Evidence of meeting #146 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 military.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Alan Okros  As an Individual
Kristine St-Pierre  Director, The WPS Group
Virginia Tattersal  Deputy Commander, Military Personnel Generation, Department of National Defence
Lise Bourgon  Defence Champion, Women, Peace and Security, Department of National Defence
Sean Cantelon  Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, Department of National Defence
Lisa Vandehei  Director of Gender, Diversity and Inclusion, Department of National Defence

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Thank you. Your time is up.

Is it all right with the committee members if I take the Liberal slot and ask some questions?

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Terry Duguid Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Yes.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Thank you to all the witnesses for coming out today.

You must have seen this report that has been tabled by the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence called “Sexual Harassment and Violence in the Canadian Armed Forces”. They have made some recommendations.

One of the recommendations is that “the mandate and resources of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre be reviewed to better respond to the needs of the individuals seeking support and that an external review mechanism be established to measure the Centre's effectiveness.”

We have also heard in our previous testimonies about this recommendation. What are your views on this?

10:25 a.m.

BGen Lise Bourgon

This is outside my experience in my portfolio, and so I will not make any comments on that recommendation.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Mr. Cantelon.

10:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, Department of National Defence

Sean Cantelon

One of the partners we work with in family services is the centre. It's important to differentiate the centre's mandate for the employers, i.e., the members of the armed forces and the flexibility that morale services brings as it's accessible to spouses in a different paradigm and a different frame, which I touched on in my introductory remarks. We have virtual social workers available to deal with them in a crisis intervention and then to work with the local community partners.

Specific to the centre, again outside my mandate, but related to the centre, and we are working with them, ensuring that we encompass the total experience there, because obviously if a service member and a spouse who is not a service member are involved, there are different jurisdictions, but ultimately it is the family as a whole that needs to be healed and supported, or supported as it moves to the inevitable outcome if it's a dissolution of a family, but you have to deal with those circumstances.

That's one part related to the formalization centre we'll continue to work to ensure—

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Ms. Vandehei, would you like to add something?

10:25 a.m.

Director of Gender, Diversity and Inclusion, Department of National Defence

Lisa Vandehei

I'm sorry, that's outside my mandate as well.

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Okay.

My next question is also on the recommendation by the recent Senate report on sexual harassment and violence. They are saying that the CF and DND implement evidence-based policies and practices to ensure that all the CAF members, former CAF members and civilians working for either DND or the CAF have access to the resources and the services they need to heal from the sexual trauma they have faced in the military. Are there currently any efforts by CAF and DND to engage victims of harassment and discrimination in determining the needs in services and resources for this particular group?

10:25 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, Department of National Defence

Sean Cantelon

I'll address that because one of the funding items under Status of Women that Morale and Welfare Services received was to conduct a family violence study that incorporates sexualized violence, as well as all other forms of family violence. That draft report has been completed and is just being submitted to the surgeon general. It is a multidisciplinary approach across all providers, which I touched on in my opening remarks. As in all reports, there is some significant room for us to enhance services to the Canadian Armed Forces, to align some of the governance, in particular, to focus holistically across the entire family environment, so the members deal with cultural changes.

We would anticipate being able to release that report publicly by the fall. It has, in essence, 12 recommendations focusing across a wide range of activities to address the points raised in the Senate committee. Note it was started prior to that Senate committee, but it's just being completed now.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Ms. Bourgon, would you like to add to that?

10:30 a.m.

BGen Lise Bourgon

No, thank you.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

My next question is to everyone. Do you think that a gap exists between the policies that are made to address gender-based and sexual harassment and their implementation by the authorities? How do we address the challenges of taking the policies we have on paper and ensuring they are applied? Who will be responsible for the implementation of those policies?

10:30 a.m.

BGen Lise Bourgon

I think it's called leadership and every commanding officer, every leader in the armed forces, is clear that is their responsibility. General Vance made Op Honour an operation for that reason. He truly believes this is a duty for the command team and every member to support. So it is a leadership issue and it's clear across.

10:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, Department of National Defence

Sean Cantelon

I can speak specifically. One of the functions of welfare services is we provide advice for the chief of military personnel and policy development on DAOD 5044-4, which is family violence. DND is currently rewriting it as a result of the study and other inputs, so that's one specific, and working across that with both the sexual response team and the centre to ensure that gets done.

