Madam Speaker, I would very much like to thank the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin for this valuable motion that would help national defence and the Canadian Armed Forces meet recruitment and retention targets for underrepresented groups.
My hon. colleague has been a staunch champion of ensuring that these issues in the Canadian Armed Forces are heard and challenged. I fully support this motion. Our government is working to build a public service that is more inclusive and effective. Gender-based analysis plus is essential to both of these goals.
GBA+ looks at how diverse groups of women, men and gender-diverse peoples may experience policies, programs, legislation, regulations and other initiatives differently. It goes beyond an examination of just the impacts on gender and considers all of the different factors that simultaneously make up people's identities, such as age, sexual orientation, gender, geography, language, race, religion, ethnicity, socio-economic status and other factors, and how those intersect.
It involves understanding who is affected, determining how we can adapt our efforts to address their diverse needs, and reducing barriers to access or support. This analysis is essential for building a public service that meets the needs of all Canadians. We have to be fair, equitable and inclusive.
To this end, the Department of National Defence supports the use of GBA+ in all defence activities, including recruitment and retention. We are facing an increasingly more complex, challenging and interconnected world. State and non-state actors are competing for influence and challenging the rules-based international order that underpins our prosperity and democracy.
At home, the military has answered the call time and again to help Canadians in need, whether during natural disasters or during the COVID-19 pandemic. To remain strong at home, secure in North America and engaged in the world, National Defence must be agile. It must be able to adapt to new circumstances and innovate. Diversity and inclusion are essential to that. We need people from all different backgrounds who bring unique perspectives to the table and who can work together to find creative solutions to the problems we face.
National defence must also maintain the trust and confidence of the people we serve. That means upholding the highest ethical and professional standards. Treating all people with dignity and respect must be at the core of our culture, a culture that is currently undergoing a complete overhaul to better reflect the values Canadians expect.
GBA+ must be included in all of our work. One important area for this is recruitment. Recruiters are front and centre in bringing top talent to the Canadian Armed Forces. They are often the first face in uniform that potential recruits meet, so it is essential that they embody the values and principles that Canadians hold dear, and that they understand the value of inclusion and representation. All Canadian Forces recruitment group members go through rigorous training on diversity, inclusion, racism, human rights, employment equity and GBA+. They apply these principles in their work as they bring in the next generation of Canadian Armed Forces members.
GBA+ is a vital part of Operation Generation, the CAF's multipronged mission to meet growth requirements and employment equity goals. By using GBA+, we can better understand how perceptions of the military and attitudes toward joining may differ among various groups. We need to find and address any barriers.
Although there has been a slight increase in the number of women recruited into the Canadian Armed Forces over the past three years, we have not yet met our recruitment targets. GBA+ research shows that certain groups of young women are not aware of the career options that are available in the Canadian Forces or have concerns about work-life balance.
GBA+ research has shown how people of all genders from racialized communities have different perceptions about a military career, so we need to overcome these perceptions and speak to what motivates people from various communities.
Canada's sailors, soldiers and aviators perform meaningful work at home and abroad, and can find flexibility through part-time service with the primary reserve. However, we recognize attracting people to the military is not enough. They need the right policies and structures to want to stay.
As GBA+ is important to recruitment, it is also critical in retention. For example, when we purchase equipment, we need to consider the differences in size, shape and mobility of different CAF personnel.
During the medium support vehicle system project, we found that soldiers below a certain height would have difficulty pushing the vehicle's brake pedal across its entire range of motion. We therefore worked with the contractor to move the pedal. Not only did this make the truck safer, but it meant that a group of people would not be excluded from driving it.
That is how we can set people up for success: clothes and equipment that fit their bodies, policies that fit their needs and career paths that fit their professional aspirations.
In the context of operations, the Canadian Armed Forces is currently assessing barriers to women's meaningful participation in peace support operations, and DND is exploring the use of GBA+ to help inform Canada's selection of and role in ongoing and future military operations. On the civilian side, DND implemented the civilian diversity and inclusion action plan in 2019, which aims to eliminate employment equity gaps, expand leadership representation, enhance promotion rates for all civilian diversity groups, implement inclusive practices and embed individual accountability.
To overcome our systemic barriers, we need strong and inclusive leadership. Last September, National Defence launched an executive recruitment campaign for racialized people to increase representation within our senior leadership team. This process was heavily informed by GBA+. We used research and evidence to guide our decisions, implemented new AI tools and assessment methods to evaluate candidates, and challenged legacy recruiting assessment and hiring practices to eliminate bias.
We successfully qualified 36 top-tier candidates. Some of these individuals have already been hired from this process, and others will fill future executive positions at National Defence and in the broader public service. National Defence is committed to evaluating human resource policies, programs, tools and reporting systems through a GBA+ and anti-racism lens.
We need to understand how our legacy initiatives impact people and how we can improve in the future. One example is the military spouse employment initiative. After a GBA+ review, we found that the program previously focused on a narrow scope of administrative and clerical roles. We are therefore highlighting jobs in a variety of fields to provide military spouses with a broader range of opportunities.
National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have made progress over the years regarding GBA+ across all lines of efforts. That said, the department recognizes that more needs to be done to build a safe, welcoming and inclusive workspace.
Let me be clear. Every person deserves to work in an environment that is free from harassment and discrimination. That is why we welcome the crucial recommendations that will come from Madam Louise Arbour's independent, comprehensive external review, and that is why we created the new chief professional conduct and culture organization, which will be led by Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan.
Looking forward and in the spirit of this motion, DND and CAF will continue building on the foundational GBA+ work that has been done so far. We recognize that it needs to be applied through every stage of our work, from initial planning through to evaluation.
GBA+ will help us improve the way we recruit and retain people from diverse communities and improve the way we do our important work to defend Canada.
I want to sincerely thank my colleague, the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, for moving this important motion. It comes at a critical time.
I also want to thank him for his ongoing commitment, for being an ally and for contributing to improving our institutions and making them more inclusive.
We support this motion without amendment.