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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
In light of the discussion we had earlier this week and having failed to take a final decision on a motion that was before us at that time, I have submitted a slightly updated version of the motion, which I'll read into the record now. Then I'll speak to that motion. I move:
That, in respect of the committee's study on addressing sexual misconduct issues in the Canadian Armed Forces, including the allegations against former Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance,
(a) recalling that Zita Astravas, former Chief of Staff to the Minister of National Defence, was invited on Monday, March 8, 2021, to appear before the committee within 14 days, and was ordered by the House of Commons on Thursday, March 25, 2021, to appear before the committee on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, and did not appear on either occasion, the committee issue a summons for Zita Astravas to appear before this committee, at a televised meeting, at a date and time determined by the Chair which is no later than Thursday, May 27, 2021, until she is released by the committee, provided that, in the event Zita Astravas defaults on the summons,
(i) the Clerk and analysts be directed to prepare a brief report to the House, outlining the material facts of the possible contempt the situation would represent, to be considered by the committee, in public, at its first meeting after the consideration of the main report on the study has been completed, and
(ii) the Minister of National Defence and Gary Walbourne, former National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman, be invited to appear jointly on a panel for two hours, at a televised meeting, no later than Thursday, May 27, 2021; and
(b) the provisions of the motion adopted on Monday, April 12, 2021, concerning a report to the House, be supplemented as follows:
(i) notwithstanding the motion adopted on Monday, April 12, 2021, drafting instructions and recommendations arising from the evidence received by the committee after Friday, April 16, 2021, may be sent to the Clerk, (A) in respect of evidence received before the adoption of this motion, within 24 hours of the adoption of this motion, or (B) in respect of evidence received as a consequence of paragraph (a) within 24 hours of the adjournment of the meeting where the evidence was received,
(ii) until Friday, May 28, 2021, the committee hold at least one meeting per week to receive evidence related to the study and at least one meeting per week to consider the draft report,
(iii) at 2:45 p.m. on Friday, May 28, 2021, or, if the committee is not then sitting, immediately after the committee is next called to order, the proceedings before the committee shall be interrupted, if required for the purposes of the motion adopted on Monday, April 12, 2021, and every question necessary for the disposal of the draft report, including on each proposed recommendation which has not been disposed of, shall be put, forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment,
(iv) the committee declines to request, pursuant to Standing Order 109, that the government table a comprehensive response to the report, and
(v) dissenting or supplementary opinions or recommendations shall be filed, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(b), in both official languages, no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, June 4, 2021.
Madam Chair, the motion I just tabled reflects the amendment that was carried at our meeting earlier this week, removing the request to call witnesses concerning the allegations around Major General Dany Fortin, and a timeline has been updated so that we hear from Ms. Astravas or from the Minister of Defence and Gary Walbourne by the end of business on May 27, which is Thursday of next week.
Madam Chair, this committee has spent a lot of time with the Liberals filibustering motions to call witnesses, in particular Zita Astravas, but others as well. I believe there should have been a recent analysis done that shows that committees have spent an extended amount of time in ongoing debates, extended committee sittings and hours, which could also be interpreted as filibusters, and 77% of committee time has been wasted by Liberal filibusters.
I would also say, Madam Chair, that in this committee in itself, with the practice that you continue to use of suspending meetings, we have spent over 11 days in suspension. We've been suspended 20 different times. We are headed to a long weekend. I would hope that committee members this time would want to debate the motion and not spend ongoing time talking about all sorts of other things that are not relevant to calling Zita Astravas. The reason Zita Astravas is so important, Madam Chair, is that she's the one who can bring some clarity to the conflicting testimony we received.
We have Minister Sajjan, who said he was surprised when this became public. Then we found out that Gary Walbourne had presented the information regarding allegations against General Vance three years ago, on March 1, 2018. Minister Sajjan then said he provided that information to the Clerk of the Privy Council. The Clerk of the Privy Council at the time, Michael Wernick, told committee that he received the information and the request to look at the allegations from Elder Marques. We have Elder Marques saying that he got the information and that the allegations came from Katie Telford and her office. Katie Telford is the chief of staff to the Prime Minister. When she appeared, she said that she got the information from Elder Marques.
One missing link in all of this is Zita Astravas, the former chief of staff to Minister Sajjan, who three years ago, in March 2018, provided this information up the chain. We believe she would be able to bring light to this discussion with regard to where things started to go awry.
Why was this never looked into? Why didn't this actually get investigated, despite claims by Liberals that there was an investigation?
We've heard from both the past Clerk of the Privy Council and the current Clerk of the Privy Council that they never investigated. They just had some meetings with Gary Walbourne.
Madam Chair, I would suggest to committee members that we get on with summoning Zita Astravas. Calling her has not worked to date. If the government decides that it isn't going to allow her to appear, then expect to have Minister Sajjan appear alongside Gary Walbourne so we can get down to the bottom of who's actually telling the truth.
This is important, Madam Chair, if we are going to change the culture and if we are going to expose who decided not to tell the Prime Minister. If we are going to ultimately bring about the culture change that's so desperately needed within the Canadian Armed Forces, so that women and men can go to work and know they're not going to be sexually harassed and experience misbehaviour by people in the workplace, including their commanding officers, then we need to get down to how this broke apart three years ago, how this undermined Operation Honour, and ultimately how we find ourselves in the situation today of now having several commanding officers, general and flag officers, currently under investigation for their own sexual misbehaviour and misconduct.
Chair, I look forward to our coming to a realization of the necessity of this motion so that we can get a report done and tabled in the House after June 4 and, ultimately, make recommendations that will provide a path forward for our forces.
View Xavier Barsalou-Duval Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
At the last meeting, we already had the opportunity to talk about the motion. This motion is very similar to the motion moved and amended at the last meeting, so I won't elaborate on it. Clearly, it should be accepted by the committee. I think that we all want to know the truth about what happened. It's in the public interest.
I want to take this opportunity to move an amendment. The text was sent to the clerk a few moments ago. It seeks to amend Mr. Bezan's motion by adding the following:
(b)(vi) given a. the scope of the current study, which is likely to lead to new facts; b. and, that the committee believes that a report is urgently needed to put an end to the culture that has existed for too long within the CAF in order to prevent additional victims of sexual misconduct; that an interim report be presented in order to give the committee time to conduct a complete study of the issue and to complete its final study, while allowing for the implementation of recommendations as soon as possible.
I'll explain the purpose of this amendment. Since the committee began its study of this topic, new developments have been occurring on a regular basis. We've also seen filibustering, particularly by the Liberals, but also by other committee members.
As I said several times, we must table a report and make recommendations. It looks like further developments will come to light. I think that the committee must give itself the flexibility needed to continue working on this issue, especially as it becomes increasingly difficult and complicated to organize the committee's schedule with additional items and witnesses.
We must do everything possible to ensure that an interim report is tabled for the victims and that recommendations can be made.
Moreover, we must have everything that we need to continue the work, which I think is very important.
View Randall Garrison Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I want to start with a few general remarks on where we are. An unfortunate tendency that I've seen in the committee is for some members of the committee to claim to speak for survivors and victims and to have exclusive concern for survivors and victims, and if you don't share their opinion on how this committee should act, somehow you're not standing up for survivors.
