Interventions in Committee
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View John Williamson Profile
Can you talk a bit about the morale of the men and women in uniform who are serving in the region you visited recently?
View Jason Kenney Profile
It's extraordinarily high. I must say, I've had the privilege of being Minister of National Defence for only a few months, since February. Since that time, everywhere I've gone, to domestic bases or abroad, I have truly been impressed by the morale of the men and women in uniform.
I'll be honest, I did not expect to find how boastful they are about much of the equipment they have, including the modernized and new equipment. I could see that on HMCS Fredericton last week, and HMCS Calgary, one of our modernized frigates, during Exercise Trident Fury off the west coast last month. I could see it with C-17 crews when I received our fifth Globemaster at CFB Trenton. The maintenance crews were boasting about the new maintenance hangar they have down there. That kind of thing doesn't get a lot of media attention but is the core of operational effectiveness. I could see it in Exercise Maple Resolve in CFB Wainwright a couple of weeks ago, when I attended live-fire exercises jointly conducted by the Van Doos and the Lord Strathcona's Horse tank operators.
Everywhere I go I see a sense that they are pleased with the equipment they have, the kinds of important missions they have around the world, the training opportunities. It's hard to make an objective read of that. Of course, there must be people out there who are dissatisfied. In a big organization that will always be the case, but so far in my first four months I have not encountered them.
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 Élaine Michaud Profile
Thank you.
I also heard the minister make a formal commitment to keeping an eye on the situation and to ensuring that outcomes will be achieved. For our part, my colleagues and I will make sure to ask the right questions and to check whether the work is being done. That is a priority for us. The Valcartier military base is in my riding. So this is a huge concern for me.
Let's come back to the topic at hand. I just mentioned the Valcartier base. As was said a little earlier, 220 military members from the Valcartier military base—mainly parachutists—will be in Poland as part of Operation Reassurance from June 28 to July 15. For the first time, in Poland, a rotation will last six months instead of three. Could you explain to us why the rotation will be longer in that specific case?
Charles Lamarre
View Charles Lamarre Profile
Charles Lamarre
2015-06-17 17:22
Fortunately, someone else is taking care of it!
All the rotations are based on the exercises that will take place. We make sure that soldiers have something to do when they arrive on the ground. We based it on our discussions with the allied forces we work with, whether they are Polish, American or the authorities of other countries in the region. Each rotation is based on the events that will take place, on training and on the area where Canadians can truly do something that shows what we want to accomplish in the wake of the Russian aggressions in Europe.
View Élaine Michaud Profile
I know there is currently no plan to send to Ukraine soldiers who will be deployed on that rotation. They will be in Poland and may have to travel to other Eastern European countries. I know that Ukraine is currently not in the plans. Can that change as part of the mission?
Charles Lamarre
View Charles Lamarre Profile
Charles Lamarre
2015-06-17 17:23
The answer is no, as those are two completely separate things. As part of Operation Reassurance, we have the training camp in Poland, but some countries have already interacted with our soldiers. For instance, we have sent our troops to provide training and make use of their expertise on winter warfare.
They have also done other things with other countries.
As for the individuals who will go to Ukraine, they have a very specific role, and we are really looking to send them to places where they will be able to use their expertise, either in terms of training military police or in terms of flight safety. They are two separate missions.
View Rick Norlock Profile
There is one other quick topic because of course it's been in the news recently. President Obama announced that the United States would be sending approximately 400 additional troops to Iraq.
Can you speak to whether there are any plans to expand our Canadian Armed Forces' role in Iraq?
View Jason Kenney Profile
We do not have plans to do so, Mr. Chairman. The government was clear in the motion tabled before Parliament about our intention to maintain until April of 2016 the 69 special operators in the Kurdish region as well as the nine aircraft based out of Kuwait.
Obviously, we will participate in ongoing discussions with our coalition partners, but we believe that's a significant contribution. An assessment will have to be made next spring about the nature of an ongoing Canadian commitment.
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
In those interviews did you interview women in the Canadian Armed Forces who had reported incidents of sexual assault, or of harassment, and who were not already on the track out of the military?
Marie Deschamps
View Marie Deschamps Profile
Hon. Marie Deschamps
2015-05-25 15:58
Yes, we met the full range. We met people who had never reported. We met people who had reported, the case was closed and they were still in the military and not on their way out. We also met people who were on their way out and others who were already veterans.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
As was mentioned earlier, General Whitecross, your strategic response team has visited a number of bases and wings since the report was made public. Can you speak to what type of reception you've had from the Canadian Armed Forces members?
Christine Whitecross
View Christine Whitecross Profile
Christine Whitecross
2015-05-25 16:35
Yes. Thank you.
Mr. Chair, so far we've done 16 sessions in, I think, six or seven locations. In every one of them the chain of command is aware of Madame Deschamps' report and is aware of the action plan that has come out. They all want to be engaged in setting the conditions for, as Madame Deschamps has mentioned, better trust in the chain of command. That's fundamentally the biggest thing we're hearing; they want to regain trust in the chain of command.
I have one little anecdote, which I think speaks to some of the discussions that we're having. I had a senior member come to me after one of the meetings. We were talking about the underlying sexualized culture and how we need to talk about it. By talking about it people will realize that words hurt and that what they're doing is creating this environment which can, if not checked, lead to larger or more serious events. When he heard that, it resonated with him and he told me that I was one of those people who did that. I can tell you right now that I will be one of the stronger supporters in ensuring that this does not ever happen under my watch again. I think we're reaching people in many ways.
Thank you.
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