Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Lawson, in your recent interview with the media, you dumbed down the problem of sexual harassment in the military to one of biology. Well, your comment dumbed down the position of Chief of the Defence Staff.
What is it going to take to bring the culture of the military into the 21st century?
Thomas Lawson
View Thomas Lawson Profile
Thomas Lawson
2015-06-17 16:42
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First of all, I must make it entirely clear that sexual misconduct of any kind in the military is absolutely unacceptable. There is nothing that I could say or would ever say that would indicate it's acceptable. In my comments yesterday, I stand by the apology, for they were an introduction to comments that make it clear that we are committed from the very top—myself, my key generals, commodores, flag officers, chief petty officers, chief warrant officers—right through the chain of command to our aviators, sailors, and soldiers, to rid the Canadian Armed Forces of this problem.
What is probably most damaging about my opening comments yesterday is that they obscure the work going on in the military right now on this. It obscures the fact that we have surveys that indicate our men and women in uniform have never been so confident in the sanctity, the safety, and the satisfaction with the workplace these days. But that doesn't matter. We still have an issue with sexual misconduct.
We had an internal review. We acted on it. We brought in Madam Deschamps to carry out an external review, from which she has come up with 10 recommendations, all of which we will meet the intent of. I have raised, under Lieutenant-General Whitecross, a team of 25 men and women to work on this. This work is all under way now.
I didn't ask Madam Deschamps whether we were better than we were 10 years ago. We have all kinds of indications, including retention figures with our women, which are actually better than with our men, that indicate we are much better. But that doesn't matter; we have a problem.
I didn't ask her to look backwards. I asked her to look at where we are today and how we can get better. She's come back with 10 points, all of which we will be actioning.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, gentlemen, for joining us.
I have to say, General Lawson, that you should get the medal for bravery for showing up today, after yesterday's incidents in the media.
But I do want to follow up on that, General, because we had a statement from Madam Justice Deschamps in her report, which I will read to you. The report says that the military is rife with discrimination, and abuse towards women starts from their first days in uniform while commanders write it off as part of life in the armed forces. Her conclusion is that “there is an undeniable problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault” in the Canadian Armed Forces, “which requires direct and sustained action”.
Do you agree with that statement in light of your comments last night, and in light of the fact that your own internal report, completed about a year ago, said there was nothing wrong with the policies and procedures in the Canadian Armed Forces?
Thomas Lawson
View Thomas Lawson Profile
Thomas Lawson
2015-06-17 16:51
First, Mr. Chair, I do agree that we do have a problem that needs to be addressed.
I would take issue with the characterization of my internal study, which did say that policies were in place; however, it indicated that reporting was likely not at a level that we needed and various other issues that led me to then commission the report that was carried out by Madam Deschamps. Her number one recommendation is indeed that we have a problem that we need to deal with and to accept that we have a problem at the highest levels, and we have done that, Mr. Chair.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
General, with regard to your statement last night, I don't know if what you issued would be characterized as an apology, although it has been called that. You recognized that it was an awkward statement, but the suggestion that the problem of sexual assault and sexual harassment in the army is something of a biological imperative, that men can't help themselves, seems to be archaic, at best.
Would you not agree that this kind of attitude, if it were pervasive in the military—particularly at the senior command level, like yourself—would in fact contribute to that problem, or even covertly excuse it?
Thomas Lawson
View Thomas Lawson Profile
Thomas Lawson
2015-06-17 16:53
I agree, Mr. Chair, that there can be no excuse for sexual misconduct. The nature of my comments yesterday came from a question saying, here in 2015, how can it be that the Canadian Armed Forces are dealing with sexual misconduct in view of the fact that this is a societal problem that we see across academic institutions, police forces, and broadcast, perhaps, even on the Hill itself? It was an unhelpful conjecture on my part as to what might motivate someone in a heinous way to believe that they could press themselves on someone else. It was not helpful, and it is for that reason that I apologize for that opening. The remainder of the remarks were that this is unacceptable and we are committed to addressing it.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Mr. Kenney, in light of the report of Madam Deschamps and certainly the comments, even though he is taking them back today and apologizing for them, many Canadians feel that the military cannot solve its own problem. It seems to be that you, in your department, and your government, are implicitly taking the attitude that this is the military's problem, and that the military can go ahead and solve it.
Are you and your government prepared to take responsibility to ensure that women or the LGBT individuals who have also been identified and who joined the military are going to be safeguarded, safe, and in a safe place if they join the military? Are you going to take responsibility for that and are you and your government going to follow up on an ongoing basis to ensure that this is happening?
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
Okay, thank you.