I'd urge all of us not to fall into that trap of questioning who is, in fact, concerned about making change here. That's in front of all of us, and we have all expressed our opinions quite clearly on that.
What's important here is that women, in particular, be able to serve equally in the Canadian military, and we've known for the past six years that is not possible because of the highly sexualized, hypermasculine culture in the Canadian military.
Nothing has really happened about that of significance, and we continue to have one complaint of sexual assault or sexual misconduct filed about, on average, once every three days. Clearly, whatever measures have been taken have been inadequate to address this.
When we talk about this question, sometimes I think we confuse the study we're doing in this committee with the study that's going on in the status of women committee. This committee's study, if you look carefully at its terms of reference, was to determine why nothing happened with the accusations against General Vance as the person in charge of Operation Honour when he was in fact accused of sexual misconduct himself. Why is there that vacuum at the top? Why was there that failure for three years, of leaving General Vance in office and in charge of Operation Honour?
I know sometimes people have said we're focusing too much on one case. This isn't one case. This is the chief of the defence staff, who was in charge of Operation Honour. It is critical to the credibility of any future reforms that this committee determine what happened, why no action was taken and why General Vance was left in charge. If that question is not answered, and if there aren't changes as a result of that answer, then it puts in question all the reforms that we want to talk about going forward and all those reforms that are necessary to change the culture of the Canadian Armed Forces.
In terms of the committee's work, I note Mr. Bezan's figures he's provided on the amount of time that is spent diverting this committee from its work, and as I said in the last one, I'm quite disappointed that the efforts to deal with the effects of COVID on the military and mental health in the military have been shoved aside in order to focus on a report on which it's very difficult for us to reach a consensus. We could have very clearly dealt with those other two reports in an expeditious manner.
In that sense, Mr. Barsalou-Duval's amendment may be helpful in that we could do an interim report and it would allow us perhaps to get back to the work on which we have a large degree of consensus here and there was a large degree of consensus among the witnesses we heard.
One last thing that disturbs me about the discussion is the tendency for certain members to say that Mr. Bezan and I are engaged in finger pointing. I think this trivializes the accountability function of Parliament. We are finger pointing. We are looking for the people responsible, and in a parliamentary system there must be a minister responsible for this failure to act in ways that have been effective over the past six years on the issue of sexual misconduct.
It's not finger pointing to seek to assign responsibility in a parliamentary system. It's a fundamental part of a parliamentary government, and that's certainly what I'm interested in doing, because if we can figure out either who ordered there to be no investigation into General Vance, or if we discover that no one ordered this and the ball was simply dropped at the most senior level, then what change are we going to see that will provide confidence for members in the Canadian Forces that this issue will be taken seriously?
We've heard all the promises. We've heard all the fine words over the last six years. What is going to change here to make sure this doesn't continue going forward?
While I have some concerns about wording, I'm not going to quibble with the amendment. I am prepared to support the amendment if it allows us to get at that question of who is ultimately responsible here for failing the men and women who serve in the Canadian Forces, and if this allows us to get back to some of the other important work of the committee.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Pam Damoff Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Chair.
It's actually a pleasure to join this committee today. I'm not normally here, but obviously I have been following the debate and the issues that have been discussed, as all of us have been. I spoke in the House of Commons on one of the opposition day motions on this. I have to say, as someone looking in from the outside, I've been really disappointed at the direction the opposition has taken in not putting survivors at the heart of what the problem is.
I just want to quote Julie Lalonde, who said, “The blame does not lie with one individual, one leader or...one political party. Please keep your eyes on the prize and choose bravery when having this conversation.”
I think she summarized it quite well. The system in place under the Conservative Party—under the previous Conservative government—did not serve women in the military, nor has the process, which is exactly the same process under our government, served the women and men of the military to make sure they feel safe and come forward. That's why there needs to be change, absolutely. Pointing fingers, laying blame and trying to find one person who's responsible will not solve the issue.
If you look at the military, the RCMP or Correctional Services, we've seen over and over again issues of power dynamics, of predominantly women being subjected to sexual violence, sexual harassment and sexual assault. It's completely unacceptable that anyone should not feel safe going to work and that people feel they need to go to work and be subjected to this kind of treatment.
This committee needs to get to doing a report and to finding solutions for these survivors of sexual violence. The committee does not need to continue to try to find one person to lay the blame on. You're doing a complete disservice to survivors if that's where you're going.
I think Julie hit the nail on the head that there's lots of blame to go around. What needs to be done is to fix the problem and to really stand up for the men and women in the armed forces who need to feel safe and comfortable. That's where we are going. That's why we've appointed Louise Arbour to take a look at this.
Yes, I know people will say we don't need more studies. That's true, but I think her role is really important to make sure we find a space for working with survivors whose voices have not been part of this conversation. We need to make sure survivors are at the heart of anything we do, and that they're part of the solution. It's ridiculous for us as MPs and politicians to be sitting here trying to come up with what will serve people in the armed forces. We need to be inviting those survivors to join us to find solutions.
I'm just going to say again that, as Julie said, the blame does not lie with one individual, one leader or one political party. I could not agree with her more. It's time for us to try to put solutions before Parliament and get down to doing the hard work of writing a report. I appreciate the Bloc's bringing forward an amendment that's trying to move us forward in that way.
Thank you for letting me speak today, Chair, and for letting me be part of this important debate.
View Marc Serré Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marc Serré Profile
2021-05-21 11:49
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Like Ms. Damoff, this is my first meeting with this committee.
I've been a member of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for three years. I completely agree with what Ms. Damoff said. I was there for Julie Lalonde's testimony. Unfortunately, Ms. Lalonde isn't alone. The Standing Committee on the Status of Women met with Christine Wood from It's Just 700, with Stéphanie Raymond and with several other courageous women who came to share their experiences and tell us that we must move forward.
When I read the motion moved by the Conservatives today, I was disappointed that they wanted to focus on a specific issue involving an individual. I want to follow up on the Bloc amendment, which enables us to focus on specific recommendations today—
View Marc Serré Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marc Serré Profile
2021-05-21 11:51
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I think the experience I have in FEWO, hearing the witnesses, is very relevant. If we're looking at the amendment here and looking at the main motion, we see that they're all tied because we should be focusing on what the Bloc is proposing. The Bloc is proposing to get this to the recommendation stage and get this to the government for some action, because we've done a lot of the studies that go from both.
When we look at what we're doing today, I just want to make sure that—when we talk about ensuring survivors...and about sexual misconduct, harassment and assault—we must be really moving forward on this, because we've heard a lot of testimony, as I mentioned, all over. When we look at eliminating all forms of misconduct and abuse of power to really create a safe place here for the men and women in national defence and the armed forces.... It's really a priority, I know, for all the members here and all the members at FEWO, too.
It's really important that we address this. However, the amendment is a strong amendment, and it should be stand-alone because.... I'll go back. The Conservatives are ignoring the facts here. The facts are very, very clear: In 2018, the former national defence ombudsman, Gary Walbourne—who came to FEWO also—met with the Minister of National Defence, and this meeting was a normal meeting with staff. At the end, he asked to speak privately with the minister, and then he told the minister that he had evidence of misconduct against the former chief of the defence staff. The minister was right. He did not ask for any specific details of any nature of the allegations. We talked about this.
