This meeting is now in session.
Colleagues, I apologize for the shuffling, but this has been a very difficult two hours to put together.
I want to particularly commend our clerk and others who have worked hard to make sure this happens. It's possibly not in the ideal order that we would have wished it to be, but it is what it is, and we thank everyone for their accommodation.
I see that Madam Justice Arbour is on the line and has the proper headset, which, shall we say, has been an internal joke.
Before I ask you for your statement, Madam Justice Arbour, I want to express a personal admiration, as a former practising lawyer, for your work. Over the years, you've been a real credit not only to your profession as a justice but to your profession as a lawyer. I want to express that because I am a big fan of Madam Justice Arbour. Thank you again for your service to our country.
With that, Madam Justice Arbour, as I said, this is not the optimum order, but it is the order. I look forward to what you have to say for the next few minutes. Then we'll turn to rounds of questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, committee members, thank you for inviting me to answer your questions concerning the report I submitted to the last May dealing with sexual misconduct and leadership in the Canadian Armed Forces.
I stress these two aspects because they are equally important. These two issues are also interrelated.
The extent of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, including in senior ranks, was already well documented in sources that include the report by my former colleague Justice Deschamps, the numerous surveys carried out by Statistics Canada, the reports of the auditor general, the Heyder and Beattie class actions, and the many reports in the media. My efforts to update this issue, including by listening to the testimony of numerous members of the Regular Force and the Reserve Forces, active and retired members, provided unambiguous confirmation of the state of affairs and, unfortunately, the scant progress made to date to remedy the situation.
The second part of my report dealt with leadership development in connection with the persistence of assaults, abuse and all sorts of forms of sexual harassment and discrimination in the organization. That aspect, which had not yet been the subject of any comprehensive external review, became an extremely laborious task consisting of studying detailed, complex practices and procedures relating to recruitment, training, human resources management and, in particular, the performance evaluation and promotion process.
The last area I examined, having regard to previous recommendations on this subject, was the question of external oversight and the accountability of members of the chain of command to civil authorities.
I would like to stress the finding that I feel to be the most important to come out of my review.
Greater openness to the outside world would be a win-win for the Canadian Armed Forces. This is a necessary culture shift, to which there truly seems to be a lot of resistance.
The forces need outside support in many of the functions that are [Technical difficulty—Editor] not unique to [Inaudible—Editor] effective requirements. I am referring, for example, to education, the justice system, and certain aspects of human resources management.
Integrating women into the military in Canada shows how difficult it is for the forces to evolve at the same pace as society on fundamental issues that are, in fact, part of Canada's constitutional framework. History is unfortunately repeating itself for the other underrepresented groups.
The cultural forces that shape the evolution of Canadian society are very slow and can be seen in an organization that is rooted in homogeneity, uniformity, tradition, and autonomy. The hypermasculine and hypersexualized culture whose prevalence in the forces has been exposed by many others is the product of that environment. In fact, in areas in which their performance can be compared to the performance of equivalent civilian actors, the forces do not distinguish themselves particularly laudably.
In this regard, I recommended that criminal sexual offences be prosecuted in civilian courts. I will come back to this in a few minutes. I also recommended that the forces facilitate their members' recourse to the Canadian Human Rights Commission and improve the independence and effectiveness of the services offered to victims.
As a final point, I will tell you about my recommendation concerning the future of the military colleges. I did not have the capacity to examine that issue in depth, but my review identified serious concerns regarding the viability of this model for training military leadership in the modern world, in particular.
Comparing these colleges with the civilian universities, where over half of officers are actually trained, shows a lack of diversity and an orthodoxy that is hardly compatible with how our society is evolving, and, in my opinion, this provides a poor foundation for the basic training of future officers.
Mr. Chair, I was informed that the tabled in Parliament this morning her response to my report. I was provided with a copy of that report yesterday, while I was in New York for meetings at the United Nations, including with the Secretary-General, but you will be pleased to know that they were on matters totally unrelated to what is before you today.
I've had a short opportunity to look at the 's response to my report, and I have several concerns.
The first thing I want to signal is that I recommended that the minister report to Parliament before the end of this year on which of my recommendations she did not intend to implement. This may have seemed an awkward way of phrasing it. I could have just recommended that she report on all of my recommendations. The reason I phrased it that way, to be very candid, is that I was concerned that my recommendations would find their place in the graveyard of recommendations, which is heavily populated in the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence. There are decks and charts of the numerous recommendations, both internal and external, that have been made over the years. None of them seem to be the object of a flat-out refusal, but they seem to linger in perpetuity before various task forces, tiger teams and other types of committees.