What could have possessed you to make the comments you made to Peter Mansbridge, General?
Thomas Lawson
View Thomas Lawson Profile
Thomas Lawson
2015-06-17 17:07
Mr. Chair, the comments, for which I have apologized, referred to a question in which the interviewer had asked how we could be dealing with sexual assault in 2015 in view of the prevalence of this issue being a societal problem. My unhelpful comments were a conjecture that really served no purpose and in fact clouded the very strong efforts that we have going forward.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
Thank you, General. I heard that explanation earlier. I thought there may be some clarity. It was not a slip of the tongue. It was clearly a belief because you reinforced it several times.
My question would be.... I have to say that it's not since I was a young teenager that the idea or the excuse would be made that boys just can't help themselves. That's the kind of thing people used to say 35 or 45 years ago, so this is a very interesting excuse for sexual harassment and assault.
How do you think your comments regarding sexual violence in the military might affect those serving in Operations Impact and Reassurance?
Thomas Lawson
View Thomas Lawson Profile
Thomas Lawson
2015-06-17 17:09
Mr. Chair, in no way did I indicate, even for the comments that I apologized for, that there is any excuse for any type of sexual misconduct by anyone in uniform, nor would I ever do that, nor does anyone in uniform believe that.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
Okay. I would like to explore the idea of the trust and confidence of the troops that the CDS must command in order to be in that role. I would like to ask the minister whether he believes that the comments and the attitude, and what I would consider the normalization of inappropriate sexual behaviour and hostility, might affect the trust in command and the confidence of the troops, especially women and LGBTQ military members.
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
Sorry, Mr. Chair, I'm not entirely clear on the question but I reject its premise.
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
There is and must be no tolerance, nor any excuses offered for sexual harassment or sexual misconduct, particularly in an organization such as the Canadian military, which is based on the concepts of honour and professionalism.
View Joyce Murray Profile
Lib. (BC)
Exactly, so my question is this. Do you believe that your Chief of the Defence Staff can still command the trust and confidence of women and LGBTQ armed forces members?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
The Prime Minister reflected the government's view on this during question period. The general has apologized for his remarks before you repeatedly here today. He has retracted them. I think we can all agree that there must be no expression or even implication of any kind of excuse for sexual misconduct in a public institution such as the Canadian Armed Forces.
View Élaine Michaud Profile
NDP (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I know that the issue has been raised by several of my committee colleagues, but my first question is for General Lawson.
I would like some clarification about what you said yesterday. I don't want to focus on the controversial remarks, although they are quite frankly disgraceful. One thing worries me about the statement you made afterwards—which was supposed to be an apology for said comments. You said you wanted to examine very seriously the sexual misconduct issues in the Canadian Armed Forces using an action plan based on the 10 recommendations from the Deschamps report. However, there seems to be some ambivalence when it comes to the Canadian Armed Forces' willingness to implement all the recommendations from the report. That is something the NDP has been calling for since the report was published.
My mother is still actively serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, and I am worried about the safety in her work environment. I would like to know whether the Canadian Armed Forces will really adopt all the recommendations from the Deschamps report.
Thomas Lawson
View Thomas Lawson Profile
Thomas Lawson
2015-06-17 17:20
Mr. Chair, first of all I should be clear that with reference to all 10 recommendations made by Madam Deschamps, we will achieve the outcomes that she was suggesting. Two of them we have accepted immediately, and—the questioner is right—of the other eight we are absolutely committed to the outcome that Madam Deschamps is recommending. She was one person working for one short period of time. I now have a team under Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross of 25 people working over a period and making sure that we connect how we get from where we are now to the outcome that Madam Deschamps seeks, and we will get there.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Would there be time for one quick question to the minister, Mr. Chair, asking for a timeline on the implementation of the Deschamps report?
View Jason Kenney Profile
CPC (AB)
I am waiting for a detailed report from the military through Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, who, as the CDS has explained, is charged with developing the action plan. I look forward to receiving her advice on a timeline.
I can tell you that all of the senior military commanders with whom I have dealt on this matter have been absolutely clear that they intend to move forward with implementation of the recommendations as soon as possible.
Carlo Dade
View Carlo Dade Profile
Carlo Dade
2015-05-26 12:28
Thank you, Ms. Brown. Thank you for the welcome back, too.
On the security issue, I would note that we have to delink security from the visa issue. As your colleague Mr. Trottier pointed out, it's tied to refugees and false refugee claimants or disputed refugee claimants. Mexico is a security challenge for the United States—it's not a security challenge for Canada—just as the United States is a security challenge for Canada. If you've been along the Detroit-Windsor border, the homicide rate is 44 per 100,000 in Detroit and zero per 100,000 in Windsor. You have visa-free travel and no going through an airport security line to get into Windsor. For us, that's the real issue tied to travel and entry to Canada around security.
