Thank you for inviting comments from Reserves 2000 on diversity in the Canadian Armed Forces.
I've testified here before, so some of you have probably heard this little speech. Reserves 2000 is an alliance of Canadians who advocate providing more defence capability with part-time citizen soldiers. Our membership is nationwide and consists of Canadians from all walks of life, including retired members of the Canadian Armed Forces, both regular and reserve; academics; educators; community leaders; and others concerned with the defence and security of Canada.
Knowing I was coming here, I consulted with many of these members, and what I have to say this afternoon reflects the thoughts of our supporters from across the country.
My first comment is that overall, the reserves, and by this I mean the primary reserves, and of course the army reserve is the largest part, can be described as the component leading the Canadian Armed Forces in diversity, especially in the larger and more diverse population centres. In fact, this has been the case for a long time.
Now, Reserves 2000 does not collect data on diversity in the reserves, but there is information published by the Department of National Defence and publicly available, especially on gender diversity. In terms of gender diversity, according to data dating from March 2018 the percentage of women in the reserve force was slightly higher, at 16.3%, than the 14.9% found in the regular force. We are aware of the goal stated in the defence policy statement “Strong, Secure, Engaged” to increase the percentage of women in the Canadian Armed Forces to 25% over the next 10 years.
Recent policy changes have been made to allow army reserve units to make the units themselves responsible for attraction, recruiting and enrolment instead of using the very centralized process that existed before. The shift to local authority has seen a surge in recruiting success, and there is no reason to believe that the number of female recruits will not continue to grow in the months and years ahead. If they can be retained, the critical mass of women will grow, which in itself should assist with retaining even more women.
A new program of guaranteed summer employment for four summers after enrolment should help to retain more new reserve soldiers of both genders.
I would say, then, that the army reserve is even better positioned today to help the CAF meet the gender diversity goal stated in the defence policy.
These army reserve recruiting and retention initiatives should also attract and retain more members of other populations that are now under-represented in the Canadian Armed Force. There are, after all, 123 army reserve units located in 117 communities across Canada.
Where there is ethnic diversity, in particular in large metropolitan areas, army reserve units already reflect this diversity to a remarkable degree. In smaller communities, units are not as diverse for the simple reason those communities are not as diverse as the larger, metropolitan areas.
Decentralizing recruiting in the army reserve has already produced increased enrolment of new members from traditionally under-represented populations. Allowing units more autonomy in advertising and other methods of attraction could help to increase the percentage of these soldiers even more by allowing units to target potential recruits from under-represented populations more efficiently.
Each area of this vast nation of ours has its own distinct communities, and it's the units themselves that are best positioned to know what works best for them. Now, at this particular time units have very limited advertising budgets, and the messaging they do manage is quite tightly controlled from the centre.
With that said, it must be understood that while gender percentages are known and are being tracked, the same is not necessarily true for ethnic diversity. In fact, there's an article in the Globe and Mail today which points out that we don't collect this kind of information, whether it's in the armed forces or anywhere else.
Having a better database would allow better programs for attraction and retention to be developed, as well as provide the army chain of command with important information on skills that those soldiers may possess—for example, language skills beyond the two official languages—which could be hugely important to achieving success on future deployments.
Finally, I want to say a word about quotas. Supporters of Reserves 2000 are pleased that the defence policy statement speaks in terms of goals and not quotas. It is felt that setting quotas to meet the goals of more diversity would only contribute to inefficiency, dissatisfaction and probably even lower enrolment. The army reserve has shown the ability to increase diversity without quotas, and new recruiting and retention policies have opened the door to even greater success. We say let us continue on that path of success.
I would like to conclude my remarks with those very general terms.
I am sure you have questions of more detail, which I will attempt to answer today. If I don't have an answer, I will find out and get back to you in writing, or whatever other method you might wish me to use.
That concludes my opening remarks.
First, it helps the Canadian Armed Forces, and I'm really going to just speak about the army reserve here. It helps because tapping into communities, beyond the traditional French, English, white communities, you're obviously opening up the potential of the bigger pool, so you can attract more recruits. That's good. Units can grow that way. They know that and they're working on it.
Second, for the nation, I think it's fabulous because—I could talk for 20 minutes about this—new Canadians are given an opportunity to participate in an important national program. I'm sure they feel better about that; so many want to do that.
The other big thing that I think is really important to the Canadian Armed Forces is the potential of those communities to assist in achieving the missions that the army and the rest of the forces have to achieve.
For example, on overseas deployments, it's important that you can work with the local population and there are lots of places where most of us don't speak those languages. However, somewhere in the Canadian mosaic there are people from that community and we need to bring them in if we can. We have to identify them as well and I don't think that we.... Certainly, in the recruiting process the individuals are asked, I suppose, what language they speak, but that is just the two official languages. I think we need to do a better job about it.
I have anecdotal stories about the deployment in Afghanistan. We had people there who pretty much spoke the local language but nobody knew about it. That's a terrible waste if that goes on.