Instead of following a process.... The proper process was followed here, Madam Chair. When we look at the ombudsman and at the complaint and the sharing of information and then look at.... As Michael Wernick, the former clerk of the Privy Council, stated clearly here at the national defence committee, an impasse was reached and no further action was taken; there was no further action or allegation. That is what the former ombudsman called unacceptable.
Now we're in 2015, and let's go through the process that was taken right before General Vance's appointment as the new chief of the defence staff. The minister was made aware of the allegation or the rumour. He shared it with his chief of staff, who then shared it with the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office, including the chief of staff of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister's chief of staff then ensured that the matter was looked into. This is all familiar. That's the process that was followed then, and that's because it was the same process. The leader of the opposition at the time thought it was serious enough that he had his staff reach out to the Prime Minister's Office. That's very important. That was followed. We want to assure Canadians that the matter was looked into at the time.
Let's explore that a bit more. We heard testimony from Ray Novak, then prime minister Harper's chief of staff, that they had the national security adviser investigate the rumours. How did he investigate? He went directly to General Vance. He asked him about the rumours. Well, this is wholly inappropriate. When someone comes forward, you should never tip off the person who's being investigated, regardless. General Vance assured him that there was nothing and that it was dealt with, and that's it and that's all. We don't know if there was any follow-up. We don't know if it was looked into, but the Leader of the Opposition assured us that it was looked into. That's shocking, Madam Chair, considering all we've heard with regard to how that rumour was looked into: a former national adviser asking General Vance's opinion.
That is not a process. That is not appropriate. Frankly, it's disconcerting that the Conservative government just took Vance's word for it, especially considering there was already an active investigation being conducted by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, the CFNIS, into General Vance.
I know it's really hard when you look at it. I would remind our honourable colleagues of the very troubling news that we learned last week, that the CFNIS was actively investigating General Vance in 2015. More specifically, they were investigating General Vance right up to July 17, 2015.
Do my colleagues know what happened on July 17, 2015? General Vance was appointed as a new chief of the defence staff. Then we learned through an ATIP that the commanding officer in charge of the investigation was facing pressure to wrap up the investigation. Who was the pressure from exactly? Was it the then minister of national defence, the then prime minister, the then parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence, or the current Leader of the Official Opposition?
Surely, we can argue, but we can also agree here that politicians should not be involved in these types of investigations. We've heard it clearly at the status of women committee. The extra pressure on an investigation to conclude would be completely inappropriate and perhaps, one might say, even illegal. However, we still haven't gotten a definite answer from the Conservatives as to who was putting that pressure. No one has answered. No one has details. No one has provided any details whatsoever.
View Marc Serré Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Marc Serré Profile
2021-05-21 11:59
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I clearly did say that I appreciate the Bloc's bringing forward this amendment focusing on a victim-survivor centre. This is very important, but it's convoluted as an amendment to the main motion by the Conservatives making their point here.
What I was saying here is that, because so far the Leader of the Opposition has provided absolutely no details whatsoever on how this was handled in 2015, we don't know if it was the right way. It's very interesting that it hasn't been done.
Let's continue with the troubling news from last week that we looked at and I talked about earlier.
There was an investigation facing pressure that was abruptly ended on July 17, 2015. The investigation was officially closed on July 21, 2015, four days after General Vance was appointed. Why was that investigation closed four days after the appointment? Why wasn't it closed before there was an appointment? Why did the Conservative government appoint General Vance in 2015, with an active investigation from the CFNIS still ongoing?
Let's also look at the chain of command here. The CFNIS reports to the provost marshal. The provost marshal reports to the vice-chief of the defence staff. The vice-chief of the defence staff reports to the chief of the defence staff. That means that, when the investigation was closed, the chief of the defence staff may have been involved in that decision. We all remember at this point that, when the investigation was closed on July 21, 2015, the chief of the defence staff was then General Vance. This is incredibly troubling.
We not only have rumours that there weren't proper investigations; we also have the chief of the defence staff rushed through to an appointment even though there was an active investigation ongoing by the CFNIS. All this was because they wanted to appoint General Vance before the 2015 election, which was called only a few short weeks later.
We've all heard that the Conservative politicians are concerned about the process our government has followed: the one that ensured that the highest-ranking civil servant was aware and engaged on this issue, the one that went as far as it could because the former ombudsman stated that he could not provide the information because the complainant had not signed off on it, and the same one that the Conservatives followed in 2015.
They say that these rumours were acted upon in 2015. May I then ask, what action was different from the one we took? I'm sure my honourable colleagues will say that the national senior security adviser was involved. Well, the national security adviser in 2018, Daniel Jean, stated that he would not know the details or be involved in an investigation at that point, because there weren't enough details to investigate.
In fact, I quote him:
I wish to indicate that these 2018 allegations were never brought to my attention.
I also think it is important to add that this is not necessarily unusual, particularly, as I explained before, if PCO senior personnel were not able to obtain information that would have allowed and warranted the pursuit of an investigation.
Therefore, we know why the NSA wasn't involved by the top civil servant of Canada.
If the Conservatives can explain how it was different, I would be shocked, because, as you know, it wasn't; it was the same. Now it's clear that the process isn't perfect, and the Prime Minister has clearly stated that there needs to be improvement so that no such impacts can happen again.
Let me lay out the facts one more time. The Conservatives followed the exact same process we did in 2015. The Conservatives appointed General Vance when there was an active investigation into him with respect to rumours that the Leader of the Opposition says were looked into. The only thing we know about how they were looked into was the national security adviser going directly to General Vance and asking his opinion; and, finally, there was pressure on the investigation of General Vance to conclude.
This is very concerning. We deserve answers. Canadians deserve answers. Survivors deserve answers.
When we look at the amendment that's presented today—thank you to the Bloc for the amendment—the problem is that it's tied into the Conservatives' amendment, which doesn't focus on survivors, doesn't look at solutions and doesn't look at moving forward. We heard this clearly.
I'll stop now, Madam Chair, but I have a long list of victims—of survivors—who came to us at status of women and clearly said to please focus on making changes and on making this better and leave the politics aside, as Julie Lalonde and many others have said.
Let's move forward. Let's support our victims. Let's support our survivors. Let's get these recommendations in the House of Commons so we can properly debate them and move forward, supporting the victims. We clearly heard that.
I will have more to say on this later on, Madam Chair, if need be.
Thank you for allowing me to spend time at the national defence committee, bringing that survivor perspective that we have heard so much at the status of women committee.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
View Larry Bagnell Profile
2021-05-21 12:06
Thank you.
I'll be very brief. I have a lot to say, but on the main motion. As Mr. Serré said, it's unfortunate they're tied together so closely. It's too bad that wasn't set aside...the various problems with the main motion. I won't discuss those right now.
I did want to comment at the moment, though, on a couple of things that were said today.
One is that we want to unearth the truth, which is why the main motion is still there. I think Mr. Serré has outlined very seriously where the truth, if people want to go that way.... Personally, I want to stay with where I think the amendment is heading and where many members want to head in coming up with solutions to the problems, the systemic culture and reprisals, etc. For those on the committee who think the best answer is to go back, then obviously the serious complaints are the ones that were just outlined by Mr. Marc Serré.
