Mr. Speaker, there is no room in the Canadian Armed Forces or the Department of National Defence for sexism, misogyny, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, discrimination, harassment, or any other conduct that prevents the institution from being a truly welcoming and inclusive organization.
National Defence understands that a culture change within the Canadian Armed Forces is required to remove a culture of toxic behaviour and to create an environment where everyone is respected and valued, and can feel safe to contribute to the best of their ability.
To this end, the Minister of National Defence has appointed the Hon. Louise Arbour to lead an independent external comprehensive review of the culture and practices of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. This review will provide recommendations aimed at addressing systemic issues and creating lasting culture change within the organization.
Additionally, the acting chief of the defence staff has appointed Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan to the newly created position of chief of professional conduct and culture, to lead efforts to promote culture change across the defence team, including the enhancement and consolidation of National Defence’s sexual misconduct tracking mechanisms. This will identify areas that require focused attention, and ensure that all reported incidents are addressed appropriately in a timely manner.
Through these actions, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces will move to eliminate harmful attitudes and beliefs that have enabled misconduct and will create an environment where all feel welcome.
In response to part (a), the report was not finalized.
In response to part (b), challenges and delays caused by COVID-19 forced National Defence to adjust the development, approach, and timelines to the 2020 report’s data release.
In response to part (c), the normal release schedule for the annual Operation Honour sexual misconduct incident report is in the fall, using data pulled in the late spring from the Operation Honour tracking and analysis system, OPHTAS. The impact of the COVID-19 restrictions through the spring and fall of 2020 delayed the completion and release of the report.
Due to the delays in the process, the previous approach of relying on data gathered in the spring was considered no longer sufficient to provide an up-to-date overview of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Given the unexpected challenges and delays, the acting chief of the defence staff made the decision to combine the 2020 and 2021 reports.
In response to part (d), as there is no legislative requirement to release this report, revised timelines were not communicated formally to the Minister of National Defence.
In response to part (e), National Defence remains committed to openness and transparency, and will re-establish a regular reporting cycle for sexual misconduct incident data.
National Defence anticipates the release of the 2021 report in the fall of 2021, which will provide a comprehensive overview using data from April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2021.
In response to part (f), several organizations within National Defence, such as the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, the Judge Advocate General, the director general of integrated conflict and complaint management, and the sexual misconduct response centre, have databases that are designed to support their mandates. These databases may capture certain data related to sexual misconduct incidents, such as information on investigations, charges laid, and trials. This information is made available in these organizations’ annual reports.
The Operation Honour tracking and analysis system, OPHTAS, is the only database dedicated to tracking all sexual misconduct incidents reported through the chain of command. While there may be an intersection of sexual misconduct data in OPTHAS and other departmental databases, these databases are currently not linked, and a direct comparison of the information held within each cannot be made.
National Defence is working to integrate all databases that record data related to sexual misconduct. This project will help achieve a more consolidated picture of sexual misconduct data, while respecting the legal privacy and confidentiality requirements of the various databases.