the importance of culture change.

In New Zealand, the key question before this independent review committee was the following: “What progress has the [New Zealand Defence Force] made in creating a culture of dignity and respect through the implementation of its Operation Respect Action Plan?”

The independent review concludes that:

The initial Operation Respect Action Plan and work was well resourced and commenced quickly, with energy. The successful implementation of the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) and the two-track disclosure process is a significant step forward. These features, along with the Sexual Ethics and Responsible Relationship (SERR) training, have become the positive face of Operation Respect.

The [New Zealand Defence Force] laid the foundations of a positive programme of culture change, but it has not managed to maintain a consistent and thorough approach to its ongoing strategy or implementation. Momentum, visibility and focus have been lost.

Again, this is a non-political, non-partisan message from New Zealand explaining that, despite this initiative, progress was slow and not optimal. It continues:

Despite the positive efforts, overall there has been insufficient progress since the plan was launched, in 'creating a culture of dignity and respect' generally and in preventing or promptly addressing harmful behaviour, including sexual violence specifically.

We were also asked to assess: Whether the NZDF is well-placed to achieve the key actions and outcomes described in the Action Plan (by assessing whether resource allocation and organisational structures and processes are appropriately configured to achieve success)?

The conclusion is:

It is our view that at this [New Zealand Defence Force] is not currently positioned to drive the change required given the capacity and capability challenges in strategy, planning, resourcing and budget, compounded by three fundamental challenges and a number of other barriers to progress.

The report outlines the following:

We set out below three key reasons why cultural change has been hard to achieve:

1. There is a lack of transparency and accountability of the NZDF's progress in addressing and preventing the harm that continues to be experienced as a result of sexual violence and/or discrimination, bullying and harassment.

2. A 'code of silence' prevails and many personnel will not raise a complaint or report serious issues such as sexual violence because they fear the repercussions and do not trust the NZDF processes and systems.

3. The culture of military discipline and command makes it difficult for personnel to raise concerns or speak out against the behaviour or decisions made by their immediate manager or others more senior in the hierarchy.

Again, the things that we've heard from various sources here in Canada are reinforced by the experience in New Zealand, without any partisan or political or even parliamentary overtones.

Under “Barriers to progress for Operation Respect”, there are 12 barriers outlined in summary format, as follows:

1. The organisation's culture is changing slowly but it is difficult to break the 'code of silence.'

2. The strategy for culture change needs to foster collective ownership.

3. Operation Respect is driven from [headquarters] with varying levels of buy-in at camps and bases.

4. The purpose and scope of the programme is too broad, has lost focus and is not well understood.

5. Communications are not well received and there are 'branding' challenges with the programme.

6. Leaders need more tools, support and incentives to own and drive the change.

7. Leadership structure and reporting lines for Operation Respect have become confused.

8. The budget for the programme is insufficient to drive significant change.

9. The roles and responsibilities of those who manage complaints are unclear.

10. The military justice system creates barriers to reporting harmful behaviour or sexual violence.

I just want to flag here the important intersection, which was outlined by my colleague Ms. Vandenbeld at a previous session, between this work and the work on military justice.

The list goes on:

11. Without good data collection and management, it is not possible to understand the issues, assess and monitor change, or reduce risk.

12. Monitoring and reporting of progress are rudimentary.

Again, there are some insights here that very directly, with the committee's collective will, could be mapped onto our experience here in Canada and move us forward out of the current logjam we find ourselves in. We could actually make some very good progress on the issues.

The review body made some more specific findings on the action plan. The action plan had the mandate of establishing a strategy to change the New Zealand Defence Force's culture. The review found that change was not significant or fast enough and that the prevailing culture continued to be problematic.

The action plan had the mandate to increase training and education. The review found that the sexual ethics and responsible relationships training was well received and opened a difficult dialogue but needed to be embedded in all training. I had made previous recommendations or interventions on the issue of training.

The plan was asked to provide an alternative way to report sexual assault. Again, that issue is directly relevant to what we're talking about here. The review did not make a finding on that but did not report any progress.

The action plan was to create a dedicated sexual assault response team. The conclusion was as follows:

a. ‘Two-track’ response to sexual violence is an excellent initiative but the Sexual Assault Response Team...is stretched and fragile.

b. Need an alternative avenue, independent of the [New Zealand Defence Force], for reporting and seeking support for victims of sexual assault.

Again, the tenor and the relevance of these kinds of recommendations, conclusions and insights are undeniable and, directly, are the kinds of things we should be doing here as a committee.

The action plan was asked to address specific risk factors associated with facilities and alcohol. That's an issue that we haven't broached in detail, but there are some insights, including the fact that “Drug usage is an increasing concern” and that “Alcohol consumption may be decreasing, but is still a major problem with issues to address.” Also, initiation and hazing in the New Zealand Defence Force continue.

The action plan was asked to recruit more women or to recommend ways to recruit more women into the armed forces and increase female representation in senior leadership roles. The conclusion there is that “Progress is being made, albeit slowly.” Again, I flag here, for the committee's reference, the minister's commitment to creating a talent pipeline of women who will move into senior ranks expeditiously within the Canadian Armed Forces.

Lastly, Madam Chair, the action plan in New Zealand was asked to monitor and further reduce discrimination, harassment and bullying. The review found that there was slow progress and that “The issue was widespread and systemic, without pathways or processes for support or resolution.”

I raise these issues to indicate the systematicity of the problem that armies are facing around the world, including in New Zealand. This analysis, again, is independent. It's free from any political interference. It should underscore for members of this committee and the Canadian public some of the structural and cultural obstacles we're facing here in Canada. We should turn our minds expeditiously to ways to break that status quo and to get us out of that impasse.

If I may, Madam Chair, there's reference in this report to the fact that the organization, and by that I mean the New Zealand Defence Force, is changing slowly, but it is difficult to break the code of silence.

This will connect us with comments that I think colleagues on our committee will make subsequently on culture change. I'd like to just make reference to some of these conclusions. The report states:

Operation Respect [in New Zealand] is perceived by many as a largely positive initiative that has acknowledged some of the negative issues within the NZDF's culture.

The common view of long-serving military personnel is that the NZDF culture has changed in the past decade or two, mostly for the better. References were made to decreased sexism, racism and drinking.

However, the degree to which Operation Respect may have contributed to this over the past three years is unclear. Progress may be due to longer-term societal and generational changes, along with New Zealand-wide behavioural change strategies such as anti-drink driving and the White Ribbon anti-violence campaigns.

Harmful behaviours continue to impact military and civilian personnel. Numerous disclosures were made during the review including emotional and physical abuse, and sexual violence.

Forms of discrimination, harassment and bullying were shared with us that are unacceptable and do not reflect NZDF core values. These are not limited to any one area of the organisation and include military on military, military on civilian, and civilian on civilian.

These behaviours were frequently in stark contrast to the core values the NZDF expects of all personnel. As an illustration, people do not have the courage to speak out; harmful behaviour towards colleagues compromises commitment and comradeship; and there is no integrity in choosing to do the wrong thing. Others have noted the importance of the NZDF being seen to be living by these values.

Madam Chair, I submit this as an important reference point on the challenges that New Zealand is facing with respect to culture change. They also call for collective ownership. They also call for the importance of this being taken on board at the leadership level, at the highest level within the NZDF.

