Thank you, Mr. Chair. We appreciate this opportunity to discuss our fall 2018 report on inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces. Joining me at the table is Robyn Roy, who was the acting director for this audit. ln July 2014, the chief of the defence staff requested an external independent review of the forces' policies, procedures and programs on inappropriate sexual behaviour. Former Supreme Court of Canada Justice Marie Deschamps carried out the review and reported her findings and recommendations in a March 2015 report.
ln August 2015, the chief of the defence staff launched Operation Honour, a top-down, institution-wide military operation to eliminate inappropriate sexual behaviour. He informed all forces members that he and senior leaders intended to change the culture in the forces and stop this behaviour.
Our audit focused on whether the Canadian Armed Forces adequately responded to inappropriate sexual behaviour through actions to respond to and support victims and to understand and prevent such behaviour.
The goal of the audit was not to conclude on the success of Operation Honour, but to provide an external review of the forces' progress at a point in time, three years into the operation's implementation.
We found that the Canadian Armed Forces offered or referred members affected by inappropriate sexual behaviour to various victim support services, including the sexual misconduct response centre. However, we found gaps in those services. The forces did not design and implement Operation Honour with a primary focus on victim support, and the services were not well coordinated. Therefore, victims did not always have easy access to the right services at the right time.
We also found that not all support service providers had sufficient training to adequately respond to victims.
In addition, we found that the Canadian Armed Forces did not always resolve reported cases on inappropriate sexual behaviour in a timely, consistent and respectful manner. As a result, some victims did not report or they withdrew their complaints, and they had less confidence that the investigations would produce any tangible results.
After the implementation of Operation Honour, the number of reported complaints increased from almost 40 in 2015 to about 300 in 2017. The forces believe the increase was a sign that members trusted the organization and that it would effectively respond to inappropriate sexual behaviour; however, we found that some members still did not feel safe and supported. For example, the duty to report all incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour had unintended consequences. It forced victims to report when they were not ready or did not want to. This discouraged some victims from coming forward. The “duty to report” requirement provided no balance between the legal responsibility to protect the safety of members and the need to support a victim's wish to not proceed with a formal complaint. It also placed commanding officers in an ethical dilemma. They had to choose between abiding by the duty to report and supporting victims' rights.
We also found that education and training on inappropriate sexual behaviour was not adequate. Although the Canadian Armed Forces increased members' awareness of inappropriate sexual behaviour, it did not provide enough information on the causes and effects of such behaviour or how to respond to and support victims. In April 2018, the forces introduced the Respect in the Canadian Armed Forces workshop, which represents a more complete approach and addresses the shortcomings we identified in other training delivered over the audit period.
Finally, we found that the Canadian Armed Forces did not adequately monitor the effectiveness of Operation Honour in eliminating inappropriate sexual behaviour. The forces had no source of independent, objective information to know how well the operation was working. Also, the information the forces collected on incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour was of poor quality. Furthermore, the forces did not have a performance measurement framework to measure and monitor the results of the operation across the organization.
We concluded that the Canadian Armed Forces had not yet fully accomplished what it intended through its actions to respond to and support victims and to understand and prevent inappropriate sexual behaviour.
We recommended that the forces make victim support a top priority, provide better education and training on the causes and effects of inappropriate sexual behaviour, and incorporate more independent external advice and review to ensure that the forces can achieve the objectives of Operation Honour.
National Defence agreed with all our recommendations and has prepared a detailed action plan.
This concludes my opening remarks.
We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have.
Thank you for the invitation to discuss the Auditor General's findings on inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Joining me, as noted by the chair, are Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk, the vice chief of the defence staff; Dr. Denise Preston, executive director of the sexual misconduct reporting centre; and Lieutenant-General Charles Lamarre, chief, military personnel.
As the Auditor General said, the goal of this audit was not to determine the success of Operation Honour; the goal was to make it more effective. We thank the Auditor General and his team for helping us to identify areas we can improve. We agree with all of the recommendations and we know they will help guide the evolution of Operation Honour.