I think there's enormous potential from the point of view of the units themselves. They want to do this. I think it's good for Canada, but I also think that if we knew what we had or had a better idea of what—I'm sorry, I shouldn't say “we”. If the army had a better idea of what they actually have in their inventory of personnel, I think it would be incredibly helpful.
First of all, they know their audience better.
Most importantly, the over-centralized policies of two years ago meant that, for example, on Vancouver Island, you would have had people in your riding who would have had to travel some distance to be processed and that would have turned them off. Doing it all within the local armoury is much more efficient for one thing.
Another problem with the over-centralization, and this problem still exists, is that the medical people need to see every file. I find it a bit ironic that with doctors, who have a pretty strong professional organization, we couldn't say to a doctor, “Can't we accept your opinion on this from Victoria, in Halifax, instead of every file having to go to Borden for central processing?” This is something that I know the army is working on, maybe not desperately but at least hard, to change, but so far, that hasn't changed. However, because of those pressures, the time that the medical people have had working on files has been shortened considerably. That's another factor.
The security clearances have been shortened considerably.
Two years ago, from the time a potential army reserve recruit walked in the door of the army and said, “Gee, I might like to do this” until they could get enrolled, the average time was six months. This is for a part-time job. That has been reduced. I don't know what the figure would be today, but the last time I heard much about it, it had been reduced by probably half anyway. I think that shows the surge.
I am pleased to appear before your committee again. I know your current topic is diversity, which is a very broad subject. I was told that I was invited here to provide an update on Operation Honour and sexual misconduct.
Diversity is often viewed as a way to change culture, and cultural change is crucial to fighting sexual misconduct. My second recommendation to the armed forces is to establish a strategy to effect that change. My report includes a section on culture in which I discuss the importance of leadership, with an emphasis on women in leadership.
I have not personally followed up on my recommendations in an official capacity, but I have taken the time to stay informed about what has been happening. After receiving your invitation to participate, I tried to prepare an update on the situation.
As you may know, the CAF has had both external experts and internal people do a lot of research. There have been many reports about the impact of culture on sexual misconduct, the effect of language on that culture, social media, training, Operation Honour, and more. That's just a partial list.
I also know that a fourth report following up on Operation Honour will be coming out shortly, and I know the CAF has implemented a diversity strategy. I'm not sure if you have received a copy. The forces are still drafting their cultural change policy. The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre has also been given added responsibilities.
However, it has been quite a while since I last received communications from the victims themselves. It would be hard for me to tell you what is happening on the ground other than as a member of the public who, like many others and everyone in this room, has taken an interest in data released by Statistics Canada and the Auditor General's report. I know that all raises plenty of questions for the committee.
I also know your committee has been following up, and that, in my opinion, is vital because that kind of pressure is what makes things happen. You have heard from several witnesses, some of whom have shared some very enlightening remarks. It is also clear to me that many members of this committee are well informed about this subject.
Given that my knowledge of this matter is dated and that I am not in a position to provide up-to-date information, I won't waste your precious time with general comments. Instead, I will answer your questions, so over to you.
Hi, everyone. It's quite an honour to see some faces that I know from TV. Thanks for having me here. I really appreciate it.
As a bit of background on me, I am an ex-professional athlete. I was on Team Canada three times, and I graduated from the University of Victoria. I was a champion wrestler in high school; I was fifth in Canada and second in Ontario. I won two awards at basic training in the military and I was near the top of my class in navy environmental sea training.
However, after my abusive husband left me in the middle of training in the navy, with my one-year-old son at the time, I had no assistance. I couldn't afford a nanny and I had no family within thousands of kilometres of where I was posted on Vancouver Island.
The base in Esquimalt offered only 20 day care spots for 3,000 people, so my son was placed on a two-year waiting list to get regular hours day care, but that did not include the 12 hours of nighttime care, so I had basically no way of sailing.
I let the school know that my husband was violent and that he left me with this problem. That's when I started noticing the senior officers treating me differently.
Three days before my graduation, when I was already posted to HMCS Winnipeg, I was scheduled to get my promotion and a pay raise, which would have very much helped me fly my baby back and forth across the country. It was the only child care plan I had. I would fly him to Ontario and leave him with my mom. My mom took a break from work so that I could sail. It was costing me everything I had. I had no savings, no investments, nothing at the time.
Three days before I was about to graduate and all this was about to happen, a man named James Brun lied to the board at my school and said that I had 17 requirements when I had only four left. Karen Bellehumeur, who was head of the department at the school at the time, told me that, effective immediately, they were ceasing my training, that I had too many family matters to deal with.
I was kicked off the ship. I was not allowed to get my personal belongings. I lost my pay raise and my promotion, and I was removed from HMCS Winnipeg's roster.