The report states:

We could not find evidence of a clear change management approach or phased plan to support current and future work in the programme. Many spoken with said that they believe the approach is reactive or tick-box, more about making the NZDF 'look good' rather than changing the culture.

We note that over recent years there has been a number of internal or NZDF commissioned reviews and audits. These have generated extensive 'to do' lists which have perhaps become additional tasks to tick off, before prioritising, implementing and embedding core aspects of the programme.

We identified a strong perception that many projects, including those related to Operation Respect, are introduced but not fully embedded before another initiative is launched.

Again, we've seen similar developments here. The culture change hasn't materialized. The minister, again, has said that the door is open. The time for patience is over. The culture change needs to be total and complete.

Again, Madam Chair, my point has been, from the outset, that unless this committee seizes itself with the question of culture change in parallel to the question of the accountability of the former chief of the defence staff and the investigation surrounding him to the extent that political discussion of that investigation is even appropriate, unless we are invested in the question of culture, we will not create the value for the Canadian Forces that is so urgently needed. I'm very grateful to hear that my colleague Mr. Bagnell will also address the issue of culture change. I just can't understand for one second why that could be or should be sidelined.

I mean, yes, there's an important study going on at the status of women committee. Again, that committee also is the master of its own destiny. There's nothing that restricts it from learning about the defence culture and inviting witnesses from defence.

This, Madam Chair, by virtue of its mandate, is the committee in the House of Commons that is seized with defence questions. If we were to decide that for some reason the question of culture isn't relevant to our work or that we should not make recommendations on it, I think we'll have lost a tremendous opportunity. It isn't just about the case of the former chief of the defence staff. That's the emblem, the symptom of the problem that now has nationwide attention. Again, the real work is the iceberg below.

Once again, I can do nothing else at the moment because we are shackled to a view that we should not use our parliamentary procedure to actually debate these potential recommendations in a meaningful way. I can do nothing more but repeat the argument that we must do this work and that we owe nothing less to the current, future and past serving members of the Canadian Forces and to the Canadian public.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

2:20 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you.

We move to Mr. Bagnell, please.

2:20 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I want to address Mr. Garrison, but before I do, I want to first of all say thank you to Mr. Baker. He always has such moving testimony on the people who were really affected and why we're all here. I think it brings us back to thinking about how serious it is and how we should be trying to find solutions. There are people who, through no fault of their own, have had such terrible situations when they've entered to protect our country in such an honourable profession.

I'd like to thank Mr. Spengemann. Who would have thought that our study could have so much added intellectual wealth from other militaries, which had the same issues and came up with suggestions that we can think about? Because it's all in the testimony, Madam Arbour certainly will be able to look at, in great detail, all of the things we've put on record in our committee as she goes through her important work.

Also to his point, which I hadn't thought about, how powerful it would be.... I mean, we're the first committee doing this. We're going to try to continue but how powerful it would be to have two sets of similar recommendations go to the government, to Madam Arbour, to really try to get action to an intractable problem.

I want to talk to Mr. Garrison. Sincerely, he moved me. His personal story...that took some courage, so a huge commendation for that.

I think he made a very good point about not impugning motives. I think that's the way Parliament should operate. I've thought about that throughout this committee. It's very hard sometimes in a partisan environment...and I've tried not to.

Mr. Garrison, if I have at any particular time done it, I certainly apologize for that. I've certainly tried not to do that. I'm sure he would support that right across the board.

I'm sure that our members have been impugned at certain times in these committees. Mr. Garrison, Elizabeth May and I should maybe do an analysis of question period for a few days, to see if we can see, both in questions and answers, impugned motives. Elizabeth May has made some great input on trying to improve the decorum and what happens in Parliament. Certainly what Mr. Garrison said, I think is not confined to this committee, but should be a widespread concept that's spread more often.

I just think that we have a bit of a different opinion, Mr. Garrison. I'm going to go into something later to show you my sincerity. I wrote it a week ago, actually, to say that I believe in your sincerity. On the lack of progress, which he said is very important, both of us have mentioned numerous times the many instances, the hundreds of instances, that continue to occur and have been for decades.

In the committee in the last couple of weeks, I've mentioned a couple of times how complex this is. I've explained, and I will explain—not in this intervention but in my next one, on culture, which is fairly lengthy, which I worked on at home—how, just because you make rules, for instance, a training rule, or this and that, it doesn't necessarily solve the problem. It doesn't stop the problem. That's why this is so complex.

I think where we differ is on the aspect that nothing has been done. It would be a lot worse, actually, if nothing had been done. The point that he and I have made about the ongoing cases shows the complexity of the problem and why we have to.... As I've said several times in committee: To a complex problem, there's no simple solution.

However, since this minister has come in, we have made efforts to ensure that victims feel supported through the process. There's a case management system to ensure cases are investigated and resolved in a timely manner. There's increased training from experts that is victim-centric and accessible to all CAF members no matter where they work. There's ongoing work on a review of unfounded cases.

As all members know, there was the passing of Bill C‑77, with a declaration of victims' rights that puts victims at the core of the military justice system. There's the launching of “The Path to Dignity and Respect”, a strategy for long-term culture change. On Bill C‑77, for victims, we're going to consult the victims. We're working on consulting the victims to draft regulations for this bill. We've consulted federal partners, including the SMRC, which we've talked about at length in previous meetings, and are developing an online survey to consult as many victims as possible.

I'm sure everyone on this committee and the minister, numerous times, have said any type of inappropriate sexual behaviour is totally unacceptable.

I went through close to an hour of things that have been done. I think it's disingenuous not to acknowledge those facts. Obviously, as Mr. Garrison and I have said, there are numerous things still to be done. That's why we should be dealing with these serious types of issues that we've been talking about for the last couple of weeks.

Mr. Garrison, are you able to hear me? Okay. It's just to show you that the words I'm saying now are not in response to what you just said but I wrote them, I think, a week ago Sunday night or something last week on this.

I was saying at the last meeting that Mr. Garrison convinced me more of his sincerity by acknowledging the questions around General Vance's appointment. Our study is about sexual misconduct in the Canadian military, including issues related to General Vance. Mr. Garrison is the only member of the committee who has made it clear that General Vance's related issues are most important for him, and he has every right to do so. I think he sincerely believes that. As I mentioned in a previous meeting, he did some of the best questioning of one of the witnesses related to that.

I have some lengthy input, but for the moment, rather than giving my lengthy input on culture, which I'll do in another intervention, I'll just talk about Mr. Garrison's choice. We each have our priority of what's most important in our study, so in respect to Mr. Garrison's sincerity, I would like to make my case, too, while respecting him.

I'm not the least bit expert in this major problem in the CAF, which is why I base my views on the testimony of victims and the experts. When I get to my lengthy input on culture, I'll actually refer to the experts again—to an expert referring to experts.

From what I understand from the experts and victims we've heard from, this problem goes back decades, far into the previous century. The culture in this and other militaries is one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue, but it's probably the biggest. In another intervention I'll explain how it supports what I've been saying earlier, that you can make technical changes, but that doesn't, in itself, solve the problem. One of the experts will say that.

