Ottawa, Ontario — The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, released online the Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF) second progress report on addressing inappropriate sexual behaviour.
The report outlines the progress achieved by the CAF in the first six months of 2016 across the four major pillars of Operation HONOUR – understanding the issue of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour, responding more decisively to incidents, supporting victims more effectively, and preventing the occurrence of such behaviours in the first place. The report also addresses progress in relation to the 10 recommendations of the External Review Authority, former Supreme Court Justice Mme. Marie Deschamps.
The Canadian Armed Forces is only beginning to implement the change identified in Operation HONOUR, which though now well underway, will take years to instill and consolidate. Most of the initiatives generating this change are in their early stages. So too is the organization’s ability to measure the outcomes that are beginning to emerge. There are initial indications however, that change is occurring across the organization and individual members are being influenced.
Improving support to victims was a key priority for the first year of Operation HONOUR. Incidents of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour and sexual offences are still occurring in the Canadian Armed Forces, making it critical that victims have the care, support and response options they need. Victim support has been enhanced through several key initiatives including expanded hours of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre; increased training for military health care professionals, military police and prosecutors; decisive action to ensure that victims are kept better informed throughout the investigative and judicial process; and improved victim support services from military police.
Another area of focus has been on gaining a much more complete understanding of the precise nature of the problem, in order to develop a model for a deliberate, long-term, sustainable change of culture. The Canadian Armed Forces contracted Statistics Canada to conduct a survey between April and June 2016 to collect information regarding: the prevalence of sexual misconduct within the military; the reporting of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour; as well as awareness of both Operation HONOUR and associated support mechanisms. This is the first time the Canadian Armed Forces has conducted a pan-organizational survey specifically on this subject. More than 40,000 Regular Force and Primary Reserve Canadian Armed Forces members participated in the Statistics Canada survey, sharing their experiences and perspectives. The survey results, which will be published in the late Fall, will provide the institution with a comprehensive baseline that will shape ongoing and future action, including policy development, program review and training modernization and a level of insight that the Canadian Armed Forces has not previously possessed.
Other Highlights of the progress report include:
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service has established dedicated teams of sexual offence investigators within each regional office to investigate all such complaints. These Sexual Offence Response Teams have been established with the addition of 18 new investigator positions distributed nationally.
The Director of Military Prosecutions has directed that offences of a sexual nature be given scheduling priority and that every effort will be made to ensure that the same prosecutor handles the case from beginning to end to ensure that these cases to move through the military justice system as expeditiously as possible and to avoid the victim having to recount their version of events on multiple occasions to different individuals
To ensure consistent investigations across the organization, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal recently directed that all criminal offences of a sexual nature be investigated by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service and policy changes are underway to ensure that victims are provided immediate support by frontline military police.
In cases of allegations of sexual assault where an investigator is considering not laying a charge, National Investigation Service investigators must consult a military prosecutor in order to ensure concurrence with the assessment of the investigator not to lay charges. This is a change, as in the past the decision not to lay a charge could be made unilaterally by investigators without seeking legal advice.
A comprehensive training needs analysis has been completed to identify gaps in current programs and curricula with respect to Operation HONOUR related topics and to recommend solutions that will improve the content and delivery of training across the Canadian Armed Forces
In the period of April to July 2016, a total of 148 incidents of harmful sexual behaviour were reported to the chain of command. Of these, 97 remain ongoing and 51 investigations have now been completed. A total of thirty individuals received career-impacting disciplinary and/or administrative action. Those convicted of disciplinary action faced consequences including fines and reduction in rank. Administrative consequences ranged from warnings and probation to removal from command positions and dismissal from the Canadian Armed Forces. Ten cases were ruled unfounded by authorities and three cases were referred to civilian authorities. In four incidents, the alleged offender was not identified and no further action was possible. In one case, the members involved successfully participated in alternate dispute resolution. The remaining 3 cases were disciplinary matters that did not fall within the parameters of Operation HONOUR.
“I am encouraged by the early indications of progress we have made toward eliminating inappropriate sexual behaviour from the Canadian Armed Forces. On the critical area of victim support, there has been much improvement, and I applaud those who have had the courage to come forward and report their experiences. But incidents are still occurring, and this remains unacceptable. We remain committed to resolving this critical aspect of military service. I will not be satisfied until harmful behavior is eliminated and victims are completely supported.”
General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff
“While the first progress report mapped out the Canadian Armed Forces’ headway in implementing both Operation HONOUR objectives and the External Review Authority’s recommendations, this second progress reflects Operation HONOUR’s requirement to get all subordinate commanders at their levels fully engaged across the organization. It is through them that we can hope to achieve mission success.”
Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Commander, Military Personnel Command