Since the launch of this operation we've seen the defence team, military and civilian alike, pull together to stop inappropriate sexual behaviour and to support anyone affected by it.
As the Auditor General acknowledged in his report, Operation Honour's success depends on achieving significant cultural change over the long term.
We've made progress, but let me be clear: This is an operation that will never end. That is not a reflection of the department or the military; it is a reflection on the society that shapes every one of us. As long as there is inappropriate sexual behaviour in our society, we will remain vigilant against it in National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, and our approach will continue to evolve as our society evolves.
When Operation Honour was launched in 2015, it was done with the best of intentions: to eliminate sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. In pursuit of that goal, some of the measures we put in place have had unintended consequences. We are correcting that now.
We're putting our focus on support for people affected by inappropriate sexual behaviour above all else. As the Auditor General recommended, we will put those affected at the centre of our response and ensure their needs guide our actions. Part of that response involves making sure our organization is structured properly and that everyone has a clear understanding of what support is available where.
We are expanding the role and mandate of the sexual misconduct response centre, SMRC, to make it the authoritative voice of victim support and advocacy. The SMRC will lead and coordinate victim support efforts across the Canadian Armed Forces.
Support is accessible 24/7, with one phone call or one email.
However, we recognize that people may also seek support from other avenues and we encourage them to choose the option that best suits their needs.
We will communicate this widely and clearly so that there is no more confusion about sources of support. To make sure everyone understands the roles and responsibilities, we will establish new terms of reference, by the spring, for SMRC and the strategic response team on sexual misconduct. That clarity will be reflected in an integrated national strategy that will guide our support to people affected by inappropriate sexual behaviour.
Lieutenant-General Wynnyk is responsible for the strategy and his work will be closely supported by the SMRC to ensure it considers those affected first.
We are also introducing a case-management service, paired with a performance measurement framework. The information these tools and services provide will help us monitor and improve our support services.
That will help us provide consistent support from the time of first disclosure until such time as those affected no longer require support. Collecting that information is important, but we will always remember that we're gathering it in order to support our people. If someone seeks help outside National Defence or the Canadian Armed Forces, we won't necessarily be able to collect the same level of data, but we will always encourage people to seek support from whichever source best suits their needs.
The well-being of our people will always be more important than the integrity of our data, but do not presume that data is not a vital element of our operation, as noted most critically by the Auditor General. It is and the SMRC is working with the defence data analytics team to improve methodology and data structure to ensure what is collected is useful.
Unfortunately, we have not always been successful in putting people's needs first. Despite our best efforts and good intentions, the Auditor General has identified an important but entirely unintended consequence of the duty to report. We're addressing this issue so that people affected by inappropriate sexual behaviour have more control over the reporting process and the decisions that will impact them. We recognize that our earlier approach prevented some people from reporting experiences of inappropriate sexual behaviour.
We also recognize that the early focus on “stop and report” did not achieve the desired effect. I will note that at the time Operation Honour was created the Canadian Armed Forces was in crisis mode. We have learned since then.
We know that some people experienced repercussions as the reporting system launched a process that they did not want. The Canadian Armed Forces is currently examining the application of regulations in this area. They will clarify the processes around the reporting of incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour so that the victims' concerns are considered and respected first and foremost.
However, we take our responsibility for the safety of our personnel very seriously and the duty to report remains an important aspect of our ability to keep our people safe.
We must act if the reported behaviour could affect the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Armed Forces, or the safety of its members.
As we continue to implement Operation Honour, we know we do not have all the answers. We are learning and improving with the rest of the world as we go along.
Inappropriate sexual behaviour is a widespread societal problem. We are seeking advice and best practices from experts. In fact, we expect to call on external subject matter expertise more and more to help us identify potential unintended consequences before they impact anyone.
The SMRC reports to me and operates outside the military chain of command. It benefits from the expertise of an external advisory council. The SMRC has made important strides in working with the council, which has agreed to meet in person three or four times per year as needed. We have worked together to develop the terms of reference for the council. The members have identified how they can best advise us and on what subjects.