In response to my report, the minister states that she intends to recommend all of them. I am somewhat concerned when I get into a little more detail about some of them. Let me share a couple of my more specific concerns. I would, of course, be very happy to take your questions if I—
I'm very grateful for this additional opportunity. In fact, this is very much in response to a document that was provided to me just yesterday—a very short time ago—and I hope that these additional brief remarks will address some concerns that you and the members of the committee may already have.
My first concern is with respect to the 's response to my recommendation that all criminal sexual offences that are currently within the concurrent jurisdiction of both civilian courts and the military justice system should go back to the exclusive jurisdiction of civilian courts, as they were prior to 1998.
Military justice is an exceptional form of justice, and it rests on the assumption that it is necessary to enhance efficiency, discipline and morale in the armed forces. No rationale was ever advanced in 1998 to give concurrent jurisdiction to the military justice system—the court martial and summary trials—over sexual offences, which until then had been—like murder still is today—within the exclusive purview of civilian courts.
This was supposed to be necessary to enhance efficiency, discipline and morale. Frankly, the last 20 years, I think, have demonstrated not only that it did not improve efficiency, discipline and morale, but, if anything, that the prosecution of these sexual offences by military courts has served to erode efficiency, discipline and morale. Therefore, I see no basis for the Canadian Armed Forces to retain jurisdiction over sexual offences. In my view, that jurisdiction should be vested exclusively with the civilian courts.
As long as concurrent jurisdiction remains, the evidence so far indicates, frankly, that the CAF will continue to consider itself the primary jurisdiction, and surprisingly, civilian authorities seem very happy to decline to exercise their own jurisdiction.
Removing the competence of military courts over these offences requires an act of Parliament, but simply yielding to the concurrent competence of civilian courts doesn't require an act of Parliament—it requires, essentially, an operational policy decision. It's very obvious to me that those involved in that process are dragging their feet.
On the military side, not prosecuting sexual offences would considerably reduce the workload, both on the investigation side of the NIS and the military police and on the prosecution side in what were then summary trials and courts martial.
On average, the military justice system handles approximately 30 sexual offence cases per year. Therefore, this actually would, if transferred to the civilian system—which, across Canada, handles about 2,300 such cases per year—be a minimal additional burden, if one can call it that, on the civilian system.
The administration of criminal justice in Canada is actually a provincial competence under our jurisdiction. I find it very surprising that some provincial authorities seem reluctant to exercise their constitutional power. Frankly, apart from some possible posturing over resources, I don't understand the need for the kind of extensive negotiations that the 's response to my report envisages, such as a deputy minister-level series of federal, provincial and territorial consultations. There's nothing complicated about that. The civilian jurisdiction already exists. It's just a question of exercising it.
The second matter that causes me some concern deals with the abolition of the duty to report. This has been the subject of extensive consultation and discussion. There's an existing working group in CAF and DND looking at the problem caused by this “duty to report”, which puts an unfair burden on not only victims but also their friends and those in whom they want to confide. It is not enforced. Failure to report is never prosecuted. There is no reason not to abolish duty to report.
The 's response points to an initiative that had already taken place before I finished my report: an amendment to the QR&O. This shows that it's not all that difficult to do something when a decision is made to go ahead. However, it only touches on a very small portion of the problem, in the context of the restorative justice exercise. For most members of the Canadian Armed Forces today, that duty still exists and, in my opinion, should be removed.
My last comment, Mr. Chair, is on the 's response to my recommendation that military colleges should be the subject of a very detailed, profound examination, led by educational specialists. It's now seven months after the production of my report—probably nine, if you look at March, when I provided the leadership of CAF and DND with a draft of my report—and we're still at the stage of examining parameters, terms of reference and so on. All of that is against the backdrop of a suggestion that military colleges, as they exist, are superior institutions. It doesn't suggest the kind of open mind with which, I think, this kind of exercise should be undertaken.
The good news, Mr. Chair, is that the has appointed an external monitor to oversee the implementation of my recommendations. It looks as if it will be a lengthy process. Looking at the response from the minister—which creates a large number of internal reviews, and further task forces and tiger teams—I hope the external monitor has a full decade ahead of her to oversee these efforts.
Overall, I find that all the reviews suggested in the minister's response are, for the most part, internal. Therefore, they entirely miss the central point of my report, which is the need for CAF to open up to a lot more external scrutiny and input.
Thank you very much for your patience, Mr. Chair.
First of all, as I mentioned in my report, I think the credit for the progress that will take place—eventually and slowly—on these and related issues in the Canadian Armed Forces goes, largely, to the victims and survivors who have come forward.