It was said near the beginning of the meeting again, by different parties, that nothing happened or there was a failure to act. That was true back in 2015, apparently. I'll go into great detail later about when General Vance was appointed. In this particular case, they're reminding people of the situation. When people say that nothing happened, that's further from the truth. There was an email. No one knows what's in it, because the CAF member had every right to want confidentiality and to not provide the information. It was turned in within 24 hours for investigation. It was investigated as far as it could have been. That was done.
Numerous times, people in this committee have suggested that wasn't done. The one email—the one situation we're talking about—was handled as far as it could have been. It respected the CAF member's confidentiality.
As Mr. Garrison said, there are still many ongoing instances, very frequently. For the people who are here for the first time today, you'll see many times in the evidence that the Liberal members have said exactly that: In spite of the many steps taken by the minister, there's still much more to do. Because the minister took those various steps.... I won't repeat them. They've been outlined in great detail in this committee. No one has mentioned any minister before who has done more.
I think the way to move forward is to give a minister, who's totally onside with acting and has acted in a number of instances, the recommendations on the survivors, as the Bloc says, so we can actually make a difference. As Ms. Damoff said, we can help the survivors and keep that the focus of this.
I'll leave it at that for now. I really want to discuss the main motion.
View Anita Vandenbeld Profile
Lib. (ON)
Perfect.
I know we're debating an amendment that.... I'll be honest. I appreciate very much that Mr. Barsalou-Duval has put forward this particular amendment. I know we had some conversations about perhaps being able to go through that very long draft report—over 60 pages, I believe—and choose the things we know we all agree on. As I've said before, I believe firmly that every member of this committee wants what's best for the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces. I have no doubt about that.
I think we have some differences in terms of how best to do that, and that's legitimate. I think the idea of being able to pull out the recommendations that we agree on, to put out an interim report, to have that conversation, and then to continue with the ones that perhaps there isn't agreement for, is a really good idea. The problem is that it's in a motion, the main motion, which has a time limit on when that can happen. If you look at the calendar right now, by my calculation, it leaves about an hour and 45 minutes to actually debate that 60-plus page report, to go through it and to find consensus on each one. I'm a bit concerned about that. Perhaps that's something the committee might be capable of doing. I hope very much that we are.
What I'd really appreciate would be if Mr. Bezan could withdraw this motion. I know that our next meeting is planned to study the draft report. If there seems to be a willingness of members of the committee to pull those things that really matter to finding solutions to this, those areas where we can find consensus, I think that's a good idea.
My problem is that it's amending a motion that doesn't allow any time for us to be able to have that discussion to reach that consensus. I would not want members of the committee to just vote—boom, boom, boom—without any debate on these, and not have the kind of thoughtful report that we would need.
I'm still not entirely certain. What I do agree on 100% with Mr. Barsalou-Duval is the part of the amendment that says we need to end the culture that has persisted for too long in the Canadian Armed Forces. I absolutely agree with him. I know that's something all members of this committee believe in and want to do.
We have now spent four months hearing from witnesses, and each time we think we're at the point where we can actually start looking at the draft of the report so we can put recommendations forward, there are emergency meetings and motions to bring new witnesses. Each time, with thoughtfulness, the committee has said, “Okay, let's call those witnesses.” We called Mr. Marques and we called Ms. Telford, but as soon as we're ready to start, there's always another motion.
I'll be honest. I don't believe that if we pass this motion or even the amendment, there wouldn't be yet another. Honestly, I think the best solution would be to withdraw the motion and allow the chair to call the meeting on Friday, at our next planned sitting, to be able to actually start going through these draft reports.
Having said that, I want to discuss some of the pieces of this amendment that talk about the culture. I would take exception to members of this committee who suggest that anybody's speaking for survivors because, throughout this process, I have been reading recommendations that came from survivors. They were either written by survivors, or spoken in testimony, whether it's testimony in our committee or testimony in the status of women committee. This is not necessarily what I think should happen. These are recommendations that have been presented by survivors.
We know that survivors are not a homogeneous group. We know there are many different views. In fact, there are many different views about what the solutions are. I have heard people suggest that Madame Arbour's review is not necessary because there's already a review from six years ago. We saw, with the Deschamps report that there was, I believe, a goodwill intent to try to implement those recommendations.
We created the SMRCs, the sexual misconduct response centres, and gave them specialized ability, external support and additional resources to be a point of contact and to assist survivors.
The SMRCs are doing a wonderful job. What we didn't realize at the time, and what is becoming very apparent now, is that taking it out of the Canadian Armed Forces but still putting it under the Department of National Defence, the civilian side, was not what survivors consider to be complete independence. What we're realizing now is that we need to go beyond that, but it's very intertwined.
We have as many solutions being proposed as there are problems.
Madame Deschamps made it clear that there needs to be an external independent body, but did not say how or what it's going to look like. The details of it were not there. For those who are saying, well, just do it, we've already seen a number of different people—different survivors, advocates, academics—who have come up with very different perceptions of what the how is. For many, the how is, as we've even heard, that perhaps it would be the ombudsperson reporting to Parliament. We've heard people say it has to be the SMRC, because they're the ones with specialized knowledge about sexual misconduct and we need to have something that's not about all issues where you might call an ombudsperson, but about sexual misconduct.
Then you have some who say no, if it's within the SMRC, then you have perpetrators and the people who are impacted in the same institution, and you need a firewall between them. Many have called for something like an inspector general, completely outside the chain of command. Then what would that be? What would that role be?
We know that the military justice system is something many survivors have asked us to take a look at. We know there have been many survivors whose experience with that system and experience with the military police system and with their chain of command has been very harmful to them. We need to look at that as well.
When those people are saying that Madame Deschamps had all of the road map, identified the problem, identified what the general solutions had to be.... By the way, we've implemented many of those solutions. We had a piece of legislation, Bill C-77, that was specifically about a victim's declaration of rights.
Looking at the military justice system, we know right now that former Justice Morris Fish is finalizing a report about that system. This is a result of a mandatory review of the National Defence Act. I would hope this committee would be interested in that report when it is tabled with this committee, and will take the time to call Justice Fish and talk about that.
In fact, our next study after this is about military justice. We know that military justice is core to making sure there is support for survivors to be able to get the just outcome they're looking for.
There are so many proposals around this, even in our committee. We heard many different solutions, and we're having Madame Arbour look at all of this and be able to give the road map and give the how—how are we going to achieve this, taking all the different viewpoints about what it should look like and putting them together and actually creating a system based on the lived experience of survivors and on preventing that there be more survivors, which by the way, this amendment says? I'm very appreciative to my colleague from the Bloc for putting that in this amendment, because that's precisely what we have to do when we're looking at the solutions.
If the committee were to find consensus around some of these points and present that as an interim report, I think those points of consensus would carry a lot of weight because, instead of a committee report where you have four parties saying completely different things and different supplemental or dissenting reports, you would have a report that has the thoughtfulness of all parties together focused on the women and men.
