Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on Motion No. 58.
The member's motion mentions recruitment and retention targets for under-represented groups in the Canadian Armed Forces. The Conservatives completely support this.
As a matter of fact, the Standing Committee on the Status of Women has recently been studying our Canadian Armed Forces, and the issue of recruitment and retention has come up several times. However, what we have found is rather interesting. It explains why women have not been joining the Canadian Armed Forces, and why they are leaving so early.
For months, Canadians have been shocked by the revelations of sexual misconduct in our Canadian Armed Forces, and in the highest positions. Early this year, we learned that General Vance, the former chief of defence staff, had been under investigation since as early as 2018. He was being investigated for inappropriate relations he was having with women under his command, particularly one relation that had been ongoing for 30 years.
When that individual made an appearance before the committee, she mentioned how she had asked questions about who would have the ability to investigate the actions of the chief of defence staff and if the CFNIS would be the appropriate body. The response the general gave this witness was that he was untouchable because he owned the CFNIS.
It was deeply concerning to hear that someone would actually believe they were above the law, was willing to create an unsafe work environment and had considered that they could not be investigated. To this day, this woman believes that she is not going to get justice for herself. However, she also believes that it was important for her to come forward so the issue could be dealt with, and so other women in the military would be able to get justice. For that, I applaud her.
We heard from another witness who had reported an incident, and even with all of the redactions and personal information removed, there was still enough information left that it was easy for someone to identify her. The report on the incident was openly discussed among her peers and even with her superiors, so she had no confidence in the system.
So many witnesses, women in particular, came forward to our committee to express this lack of confidence and trust in our system. They did not feel that the military had their backs. We even had a witness who gave a very interesting perspective on the double standards that the military justice system has towards women and men.
This witness discussed how, when she was deployed in Afghanistan, an investigation had been conducted into a consensual relationship she had had with a U.S. officer, who was not in her unit but of the same rank. She admitted that the relationship was against the regulations, and she pleaded guilty to the charges. She was fined, repatriated from the theatre and posted out of her unit. She accepted this as her punishment.
However, as a result, she was called demeaning names and was told that she was not worthy of leading soldiers. She said that she was also threatened with violence by a commanding officer and was repeatedly chastised by other officers. She was sent to work alone in an office managing a single Excel spreadsheet, and it quickly became very clear to her that her career in the Canadian Armed Forces was over. When she left the military, she had originally been given an offer to go into the reserves, but that was revoked when the commanding officer told her that she was not the type of leader he wanted in his unit.
She said the biggest failure in her life were the actions for which she was pushed out of the armoured corps, and for that she continues to carry immense shame. However, this was precisely the type of leadership displayed by the former chief of defence staff, who was the longest serving chief of defence staff. This brings into question what kind of environment allows for this double standard, for sexual misconduct to be so prolific in the Canadian Armed Forces, and for women to be always treated as the wrongdoers, even when they are the victims.
The status of women committee was overwhelmed by the evidence and testimony that so many of these women came forward with, and the fact that the military had multiple reports on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, most recently in 2015 with the Deschamps report. However, we continue to see, time after time, the government talking about wanting to stand up for women and talking about how we need to get to the root cause of this, yet never implementing recommendations made in the Deschamps report. It is not listening to the previous status of women committee, which made recommendations on how to address the culture within the Canadian Armed Forces, and it is now launching another review into this very same topic, less than 10 years from the last one.
We do not need more reports to tell us what we already know. We can act on the things we already do know. For example, the Deschamps report talks about reviewing government policies and directives, and putting them through a gender-based lens. It was one of her recommendations.
This is not something new. As a matter fact, it is part of the Minister for Women and Gender Equality’s mandate letter that she work with her cabinet colleagues and ensure these things are done. It was mentioned in this report, and it wasn't until explosive revelations, two house committee studies and another report that the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and the Minister of National Defence made the decision that they were going to work together to address this.
In the report by Justice Deschamps, she talks about the directives that defined what sexual misconduct was in the military, and mentioned how out of step it was with Canadians' understanding of sexual misconduct and with the Criminal Code. However, it was not until November 2020, 5 years after her report came out, that the chief of the defence staff amended the order as to how sexual misconduct is defined. Just recently, in the latest Justice Fish report that was just tabled, we saw that even he says the new version does not even do this issue justice.
The motion we are debating today recognizes the fact that women are under-represented in our military, but doing a gender-based analysis is only one step in addressing this. I would even go as far as saying this motion does not even do enough, because there are no metrics attached to it. There is no measurable way for us to say whether this is being successful. There needs to be something we can measure; there needs to be a failure or success report on this. I am interested to see if the member opposite would be willing to add this to his motion. I know that on our side we would be very grateful to see that.
We need to do more for women to attract them and retain them in the military. We can do that by actually addressing the culture in the Canadian Armed Forces and actually dealing with the issue at hand, not doing another report. For every report that has no action to it, it is yet another year and another decade that women go mistreated, under-represented and treated as less than their male counterparts.
Canadians, and particularly Canadian women, who serve proudly in our Canadian Armed Forces deserve much more from the government than just its words. They deserve real action. I am proud of the fact that our committee members have worked really hard on the status of women committee.
I hope that the government is listening to the various reports and to the opposition members and Canadian women and men in uniform who are calling for these changes. I hope it does not treat this as just another partisan issue and will instead address it, because everybody has the right to feel respected and treated equally in the workforce. That includes those in our military, whether they are civilians or in uniform.