A tiny fraction of all incidents are actually reported, and the two major causes of hesitancy to report are the location in the chain of command of reporting and dealing with an incident, and the fear of reprisals, both emotional and to someone's career, in which they've invested their life.

From my perspective, if these are the major issues, why would they not be what we're coming to grips with and designing recommendations about—to restore the military to a safe workplace and to honour the courage of the victims who have come forward?

Now I'll turn to my views on Mr. Garrison's view, which he has every right to have, as I said. I think he sincerely believes, and I appreciate his thoughtfulness, that the issues related to General Vance are the most important part of the study. In response, I would suggest the following.

There are hundreds of perpetrators, a number at the senior level. Why would we base our entire study and weeks and weeks of testimony from witness after witness on an anonymous email related to General Vance that no one was allowed to know what was in? When we know of or suspect an offence, it is turned over to investigative authorities. That was done within about 24 hours. General Vance is retired so he's not going to have any role in solving the pressing issues we're trying to solve. He's already under investigation. We don't have to do that and we shouldn't be doing that.

I've tried to put myself into those shoes. If I were told there was an anonymous complaint about any member of this committee and I wasn't allowed to know what it was about, and it had been immediately turned over to the investigators, who went as far as they could because they were refused the evidence, what would I do? Would I ask that they be kicked out of caucus or some other type of penalty? I definitely could not have mounted a campaign. I'd have to give credit to months of meetings with witnesses to such an email, which I didn't know what was in it.

I've heard Mr. Garrison's view. I appreciate it, but for all the reasons we have heard from the experts and the survivors, they have outlined the major causes of this sexual misconduct in the military. For the sake of the men and women in the military and to honour the survivors, I think we should return to thoughtful discussion of their solutions to the complex problems.

I just want to comment on the other reports. The draft reports on mental health in the Canadian Armed Forces and the impact of COVID‑19 on the armed forces are sitting unreviewed, because we have had all these emergency meetings and motions to expand our particular report. As you know, we had a meeting on April 26 to start considering the report on COVID‑19 in the CAF, and I believe we made some good progress. Despite this, there was a 106(4) request that forced us to further delay this report. We haven't gone back to the review since. There's nothing that requires us to finish this report we're working on now before we could proceed to those reports. I know Mr. Garrison is particularly passionate about one of them.

I think our committee's priority should be the report on sexual misconduct. Opposition members know that they could move to proceed to any of our three outstanding reports and they would have our support to do it. We can't do that while they're pursuing a motion to limit our ability to properly debate and amend this crucial report. That is their choice. We're not blocking them if they want to take that step and go to those important reports.

I hope Mr. Garrison knows that I'm sincere in my thoughts on where he's coming from and my technical disagreement on some of the points.

I'm happy to put that forward, Madam Chair.

2:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much.

Madam Alleslev, go ahead please.

2:35 p.m.


Leona Alleslev Conservative Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I want to point out to the committee, because it appears that perhaps they are unaware, that the status of women report on sexual misconduct in the military has, in fact, been tabled. There are 21 recommendations, all of which are incredibly important and crucial, not least of which is the one that talks about freezing all general officer promotions and salary increases until a comprehensive and independent investigation has been done to ensure that they are all beyond reproach.

The status of women committee was able to do the work, which included some valuable contributions from the Liberal members of the committee, that was set before it, and the fact that this committee cannot because of Liberal members is something we should understand more about. Perhaps the Liberal members on this committee can indicate to us why the status of women committee was able to get a report done and this committee is being filibustered to ensure that we can't. In fact, we probably have even more insight and valuable contributions to make on this report, which would be complementary, as the members of this committee have said, to the status of women report.

I recommend that all members of the committee take a look at that report, because that committee was able to do what we have yet to do.

2:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you.

Mr. Robillard, the floor is yours.

2:40 p.m.


Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Chair, in order to be able to understand the problem of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, we must also examine the importance of Operation HONOUR in the CAF. So I will deal with the matter of sexual assault in the CAF.

As Maya Eichler points out:

Despite the sexual assault scandals that hit the CAF over the past two decades, the problem of sexualized violence remained largely unacknowledged by the CAF prior to 2014. In 2014, articles in Maclean's and L'actualité forcefully brought the issue of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the military to the forefront. Based on interviews with women who had experienced sexual assault while serving…[the articles revealed] the lack of concerted action on the part of the military despite formal procedures undertaken by the complainants. The reports showed that sexual assault and sexual harassment were persistent problems within the forces. [Published in 2015], the “External Review into Sexual Misconduct into the Canadian Armed Forces” (the Deschamps Report) changed the nature of the debate on sexual violence in the Canadian military. The report documented a sexualized military culture hostile towards female and LGBTQ members that increases the risk of “more serious incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault”. The findings of the report have busted the myth of the gender-neutral military and confirmed much of what earlier feminist analyses had shown in regard to the CAF and other militaries.

As a committee, we here can change that with our recommendations, and with a government response to them. Maya Eichler continues:

For example, research found sexual harassment to be commonplace, especially in combat roles. Justice Deschamps explicitly linked the military's sexualized culture to the challenges surrounding women's integration and their low representation in the leadership of the CAF. She argued that increasing women's representation, especially among the senior leadership, is one of the key strategies for achieving cultural change. Giving strength to this argument, Deschamps referenced sociological research that shows that “the ideal of the combat male warrior concept has impacted on the integration of women into the military”. The military's reaction to the Deschamps Report has been mixed, and has wavered between welcoming and rejecting the findings. On the one hand, efforts to address the recommendations of the Deschamps Report and change the military's sexualized culture were swift and are ongoing.

As a committee, we here can change that with our recommendations, and with a government response to them. We must make sure that the testimonies have not been in vain. As the minister said, all options are on the table.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

2:40 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much.

Mr. Baker, go ahead please.

2:45 p.m.


Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thanks very much, Madam Chair.

I would like to start by saying a few things about what Mr. Garrison said earlier on. I first want to say thank you to Mr. Garrison for sharing what he's gone through. I have no words; I just want to say thank you. That's really courageous.

The second thing I want to say was that it was never my intent to impugn motive and if I did so, I apologize. I agree with what you said about how the impugning of motive should have no place here. If I was guilty of that, I apologize. That was not my intent.

Certainly in my last intervention I think I wanted.... As you can tell, I'm very concerned about our doing everything we can to stop sexual assault and sexual harassment from happening in the armed forces. I was trying to identify the reasons—or I asked the question why—we weren't pursuing the writing of the report the way it's conventionally done. In doing so, I asked about what the rationale or the reasoning of some members of the opposition might be. That wasn't meant to impugn motive or to make an allegation about another member. It was simply speculating as to why we weren't going down the path that I thought was in the best interest of survivors.

That said, in your intervention you answered that. You explained why you felt that we shouldn't go down that path. I don't know if you meant to, but to me, you answered the question I was openly asking in my prior intervention. I thank you for answering it. It was never meant to impugn motive, but if it did, you have my apologies for that.

Mr. Garrison, I really appreciated what you said about why you feel that the report should take a different direction from the one members on the government side have been advocating for. Like Mr. Bagnell, I respect your point of view and I'm thankful that you explained why you feel the way you do. I don't agree with that. Obviously, I see it differently. I've heard what you said about the status of women committee pursuing a report and making recommendations. I think that report has a tremendous amount of value to the cause of addressing the underlying problem of sexual misconduct in the armed forces.