That would be a wonderful idea. To be honest, I'm a little concerned. Given the discussions that have happened, I don't know if we'll get there, but I hope we do. I appreciate that Mr. Barsalou-Duval is trying, at least. He's putting forward something that might actually give us a path to where we could find that consensus.
However, regardless of that, we know that right now we have General Carignan, who is assigned to take all the different pieces of this across CAF, across the Department of National Defence, and pull it all together and not wait a year for a report.
I think this is also a little cynical when people say, well, we're taking Madame Arbour and just doing another review so we can wait. We've said very clearly—and at some point I would like to read the speech I gave when we announced Madame Arbour and General Carignan—that we're going to be implementing....
First of all, the minister has said that Madame Arbour's recommendations will be binding, that we are going to act on them, but also that we will be implementing them as the interim measures come forward.
That means that as General Carignan is set up, when Madame Arbour suggests we need to act quickly on this particular piece, she's already in place and she'll already be able to start implementing those measures right now. We're talking within weeks. For those survivors who are listening, I know that time is urgent and that we have to do something now.
I have heard you and I've had conversations, and I know this is a really difficult time for survivors. It's a difficult time for those people in the Canadian Armed Forces who have experienced this horrendous and intolerable behaviour, who haven't yet come forward. I want to say to you that I don't blame you. I know we talk about courage with people who come forward. There is no lack of courage if you're at a point where you're not ready to come forward. However, our job, our accountability as legislators, is to make sure we create a system where you can, where you feel safe, where you feel comfortable, where you know that if you come forward you will be able to have empowerment over how that process unfolds, and that you yourself will be able to control how you can advance that.
If what you want is that the person who perpetrated comes to justice, we have a system in place that will make sure that happens. If what you need is peer support, if what you need is counselling, if what you need is just to put forward ideas, solutions or proposals to fix the system so the next person doesn't go through what you went through, that has to be an avenue for you as well.
It isn't one thing. We know that for survivors there are many steps and often it's difficult being the first. What we're seeing in the Canadian Armed Forces, and I can speak from personal experience, is that often you don't want to be the first one to speak up. You want to see if somebody else has gone through the same thing and then speak up. I think that is what's happening. When people feel that they see consequences, that there is no impunity, at that point we will start seeing more people feel comfortable and safe coming forward.
Our goal and our objective right now is to create a process that makes it safe, where you do not have to fear reprisal, where you have control over how the process unfolds, where you have advocates, where you have information about what your options are and what each of them looks like, that if you decide to do this, it's not going to lead to a process over which you no longer feel you have control; it also needs to be a process that makes sure this doesn't happen again. Doing that means that in regard to the people who are doing this behaviour—and we've seen it, criminal behaviour—but also the behaviours that minimize and diminish and make people feel small and unwelcome, everything along that spectrum has a process where it can be dealt with and people at a certain point can see a just outcome.
What we're seeing in the Canadian Armed Forces right now is very hard, but it's something we have to go through. Once the high profile cases came forward, once people started to speak their truth and once you had people saying, “This happened to me,” and doing so in a public forum, which is incredibly difficult and frankly shouldn't have to be the way to do it....
There have been ways to do this both confidentially and also through a military justice process, and publicly if that's what the person wishes to do, but once people started to do that, we started to see consequences. We have actual military police investigations happening right now. We have an entire Canadian Armed Forces that is looking at this issue of changing the culture. We have a number of people who have had to step aside because of these investigations, and seeing that is going to make others feel empowered that they too can speak out.
I believe we are going to see more of this, and I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing, because it's something we have to go through in order to get to the other side of this, which is having a culture within the Canadian Armed Forces that allows people to thrive. It is not enough to stop this behaviour. It is not enough to stop the harm. It's not enough to stop the diminishing remarks.
We heard Professor Okros talk about how power is defined, with this idea of a normative masculine warrior culture that is really based in a World War I, in-the-trenches kind of concept of what a military is.
The Canadian Armed Forces is going through a tremendous shift, as are armed forces around the world. There are so many occupations, and so much of it is based on intelligence. So much of it is different from the toxic masculinity that there is currently in the Canadian Armed Forces. This is not to say that all members or that individual members in the Canadian Armed Forces are somehow not good. This is about a systemic culture that frankly hurts women, but it also hurts men because it creates this kind of normative.
As soon as you don't fit into that, as soon as you're a bit different—and we see this with all kinds of identity factors—you feel unwelcome. I've heard it. I've heard it from so many people who feel that it isn't even the really overt criminal activities; it's every step along the way that escalates until it gets to that point.
That's what we need to focus on. I'm so glad this amendment talks specifically about the culture. I have a lot more to say about the culture. I know that some of my colleagues have their hands up, so I'll make sure they get a chance to speak.
Mr. Barsalou-Duval, by focusing on the culture but also focusing on the survivors, is doing a great service here. I'm still not convinced that it gets us beyond the impasse, but I hope that the members of the committee can think about what he has said here so that perhaps we find a way forward. We can still have a report that is going to provide recommendations and that perhaps we can say has the support of all members of this committee from all parties, because this is not a partisan issue. This is something I think all Canadians share. We are in a very difficult time right now in the Canadian Armed Forces. We need to get through this time in such a way that we can come out of it stronger, with better processes and better procedures, so that this doesn't happen again.
At the end of the day, as I said, it's not enough to stop harm; we need to create a Canadian Armed Forces in which people thrive, in which everybody is appreciated for what they bring, and in which diversity brings strength. This is where we want to get.
This is only the first step. I very much look forward to the work of Ms. Arbour and General Carignan on this. I really hope members of the committee can set aside politics and really try to have some recommendations on which we can build constructively so we can find a way forward to build a better institution at the end of this.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Joël Lightbound Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank my colleagues for their remarks and for their invitation. This is my first time participating in the committee or attending one of its meetings.
I want to start by saying that I appreciate Mr. Barsalou‑Duval's amendment. As my colleague pointed out, it helps set the stage for the committee's recommendations and testimony to make their way through the House, thereby enlightening Canadians and the Canadian Armed Forces about the culture change needed within the military. From what I've seen, a great deal of testimony in the committee focused on what must change. We know that systemic change is needed within the Canadian Armed Forces.
However, as noted, this amendment is related to a motion to limit the amount of time that the committee can spend on considering these recommendations and carefully analyzing the testimony. I serve on the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, where we're finalizing an equally important report on systemic racism in our police forces, including the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We've spent many meetings considering all the testimony heard by the committee, much of it very disturbing, and the recommendations for changing the culture within the police forces to address systemic racism. Based on my experience, I can tell you that all this requires time and thoughtful discussion.
It isn't always easy. The parties and members of Parliament approach these issues from different perspectives. As noted by my colleague, Ms. Vandenbeld, the committee must take the time to build consensus, which holds much more weight than preparing separate reports. As parliamentarians, we must find common ground, take the time to hold these discussions and determine the most effective way to make the necessary culture changes.
We must join forces because there's strength in numbers. We must come up with recommendations that everyone can agree on. Given the importance of the committee's study and the issue at hand, the committee must take the time to build consensus so that parliamentarians can join forces and make recommendations that will lead to the desired outcome. This outcome is a culture change for men, women and the Canadian Armed Forces. For too long, they have endured a broken system that must be fixed and corrected.