Frankly, if there's a lesson in all this, it's that the most significant progress came when these survivors took the initiative themselves. The Heyder Beattie class action, which you may recall and which led to some 20,000 claims being filed, speaks more loudly than any external scrutiny of these issues might have, had that taken place. I admire and I'm somewhat surprised by how patient many have been. There are women still writing to me today, after the publication of my report, recounting things that happened to them decades ago, in some cases, and throughout their career.
It is their initiative, particularly the class action and their engagement now internally in CAF, that I think deserves all the credit for progress that has yet to fully materialize.
I have all the figures inside my report in terms of the number of investigations and prosecutions—and I'll distinguish between these—that the various provinces can expect if they take on, if they actually exercise, a jurisdiction they already have to prosecute sexual offences committed by CAF members or on CAF bases and wings, including outside Canada. It is minuscule compared to the general scope of the prosecution of sexual offences in civilian courts.
We're talking about.... Look at the most serious cases, the ones that are more resource-intensive, and look at CAF. In 20 years, from 1999 to 2001—they received jurisdiction in 1998—they had 134 court martial cases. Distribute that across Canada. This is for the most serious cases. Without getting into all of the nitty-gritty details—obviously there would be a few more cases in Ontario, for instance, than in other provinces—on average you're looking at about 34 prosecutions for sexual offence cases per year across Canada, so the idea—
Thank you for that question.
It is very important to distinguish between transferring existing cases that are at the investigation or prosecution stage and initiating new investigations or prosecutions, whether for offences committed in the present or for offences committed a long time ago for which charges are now being laid. When we talk about transferring cases, we are talking about current cases.
On the question of the Jordan decision, I said very clearly that no case that is already before a court martial should be transferred, for example, because additional delay would risk jeopardizing the prosecution. However, for existing cases in the Canadian Armed Forces that are at the investigation stage, judgment should be exercised. If the investigation has just started, the case should probably be transferred to the civilian courts. However, if the investigation is almost completed and the victim has been questioned several times, it might be appropriate to allow the case to take its course before the military authorities, for the reasons you have mentioned.
With that said, when it comes to all new cases, we are not talking about transfers; the call must be placed to 911 immediately so that the civilian authorities can initiate the investigations.
Leaving the choice up to complainants or victims is extremely problematic, in my opinion. If their commanding officer or their chain of command asks them whether they prefer their case to be heard by the military authorities or the civilian authorities, that puts undue pressure on them to choose the military authorities, which is not in their interest, in my opinion. Even a lawyer would find it very hard to explain the ins and outs of each of the two options.
Thank you, Justice Arbour.
I really appreciate the clarity that you bring not only with recommendations but, ultimately, to the overall problem that we've consistently seen in terms of getting at this issue. It's something that I've also heard throughout my short time in Parliament studying these issues.
Many of your recommendations referenced the Deschamps report and the inability of the government or the inaction of the CAF and the government to enact those recommendations. A lot of it also references Justice Fish's recommendations.
Our concern, of course, is that now—and you mentioned this in terms of that graveyard of recommendations—the government has entirely missed the point. The 19 recommendations or responses that we could see talk about further working groups and policy reviews, and a lot of that work is internal.
Maybe this links to the external monitor. That's a lot of work to be done, for that one office. There wasn't, as far as I remember, a deadline for the creation of an external monitor and how quickly they could also provide a response.
Could you maybe put forward a recommendation on that in terms of what we need to see from that external monitor on some of the actions that need to be taken that the government has now placed internally that should never have been internal?
Yes, I believe in my report I recommended that the external monitor.... Now I forget if I put a time frame, but I certainly recommended that there be periodic public reports by the external monitor.
I am extremely concerned, as I mentioned before, about how long it seems to take to do something rather than say flat out, “We don't intend to do it”—so to just further review and.... They are small discrepancies. I could give the example of the report by Justice Fish. His report, of course, is a statutorily mandated exercise that has to take place periodically to look at military justice—not specifically sexual offences but military justice, the performance of the grievance system and so on. He did a very thorough review of that. I refer to it extensively in my own report.
On the question of sexual offences, he recommended, when he made his report, that these offences should be prosecuted totally in the civilian system until the Victims Bill of Rights was implemented in the military system. The Canadian Victims Bill of Rights was implemented for all Canadians in 2015. It took until 2022 for it to become applicable in the military system. His report also suggested that victims should have a say in the choice between the two systems.
There's a difference of opinion. I believe that the jurisdiction should fall exclusively on the civilian system. As I said, the minister doesn't have to agree with me. However, I think if they don't agree, they should say so. I am concerned that this issue is now the subject of further discussions and considerations. It makes it look very complicated.