The members of the council have also reviewed three years' worth of documentation on the SMRC and Operation Honour. They understand where we were, where we are now and how we got there. When they meet in March we will brief them on proposed changes to the SMRC mandate and the DND-CAF policy on sexual misconduct. We look forward to their valuable and constructive advice.
The SMRC also hosted the first forum on preventing and addressing sexual misconduct with our Five Eyes partners in December where we shared with and learned from our allies. The more we learn, the better we will be at preventing sexual misconduct and supporting the people affected by it.
We agree with the Auditor General that we have to do a better job of educating our people. Education will help our people develop the understanding that leads to changing attitudes and beliefs. We are reviewing all our existing training to make sure that it supports victims first. The expertise of the SMRC will be key to ensuring appropriate CAF training and education on this subject. That training will be delivered nationally in a coordinated and measured way, including the Respect in the Canadian Armed Forces workshop.
To be clear, everyone who joins the Canadian Armed Forces completes training that introduces them to Operation Honour. That training clearly explains exactly what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and the consequence of engaging in such behaviour, up to and including dismissal, are made clear.
We know that the kind of change we are seeking to foster takes time. But we are making progress, as the Auditor General has recognized.
We have more work to do. There is no one more committed to doing it than the leadership at National Defence and in the Canadian Armed Forces.
You're so kind, sir. Thank you.
Thank you all for being here.
First, I want to thank the Auditor General and just point out how lucky we are to have a system that allows us, almost in mid-flight, to be able to take a look to see how well we're doing on something that's so important to everyone. I liken it to landing on an asteroid. This is a difficult kind of audit, and it needs to be treated differently from the way we normally do. This system serves us very well. Having just visited another continent and another country, I appreciate how well we do things and the difference that makes.
I also want to say very directly to the deputy, the senior officers here and virtually everybody who's here from the department that I have no doubt in my mind that every single person, like every member of this committee and everyone staffing us here, cares about this issue as a priority and would give anything to make this go away, and are prepared to do anything to make it stop.
But clearly, we're still not getting there. Even with all the goodwill and all the power, absolute, raw.... I'm not exaggerating. When you're talking about the military of Canada, you're talking absolute, raw power, and we still missed it.
Colleagues, I've spent the better part of four hours going through this report, and I'm sure many of you spent that much, if not more, time. It was at about hour three and a half when suddenly, for me, the shoe dropped. As some of you know, I have a bit of a background in command and control, and I sort of understand these things a little better than I do, say, a lot of other things. Here's the key thing for me, and I'm going to ask the responders to think carefully about where to go on this. The external review is what started all of this. The external review said very clearly, as the Auditor General says on page 7:
The External Review recommended that the Forces establish an independent victim support centre outside the Forces, staffed by experts. The centre would provide confidential support for victims without the obligation to make a formal report and without fear of reprisal. The External Review also recommended that the centre be responsible for preventing inappropriate sexual behaviour, coordinating and monitoring training, monitoring accountability, and conducting research, and that it act as a central authority for data collection.
By the way, there are some good things you're doing. That needs to be said. We kind of gloss over that. There are good things being done, and we appreciate that.
When I look at where the auditor had criticisms, I see they were in the areas of preventing inappropriate sexual behaviour, coordinating and monitoring training, accountability, and acting as the central authority and data collection. So, all the areas that were a problem were the areas that the centre was given responsibility for.
Now, 5.34 on page 8 says:
However, we found that rather than giving the Centre all the responsibilities that the External Review recommended, the Forces gave it responsibility only to provide initial victim support by phone or email, and to give referrals.
The Auditor General goes on to say:
We asked the Forces to explain this assignment of responsibilities, given its acceptance of the External Review recommendations. Senior leaders explained that the Forces’ leaders must perform the responsibilities that the External Review recommended; otherwise, it would undermine governance and accountability.
Lo and behold, the whistle gets blown and we find that all the areas that are a problem are the areas that the centre should have been given responsibility for, but wasn't, and the military pats it on the head and said, “No, no, we know best, we'll do it within”. Every one of them is screwed up.