From my perspective, I really believe that we have an opportunity as parliamentarians—the members on the status of women committee and those of us here on the defence committee in particular, as well as those in the senior positions of the armed forces and the minister and his team in the government have an opportunity particularly—to really make a difference on this issue. That is why I feel it's so important that all of us put our shoulder to the wheel and push in that direction.

From my vantage point, if that means there's a little or some or a lot—I don't know; I'm speculating of course—of overlap between what's written in a report by this committee and that of the status of women committee.... If there's overlap and we're reinforcing each other, great. That's all the better because we're putting that many more voices, shining that much more of a light and giving that much more voice to those whose voices need to be heard. We're driving that much more accountability upon the government—whether it's this one, the next one or the following one—to hear our recommendations and take action on them.

In the course of writing the report we may identify additional areas of focus to what the status of women committee has worked on. We may dive into greater detail in a particular area where the other committee has not, so there's an opportunity to reinforce, of course, the other committee's work, but also to build upon it. All of that, to me, should be of the highest priority, because I think at a critical time it allows us to make potentially significant steps forward in addressing the underlying problem. I have to say that I appreciate your responding to or explaining why you feel the report's focus should be slightly different, or different, and I honour that perspective.

One of the things we could also add to this conversation and that could be in our report, and one thing I value when it comes to members of all parties who sit on this committee, is that we have members who served in the armed forces, or who have worked extensively with the armed forces in some capacity. I think that perspective brings something to this conversation that's really important, and it's a specialized experience that members who've actually served have. I don't have that experience, but I think some of the committee members do, and I think that's one of the reasons our report could bring a tremendous amount of value. Even it was just reinforcing what the status of women committee has presented, I think that would do wonders on this issue and make a meaningful difference, ultimately, for survivors, whom I'm so passionate about.

I wanted to share that.

I want to thank Mr. Garrison again for his thoughtful response, and for sharing his personal experience. That takes courage, and I thank you.

One area I was speaking to previously that I wanted to come back to is where survivors told us there's need for improvement, which I think should be in a report by this committee. I am speaking to the testimony of Emily Tulloch, who is a survivor and an armed forces member who testified to the status of women committee. What she was speaking to in her testimony was an example of the kind of issue that I think those members on the defence committee, but particularly those members who served in the armed forces would better understand. She was speaking to the military police and how they undertake investigations. Her recommendation was that the training for military police needs to be improved in the area of how they conduct interviews of sexual assault victims.

I want to read a bit of Ms. Tulloch's testimony around that particular issue. She says:

I also believe that an officer of the same sex of the victim should conduct the interview. In my situation, it wasn't offered that I could speak to a female officer until halfway through my interview, when I started crying. Even then the military police said they would have to reschedule for the next week, because there was no female officer available.

She goes on to say:

In basic training the leadership tries to ingrain the core values of the military in recruits. These values are duty, loyalty, integrity and courage. These values are taught through PowerPoint and workbooks. However, these values are falling through the cracks. That is how we get this toxic culture that we have been dealing with for so long. It has been abundantly clear that military leadership has not been able to uphold the high ethical standards of integrity. If the leadership can't follow basic core values and set a good example, how are the majority of troops supposed to?

I want to pause there for a moment because Ms. Tulloch is speaking to.... She says these values are duty, loyalty, integrity and courage. These are the core values that the training of recruits emphasizes. One of the things that this speaks to is how much work has to be done in the area of culture change. I know Mr. Spengemann has spoken to this extensively. Mr. Bagnell has spoken to the issue of culture change extensively, but Ms. Tulloch's words are that these values are “falling through the cracks”. Then she says that this is how we get “this toxic culture that we have been dealing with for so long.” Ms. Tulloch is underlining something that I really think we need to drive home as a committee: not just culture change but some of these specific concrete suggestions that are being made to us by survivors and by others who are familiar with culture change and who have testified before this committee. Whether there's a bit of an overlap or not with the Standing Committee on the Status of Women report, I think this would be something that is important to reinforce, drill down on, add additional suggestions on, or enter into additional detail on.

2:55 p.m.


Andréanne Larouche Bloc Shefford, QC

A point of order, Madam Chair.

I come from the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, and I am so disappointed in what is going on here and now at the Standing Committee on National Defence. I would just like to echo the comments of several other speakers, like Ms. Alleslev, in saying that we actually managed to produce a report.

Just now, I heard Mr. Robillard say that, in our report, we specifically demanded that the Deschamps Report, published in 2015, be implemented. It was published six years ago, and here we are, with nothing done.

My preference would be for the Standing Committee on National Defence to produce a report in support of the one we produced at the Standing Committee on the Status of Women.

2:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

That is not a point of order. That is debate. Thank you.

I'm sorry. Carry on, Mr. Baker.

2:55 p.m.


Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thanks, Madam Chair.

I was speaking about Ms. Tulloch's testimony. She was speaking about culture change. She was speaking about how the core values of duty, loyalty, integrity and courage are not being demonstrated by the leadership of the forces. She went on to say:

In basic training we are shown this cartoon video that oversimplifies the concept of consent. In my view, the video is little more than a joke. It's all fun to watch, but the topic of sexual misconduct isn't fun. It should be uncomfortable enough to realize that this is a real issue that needs to be dealt with.

In regard to Op Honour, I believe it has served its purpose. It is time to end that course of action and start something else. Op Honour certainly got the conversation going and improved resources and education available to CAF members, but the leadership has been wilfully ignorant of the fact that it has been seen as a joke for years. For many of us, Op Honour has aged like rotten milk. It just leaves a sour taste in your mouth.

3 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

All right. We are suspended.

Thank you, everyone.

[The meeting was suspended at 15:00 p.m., Friday, June 18.]

[The meeting resumed at 11:03 a.m., Monday, June 21.]

11 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

I call this meeting back to order. This is a resumption of meeting number 32 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on National Defence, which started on Friday, May 21, 2021.

Please let me know if there are any problems with interpretation, just so everyone can fully participate in the proceedings. When speaking—and I say this as much as a reminder to myself as to anyone else—please speak slowly and clearly. When you are not speaking, your mike should be on mute.

With regard to a speakers list, the committee clerk and I will do the best we can to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members, whether they are participating virtually or in person.

We are resuming debate on Mr. Bagnell’s amendment to Mr. Bezan’s motion. Mr. Baker had the floor.

Go ahead, Mr. Baker.

11 a.m.


Yvan Baker Liberal Etobicoke Centre, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Just to recap, Mr. Bagnell proposed an amendment to Mr. Bezan's motion that would require a government response when the committee completes its report on this current study. I think when we left off last meeting, I was speaking about the importance of making sure that we obtain a government response to ensure accountability for the recommendations that are brought forward to the committee.

We know from witness testimony given before us that sexual misconduct and sexual assault are long-standing problems in the Canadian Armed Forces and they've transcended many governments. One thing I'm very passionate about is ensuring that we take the steps today—this government, this committee and others working on this—and every step we possibly can, to set us on the path, no matter which party is elected to government, whether with a majority or minority, and whatever the complexion of our committees happens to be in the future, particularly at this committee and the status of women committee, which are focused on this issue. We should institute the changes, bring in the changes that need to be made to ensure not only that we solve this problem, but also that future governments are held to account for their actions on this issue. I know that everyone on this committee has a different view as to who might be in government next, but regardless of your views on that particular question, I think we should and can all agree that it's important to put in place changes today that are sustained, that address the issue and that ensure future governments are incentivized to continue with that work.