It's not complicated. If you want to abolish that jurisdiction, put an act of Parliament. It's not hard. It's a matter of decision, not further reviews.
I don't have much time, unfortunately.
We've certainly seen the problem, in the past, in terms of the provost marshal being able to look at and investigate those who are higher up and those who are in charge of advancing his career. We've seen that consistent loophole being repeated. A lot of what you try to get at is, ultimately, that it all goes to the minister.
One of the concerns I had was.... Your belief is that the minister herself—or himself—is external to this system and that this provides a lot of the accountability. However, we saw very clearly in the past, with General Vance, that that can be problematic and that political oversight isn't perfect either.
Could you explain more in depth about why you came to that conclusion? There are so many advocating for reports from the ombudsman, from an inspector general, to go to Parliament directly.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It's good to be back on the defence committee after the extensive study on this in 2021.
Justice Arbour, I am very pleased to see you here, especially because of the voice that you've given to the survivors. I know that in the beginning there was some question, even on this committee, as to whether your report would be necessary. I think we've proven that not only was it necessary, but also incredibly value-added. Thank you so much for that.
I note that the key takeaway from your report is that the Canadian Armed Forces is not able to make these changes and change the culture by itself. There needs to be external help and external accountability. There was a lot of speculation that this would require an outside monitoring and accountability mechanism, like an inspector general.
My first question is, why did you choose not to go that route with your report?
I think my report deals quite extensively with that issue.
I'm very conscious that this suggestion goes right back to the Somalia inquiry and has been extensively discussed in the literature. When you come to articulating it, if you look, for instance, at the Australian model, the inspector general's function there was overwhelmingly to oversee, for instance, criminal prosecutions of sexual offences. My recommendation was to take that out of the CAF altogether.
What would remain within the ambit of an inspector general in the Canadian system that has already created an ombudsman, or an Auditor General? Since these recommendations were made 20 years ago, we now have several mechanisms of civilian oversight. I was concerned about trying to carve out an additional civilian oversight role for functions that are currently exercised, in particular, by the Auditor General. The Auditor General's office has produced several excellent reports on a lot of these issues.
I was very concerned about having a lot of duplication of functions, so I saw no need for that. I think the existing oversight that is exercised by Parliament through these mechanisms, and through this kind of committee, has all the capacity.
The problem with CAF is not just oversight, which is after the fact, but civilian input into the process—in the justice system, in the education system and in the management of human resources. Oversight after errors have been made is helpful only to a point, but getting oxygen into the system throughout, I think, would be much more helpful.
First of all, in my recommendation that the civilian authority should have exclusive jurisdiction over criminal sexual offences, it's not a matter of negotiation between the military police and the victims. It's a 911 case. They all are, like everybody else in the country. That's the starting point.
The consequence of that, though, as you've pointed out very accurately, is that currently if the offences are prosecuted in the military system, the accused is represented free of charge by the defence counsel that's part of JAG. I address that in my report. That is an issue.
If somebody is prosecuted in the civilian system, a military...which is possible. In fact, there are some cases that are prosecuted—cases where the offence either took place prior to 1998, for which there has been a recent example, or it took place off the base in a bar somewhere and it doesn't involve a military victim and for some reason the military system declines to move forward—and in those cases the accused has to pay for his own defence. There is a loss of benefit in that sense.
I've addressed that in my report as to how legal aid possibly could be provided to compensate for that, or it could just be the same as for everybody else. The problem is, I think, that even though they're not paid extraordinary amounts, most CAF members make enough money to not be eligible for legal aid assistance under our not very charitable legal aid systems across the country.
I would have difficulty in pointing to a single recommendation. One point I made in the report is that they are all interrelated. If I didn't recommend, for instance, the creation of an inspector general, it's on the assumption that criminal sexual offences will be out of the system.
If some things are not implemented, other recommendations may or may not have the same force. I'd have difficulty pointing to a single recommendation that would be critical.
However, there's no question that it starts with recruitment: Whom are we looking for? In the military colleges presently, if you look at the population, they are overwhelmingly white boys from Ontario and Quebec. They are the ones who constitute the majority. To empower under-represented groups, it starts right at the beginning with whom you recruit and the environment they are trained in. It permeates.... I mean, we select people who look like us. This is so well documented that it's trite to mention it.
In terms of performance evaluation, what is valued? What kind of physical training and qualities are stressed? It goes right through the promotion chain to end up with general officers or flag officers. There are now 140 or so of them—with what, 15 women and one Black person? How do we get there? There's not a single recommendation; it feeds right through an organization.