When I look at the action plan, I count at least 12 or 13 times where it says the centre or SMRC will ... and it involves activities. When I look at this, Chair, to me the action plan should have said—and this is just my opinion—we screwed up. We didn't implement what we promised to in the first place and now we will.
Am I correct in assuming that one of the big problems with the culture change is that there were recommendations from outside saying go to this external body, load them up with these responsibilities, make sure they've got the advisory committee, connect them to your military leadership and that's how you go about making change?
That's what the review said. The military looked at it and said they were going to do all that, and when everybody went away the first thing they did was say, you're not getting any of that responsibility. Do not kid yourself. They just stripped it away and left them with a little framework and a pat on the head, saying you can just play a role, we'll take care of it. Every one of those areas is screwed up.
I want somebody to tell me where I'm wrong, that one of our challenges isn't that military culture where something from the outside comes in and immediately walls go up about how things are done.
I get it. It is human nature, but the role of leadership at the level in front of us now is to burst through that. Deputy, if you disagree with my assessment, I'm going to hang on every word, and if you agree with me, I'd like to hear what we're going to do to change that. I see you've fixed it here, but what are we going to do going forward to ensure that, when we need to make changes like this in the military, there is no gap between what we promised we're going to do and how we say we're going to do it? This failed right here; to me, that's where the failure was.
Let me add to that as well. There is perhaps a bit of a concern that we're sitting idle while this is taking place. That's not the case. Every year, the Canadian Armed Forces turns over approximately 7.2% to 7.8% of its effective force. That turns out to be approximately 9,000 people who leave the Canadian Armed Forces or come to the Canadian Armed Forces between the regular and reserve force components.
Let me just concentrate on the regular force component. The training does occur for the reserve force as well, but I'll concentrate on the 5,350 young Canadians—sometimes not so young—we bring into our recruit school in Saint-Jean. We have, of course, non-commissioned members and officers going through that training program. For the non-commissioned members it's 10 weeks, and for the officers it's 12 weeks. During that period of time, the non-commissioned members get a grand total, spread out over four different weeks and periods of instruction, of six hours of training specifically related to inappropriate and harmful behaviour, harassment, how to prevent it, what the consequences are, and what the responsibilities are in terms of ethics and requirements to be in the Canadian Armed Forces. The officers get 6.6 hours of training to do this.
At every leadership course we have, when you talk about institutional and cultural change, we also insist that HISB and Operation Honour be trained specifically so that folks understand what's there. We're doing a tremendous amount of bystander training so that people understand that they have a responsibility to intervene and to get involved in the training or any activity that might be occurring.
When you do a combination of all these things, you do get a cumulative effect of people who are familiar with what it is. We have some surveys that we do at a lower level that go with smaller group samples—approximately 3,000 people or fewer—where we reach across to find out what confidence people feel in things like their chain of command. We've found that for the last two years, we get an over 85% rating for trust that the chain of command will do the right thing in terms of what is supposed to occur. This data is available.
The interesting thing about it is that while there is a time for making change, and we have to go forward, we are taking actions right now that are instituting the culture change you're talking about. You'd be hard pressed to find anybody right now in the Canadian Armed Forces who is not familiar with Operation Honour and what the mandates are. You have to remember as well what the vice chief of the defence staff was talking about in terms of how we make sure it's known and not hidden. Every single incident that occurs has to be reported all the way up to the chief of the defence staff. It's also reported to the supporting centres that we have.
So there are steps and movement under way to change that culture that we're talking about. It's being done through training and the like, which folks recognize the importance of, to make sure that people are aware of what their responsibilities are.
I'll allow General Lamarre to comment at the end. He discussed the initial training we do for recruits and officer cadets. To address your point, this is training that we hit at every level right from my level on down. I'll very quickly go through some of the training we're doing, and if it's too much detail, please let me know.
With regard to our military police, they now receive special training in investigating sexual misconduct. They've done a lot of cross-training with the United States and they've done a partnership with the Ontario Police College on the sexual assault investigators course.