To me, one of the best ways to do that, although not the only way, is to make sure that now, when this pivotal work is taking place and we're undertaking this pivotal study, we generate a report that makes thoughtful recommendations to government about how to tackle this problem and that ensures future governments are held to account, regardless of their political stripe. Having a government response is critical to that because it ensures that the government of today, first off, is clear about its intentions. If those intentions aren't consistent with the views of the members of this committee, survivors, experts or anyone else, then they have a chance to vocalize that and there's an opportunity for the government to adjust its course and plan. That's really important, from a policy perspective, for actually solving the problem.

Getting today's government to issue a response to this report would also set the bar for the next government, the government after that and the government after that. To me, that's why the response is so vitally important for ensuring that we actually solve this problem in the years to come. We need this government, the next government and every government after that to solve the problem and, when it's addressed, to be constantly vigilant to make sure that sexual harassment and sexual misconduct are stamped out of the Canadian Armed Forces.

These are some of the reasons that I think Mr. Bagnell's motion is really constructive and important for tackling the underlying problem that we're trying to tackle today and through this study.

I also want to highlight one of the things I mentioned before that I wanted to come back to. I think there is a tremendous number of steps that need to be taken to eliminate sexual assault and sexual misconduct from the armed forces.

That's because it's a wide-ranging problem; it's a complex problem and there's a tremendous amount of nuance. We've heard from a number of witnesses, experts and members of the armed forces, and members of Parliament like myself and others have shared the voices and the testimony of survivors. We've heard those voices and others, both in this committee and outside this committee. Because this issue has gone unsolved—or not even unsolved, but it hasn't been enough of a priority—in my view, for far too long, it's so important that we do everything we can as a team, as a committee, to put our shoulder to the wheel. We should apply every effort to make a positive difference on this issue.

That's why I feel strongly that we need to issue this report. There was some discussion at our last meeting about the fact that, well, the status of women committee has issued a report. At our committee here, the defence committee, some of the witnesses we heard from were the same, but some of them were different. We heard from them in different amounts and they answered different questions. First off, to the extent that we issue a report that echoes some of the recommendations of the status of women committee, that's great. That means there's consensus and that just puts further advocacy behind the government acting on those recommendations. To the extent there's something different, that too adds value.

Given that we've heard from the witnesses we did, the calibre of the witnesses we did, I think making sure that we, first of all, honour their contributions to this committee is important. That's one of the reasons. However, I also think that until we find something different, because we have different perspectives and different experiences, that's something that's important to do as well.

This is a moment where we need to put our shoulder to the wheel to do everything we can to address this problem and not be like politicians of the past who've not done everything they can. Therefore, I wanted to address that point that had been raised in the debate we had at our last meeting.

One thing that is also critical is that the report be created based on consensus. Why is that? It's not just democratically important. It's not just important to give weight to the report, although in my view those things are true, but it's important because of the complexity and the nuance of this issue that we're trying to solve. That's going to take time. It would take time in discussion between us to lock in on a line on how we articulate the problem, but also really on what recommendations we want to make to government.

I will highlight a few examples of some of that nuance and that perspective that we need to bring into our thinking when we write the report. One example is someone I've spoken about before who is a survivor, who you might recall has presented to the status of women committee and talked about an experience she had when trying to train cadets and how she was mistreated—and continues to be mistreated—when she came to provide training at the Royal Military College. I shared with the members of this committee some of her testimony from the status of women committee.

One of the things I wanted to share with you is more of what she said at the Status of Women committee. These are excerpts from her testimony.

Julie Lalonde says:

I'm an expert on bystander intervention, and what I hear from bystanders all the time is, “I didn't say anything because it was just a comment. If he had touched her, I would have said something, but it was just a comment. It was just a joke. Oh, you know how he is. He's old school,” and so on.

Ms. Lalonde goes on to say:

I think it is vitally important that the very philosophy of the path, which is what we're currently calling this discussion, explain that sexual violence exists on a continuum and that comments are directly related to abuses of power and directly related to gang sexual violence, which is happening.

I want to pause there for a moment. Ms. Lalonde is talking here about abuse of power. She refers to “abuses of power”. I think we've heard that not just from Ms. Lalonde but from experts who have presented at this committee. I think we have a responsibility to make sure that we as a committee consider in our deliberations how we would address this abuse of power. This is perhaps part of the culture change that we want to see, but perhaps there's more to it than that. I don't know. That's something we would have to have a discussion about, but I wanted to underline this topic that Ms. Lalonde raises as important to at least part of the problem of sexual assault in the military. I think it's really important that we tackle that. Again, this is an example of how important it is.

In her testimony, Ms. Lalonde also speaks to bystanders and how some bystanders often react when someone makes a comment and they don't intervene or act. She talks about how that has to change, and that's another important component of this that I think we as a committee have a responsibility to tackle in our recommendations. Again, it requires significant thought and it requires a government response. Whether that be how bystanders react or whether that be the issue of abuse of power and so on, it requires the government to say, “We agree with you,” or, “We disagree with you,” or, “Here's how we're thinking of approaching these elements of the problem.”

Going on with what Ms. Lalonde continued to say at committee:

This idea that we have to focus on the serious forms of violence—you cannot just focus on those without pulling back and doing that macro piece. We need to equip bystanders and to say that maybe an intervention for a comment doesn't look the same as it would for someone being cornered, but it's still an intervention that's necessary.

I want to pause there. What's our committee's view on the role of bystanders? What's our view on what the Canadian Armed Forces need to be doing to ensure that bystanders do what needs to be done? What's our solution?

I'm of the view that what we do with people who are.... What we do to address this so that bystanders are not just bystanders, so that they're helping to resolve the problem.... To me, it's critical that we address that. It's so important that this committee create the circumstances where we can really think that through and tackle it and make a recommendation on it and hold the government to account for solving that particular component, amongst others. I wanted to highlight that as an example.

There's another nuance that I wanted to highlight. This is again from Ms. Lalonde's testimony at the status of women committee. This is a segment of her testimony and is actually a response to a question from a member.

She said, “Lastly, this is truly an intersectional conversation. As Christine has said, for adult men in this country—not children, but adult men—the highest rates of sexual assault are if they are incarcerated or if they join the military.”

I'm going to pause there for a second and repeat that about men: “The highest rates of sexual assault are if they are incarcerated or if they join the military.” I think that just underlines how serious this problem is. I underline that because it's a reminder of how bad the situation is and how we really need to focus on solving this problem—not the politics, not the headline-grabbing, but this problem of what's happening to victims in terms of sexual assault and sexual harassment. What is the military doing to prevent it?

Let me go back to what Ms. Lalonde said. She said:

We need to look at this from an intersectional lens.

I would also say an intersectional lens includes the fact that there's a significant amount of racism in the military. The Proud Boys were recently designated a terrorist organization. There were proud members of those groups who were also...[Canadian Armed Forces] members.