What we can do to help Mexico with security, though, is an interesting question. I lectured at the navy war college in Mexico a few years ago. The issues that they were concerned about were management and organization. I don't know that there's much we can do on the security front. The Mexican military wants help from Canada in dealing with issues on counter-narcotics and dealing with drug gangs in Mexico, so the Canadian Armed Forces and DND send them to talk to the RCMP. We have a bit of an asymmetry
We also don't have the history of Plan Colombia and the counter-narcotics, counter-insurgency strategies that the Americans have. Our help in Mexico is on things that will require the presence of the Canadian International Development Agency, things like rule of law and justice strengthening. Our contribution to security in the Americas complements what the Americans do in the Caribbean and elsewhere by working on having CIDA fund rule of law programs and justice strengthening programs. We took CIDA out of Mexico. The U.S. left USAID in Mexico. They have the ability to help in what is, oddly enough, an area that would really be our specialization to help with in Mexico, to move them money and resources.
The last thing I would note on security is that, it's interesting; public opinion polling by Bob Pastor right before he passed showed greater support in Mexico for a common North American security perimeter than in the United States or in Canada. There are areas where being involved with Mexico could be helpful on that front, but in terms of contributions, we'd have to get CIDA back into Mexico.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2015-05-25 15:35
Good afternoon, colleagues, and welcome.
We are gathered here today, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), for a briefing on the external review into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces.
We have two witnesses with us here today. They are, as an individual, former Madam Justice Marie Deschamps, who chaired the external review authority, and from the Department of National Defence, Major-General Christine Whitecross, commander, Canadian Armed Forces strategic response team on sexual misconduct.
We will begin as usual with opening statements.
Madam Justice Deschamps.
View Jack Harris Profile
NDP (NL)
Mr. Chair, I have a point of order.
The committee will recall that at our last public meeting, on May 13, the minister agreed that he would come to this committee to discuss the matter of this report along with Madame Deschamps and Major-General Whitecross.
A motion was formally passed at that time:
That the Standing Committee on National Defence invite the Minister of National Defence, the Chief of the Defence Staff, retired Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps and MGen Christine Whitecross as witnesses to appear before the Committee to answer questions about Justice Deschamps' external investigation of sexual misconduct in the military, and the Canadian Armed Forces' response thereto, for two hours, as soon as possible.
We have met the last condition regarding “as soon as possible”, and we're very grateful for the attendance of Madame Deschamps and Major-General Whitecross, but the principal responsibility for the military rests with both the Minister of National Defence and the Chief of the Defence Staff. They are not here. They are the ones with the ultimate authority in these matters. We think those two individuals not being here demonstrates a lack of leadership.
I wonder why it is, Mr. Chair, they're not here. The Minister of National Defence said he would be here if he wasn't out of the country. He's still in the country. He was at question period today.
View Peter Kent Profile
CPC (ON)
View Peter Kent Profile
2015-05-25 15:37
Mr. Harris, before I go to Mr. Bezan on a point of order, you'll recall that the minister said that, conditional on availability, he would attend. We thought, given the great parliamentary and public interest in this issue and given the availability of Madam Justice Deschamps and General Whitecross, we should take full advantage of their availability today, and we are delighted they were willing to attend.
Mr. Bezan.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
I'll just add to that, Mr. Chair.
The motion didn't specify that it was going to be just one meeting. We had an opportunity here. General Whitecross and Madame Deschamps were available today. Unfortunately the CDS and the minister were not, but we'll definitely look at other possible days we can have them here.
Still, the spirit of the motion is being respected. We have two great witnesses here. We need to take this time to hear what they have to say and to ask the relevant questions.
Marie Deschamps
View Marie Deschamps Profile
Hon. Marie Deschamps
2015-05-25 15:39
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
When the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Lawson, entrusted me with the mandate of examining the Canadian armed forces policy on sexual harassment and sexual assault, he told me he wanted the point of view of a person from the outside.
My report is the fruit of some intense work. I met over 700 people. I did an exhaustive and thorough study of policies, and I reviewed what are currently considered the best practices in the area of sexual harassment and assault.
I will not comment on my report here, save for two points I wish to emphasize, which can be summarized in two words: victims, and trust.
I will begin by speaking about victims. Each one of the 10 recommendations in my report aims to improve conditions for members of the Canadian armed forces. The impact has to be felt at all levels, not only in daily life, but also in the support afforded to victims and the prevention of incidents.
