Evidence of meeting #143 for Status of Women in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was caf.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Sandra Perron  Senior Partner, A New Dynamic Enterprise Inc., As an Individual
Natalie MacDonald  As an Individual
Laura Nash  As an Individual
Julie S. Lalonde  As an Individual

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

We'll turn now to Rachael, and then go to Sonia.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Ms. Lalonde, in reference to the Canadian Armed Forces, you said that nobody is safe if they call out what is going on. Can you expand on that statement a little further?

9:50 a.m.

As an Individual

Julie S. Lalonde

Yes, I think Sandra's and Laura's testimony today and the stories that Sandra is hearing criss-crossing the country are indicative of that, but then again, I'm a white, educated, bilingual civilian woman with a written apology from the Department of National Defence. I was thrown under the bus by the general at the time on national television. The media allowed people to have comment sections open where people could threaten me and my safety. Mine was a pretty open-and-closed case. The commandant apologized for how I was treated at that institution. To me that's very telling.

I don't know a single woman who has come forward to challenge the institution, whether you're talking CAF, the RCMP, or the firefighter. Who has come forward and actually been lauded as a hero in that moment? Nobody. Maybe years later we will look back and recognize the sacrifice that those folks have made, but we don't have examples of someone coming forward and getting unequivocal support. It is a struggle.

You have to hire lawyers if you can afford it. You need to find supportive folks to come to your rescue. History looks back on you and you know you're on the right side of history, but that doesn't do anything to protect your livelihood in the moment.

I'm a civilian who could not speak in public without a security detail, and I speak to end violence against women in Canada as a white lady. I don't think it gets any more blunt than that. I couldn't go into community groups and talk about ending violence without requesting that the OPP be there to make sure someone doesn't come after me. People threaten me to my face and online, and I had to get the police involved. This actually happened to me. How many women are just leaving the military and not bothering to come forward? Tons of them.

This is an institution that has a ceiling; they're aiming for 21% of the CAF to be women. That is so embarrassingly low that it's laughable. We're not going to get there when the people trying to change things are pariahs within that community.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

I understand that Ms. MacDonald has outlined some concrete systemic steps that need to be taken within the organization of the CAF. If, based on your expertise, you were to further outline some practical steps on how to increase the number of women within the Canadian Armed Forces, what would you say they are?

9:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Julie S. Lalonde

Well, first of all, I wouldn't encourage more women to join the CAF at this point. I think that's the wrong goal to have. You have to fix the problem. You can't just add women and stir, which has traditionally been the approach.

One, I think CAF is missing this massive opportunity, which is that the forces are changing in many different ways. The idea that it's brute force and that you're in the trenches like back in World War II.... You want smart people to do diplomacy, to do code breaking, to sit at computers, to do IT work. That is the face of the new military.

You could do an overhaul that says, “The Canadian Armed Forces is changing in a lot ways.” That could be targeting diversity, but it could also target the fact that we're looking for smart people, right? That's what the Canadian Armed Forces is looking for: a more educated military. They could rebrand in that way. I think that would take the focus away from just Operation Honour and we need more women, to “The whole thing is changing and let's do that in an exciting way.”

Secondly, they need to have outsider expertise. People need to report to someone who's not in the chain of command. The new sexual assault centre service is great, but not awesome. I mean, it's not there yet. I think overall, the conversation needs to be had that we're having as a nation, which is, should the CAF be investigating sexual assault within the military system? That's a hard no from me. Again, they don't have the expertise, and we keep allowing them to defer to “We'll figure it out.”

It's external support, external advisers, external experts in to train your folks, external people to deal with your complaints, and then also having a massive conversation about how the military is changing. View that as a positive rather than making the men who will want the system to stay the same feel so threatened. That's where the defensiveness comes from.

They feel like we're taking something away from them by having paternal leave. What does that say about that institution?

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

We are going until quarter after 10, so we have some time following Sonia as well.

Sonia, I'm going to switch the floor to you for five minutes.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you very much for sharing your experiences.

With regard to the non-welcoming atmosphere to outsiders in the Canadian Armed Forces, Ms. Lalonde, you said that we can change that culture.

Can you comment on that?