On that note, I think that the main motion poses a problem, in part because it narrows the scope of the study of this truly systemic issue and limits the amount of time that parliamentarians will spend on it. I want to point out that the comments made by Ms. Damoff, who has since left, are very relevant. We need to look at the system as a whole to ensure that the proposed changes address the failures of the past and resolve issues for the future. We need to focus all government actions and all parliamentary discussions on survivors and make them our main concern. This is more important than trying to score political points on this issue. This certainly isn't the issue for that.
In terms of the culture change needed, I'm very interested in what Louise Arbour will be preparing. Her independent and comprehensive external review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces is significant. Ms. Arbour commands respect. She has a proven track record as a justice of the Supreme Court.
She can bring a very valuable perspective to this issue. Accountability and review are needed at all levels of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence, not only on an individual level, but also at the rank level. At the organizational level, she will review National Defence policies and practices and evaluate their effectiveness in eradicating sexual misconduct and sexual harassment.
I gather that Ms. Arbour's binding recommendations must be fully implemented on the ground and mustn't remain unheeded.
That's where her perspective, report and review will help with this culture change. I believe that the announced review will play a critical role.
What are the goals of this review?
We want to know why sexual harassment and misconduct persist within the Canadian Armed Forces, despite considerable, concerted efforts to eradicate them. We want to know what barriers make it difficult for victims and survivors to report inappropriate behaviour. Everyone in the Canadian Armed Forces should feel comfortable reporting inappropriate behaviour. This must be the case as we move forward. We want to know whether the response is adequate when victims report sexual misconduct. We must have this information. We want it to be used to make recommendations on preventing and eradicating sexual harassment and misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces once and for all.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have selected Ms. Arbour to lead this review. As I said, Ms. Arbour has the respect, legitimacy and independence to fulfill this important mandate. She will certainly also build on the report issued by former Justice Deschamps, who made 10 key recommendations to address and eliminate sexual misconduct and harassment as part of her review.
The Department of National Defence has taken several significant steps to implement Ms. Deschamps' recommendations. For example, the sexual misconduct response centre, or SMRC, referred to by Ms. Vandenbeld was established. Ms. Arbour's review will build on her work. She will look at the issues from a broader perspective to help the defence team chart a path forward.
I believe that Ms. Arbour's experience makes her ideally suited to conduct this review. This review will focus on defence's policies, procedures and practices. She will look at where efforts to address and eradicate sexual harassment and misconduct are falling short. She will determine how to improve these efforts in a practical way so that the necessary changes can be implemented in practice.
As part of her review, she will also take into account all relevant independent reviews of the department and the Canadian Armed Forces. This certainly includes the recommendations of the Deschamps report and their implementation, but also the work being done by the Honourable Morris Fish. He is leading the review of the National Defence Act. Ms. Arbour will also consider the Auditor General's reports and other internal audits. She will review their recommendations and findings. This must be done based on a solid foundation, including all the efforts already made, which I have just outlined.
However, in addition to looking at existing reviews, she will evaluate current organizational practices to see whether these practices are being consistently and effectively re‑evaluated and to determine what needs improvement to prevent incidents of sexual misconduct. This includes looking at the recruitment, training, performance evaluation, posting and promotion systems in the Canadian Armed Forces.
Ms. Arbour will also review the policies, procedures and practices of the military justice system dealing with sexual harassment and misconduct. I understand that a review of the military justice system has been requested by some witnesses over the course of the committee's studies. This is important. Ms. Arbour, with her background, is well suited to observe these procedures and practices within the military justice system and to see how they might be improved or enhanced. The review will be based on the opinions, accounts and experiences of Canadian Armed Forces members and the defence team. All voices will be heard and must be heard.
As part of her mandate, Ms. Arbour will also invite victims to contribute to her review. I think that their voices must be heard. They must be the focus of Ms. Arbour's actions and of the review. The review will be conducted anonymously, of course, to encourage all individuals who wish to come forward. It will certainly focus on the lived experience of women and members of the LGBT community. However, I also believe that Ms. Arbour will be called upon to work with the advisory panel on racism and systemic discrimination to reduce any unintended duplication of efforts within our institutions.
She will compile all this testimony to establish various significant aspects: how the culture within the defence team encourages silence and complicity; how fear of retaliation acts as a barrier to reporting incidents of sexual harassment or misconduct; and how defence policies have sometimes been inconsistently applied throughout the organization.
Ms. Arbour must address this issue and must have the opportunity to do so in a transparent and independent manner, as stated in her mandate.
In this regard, her assessment of procedures and policies will guide and inform the actions of the Department of National Defence and the government.
I see that some of my colleagues want to speak, so I'll wrap up my remarks shortly.
One issue with the motion moved is that it narrows the scope. We need a broader analysis and assessment of the situation in the Canadian Armed Forces with respect to sexual misconduct and other culture issues. We need to cast the net wide. Victims and survivors must be the focus of questions, concerns and certainly actions and recommendations.
Regarding the amendment, I think that it's a good approach. That said, we can't constrain or limit parliamentary debate on such a significant issue.
I'll stop here, Madam Chair.
Thank you for your attention.
View Fayçal El-Khoury Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Every member of the defence team is entitled to be treated with respect and dignity in the workplace. It's also the responsibility of every member of the defence team, regardless of rank, position or title, even the top brass, to treat those around them with dignity and respect.
We know now that this expectation isn't enough. Without rapid and decisive action, without strict enforcement of policies and without accountability, sexual misconduct and harassment within the defence team will never be truly eliminated. We need to take a long, hard look at where our policies and initiatives failed. We have to learn from those we failed. We have to listen to them and make changes that really take our people and their needs and diverse backgrounds into account.
Last week, the Minister of National Defence announced the launch of an independent, external and comprehensive review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. I want to take the time today to share details of this review, including its aim, how it will be conducted and what it means for the defence team.
There's a pressing need for accountability and review at every level of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence, not only from individual to individual and rank to rank, but also at the organizational level. It's important to review the policies and practices of the defence team and evaluate their efficacy at eradicating sexual misconduct and harassment. The review announced last week will play a critical role in this analysis.
The goals of the review are as follows. We want to know why harassment and sexual misconduct persist within the Canadian Armed Forces despite considerable, concerted efforts to eradicate them. We want to identify barriers to reporting inappropriate behaviour. We want to know whether the response is adequate when reports of misconduct are made. We want this information to be used to make recommendations on preventing and eradicating harassment and sexual misconduct in our armed forces once and for all.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have chosen Louise Arbour to lead the review of the defence team's policies and culture. Ms. Arbour's review will build on the report prepared by former Justice Marie Deschamps, who made 10 key recommendations to address and eliminate sexual misconduct and harassment.
Since her review, the Department of National Defence has taken many important steps to implement Ms. Deschamps's recommendations. Ms. Arbour's review will build on the important work done by Ms. Deschamps but will examine the issues from a broader perspective in order to help the defence team chart a path forward.