You can't talk about power unless you talk about all the ways in which power manifests itself in the military, and that includes racism and homophobia. A huge reason men don't come forward, as Christine said, is shame: shame that's directly tied to the homophobia within the CAF.

She said we have to look at it intersectionally, which means “having all the players at the table”. She went on to talk about Veterans Affairs, Canadian Armed Forces, etc.

I share this to say that in Ms. Lalonde's testimony, she underlines, or she's making a recommendation, at the very least, that this problem should be tackled in a certain way. Certain departments should be brought to the table. It should also be thought about in the context.... She's talking about men here. Julie Lalonde is talking about men and how they're ashamed to come forward. That's linked to the culture of the Canadian Armed Forces. What are we going to do about that?

Yes, we've talked about culture a lot. Many of us have spoken about the need to change the culture. We've heard that from witnesses. We've heard that from experts. Mr. Spengemann and Mr. Bagnell have spoken about the need to change the culture on a number of occasions, and have offered some thoughts as to how that should happen. This is a particular consequence of the culture. This is an element of the culture that Ms. Lalonde is speaking to with regard to the shame that men feel and why it happens. How are we going to tackle that?

I'm raising segments of Ms. Lalonde's testimony to underline how serious the problem is, as a reminder. I know that we all know it's serious, but this is to underline how serious it is and therefore how important it is that the focus of our work be on solving the problem rather than talking about politics. I think the best way to honour survivors is to tackle the problem. The best way to tackle the problem is to take into account what folks like Julie Lalonde and so many others are offering us in terms of suggestions as to how that can be done, and then incorporate those in our report. Then, like Mr. Bagnell has suggested in his amendment, we get the government to respond so that we have greater confidence, certainly the most confidence that we can contribute, that this government and future governments will tackle the problem of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces.

Madam Chair, I see that others have their hands up. I will end it there for now.

Thanks very much.

11:20 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

All right. Thank you very much.

Mr. Robillard, you have the floor.

11:20 a.m.


Yves Robillard Liberal Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I would like to continue along the same lines as last week by reading Maya Eichler's comments about sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.

This report is of the highest importance because it gives us a scholarly view of the problem affecting our armed forces. It also ties in with my colleague Mr. Bagnell's motion in that it focuses on the importance of the government in the matter. It goes without saying, therefore, that we must ask for a government response to our committee's recommendations, as this text will make clear.

In Maya Eichler's words:

The Deschamps Report was released more than 25 years after the Human Rights Tribunal ruling that ordered the military to remove all legal barriers to women's employment in the Canadian military. Prior to the ruling, the military leadership actively resisted women's equal integration, especially into combat roles, arguing that women's inclusion would undermine operational effectiveness. Once faced with the ruling, the military took a passive approach to women's integration, which we have described as “neutral” in this article. It enabled legal change but did not ensure a transformation of the gendered culture within the CAF. This gendered culture in the Canadian Armed Forces revolved around the association of soldiering with masculinity and idealized the male warrior figure. It marginalized women and characteristics stereotypically associated with women, creating obstacles to women's successful integration. It also contributed to sexualized violence in the Canadian Armed Forces, an allegedly gender-neutral institution. The Deschamps Report and the military's response to it represent a turning point in the military's discourse around gender and sexual violence. The leadership of the CAF has acknowledged the problem of widespread sexual misconduct and the need to change the military's culture. However, the leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces has framed the elimination of sexual misconduct only in terms of its value to operational effectiveness. This presents a limited conceptualization of gender equality and does not acknowledge the CAF's underlying masculinized warrior ethos. Furthermore, Operation HONOUR indicates a shift from gender neutrality to a strength through diversity approach that collapses gender within larger diversity issues. This is problematic because it fails to acknowledge how significant male power and the privileging of masculinity still are in the military (as they are in many institutions), while instrumentalizing gender and diversity for operational purposes. Changing the military's culture will require an explicit engagement with male warrior culture, militarized masculinity, and gender power rather than a purely instrumental approach to gender as is currently the case.

Once again, as a government and a committee, we here can act by making our recommendations to the government. By asking the government for a response, we will automatically ensure that we will have some feedback on our recommendations.

Maya Eichler also says this:The military's shifts in the politics of gender teach us some important lessons. First, change in the military's policy on gender, both in 1989 and since 2015, came about as a result of external pressures. Second, defining gender equality in terms of gender neutrality is not sufficient to bring about real change. Feminist scholars have shown that gender neutrality, or the denial of gender as an important social category, usually mask the continued privileging of masculinity and prevent transformative change. It is too early to predict whether a “strength through diversity” approach in conjunction with Operation HONOUR will be sufficient to affect cultural change. It is important, however, to consider the limitations of the current approach. By defining its response to widespread sexual misconduct as an operational issue and focusing on the added value that women bring, the military is likely not going far enough in challenging the underlying gendered culture it seeks to change. Closer feminist examination of this most recent shift in the military's approach to gender is urgently needed. The military needs to open itself to other stakeholders in civil society, such as the media and feminist experts. The CAF's first progress report on the fight against inappropriate sexual behaviour recognizes the importance of input from civil society partners and other experts. This should include stronger engagement with feminist researchers and practitioners. While civilian pressure and involvement in itself is not enough change the military's culture, it can render visible some of the limitations to the military's current approach to gender.

I feel that we can draw the same conclusions as Ms. Eichler about sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. Although her text is from 2017, it unfortunately remains current. As she says so well, the changes made in 1989, and those made since 2015, came about as the result of external pressures.

It is therefore our role, as members of this committee, to make recommendations to the government with a view to resolving the issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. In order for those recommendations to be not just empty words, we must make sure that the government provides us with a response. It is our responsibility to do so, and a simple matter of good common sense.

11:30 a.m.


The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much, Mr. Robillard.

We will go on to Mr. Spengemann, please.

11:30 a.m.


Sven Spengemann Liberal Mississauga—Lakeshore, ON

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.



The Chair Liberal Karen McCrimmon

Thank you very much, Mr. Spengemann.

We will move on to Mr. Bagnell, please.



Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Welcome to all my colleagues on the committee.

First of all, I want to thank Mr. Spengemann for his continuing great research on other militaries. With the courageous survivors we've had who have come forward, with the experts and with this information from other militaries, this committee may now have the best information on file of any military in the world, which the CAF can use, the government can use and Madam Arbour can use to come up with a positive step forward.

I want to thank Mr. Robillard, too, for the tremendous work he's doing on women in the military, because that's obviously a key aspect of preventing misconduct in the military.

I have several issues with the motion before us. My amendment is to deal with one of those issues.

I believe there should be a government response to the motion, to the recommendations. These are very complicated changes, which I will go on shortly about. Change is never easy, as everyone knows. Even small change can lead to resistance, let alone the major changes that are needed here and in a number of militaries. I believe there's a far better chance of these changes occurring if the government, with its response, is part of the solution. I don't imagine there's any committee member here who feels there would be less chance of success on some of the recommendations we would make if the government were not part of the solution for that.

What I want to do is address one item in my first intervention today, and that is related to culture, to show how complicated it is and why we need a government response, because the solution is so complicated. As I said before in the last meeting, I really need the experts' input, because I have no expertise in this area. I'm going to talk about what the experts have said about culture, to show why it's complex and why we need the government to be part of the solution with its response.