I think maybe it's obvious, but worth keeping in mind, that it's an organization that cannot recruit from the outside into its ranks. If it's short 20 colonels, it cannot recruit from the German army or from Amazon. Everything is homegrown. If any part of the system—from recruitment and training to performance evaluation and promotion—is not constantly upgrading itself with external influences, it's going to fall behind.
Mr. Chair and members of the Standing Committee on National Defence, hello.
I would like to acknowledge that I am on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabe nation.
On May 20, 2021, former Supreme Court Justice, the Honourable Louise Arbour, was engaged to conduct a review of policies, procedures, programs, practices and culture within the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence, entitled “Independent External Comprehensive Review”, or IECR.
On May 20, 2022, Madame Arbour provided me with her final report and the recommendations of the IECR. On May 30, I welcomed all 48 recommendations in the report and announced that we would move to implement 17 of the recommendations immediately. This morning, I presented to Parliament our path forward for all 48 recommendations made by Madame Louise Arbour earlier this year.
I know you already heard from Madame Arbour this morning. She and I spoke, and I sincerely thanked her for her months of tireless work to produce this report. Madame Arbour has made a significant contribution to our country. For that, we are grateful. As highlighted in my report, none of Madame Arbour's recommendations will be rejected, and I have directed my officials to implement a path forward on all of them.
This is an ambitious road map for reform, developed after months of work and consultation. The following are some of the central tenets that will help ensure meaningful, transformative and survivor-centric culture change.
I expect the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces to implement recommendation 5: that Criminal Code sexual offences be removed from the jurisdiction of the Canadian Armed Forces and be prosecuted exclusively in civilian courts. I have directed officials to present options on how such jurisdictional change can occur, in consultation with federal, provincial and territorial partners, and in a way that addresses challenges such as the capacity of civilian police to investigate historical cases or cases outside Canada, including in conflict zones.
As Madame Arbour acknowledges herself, implementation will take some time, likely years, and her interim recommendation will remain in place in the meantime, as she requests.
Pursuant to recommendations 7 and 9, I have also directed the Canadian Armed Forces to cease filing any objections under paragraph 41(1)(a) of the Canadian Human Rights Act, thus allowing the Canadian Human Rights Commission to investigate complaints for sexual harassment or discrimination.
Earlier today, I also announced our intent to establish a Canadian military college review board in response to recommendation 29. DND and CAF are developing draft terms of reference and ideas for composition of the board, which will focus on the quality of education, socialization and military training at the military colleges. These colleges attract some of the best that Canadian society has to offer. However, let's be clear: The culture at our military colleges must change significantly.
We will ensure that this occurs.
Finally, I will highlight that I have directed the military to establish a system of progressive targets for the promotion of women, to address recommendation 36. This will increase the number of women in each rank, with a view to increasing their representation in the general and flag officer ranks above their level of representation in the military overall.
These are just a few of the measures, Mr. Chair, that I announced today. The remainder are detailed in my report tabled earlier in Parliament.
I will say, to conclude, that we are deeply committed to building progress with honesty, transparency and accountability.
As I announced in October, I have appointed Jocelyne Therrien to the post of external monitor, with the responsibility of overseeing the implementation of Madame Arbour’s recommendations.
I've met with Jocelyne Therrien regularly. She's going to continue to provide me with open, transparent and accountable updates.
The culture change initiatives that I've highlighted today, and the others described in the report, are significant steps forward to making an inclusive and diverse Canadian Armed Forces. We have made progress, but much work lies ahead. A number of the recommendations have already been implemented or are in the process of being implemented. Others will be implemented in the short term and in the coming years.
Moving forward, DND and CAF will continue to offer regular briefings to journalists, stakeholders and others on our progress, so that Canadians can be informed about our work.
We have to recognize that culture change cannot occur from the top down. It will only happen if we move forward together. This team effort will continue to require the involvement and commitment of every DND employee and every CAF member. I invite them to take up this call to arms and pursue this mission with the same commitment and the same vigour for which they are known around the globe. Progress is necessary, possible and achievable. Let us all—parliamentarians, defence team members, and Canadians alike—continue to work toward it together.
Thank you. Meegwetch.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I appreciate that question very much.
I think what we need to do, and the purpose of this report, is not only to respond to Madame Arbour's recommendation, but to lay the foundation for the building of an institution where all members who serve can be respected and protected. Why is that important? In direct response to your question, it's because we have to exemplify to Canadians that this is an institution where, if they join and choose to put on a uniform, they will be treated with the respect that they deserve. It is very much a reconstitution issue, as well as a moral issue.