Ms. Arbour's experience as a former Supreme Court justice puts her in an ideal position to carry out this review in a completely impartial manner. She will work independently from the chain of command of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence in order to remain neutral and ensure that the important work she's being asked to do won't be subject to any political influence. I think that we all agree that this would be inappropriate.
Her review will examine the policies, procedures and practices of the defence team. She will look at where the team's efforts to address and eradicate sexual misconduct and harassment are falling short and at how these efforts must be strengthened and improved.
As part of her review, she will consider all relevant independent reviews concerning the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. This includes evaluating the defence team's implementation of the Deschamps report's recommendations. This evaluation will be coordinated with the Honourable Morris Fish, who is overseeing the review of the National Defence Act. The findings and recommendations of the Office of the Auditor General's reports and other internal audits will also be reviewed.
In addition to considering these existing reviews, she will also evaluate organizational practices that, if effectively re‑evaluated, could help prevent incidents of sexual misconduct. These practices include the recruitment, training, performance evaluation, posting and promotion systems of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Ms. Arbour will also evaluate the policies, procedures and practices of the military justice system dealing with sexual harassment and misconduct. More importantly, the review will be based on the views, accounts and experiences of current and former members of the defence team.
All concerned members of the defence team deserve to be heard. Those who wish to share their experiences will be invited to provide input for Ms. Arbour's review. Their names will remain anonymous. Ms. Arbour will conduct her review without referring to specific cases of sexual harassment or misconduct in order to protect their privacy. Her review will focus on women and members of the LGBTQ+ community so that the defence team gains a better understanding of their perspectives and experiences.
She will work with the advisory panel on systemic racism, discrimination with a focus on anti‑indigenous and anti‑Black racism, LGBTQ2+ prejudice, gender bias and white supremacy to reduce any unintended duplication of efforts.
Ms. Arbour will put all this testimony together to identify signs that the defence team's culture promotes [Inaudible—Editor] and complicity, how fear of reprisal acts as a barrier to reporting harassment and sexual misconduct, and any indication that the defence team's policies were applied inconsistently across the organization, as in the case of political influence in the appointment of General Jonathan Vance in 2015. Even though there were rumours about him being the subject of an active investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, the official opposition parties still appointed Jonathan Vance chief of the defence staff.
All these factors will inform her recommendations to the minister, the deputy minister and the chief of the defence staff. Accountability and transparency are key to changing the culture and eradicating sexual misconduct and harassment in the defence team. These are the guiding principles of Ms. Arbour's investigation.
She will provide monthly progress reports to the Minister of National Defence, as well as interim assessments and recommendations. All these assessments will be made public, as will the draft and final review reports. Ms. Arbour's reports will include a review of the defence team's policies and procedures, the causes and effects of barriers to reporting inappropriate behaviour, and an assessment of the sexual misconduct response centre's mandate and activities, independence from the chain of command and response to reports of sexual misconduct.
She will also make key recommendations.
I could go much further, but I'll stop here.
Thank you.
View Sven Spengemann Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Chair, thanks very much.
It's good to be with you, colleagues.
It feels a little bit like déjà vu. I said consistently from the outset that there are two components to our work. They are of equal importance, but in terms of the real heavy lifting on culture change, it is probably the more challenging problem. Everybody has pointed to it. Every single witness has said that the culture needs to be changed.
That culture pre-existed, with informed speculation, the tenure of General Vance as CDS. It requires the recommendations that, as I alluded to in testimony in other sessions, a lot of countries have gone through or are going through. In parallel with that, we have a number of important cases that have come forward, including two former chiefs of defence staff and most recently, Major-General Fortin.
We can see each of these cases as being emblematic of a much deeper cultural problem. To use a metaphor that might not perfectly fit, it's maybe the tip of the iceberg. Unless we look at the iceberg itself, take it apart and look at the recommendations that will really change the trajectory of the Canadian Forces as an employer within which sexual misconduct no longer happens, we will not do our work.
Yes, the opposition is perfectly within their right to chase after additional testimony. In this case, I think we have heard testimony that's starting to be very consistent with respect to where accountabilities lie. Messages have come from witnesses, including Ray Novak, the former chief of staff of the former minister of defence, who has said that it is “inappropriate” in our democracy to involve elected officials including ministers or prime ministers in investigative processes with respect to misconduct. There is clarity on that.
There is also clarity with respect to the systematicity of this problem. There is clarity with respect to challenges relating to the chain of command, to demographics in the Canadian Forces and to the long existence of this issue. I think it would be a disservice to Canadian women if this committee was not in a position, prior to the summer recess, to put forward recommendations that aren't simply approved with a simple up or down vote, but that have been subjected to discussion and debate among the committee, and are prioritized and identified as the ones that are able to really make progress in a most expeditious manner, in parallel with the work of Madam Justice Arbour.
Let me take the committee back to 2015. I have referred to this previously, but maybe it bears repeating briefly in the context of this amendment that's now before us. I'm referring to an article published on April 22, 2021, in the Ottawa Citizen by David Pugliese where it is reported that General Jonathan Vance boasted that he was “untouchable” by military police. Further in the article it referred to the fact that he claims to have “owned” the Canadian Forces national investigation service. We have received much more recent evidence that's before the committee, and there may well be witnesses that we could bring in to illuminate this evidence more closely, but in my estimation that is not where the real work is. I will explain that in a minute.
According to that evidence, there was an investigation under way in 2015 at the time of the appointment of General Vance under the former Conservative government. Shortly after General Vance's appointment, that investigation came to a halt. If you take that evidence in conjunction with the testimony of the general's reported statement through media testimony that he “owned” the investigative service, that is really where the systematic nature of this problem lies.
In 2015, how could the appointed head of the Canadian Forces be in such an asymmetrical position of power and so removed from parliamentary oversight that he could boast about owning the Canadian Forces national investigation service? If it's true that General Vance was able to bring an investigation to a close at that time, that is an issue that every member of this committee across party lines should be seized with and should look at.
In that respect, it's not irrelevant who comes forward in terms of complaining against whom. That is incredibly important. It just points to a much more systematic problem that we need to solve. We have to weigh that against the timeline towards completion of this parliamentary session and the need to put out a report that has substance and recommendations.
We have had testimony with respect to ministerial accountability and the ministerial roles involved in this government with respect to Jonathan Vance. The Minister of Defence himself came and testified for six hours.
We have had staff from PCO. We have had Katie Telford, from the Prime Minister's Office, and Elder Marques, former PMO staff. We've had extensive testimony that pointed to the conclusion that it is not appropriate to involve either the minister of defence or the Prime Minister in investigative processes relating to the chief of the defence staff. The systematic nature of the problem is his reported ownership of the authority that is now investigating and, presumably, potentially, wasn't at the time of his appointment, or its investigation was truncated shortly after his appointment took place. That's a problem that I think we should all be concerned about.
I haven't seen symmetry within the thinking of this committee to look at these questions, to look at the recommendations. Yes, we've heard testimony. Yes, we have a pile of recommendations that have been put forward, but what is this committee going to say in June of this year to give confidence to the serving women, the former serving women of the Canadian forces, the men who are allies, Canadians of all genders, Canadians of all walks of life who wish to serve in the Canadian forces and feel that they can't, or the ones who are already serving and feel that they don't have a voice and that they can't come forward or, if they do come forward, that their careers and their futures are in doubt because they have taken the step of speaking out?