Supporting victims means that the Canadian armed forces have to give priority to the needs of the victims. In discussing prevention I of course refer to training. The Canadian armed forces have to teach their members what professional behaviour is and what is not acceptable. Prevention also means deterring eventual offenders by promptly imposing sanctions that will make everyone understand that there will be no compromises.
We cannot underestimate the importance and attention that must be afforded victims. It is through them that the Canadian armed forces will be able to assess the evolution of change in their culture. These men and women will allow them to verify the level of respect for the dignity of persons and the professionalism of our armed forces.
The second point is a guiding principle underlying my recommendation. It is the need to rebuild the trust and confidence of the Canadian Forces members in their organization. This will require short-term, medium-term, and long-term measures to bring about real changes.
Such change will take time. The first step, however, is for the Canadian Forces leadership to demonstrate to members through their actions that they acknowledge that the problem of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the armed forces is real. But most important, the forces need to show that they will take all the necessary steps to tackle this issue, including adopting measures that are recognized as international and national best practices.
One of these practices on which I heavily relied corresponds to what many members and people who worked with victims told me they needed. It is the creation of an independent centre where victims can seek support and advice. It is critical that such a centre be truly independent of the armed forces in order to reassure victims that by reporting an incident of sexual harassment or sexual assault, they will be able to access support without triggering negative consequences for their careers or in their personal lives.
I took inspiration from models that various countries adopted. The American and Australian forces created their respective centres in 2005 and 2012. Last summer, in 2014, the French forces also implemented a centre called Cellule Thémis.
Based on my consultation with members and with persons who worked with victims of harassment and assault, I found that the creation of an independent centre to assist and support victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment is an essential step in rebuilding the confidence of members in their organization.
In my report, speaking about the process of investigating and prosecuting sexual assault, I mentioned that each country has developed their own response to their problems. The centre I recommend is not identical to any of the existing ones and I did not view my mandate as describing in minute detail the form that it should take.
However, the Canadian Forces should attempt to draw the best features from each existing model. In my view, the more independent the centre is, the better are the chances that the victims will seek support and fully report incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Reporting is fundamental not only because the victims need support, but also because the Canadian Forces need to know how members behave.
Thank you.
Christine Whitecross
View Christine Whitecross Profile
Christine Whitecross
2015-05-25 15:45
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to appear before you today to provide an update on the progress the Canadian Armed Forces strategic response team is making in dealing with inappropriate sexual behaviour in the forces.
You will remember that the external review authority's report and the action plan developed by the Canadian Armed Forces to deal specifically with Madame Deschamps' 10 recommendations were released to the Canadian public on April 30, 2015.
Let me start by saying that the past 17 working days since the release of the action plan indeed have been very busy. As I stated at the time of the release, inappropriate sexual behaviour is a complex problem that defies quick fixes and band-aid solutions. To successfully address it, our approach centres on identifying and treating its fundamental root causes rather than simply addressing the symptoms. Madame Deschamps' insight and analysis is absolutely pivotal in this approach. So, what has transpired during the last two and a half weeks?
First, we have reaffirmed that the strategic response team's mission is to enhance the operational readiness of the Canadian Forces by eliminating incidents and impacts of inappropriate sexual behaviour to the extent possible.
The goal is a Canadian Armed Forces that upholds a culture of dignity and respect for all. These are core Canadian values that the institution exists to defend in Canada and around the globe. In other words, in the long term we will enhance the fundamental Canadian Armed Forces' culture to the point that inappropriate sexual behaviour will not be tolerated either by targets of such behaviour or by anyone who witnesses it.
In the short term, we will trigger positive shifts in behaviour through increased awareness of acceptable norms, expectations, responsibilities and accountabilities by engaging with both the chain of command and grassroots membership across the organization.
Additionally, the recently formed Canadian Armed Forces strategic response team on sexual misconduct, which I lead, continues to grow and mature. It is noteworthy that this is the first time in the Canadian Armed Forces' history that an entity has been formed for the sole purpose of addressing this important issue. I have assembled a highly capable, multidisciplinary team consisting of civilian personnel, military members and former military members with the appropriate combination of required skills and experience.
We have identified four major lines of effort critical to achieving the objective. As described in our action plan, the first is to understand the problem. The second is to respond effectively to incidents of inappropriate behaviour, including enhancing the process of reporting. The third is to better support victims throughout the process. The fourth is to prevent occurrences from taking place in the first place.
We have already made considerable progress in several of these endeavours. In terms of understanding, my team has carefully examined Madame Deschamps' report and has begun considering how best to address each of her 10 recommendations.