In other words, from an operational perspective, we need the Canadian Armed Forces to grow. We have heard the chief of the defence staff speak about this regularly. In order for the Canadian Armed Forces to grow, we need to embark on these culture change initiatives, and we need to make sure that they are successful.
Very much, the answer to your question is, yes. This is a matter of growth for the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as needing to do what is morally right.
Thank you, Minister, for being here with us today, and to all of our panellists, to answer some of our questions this morning.
We just heard from Justice Arbour, who spoke about the importance of switching from the military courts to the civilian courts with regard to sexual abuse. You did speak about being on the same page as her in terms of that being the only option, but you also mentioned that you're looking at different routes you can take. She outlined a couple of very specific ones, which we'll be recommending to you in our report, hopefully.
I'd like to know what you see as potential challenges to making this shift and why you think it can take as many years as it might take, when it seems that a policy or a decision by Parliament could move us in the right direction quickly.
Certainly. Thank you, Minister.
I have two quick points, Mr. Chair. Number one is that in conversations with provincial, territorial and federal counterparts, they have flagged the investigations piece as being a challenge. I think a lot of people jump right to the prosecution, but the investigation piece is important. If you think about our military members and infractions or alleged infractions that may have occurred overseas, they may be dispersed by the time the investigation comes along. There's a cost element to provinces potentially, as they have flagged.
They have also flagged the issue of victim-centric...as well as time delays and questions as to whether the civilian system would, indeed, be more efficient.
There's a lot to work through. We've had some initial discussions, but there are more to follow.
Let me start by saying that we are at a pivotal moment in the Canadian Armed Forces where we need to ensure that the culture change initiatives continue to be implemented and where we need to ensure that we grow the Canadian Armed Forces for the benefit of Canada, for Canadian society. We call on the Canadian Armed Forces frequently: in hurricanes, in floods, in COVID-19. In order for us to be able to continue to rely on the Canadian Armed Forces, we need to grow the Canadian Armed Forces.
This is not a new point. That is why we have been very committed to culture change initiatives for years. What are some of the things already in place and under way? We are expanding the delivery of SMRC—that's the sexual misconduct response centre—programs and services across this country. We are developing an independent legal assistance program for survivors of sexual misconduct. We are increasing access to SMRC services to include all members of the defence team and military families. We are launching initiatives to improve grievance processes, including referring all sexual misconduct grievances to the military grievances external review committee.
In budgets 2021 and 2022, our government committed additional financial resources to ensure that the growth of these programs can continue to occur. In today's announcement, of course, you will now see a road map forward for every single one of the 48 recommendations that Madame Arbour put on the table.
Your question also spoke about reconstitution. Reconstitution, of course, is the nub of growing the Canadian Armed Forces. We have a CAF reconstitution directive to ensure that the CAF has the resources and personnel to deliver on missions. We are welcoming permanent residents to apply to the Canadian Armed Forces. This is going to increase the inclusivity and the diversity of the Canadian Armed Forces. We are increasing staffing at recruiting centres. We are streamlining that process, as well. We are engaging with under-represented groups. We're prioritizing women applicants. We are also implementing a new retention strategy.
I see the chief nodding his head. Do you wanted to add anything, Chief?
I also thank the minister for being here and for her availability. We always appreciate it.
I would like to come back to the duty to report sexual misconduct, since Justice Arbour raised that issue today. This discussion about the advisability of abolishing the duty to report sexual misconduct has been ongoing for a long time. Justice Arbour referred to it in her report. That tool is not put to use, or is used very little, by the senior ranks.
In addition, there are no prosecutions when someone fails to obey the duty to report sexual misconduct. In your report, you say that the issue will be referred back to the working group to develop transitional measures. I am wondering what these transitional measures are, given that this is a tool that is not used.
Would it not be faster to abolish the obligation to report sexual misconduct?
What is the spoke in the wheels here?
Okay. Thank you. I just have such limited time. I'm sorry.
I didn't really hear a date in terms of that legislation or addressing that. It concerns me, considering you've said how much you're fully accepting all the recommendations.
In terms of the recommendations, I'm going to recommendations 4 and 11 on duty to report, as my colleague had mentioned; recommendations 24 and 28, the cadet chain of responsibility; and recommendation 37, universality of service. All of these have been addressed by your response in terms of internal committees and audits of procedure, instead of direct abolishment of the duty to report, for example.
In terms of that internal reconstitution, those internal committees and discussion groups, it's a continuation of what we've consistently seen since Deschamps in terms of not allowing that light to shine in from an external point of view.