In all of our career courses, as you progress in rank beyond basic training, at every rank level there's a career course in which you have to qualify. Sexual misconduct and Operation Honour each have a performance objective, so the refresher you refer to is happening constantly at every level as people go through these career courses. Once again, right up to the highest level, we have a course that we run for colonels to prepare them to be general and flag officers; there's a section on that as well. We stress this at our peacekeeping and peace support training centre as well, particularly the applicability of sexual misconduct and sexual violence overseas, how to signal that and how to make sure we're aware of it and make sure that people are prepared to deal with that.
The bystander intervention training, I think, has been largely successful. We've trained 70,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces, regular and reserve, so the vast majority. We're expanding the Respect in the Canadian Armed Forces workshop, which is very much geared towards leaders; it's a very interactive course in which you have to reflect and you have to contribute as you go forward. We'd like to expand that more. I don't know if we'll get to the point where we will do that for the entire Canadian Forces. Once again, it's geared very much towards that leadership and dialogue role. For every command team going into command, the commanding officer of a unit and the senior NCO who supports that commanding officer must take that workshop as they go in.
General Lamarre, do you want to add anything? I know you've talked about the basic training.
Originally, women were brought into the Canadian Armed Forces starting in 1941. Then, in the 1980s, there was an increased push to draw more women into the Canadian Armed Forces. Since about the 1980s, we've continuously had this conversation with regard to the treatment of women in the CAF and how to better bring in more women or how to make the Canadian Armed Forces more attractive to women who might be willing to serve.
Those women who serve within the Canadian Armed Forces have certainly seized the day. They have largely created an opportunity for themselves. They've shown tremendous bravery, and it has taken them tremendous courage to step up and serve our country. It's an incredibly selfless act. It's an incredibly dignified act, and it's an act that deserves the utmost honour.
With that, I do believe that these women should be able to come into the Canadian Armed Forces and expect that the institution that they have signed up with to serve their country should provide an environment where these women are treated with honour, respect and dignity. This is also outlined in the Auditor General's report.
I've had numerous conversations with women who have come out of the Canadian Armed Forces and who have faced unfortunate circumstances of being mistreated within the CAF. Unfortunately, their stories are sad, they're disappointing and they produce concern.
The government lawyers had an opportunity to respond to a couple of cases that were before them with regard to sexual misconduct. The government lawyer filed a statement of defence that said that National Defence “does not owe members of the Canadian Armed Forces any duty to protect them from sexual harassment and assault”.
This quote is quite commonly known and understood, but I'm wondering if you would take this opportunity to clarify what is meant by this. I believe that the Canadian Armed Forces does have a responsibility to create an environment where these women are cared for, where they can expect to be treated with dignity, honour and respect. Indeed, that is the type of service that they signed up for. I'm just wondering why that wouldn't be the responsibility of the Canadian Armed Forces. With a statement like that, it's no wonder that we're receiving an Auditor General's report that shows that the department is not efficiently meeting its requirement.
Mr. Chair, when you asked my colleague Mr. Massé to ask his questions, he appeared a bit unprepared. We have to excuse him because he is ready to leave the committee and act as parliamentary secretary to the . I think he already took one step out.
I would like to recognize the remarks made by Ms. Thomas. I listened to her. It was very refreshing, quite open and frank. For example, she said they have not always been successful in putting people's needs first. Despite their best efforts and good intentions, as the Auditor General has identified, there was an important but entirely unintended consequence of the duty to report.
She also admitted that they have learned since then and they know that some people experienced repercussions as the reporting system launched a process they did not want. Along the same lines, she said that the more they learn, the better they will be at preventing sexual misconduct and supporting people affected by it.
I think this gives me assurance that going forward, this particular subject will be handled very diligently and in a very speedy way.
Now, my question is about one of the recommendations of the Auditor General, that the members have access to a consistent level of service and specialized support, regardless of where they are serving. My question to Ms. Thomas—and maybe Dr. Preston—is about disclosure and handling of complaints. Will this be more difficult when the victim is serving abroad, or in a place like a ship or a submarine?
Thank you for your kind remarks.
There are problems reporting, depending on where you are. Dr. Preston is working on that with the environmental chiefs as we speak.