I submitted a harassment complaint against James Brun and a grievance as well for what happened. Years later—the grievance took years—it was found that Brun did lie. I had papers showing that I had only four requirements to do and I could easily have finished the course. I should have had my promotion and I should have had the pay raise and kept on with my training, but that was actually the beginning of the end of my career in the military.
After I submitted the harassment complaint, I went to the female BPSO, base personnel selection officer. She is basically the human resources of the military, so I thought she would help me. I told her that the cost of flying my baby back and forth for child care was completely unsustainable and I told her that I would take any other job in the forces.
I didn't want to give away my commission. I was very proud of having a commission from the Queen, so I wanted to stay in an officer role, but I would also have taken anything. If they had wanted to put me as a supply tech and I would hand out clothes for the next 25 years of my life, I would be happy to, even though my heart was broken that I couldn't sail anymore because sailing is why I joined.
The BPSO told me that the CAF doesn't recognize having a baby as a reason to switch trades, and that when she deployed, she had admin too, such as changing her cellphone plan and finding a place to store her car. The military was comparing my baby, basically, to a hunk of metal.
I went for help to Karen Bellehumeur, who was my female head of department, and another woman, Kim Chu. I just wanted to switch trades into anything I could do. They brought me into their office and told me that if I didn't get rid of my kid, I would be fired. I couldn't believe that my own Canadian government would force me to give away my baby or terminate my employment, when all I wanted to do was serve my country. I knew that I was capable. I was willing to do any job they wanted me to do, and I had already given my baby away from when he was one until he was two—or I hadn't really given him away but sent him to my parents so that I could go to sea.
I had a family care plan, I could deploy, but I just wanted to do something else where I wasn't forced to give away my son.
I was basically in a catch-22. I didn't want to give him away. I didn't want to lose my job, because then I wouldn't have a way to support him, so I started to think of a third way out, which was suicide.
I volunteered for logistics, and I worked there for a year. I thought it would be a good trade for me to get into that wouldn't deploy as much. My son was two. I went to another female officer, Commander Roberts. She was the CO of base logistics at the time. She told me that I should have had an abortion and that these problems were my own fault for having a baby too early in my career. She also told me that being on the wait-list for the military day care for two years was just the way it is.
I went to mental health and told them that my chain of command was trying to force me to give away my child. The doctor put me on a temporary medical category, which temporarily prevented me from going to sea, so I thought, “Okay, this is my opportunity. I'm going to take this time, fill out my paperwork and switch trades.”
At that time it looked like I was a shoo-in for air traffic control because I have great spatial ability, and I was hoping to get there and be closer to my family: problem solved.
I was ready to switch trades, but Dr. Boylan, another female doctor, told me, “I'm not signing your transfer papers because you've been to mental health three times for three different things.” I was basically stuck in the military without a trade, without belonging to a unit and without any chance of promotion or advancement for four years. I was basically a walking pariah.
The only thing I could do was volunteer to work for public affairs. I think I did a pretty good job there. I was waiting for my medical chit to expire. I'd heard through the grapevine that if you didn't go to mental health, people would just think you were okay, so I didn't go to mental health for six months. I let my chit expire, went back to the doctor and said, “Please sign my forms so I can trade,” and they said no.
At that point I was dealing with suicide and depression, and trying to raise my baby by myself. I applied for leave travel assistance to fly home that Christmas—this was back in 2013—and I found out that because I had given birth, I actually lost that military benefit to fly home. They pay everyone who is single to go home for free, unless you have a baby or get married. While my single friends got two free flights a year, I had to pay for both.
I got an email that Christmas too, saying that because I had a baby, I was bumped down to the second tier for the Airbus flights. While you get LTA every year to go home to visit your next of kin, the Airbuses fly back and forth across the country to help, so people get two flights. I got an email and had to wait a month. When that month came, I applied, but the airplanes were full.
Also, the military took $700 off my paycheque for day care when my son finally got in and $915 for rent, but a male officer who sat next to me on the same course got his room and board paid for by the military because he had a wife and a house back in New Brunswick, pursuant to a policy called “furniture and effects”. There was basically a $3,000 pay gap just in those benefits.
From 2014 to 2017 I was never medically assessed. I received little treatment. I was still kicked out for medical reasons, without any medical assessment, and it's all because I stood up for my rights when I was treated differently as a mom. With the help of my employment lawyer, Natalie MacDonald, I initiated a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission for discrimination on the basis of sex, which has been purposely stalled by the CAF for one and a half years so far. I recently learned that through an email, through the Privacy Act.
Since being kicked out of the military, I've also felt some injustice too about how veterans are treated. I feel like I'm getting this window into how hard it must be for veterans who, for example, don't have limbs, just to fight to get some help.
I'm here today just to make sure that this doesn't happen, and I'm going to do everything I can to shut those doors that I fell through, because I think there are a lot of policies here that made it absolutely impossible for me to keep serving as a mom. There were many options where I could have stayed in easily. It's just that nobody would help me.
That's the end of my speech. Thank you, everyone, for listening.