9:55 a.m.

As an Individual

Julie S. Lalonde

Well, first, we need to stop saying it's a big ship and that it takes a long time to turn it around. I've heard that ship metaphor a hundred times in the last five years, and I'm bored to death of it.

The other one is, “Well, sexual violence is not unique to the military. Sexism is not unique to the military. We see this across the board.” That is the pettiest cop-out I've ever heard in my entire life.

This is an institution that monitors what your underwear looks like. Let's be blunt here, right? Every facet of your life is controlled when you join the Canadian Armed Forces, and we're acting as though we can't do anything about these childish buffoons who are harassing women, the people who are laughing in women's faces when they make complaints.

We need courage, frankly, and we need bold leadership, to be able to say that this isn't just about sexual violence eradication, that we just have to find the 20 rapists within the military and get rid of them. We need to talk about how it is embedded in the military to be masculine. The uniform is masculine. You have to erase every part of your femininity to join the Canadian Armed Forces. You have to choose between your child and a career. You have to look like a man.

Literally, it is adding women and stir. We need strong leadership to name it as such, to say that masculinity for too long has been the key to succeeding in this job and we're not going to do that anymore. As well, being white has been clear to being part of the military, being straight—all of those things—and we're moving away from that direction.

It's a hierarchical institution, which means that General Vance could be making bolder statements and putting bolder things in place, and that will trickle down. It is a hierarchical institution; they look to him for direction.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Ms. Perron, thank you for taking that initiative with Silver Cross Mothers. I'm from Brampton South, where we have Diana Abel. I met with her. So thank you for the Silver Cross Mothers initiative. You sent the letter.

We also heard about 20 spots for child care. Who made the decision for just the 20 spots for child care in the CAF?

Anyone can answer. It's an open question.

10 a.m.

As an Individual

Laura Nash

Actually, I don't know.

It's the MFRC building that had the day care in Esquimalt, and it was a very, very big building. They kept one of the day care rooms empty so that people in the community could rent it out for birthday parties on the weekend. Because we're all paying $700 a month, that's $7,000, it should be a self-funding program. It shouldn't cost the military any more money than that, or the MFRC.

I'm not sure who exactly is in charge of it, but I think there is a lot of opportunity to increase those day care spots, and put them closer to the base. The one in Esquimalt was closed, and the only one was about nine kilometres away and about 40 minutes in the morning and during traffic. My day care spot was 40 minutes away, in traffic, from the base.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

In terms of a family-friendly CF, do you think increasing day care support is one solution for that?

10 a.m.

As an Individual

Laura Nash

Absolutely, yes.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Ms. Perron, do you have any comment on that?

10 a.m.

Senior Partner, A New Dynamic Enterprise Inc., As an Individual

Sandra Perron

I totally agree. We need to better support families, and that means providing day care on the bases and everything else that goes with it. There will be a cost, of course, but it it shouldn't be that they only have so many spots. We should have as many spots as we need for our soldiers and our officers to be deployed.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

What else can the federal government do? My colleagues asked that question. Do you have more, or any other, solutions or suggestions?

This is for anyone. It's open.

10 a.m.

Senior Partner, A New Dynamic Enterprise Inc., As an Individual

Sandra Perron

Go ahead.

10 a.m.

As an Individual

Natalie MacDonald

Thank you, Ms. Perron. I'm going to say it as bluntly as I can: We need to bring the military into 2019. We need to do that by recognizing that it is broken in many places, and it needs to be fixed.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Sonia Sidhu Liberal Brampton South, ON

Thank you.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Rachael, we'll turn it over to you. You have five minutes.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Really? That's great.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Yes, we're here till quarter after.

10 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Ms. MacDonald, I don't know if you recall saying in your opening remarks that you had written to Trudeau with regard to his words, you said, but then you didn't explain what those words were. You also said that you had yet to hear back from him. What were those words of his stated that you wrote to him concerning—

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Point of order. One moment.

Go ahead.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Coast of Bays—Central—Notre Dame, NL

Sorry, it's not a point of order. I just want to ask a question.

10 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Karen Vecchio

Oh, okay. Is the question for one of the ladies, or—