The first input I'll talk about is from Dr. English. He said:

The culture that exists now in the Canadian Armed Forces is sometimes referred to as a warrior culture. Now, this warrior culture came into the Canadian Armed Forces in the early 2000s when we started co-operating very closely with the United States in Afghanistan, and after 2005 when General Rick Hillier became chief of the defence staff and wanted a warrior culture to replace what he called a bureaucratic culture that existed in the Canadian Forces at the time.

The warrior culture that was chosen because of our close association with the United States was a particular culture that had been created in the U.S. in the eighties and nineties, which was based on a hypermasculine, sexualized military culture that had actually been created to keep LGBTQ people out of the military, and later this was deployed against women.

This was an artificial, foreign, hypersexualized culture that, according to American researchers who have researched this culture, contributed to “creating or sustaining a cultural environment where sexual assaults can occur and thrive.”

By importing this American hypermasculine culture, we've really created a lot of our own problems. I think one of the first things any culture change would have to do would be to go back to what we put into “Duty with Honour”, our profession of arms manual in 2003, which was something called the “warrior's honour”.

This new Canadian warrior culture in response to the Somalia crisis was to be based on the warrior's honour that they would use the minimal amount of force possible to achieve their objectives, and that the warriors had a responsibility both to carry out their mission and also to respect the laws of war. This is quite different from what we have now. I would think that's the first thing that has to change.

Dr. Okros then went on to explain that it's true that we have to change, for the reasons I just quoted, but also that the Canadian military and in fact all militaries are in a very unique situation. They have to have a unique culture. The question is, what would that culture look like, given the constraints, the conditions or the unique environment of a military?

He said:

The other comment I would make with this is that there does need to be a unique military culture. Canadians require very specific things from the women and men who are providing security for them. That requires some very specific things. There is no other employer that has the concept of unlimited liability, that expects and requires people to put themselves in harm's way.

To do that, to generate those capabilities and the capacity to endure under what can be really arduous circumstances, does require something unique that most private sector employers don't need.

The issue is, what should that culture be? I think that's the issue that is really up for debate and discussion. Again, what the comments we're providing here...there is a tension in the military as well around evolving over time. One thing that is baked into the military philosophy is that there are really important lessons that have been learned, that were paid for in blood over the centuries, that we will never forget.

That is of importance, but that can hold the military back from trying to envision the future military culture that they need to be building within a 21st-century security context, and with young Canadians who are seeking to serve their country in uniform.

It needs to be a unique culture. The debate, really, is about what [that culture should be], what should be retained and what needs to fundamentally change.

Going on to show how complex it is and why we need a government response because of the complexity, Dr. von Hlatky talks about women. There are some comments about certain situations that women are in. She goes on to explain how women face differences throughout the entire spectrum of their military career. There could be different aspects at different times in their career, but certainly, right from recruitment to retirement, it's a totally different situation for women. That's obviously very critical in improving the military in the discussions that we're having.

Dr. von Hlatky said:

I would certainly welcome this opportunity to review how we can better focus on the unique needs and experiences of women in the Canadian Armed Forces. If it takes a crisis to precipitate more attention to this issue, then so be it.

In general, I think it's been the big push behind integrating a gender-based analysis plus tool—

Again, I compliment Mr. Robillard for his discussion on that in the House a couple of weeks ago, his motion on gender-based analysis in the military. Congratulations, Mr. Robillard.

—into the way that the Government of Canada develops its policies, and here, this certainly applies to the Canadian Armed Forces. Because the experiences of women are different from men—and we pointed to some cultural factors for why that is—there are other reasons, as well, for why they may have different needs and different experiences.

At every career stage, once again, whether it's at the moment of recruitment or at the moment of release and the transition from being in the military to reintegrating in civilian life, women face unique challenges. If we can use this opportunity as a way to further study what these unique challenges and needs are, then I definitely think this would be a good step in that direction.

At the same time, I don't think we should assume that what's going on right now—what's playing out in the media—is a central decision-making factor for a woman, either in terms of considering her career options in the military or whether she's considering joining the Canadian Armed Forces. There are a host of motives and reasons for why women make decisions about their careers, and that may have an impact or it may not. Certainly, it's just one consideration among many.

To show the complexity of this one topic, that being culture, and why we need the government involved in a very thoughtful response to what we come up with, I'll go to Dr. Okros. He said that one of the ways to improve this culture is to make sure that everyone, all the groups, maybe under-represented groups, etc., have voices and are heard.

Dr. Okros said the following:

I'll start by saying that I'm probably the last person to speak on behalf of women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, and it's the point I'd like to make. Inclusion strategies, when we are looking at diverse peoples, use the phrase “nothing about us without us”. If we apply the women, peace and security agenda principles, one of the things it should lead to is the recognition that women need to be empowered to represent themselves, and that includes with agency, with voice.

I would offer...in terms of what the CAF does internally...that it is important to ensure that the voices and perspectives of those we wish to speak for are being heard and being considered. In the long run, creating mechanisms of voice so that individuals and subgroups within the military can be heard effectively would be a good strategy.

Dr. Okros goes on to say this:

The extension beyond this is the issue of creating social hierarchies. Every workplace, every group, has social hierarchies of who is the most important down to who is the least important. These are the things that are being policed commonly using sexualized or racialized language and references.

...when people put in these snide comments, when women make an observation and are ignored and then their male colleagues say exactly the same thing and are applauded, these are the day-to-day practices that send signals about who's important and valued and who's not.

When people seek to create these hierarchies and police them by rewarding certain individuals based on characteristics and attacking others, that's what starts damaging identity and belonging.

It is important for us to be recognizing it. It isn't unique to the military. What I tried to identify are some facets of the military such as the importance given to normative conformity, obedience to authority, the differentiations of rank and the power differences. These things can accentuate those and make it more difficult.

As I reported earlier, Dr. English made the same type of reference to the specific environment of the military.

Dr. Okros continued:

As I said, these things are essential for operational effectiveness, but they're double-edged swords because they get used against people as well.

The environment and the needs of operations have these different requirements because it's such a difficult situation, but then these different requirements, if used improperly, are part of the problem. That's why this committee needs to have very considered discussion of this one complicated topic of culture. It's not simple. It will take some time.

I'd like to go back to Dr. von Hlatky now with regard to training. She came up with a very important point that I had never thought of before, but it makes obvious sense when you think about it at length. She talks about how the training related to sexual misconduct is totally different from operational training. It's treated far less seriously. Operational training, as anyone who's been in operational training knows, is done over and over again until it's just a gut reaction. It's instinct. That's what saves your life in different situations.

Dr. von Hlatky states:

I think we can recognize the opacity of the current culture. I want us to switch the framing from operational effectiveness to organizational effectiveness. Operation Honour framed misconduct as a problem that undermines operational effectiveness; and I think moving forward, it would be prudent to talk about organizational health. Organizational effectiveness is a prerequisite for operational effectiveness, and the way that the forces get ready for operations is through training...and certification. You plan and practice until your instincts are right, and even in difficult, complex environments with high stress and sleep deprivation, you will perform in a way that is consistent with your training.