If you're on a ship, making a report to the centre can be difficult if you don't have connectivity and if you're not comfortable reporting to your chain of command. So, how do we effect that? That affects the functioning of the armed forces, absolutely, so we have to find ways, and we are working on ways to do that.
I believe we've fixed the problem with those who are serving abroad. They have access to the centre. Generally it is when they're at sea that we have the largest problems and that has to do with data and bandwidth and getting access, and we're working on those things.
At the same time, the chain of command has to understand that they have a responsibility to protect people who've been affected, and so yes, MRC is there to provide independent advice and an independent ear and voice for people who have been affected by inappropriate behaviour. The chain of command also has to be part of that.
Perhaps I could just add a bit there to re-emphasize what the deputy minister just said. Not only does the chain of command have a responsibility to do this, they have a great interest and a passion to do so, and that point can't be forgotten.
When it comes down to it, whether you're on a ship or you're deployed anywhere around the world, or if you're in Canada, the effectiveness of your unit depends on the ability of each member of your team to feel like they're part of the team. So you can bet that every member of the chain of command wants to make sure that's addressed properly. If you have miscreants in there, they'll be rooted out and taken out. I think that's an important aspect of it.
Even when you're deployed, if for some reason you're not there, it's not only your chain of command that's going to be able to help you, but you have the multiple levels that we spoke about earlier on, multiple chains. There are your chaplains, your physicians' assistants, your medical officers. You often have the MPs who are deployed as part of any task force.
There are numerous ways in which a person who has been affected can seek that assistance. If, by chance, they were not able to immediately get to Dr. Preston's organization, again, with the connectivity we have in deployed operations now, folks have the ability to do that. Interestingly enough, it's not only potential victims or those who have been affected, but many members of the chain of command also call in to Dr. Preston's organization to get advice from our specialists. I've done so myself on two occasions since the centre came into existence and I found it to be useful in both incidents. There was one case specifically, a long-standing event, that resulted in correcting something that had occurred over 25 years ago, and that individual now is wearing the rank of colonel in the regular force.
So, we do use this centre as a resource. It's available to the people here, and it's available to people all around the world.
The first thing I want to do—and I already had it down before he started—is to echo Mr. Arya. I think it's important that the deputy hear from, not just government members, who could be said to be self-serving in terms of supporting their own appointees, but also from the third party over here, which is about as far from real power right now as you can possibly get.
I want to say that, Deputy, I have found your accountability to Parliament, which is what this is about.... It's not us. This is the premier oversight committee of Parliament, and when people are brought here to be accountable, you're accountable to Parliament. Deputy, you have a very difficult file and have had difficult files previously, and I have always found you to be very forthright. You don't play games. When you're put on the spot, you respond honestly and with commitment, and you follow up. Your comment about taking data seriously is music to our ears.
What you have said here today is good, and I'm satisfied that you've made enough personal commitments in this action plan that I think it's going to happen. I want to join Mr. Arya and thank you, Deputy. You're doing an excellent job. You're getting close to the gold standard in terms of what I look for from a deputy, and, as you know, that's not an easy ladder to climb. My faith is in your personal commitment to making this happen. I believe you.
General, not so much, sir. Now, I mean this sincerely. You said you weren't sure which criticisms I was talking about. A quick read of the report shows you that there were data problems. The gaps in services were the same. The training is not being done in a coordinated way. The duty to report has caused a problem that wouldn't have been there if it had gone through the original recommendations. That's just the beginning of it. If you want to drill down, you'll maybe understand why the deputy approaches this committee the way she does.
Page 25, 5.109, “What we examined”, and this is the AG.
I'll leave you, sir, to answer or not. I'll leave it rhetorical, if you wish not to answer, and if you want to answer, I'll be keenly interested in what it is.
What we examined. We examined whether the Canadian Armed Forces adequately oversaw Operation HONOUR to know whether it was working as intended, and whether it was being improved continuously.
Then 5.110, page 25:
Independent, external oversight. In 2016, the Chief of the Defence Staff—
That's your boss, right?