Of course, there's been the creation of the external monitor, but that external monitor responds specifically to you as the minister. As we've seen in terms of your predecessor, that was a specific and terrible problem where we saw women's careers and their sense of duty and everything that they had given to this country be hidden, because there wasn't a specific openness.
Can you explain specifically how that external monitor won't fall into the same problems that we saw with the ombudsman not responding or reporting to Parliament?
Well, I disagree with most of what you have said.
I'll start by saying that, with 48 recommendations put on the table, this is the first time any government has responded to a report with a complete and detailed response to each and every recommendation in terms of our path forward.
The fact that there's no timeline on a recommendation of the magnitude of recommendation 5 I think is prudent. Do you really want me to come here today and say that I will implement recommendation 5 by January 1, 2024 without hearing from my department about the process, the options and how we're going to ensure it occurs? That would not be prudent, and it may not even be true, so I need to make sure that the information that I am giving to this committee and the people of Canada is true and accurate.
What I am saying is that we are going to move forward on recommendation 5. I have asked my officials to present me with options, and just as I moved on the 17 recommendations immediately after accepting Madame Arbour's report on May 30, 2022, I will move on the options as soon as possible.
You mentioned the external monitor. The external monitor was appointed within months of our receiving the final report of Madame Arbour. Already I have met with her numerous times, and she is engaging with the department. She is also ensuring that she provides the oversight that Madame Arbour recommended in her report.
I don't agree that this time is similar. I strongly believe that this time is different, that with this leadership team and our respective approaches to addressing the need for cultural change at a pivotal time in the Canadian Armed Forces' history, you will continue not only to hear updates from us, but to see meaningful change that affects the lives of people within the Canadian Armed Forces and hopefully serves as an incentive for people to join the Canadian Armed Forces as well.
To Minister Anand and everyone from the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, first of all, thank you for the response to the report. It's the first time we've seen this done. Your predecessor sat on the Deschamps report for seven years and let it collect dust on his desk, so this is a very positive step forward.
To follow up on my colleague Ms. Mathyssen's comments, we did just have Justice Arbour here, and she was critical of the response to recommendation 5. We know that, in this place, we can get legislation done fast, although Bill , the victims bill of rights in the military, took seven years to finally get brought into force.
What's your timeline on getting this before us in an expedited manner? All parliamentarians want to see this moved from the military justice system to civilian courts. What's your timeline for changes to the National Defence Act and whether or not we need to make changes to the Criminal Code?
Minister, thank you so much for being here today, and for your very evident, strong commitment to making real, transformative change. You're not just ending the toxic culture and the bad behaviour, but, as you said, in your words, really making it a place “where all members...can be respected and protected.”
I think this is the key. It goes well beyond sexual misconduct. To really make a difference, it has to be a place where women and other equity-seeking groups are not just accommodated but included, and all processes and the institution are transformed so that it is a welcoming environment where everyone can thrive, which I know you're very committed to. That includes not just justice; it includes sex- and gender-based analysis around women's health. It includes career trajectories, military families, child care, recruitment and all of the above.
My question is for you, but I would like to hear from General Eyre, General Allen and General Carignan on this as well, so I hope everyone will be very brief.
How do we go beyond changing the toxic masculinity culture and move toward a complete institutional change, so that every single person can find their place within CAF?
Mr. Chair, I think this speaks to what's different this time. What is different this time is a different focus and approach. This one is more of a values-based approach, as opposed to a rules-based approach. We can rise up to our values, or we can sink down to the level of the rules. We need both, but we're putting much more focus on the values.
Part of those values includes inclusion. Earlier this year, we published the new CAF military ethos, “Trusted to Serve”. Inclusion is right up there as a military value. There's much more focus on character as opposed to competence. If we take a look at our strategic failures over the last number of generations, they have been character-based, not competence-based. That is super important.
Incentivizing inclusive behaviours at all levels, so that we can attract and retain the best talent that Canada and Canadian society have to offer, is absolutely essential as we face the darkening, ever more dangerous world around us and as you, the Government of Canada, call upon us more and more to respond. That is absolutely essential.
Minister, you say in your report that the function of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre might change somewhat in order to offer more legal assistance services, which I welcome.
I am nonetheless concerned about the provision of services in French.
This summer, after the case was over, we learned that only 10% of claims were submitted by francophones, even though they represent 20% of the armed forces. There seem to have been problems with publicizing the services offered to francophones.
I would like to know what you are going to do to ensure that services are offered by the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre in both official languages.
I had the privilege of sitting on the status of women committee. Many women came before us throughout the study, last year, on what occurred. Repeatedly, they said they saw report after report.