For example, a key recommendation in Madame Deschamps' report was the creation of an independent centre to deal with inappropriate sexual behaviour. She provided us with several examples, including those established in the United States and Australian militaries.
The analysis of an independent centre will be the focal point of the strategic response team's planning and development in the coming weeks. Accordingly, my team and I recently met with American officials on their SAPRO model and Australian officials on their SeMPRO organization. Both consultations were very productive and provided the team with better insight into a field-tested, proven option with the potential to illustrate how a similar construct could be developed to fit the needs of the Canadian Armed Forces or the Department of National Defence.
In addition to these two visits, members of the strategic response team visited the Peel Regional Police and the Canadian Army Command and Staff College to open discussions about educational opportunities. They attended an international workshop in Geneva that brought together a broad spectrum of international experts on the core facets of sexual harassment and sexual assault in organizational environments. They attended a conference on gender-based analysis plus in security and defence operations held in Ottawa. They met with Ambassador Schuurman, the NATO secretary general's special representative for women, peace and security.
A key component of the behavioural and cultural change I alluded to earlier is connecting with the Canadian Armed Forces members at every level of the organization, including at the pointy end, to both increase awareness of the Canadian Armed Forces' response to Madame Deschamps' report, and to inspire open dialogue and personal reflection on the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the forces. This is quite similar to the approach previously employed in shifting internal stigmas and behaviour surrounding post-traumatic stress disorder and operational stress injuries, which we largely succeeded in doing in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
With members of my team, I began connecting directly with the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces across Canada starting on May 1, the day after the release of the report. Through a series of town hall meetings, individual question and answer sessions, discussions with the local chain of command, as well as interactions with interested local and regional media, the strategic response team is reaching out to Canadian Armed Forces members and setting the conditions for ongoing dialogue.
I open each session with the acknowledgement that this is a serious problem within the Canadian Armed Forces and that al though no one wants to discuss inappropriate sexual behaviour, it is important to start the discussion. So far, we have been to six bases and wings where I have briefed approximately 5,300 military personnel at 16 general sessions. The questions, comments, concerns, and perspectives in these sessions have brought to light both positive and negative personal experience anecdotes and reinforced two realities: one, the problem is highly complex; and two, while there is a collective will to move the organization forward, there is little consensus as to the gravity of the existing problem.
In the next few months, I look forward to completing the town halls at all 33 bases and wings to ensure that the majority of Canadian Armed Forces members have an opportunity to hear and understand what the team is doing, ask questions and express opinions, and learn about the direction being taken by the Canadian Armed Forces.
Similarly, my team and I will continue our focused consultations with both domestic and international entities that are dealing with a problem similar to ours. This includes military, government, police, and other non-governmental organizations that are able to provide us with applicable insight on best practices and lessons learned.
One of the reasons the Canadian Armed Forces' response to the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour will be more effective this time is the heightened emphasis on outcome measurement. Even the most elaborate plans and outputs mean little if they do not translate into tangible outcomes and results on the ground. To this end, my team is studying program evaluation methodologies to ensure we are able to measure how effective the changes we implement actually are in practice.
Reporting will go hand in hand with performance measurement. Starting in the fall, I will deliver to the Chief of the Defence Staff my first quarterly report on the Canadian Armed Forces' progress in responding to the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour. The report will also be released to the Canadian public. We are fully committed to open, transparent dialogue with external stakeholders. Over the past 25 days we have interacted with a total of 88 different media agencies in group and individual engagements. My team and I are committed to standing up and being held to account on this crucial imperative and will continue to be actively engaged with the public, Parliament, and the media.
We have also begun to examine how we can improve the Canadian Armed Forces' approach to training and education in order to shift culture towards enhancing the level of dignity and respect. As well, the team, in conjunction with other Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence personnel, is reviewing existing policy to assess its clarity, coherence, appropriateness, and applicability. As part of this endeavour, all terminology and definitions pertaining to inappropriate sexual behaviour will be thoroughly examined.
Inappropriate sexual behaviour remains a complex problem, one that quick fixes will not solve substantively or sustainably. My team is focused on creating innovative, meaningful change tailored to the needs of the Canadian Armed Forces members and based on best practices and lessons learned from a wide range of sources. This is a no-fail mission for the Canadian Armed Forces that my team and I are completely and utterly committed to.
Thank you.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First of all, Madam Justice Deschamps, thank you very much for the study you did. You did it promptly and in good time, so that we're able to put an action plan together.
We understand that the Canadian Armed Forces strategic response team was set up specifically with regard to your report and its recommendations. Do you think this is a good start to addressing the issues that you'd outlined?
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