On the other hand, we have Operation Honour training, which consists of passing on information about sexual misconduct. It's ticking the box, and we don't worry so much about how the information is retained or applied beyond monitoring who's up to date on their training and who's not.

While I fully agree with my colleagues that it's important to look at culture, I think it's important to look at culture through different phases of the career and at how military identity is developed throughout these stages. I also really believe in the importance of some more bureaucratic fixes, and training is one of them. We need to give this kind of training as much importance as the other types of training that happen in the military.

Later on in this intervention, I'll explain how Dr. English repeats the same point.

Once again, just to show a need for a government response to this, Dr. von Hlatky goes on:

There has been a lot of defensiveness in the past as well in terms of reacting to problems as they arise, and of course, five years ago, that's where we were as well. However, despite these doubts, I don't think we should wait until the next CDS is appointed to take decisive action.... [T]here needs to be an immediate call to action and stress on the importance of this crisis-like situation for the people. There are a lot of people in the Canadian Armed Forces, and right now they need to hear from their leaders. The well-being of the Canadian Armed Forces members, victims and survivors...is paramount.

As you have heard, our members have been saying this in recent committee meetings.

Dr. von Hlatky continues:

People need leadership in times of crisis. General Eyre is it right now. This is obviously needed from the PM and the defence minister too, but Canadian Armed Forces members will look to their service commanders and CDS to set the tone.

We spoke to deeper change and cultural change, and that's certainly necessary immediately. Sexual misconduct cannot always be put away as a problem to solve on its own. We've tried...to really emphasize the connection between military culture and the prevalence of sexual misconduct. Then there are the more immediate questions that have been raised in the last few weeks, and we need to reverse-engineer this problem. The question that needs to be answered immediately is how officers get to the top of the hierarchy while abusing power. How can the incentive structure within the CAF change so that abuses of power are not explained away or covered up by subordinates, peers and senior leaders alike?

You can see that is a huge issue that will take more than a couple of minutes of discussion to come up with a rational, thoughtful solution as to how we deal with it. I'll talk about that in my next intervention—not in this one, but later on in the meeting. I'll talk about that promotion situation as well, but it shows that we need thoughtful discussion by committee members on that and then a response from the government on this very complicated issue.

Dr. von Hlatky goes on:

...in my opinion, abuses of power have not been adequately addressed as part of the Operation Honour journey, and this circumstance should motivate a series of adjustments across the board—from training approaches to communications to leadership to data collection—

When we go on to discuss recommendations, probably not until my third intervention today, one will be related to data collection, which, for obvious reasons, will be important as to what levels the effects are at and how they are different.

Then again, to show the complexity of this issue and why we need thoughtful discussion in committee and a government response, Dr. Okros says:

I would just offer that it's important to make a differentiation between commitment and understanding. I would state that I believe leaders at all levels are committed to addressing the issues.

And all people on this committee are, I'm sure. He continues:

As...has been observed by women's organizations externally, the gap is in the understanding. As I tried to say, it is at one level easy to see or easier to understand why it's difficult to understand it. Again, one of the phrases people use is that it's hard for fish to discover water. It's difficult for people who are completely immersed in a very strong, dominant culture to really understand what that culture is.

Again, I think this is the reason for some of the calls for the assistance of those who have external academic and professional perspectives to bear, to assist senior leaders in understanding the culture and then helping them to figure out what the culture change initiatives can be.

That is exactly the reason why I said at the beginning of this intervention that I and perhaps other committee members without experience need this expert input. But Dr. English put sort of a caveat on that. He said:

To follow on from that, one of the issues is exactly about what leaders believe. General Thibault made a very perceptive comment, that his lack of belief in Justice Deschamps' conclusions was based in his own personal experience. He didn't see it, and we know from research that this is true, that we form biases and we tend to favour our own personal experience over, for example, academic studies.

However, it goes back to this key point, which is power. Many of the behaviours that go on—and they're not all related to sexual misconduct, as has been pointed out by a number of speakers—are related to maintaining and keeping power. One of the main things you have to do when you want to make comprehensive culture change is to make significant changes in the leadership, and the Canadian Forces has rarely, if ever, been willing to do that. That comes down to oversight.

Mr. Baker mentioned oversight already today. Dr. English continued:

I'll make the last point very briefly, because it was brought up, about demographics. Until you change the demographics of the forces, get more women in, get more diversity, the experiences are going to remain within this homogeneous group that doesn't really believe in change. I think the leaders have said that.

You know, it's not just a few. There's a certain level that it has to be before it will be effective.

I'm just going to make one more input on this culture, again to show how complicated it is. It's from Dr. English, and this is a good conclusion to my first intervention today. I've referenced this a number of times actually in these committee meetings:

I've read the latest DAOD 9005-1 on sexual misconduct.... I find parts of it contradicts itself. I was discussing with a colleague the other day about duty to report. On one hand, it would say that you report here, disclose here, and it doesn't get reported. You disclose here, and it does get reported. You disclose here, and it doesn't get reported at first, but maybe it will get reported later on, because someone or a profession has a duty to report.

For your average person, it would be quite complex to figure out exactly what's going on. I know why the DAODs are written the way they are. They're written by lawyers and bureaucrats to cover all the bases. For the average member, it would be quite difficult to decipher that.

Going back to the culture question, that really is the substance of my arguments. In the end, it doesn't really matter how good your rules and regulations are or how open to reporting you are. If people know, within the culture, that anybody who reports will be ostracized, bullied, harassed, have their career ended, then it doesn't really matter how good and clear your regulations are, or how open you say you are. Many times, many organizations, including the CAF, have said this. That's why it goes back to the fundamental problem of changing the culture.

I have to re-emphasize that my colleagues are a little more optimistic than I am about “The Path to Dignity and Respect”. If it calls for cultural realignment, it's assuming that everything is not so bad. I'm afraid most people have said it is pretty bad. It needs more than realignment. It needs comprehensive change. Until that change happens, it doesn't really matter how many rules and regulations are made about reporting, people aren't going to do it. We've had many reports done on that, and have explained why.

Over and above everything that's been said about culture at previous meetings, I've just spent 24 minutes on an intervention on this one complex issue that our committee is struggling with, so how reasonable would it be that this motion would only allow me two minutes? These issues are very complex. We have to come out with a thoughtful discussion of these issues—and that's only me. It just shows how unreasonable the motion is. It would limit me to two minutes when I've used 24 minutes right now, plus things, as people have mentioned, that I've said in previous meetings.

Think for a minute if we were allowed only two minutes on the motion and then made our recommendations to the Government of Canada. The way the motion is right now, the government wouldn't have to respond to it. Given that the recommendation was provided without serious debate, the government would have two options. First of all, it could not take it seriously, because of this unreasonable motion we're discussing, because it wasn't a serious debate on the issue, or it would be forced to do a detailed evaluation and analysis of the recommendation to ensure that it was an appropriate recommendation. I'm glad that all committee members, especially the opposition, have the belief that the government has the ability and the expertise to do that. That would take a long time.

I don't think it would really help the survivors if we caused them to take all sorts of extra time by not giving them well-thought-out, well-debated recommendations. That's why I believe that the motion before us is not the most effective way of proceeding, and I would hope that we could have thoughtful debate and a government response to these very critical and important issues.

Thank you, Madam Chair.