Other policies are being considered. We expect to be putting out a Canadian Forces general instruction, signed by the chief of the defence staff in late summer or early fall, again addressing these policies.

I would note for the committee that it always takes longer than one expects to revise policies, due to the complex size of National Defence.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Our previous witnesses have identified the lack of expertise in issues of gender and sexuality as one of the major barriers to addressing the problems of discrimination and harassment within the Canadian Armed Forces as well as DND. They also identified a lack of expertise in handling the grievance process, the training and the education surrounding these issues. Would you like to comment on that and how can we address those issues?

10:30 a.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services, Department of National Defence

Sean Cantelon

I'll comment a bit on that. One of the points we noted in the draft report was that we need to adjust the composition of expertise in these areas. I would specifically address that. The latter part, in terms of gaps, of your last question is really a bit outside my lanes. In regard to the overall services of families, it's to ensure that we reflect all of those capabilities that exist in civil society, in local communities, and what we can replicate either through contracting or through specific services provided through National Defence or family services. There is room for improvement in that mix.

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Salma Zahid

Thank you.

We'll pass the floor to Ms. Harder for a five-minute round.

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you.

I'm not sure who to ask this to, so I'll let you decide which person is the best to answer.

Can you comment on not only procedure but also practices that are being put in place in order to best serve women when they face sexual assault or misconduct?

The reason I ask this question is that we've heard from many witnesses who say it's not a matter of having more procedure, more paperwork, more platitudes or more good intention; it's simply a matter of practice. They would say that many of the procedures are already in place; many of the expectations have already been stated.

Ms. Tattersal, you mentioned that 40 hours out of that initial week, I believe you said—

10:35 a.m.

BGen Virginia Tattersal

It's 10 weeks.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Sorry—40 hours out of 10 weeks are spent on ethics and conduct and things like that, which is exceptional. There still seem to be some weaknesses within the culture of the Canadian Armed Forces.

I understand that no one individual is fully responsible for changing this. Clearly, it's a massive undertaking, and it's one that each and every individual member has to commit to upholding.

I guess I'm looking for some further reflection with regard to what the practice looks like rather than just the procedures.

10:35 a.m.

BGen Virginia Tattersal

I'll take that with respect to our recruit school.

When there is an incident at the recruit school, there is obviously a duty to report. We can't respond to what has not been reported. It's not always the victim who will report that something has occurred. Our immediate step, as soon as we are aware that there has been an incident, no matter who it is reported to, is to ensure that the leadership then engages and creates that separation. Whoever it is who has allegedly—because we are innocent until proven guilty—done something inappropriate is removed from that platoon, removed from that accommodation space and placed elsewhere. Why? Because the alleged victim needs to have that separation for their own sense of safety and security to allow them to receive the support from the staff. I think that's a very practical immediate response that we take. We do it at our recruit school, at all of our other training establishments as well, and in all of our units.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

What does it look like to shift culture?

I understand this is a really difficult undertaking in any organization. In particular, I would imagine that in the Canadian Armed Forces it's huge. What does that look like? How do you undertake that? How do you ensure that there is in fact a culture of camaraderie and mutual respect among all people?

10:35 a.m.

BGen Virginia Tattersal

The challenge with changing culture within the Canadian Armed Forces is the same challenge that we face within Canadian society, because we are a mirror of Canadian society. As I explained, because I usually do this as a little bit of a soapbox rant, when I watched TV growing up, it was The Waltons and The Beachcombers. You can judge me by how old I am, but they carried with them certain values they expressed in how you related and how you conducted yourself.

Nowadays, if you turn on TV on Sunday night, you're going to be watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians, which involves a very different expectation as to how one conducts oneself, what is acceptable, and what is not. Anyone we enrol is bringing with them what they have learned from their parents, from their families, and from society writ large into the Canadian Armed Forces. So as we work to instill in them—and that's the value of our recruit training—the values of the Canadian Armed Forces to reinforce that through our processes, our policies, and our training, at the same time, we are trying to change that still prevalent culture, because when they go home at night, they're still faced with that. That is why you will hear us say that culture takes a while, but it's culture in the broader Canadian public as well.

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rachael Harder Conservative Lethbridge, AB

Thank you. I appreciate it.