I'm grateful for the change and willingness, in terms of the acceptance and the response to the report. However, it's not full implementation, entirely. There are all these different aspects to it. I can understand why, but there's a concern there. Ms. Arbour said today, in this committee, that she is fearful you have missed the boat.
What do you have to say about that?
On the same point, the track record of your government on this has been abysmal. The seven years that went by with no action on the Deschamps report have led to a certain amount of skepticism about the commitments you're making. Ms. Mathyssen is right. I note that Justice Arbour was skeptical about the willingness of your government to fully implement all these recommendations.
It's easy for a minister to say, “I accept all the recommendations.” Every few years, a minister is shuffled. Sometimes, there's a change of government. Nothing happens, and the problems remain. You're going to need to give us additional assurance. Consultations don't protect victims. Action will.
Can you address the shortcomings Ms. Arbour found in the level of commitment demonstrated in your remarks, particularly on recommendation 5?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Minister, thank you to you and your team for being here today. I have said this before and I will say it again: You are a force to be reckoned with. I'm not one of the skeptics. I have known you long enough now to know that when you say you're going to get something done, you're going to get it done.
I also want to take a quick second to acknowledge the members of the committee today, who asked some really good, fair, strong and tough questions. This is one of those times when I really appreciate this committee; it comes well prepared. Today was a very good and respectful day.
One thing that members of this committee did was to take every question that I was going to ask you and ask it.
When you were speaking with Madame Lambropoulos, you offered up to this committee and to Parliament a road map in the future.
For the 17 of 48 recommendations that you announced you would begin immediately, can you give us a bit of an update, a road map, on where you are with those? It would be unfair to ask you about a road map of things you haven't been able to tackle yet. However, I thought maybe I would give you an opportunity, if I could, to see where you are on those 17 of the 48 that you said you would begin immediately.
I have a couple of points here.
Number one, the examination of the various rules and regulations is ongoing. We've heard from the chief on a couple of these today.
The point I would like to flag to the committee is on Madame Arbour's 48 recommendations. They are part of a broader program of culture change. We haven't touched much on General Carignan's organization today, but that is what's also different this time. This organization is now well stood up and has a mandate to address the culture of the organization.
They're still fairly new from an organizational history perspective, but they are going to be critical, and their work is critical in moving forward these recommendations and the broader culture change work, including measures to address racism and inclusivity. It is part of a broader package, and I would like to flag for the committee that this work should not be ignored.
We're talking about Madame Arbour's report today. There's a broader program of work here as well that's equally important.
Most definitely. We are moving forward on reviewing the mandate and client scope of the SMRC as a first step in implementing Madame Arbour's recommendation that the SMRC be reinforced as a primary resource centre solely for complainants, victims and survivors of sexual misconduct.
I think it's really important to remember what the deputy minister just mentioned, which is that we're not starting from scratch with the Arbour report. A number of initiatives have been under way for years in the Canadian Armed Forces, including the SMRC programs, including independent legal assistance, including access to SMRC services and including initiatives to improve the grievance process. We are building on a foundation of transformative change.
In terms of the SMRC, which is the gist of your question, we're working to transfer the SMRC's authority for sexual misconduct training and education to Madame Carignan's centre, the CPCC, and we are also making sure that structure reports directly to the deputy minister of National Defence. The SMRC is also in the process of implementing a review of its own administrative structure in order to increase its independence.
There are a number of reforms around the SMRC, but I want to make sure you know that there is a foundation of transformative change that has already been under way.
That brings our time with the minister and her officials to a close.
I have taken note, Minister, of your willingness to reappear before the committee. As chair of this committee, I have to say that the gap between your last appearance and now has been a little bit too long, and we're hoping to rectify that with more frequent appearances by you and your colleagues. There are a number of studies this committee is engaged in on which your input would be required and welcome. I would encourage those who control your calendar to clear a bit more space for the committee so that we are not left in a vacuum as to what your thinking might be.
With that, I want to thank you. This has been an extraordinary two hours sitting here in this chair listening to the commitment to substantial change of some of the most significant and influential people in this country, and we cannot afford to fail. I take General Eyre's comments to heart: It is just too dangerous for us to fail. So I'm pleased to see the commitment.
With that, we are going to adjourn.
Colleagues, I don't know what's happening Thursday. According to Mr. Bezan, we won't be here. If we are here, I intend to have a meeting and instruct the analysts on the Arctic study and also to hear your thinking with respect to our trip to the Baltics and Poland. We need to start working on that now so as to maximize the benefit of the trip and to help out. We'll see what Thursday brings.
With that, the meeting is adjourned.