Those are the systematic questions that are exemplified in the cases that we have looked at and the cases that we've studied that are properly investigated by independent authorities. I think we have gathered the political and policy evidence behind them that we need to make recommendations urgently to take our country forward.
Again, I've pointed to a number of other militaries similar in nature to Canada's in the sense that they are military, they are subject to liberal democracy and parliamentary oversight and, at the very same time that we're talking about this, they are struggling and, in some cases, have put forward recommendations and processes that have been illuminating, quite helpful and could potentially be emulated. I've injected those thoughts into the committee's discussion and will continue to do so.
We have some work ahead, and I think we need to focus on the iceberg without in any way slighting the significance of the victims of the cases that are before us and that we've studied in the form of the individual allegations that have been made.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2021-05-26 17:37
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
It's nice to be here to participate in this committee meeting. I'm here as a substitute, of course, for Mr. Baker, and I expect that if Mr. Baker was here you'd have a much more eloquent intervention with someone as knowledgeable as he is. I do bring a bit of an outsider's perspective to the specific topic at hand and some experience in terms of matters of procedure. There are a few things that kind of sink in after 10 years in this place.
I know that Mr. Bezan is quite preoccupied with making sure that we're speaking to the amendment and to the motion and that the bounds of relevance be kept fairly tight, so I'm actually going to start with the amendment that has been proposed.
The amendment indicates that the scope of the study will likely lead to new facts, and in the second subparagraph, it indicates that the committee believes that a report is urgently needed to put an end to the culture that has existed within the Canadian Armed Forces. It then calls for the presentation of an interim report, which will allow for some action to be taken as the more fulsome report is delivered.
The first thing that strikes me on this is the inconsistency, quite frankly, between the amendment and the main motion. The amendment talks about urgency, but the main motion is to prolong the witness list. I would think that if we adopt the amendment and adopt the theory that this is urgent, we wouldn't be extending the witness list four months into a report.
I guess the other thing that I would offer is, again, based on 10 years of experience in parliamentary committees. It has been my experience that at the outset of a study, witnesses are suggested by each of the parties. They're prioritized, and they are then ranked in a manner that is consistent with the parties' standings in the House or in the committee. This is, I think, a tradition that goes across all 22 standing committees of Parliament. It's one that I've certainly seen, observed and respected on the committees I've served on over the years, including the one that I chair now, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons With Disabilities.
There's good logic behind this. If the witnesses can be identified and prioritized at the outset, a work plan can be developed. As they say, you plan the work and then you work the plan. When you're four months into a study and there are additional witnesses demanded who presumably didn't go through that original process, once again it's hard to understand that there is a true appreciation for the urgency of the issue when it continues in this fashion.
The amendment talks about and talks to the culture. Certainly, in recent months, Canadians have heard the heart-wrenching accounts of Canadian Armed Forces members and civilian colleagues who have been the subjects of behaviours and treatment experiences that are completely unacceptable. Also, as the amendment points out, their accounts have been ignored for far too long. For instance, the opposition knew of rumours against General Vance in 2015 but still appointed him.
They appointed him when there was an active Canadian Forces national investigation service investigation into him and appointed him to the most senior position within the Canadian Armed Forces. The current leader of the official opposition says he passed along sexual misconduct rumours about General Vance in 2015 and claimed those were looked into. I think that begs the question: How is it possible that General Vance was appointed at the same time and the investigation was suddenly dropped?
There's no question that what members have endured is wrong. The Canadian Armed Forces is entrusted to keep Canadians safe both at home and abroad. The organization owes survivors more. Every Canadian Armed Forces member makes enormous personal sacrifices to protect Canadians, and regardless of rank or gender identity, they have an undeniable right to serve in safety. The urgency of this issue, the urgency of the need for culture change, is identified in the amendment, and properly so.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have to live up to this expectation. The minister has always followed the processes put in place. We've heard that repeatedly. He has always followed the processes put in place when allegations were brought to his attention. This is something he has always done and that he will continue to do.
Our government is taking important steps. Unlike the allegation that nothing has been done, that no steps have been taken, to build on the points made by my friend from the Yukon, we're taking important steps to address systemic misconduct within the Canadian Armed Forces and to bring about the culture change that is referenced in the amendment and the culture change that is needed in the organization. The need to change the military's culture is born of the reality that the lived experiences of many defence team members are completely out of line with the values professed by the organization. These are values of integrity, inclusion and accountability. That needs to change, and we, as a government, are committed to bringing about this change.
If we want that change to be significant, meaningful and to last, then we need to reflect honestly on what's been happening. Where we find failings and fault, we must accept responsibility.
Like in the case of the current leader of the official opposition, by the opposition's logic, should he be fired for hearing a rumour of misconduct against General Vance? As we know, just days after the former government appointed General Vance, the investigation was closed. According to the access to information request, the commanding officer said he was under “pressure”. Who do they think applied that pressure?
Where we're able to learn lessons, we must seize the opportunity to build a better organization. Where members of the defence team share their accounts and experiences, we must listen and listen carefully. This also brings me to the main motion and the inconsistency with the urgency of the need to have a culture change.
The main motion calls for the presentation of a report without a request for a response from government. Is this seriously a motion that respects the urgency or that respects the need to ensure there are no further victims when there is no response requested from government, or is it something else?
The end goal should be simple. Where we hope to get to is to ensure that every member of the defence team is valued and respected. Defence culture and professional conduct must reflect the core values and ethical principles our military aspires to uphold as a national institution. That's what Canadian Armed Forces members, veterans, recruits, public servants and Canadians expect and deserve of the organization.
Recently, the Minister of National Defence announced the creation of a new organization to lead us there. We heard Mr. Bagnell refer to this. Among other initiatives, the Department of National Defence appointed Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan as the Department of National Defence new chief of professional conduct and culture.
It's hard to imagine a better person to lead this important initiative. Under her leadership, the professional conduct and culture organization will unify, integrate and coordinate all of the policies, programs and activities that address systemic misconduct and support culture change within the forces. This new organization will include a new assistant deputy minister, who will directly support her. The team will bring together members from all ranks and classifications, reflecting the diversity that Canadians expect.
Make no mistake: This is not a generic prepackaged solution to a long-standing problem. Before any future steps are taken, those working to bring about change will actively listen to the accounts of people affected—people at every rank, people at every level and people in every installation across all regions of the country.
Members of the professional conduct and culture organization will honour each person's experiences, respect each persons's individuality and will neither judge nor assume. They will listen, so that people's lived experiences guide the road to eliminating discrimination, biases, harmful stereotypes and systemic barriers.
As so many members of the defence team have already shared their experiences and recommendations, we don't need to wait before implementing a number of much-needed changes. Lieutenant-General Carignan will take a number of steps to bring about that change now.
To start, they'll wrap up Operation Honour. Much has already been said about drawing this initiative to a close, but it bears repeating.
Lieutenant-General Carignan and her team will review all of the research conducted under Operation Honour, so that its findings can inform renewed culture change efforts. This new team will develop mechanisms to implement the workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations under Bill C-65, which was also mentioned by Mr. Bagnell, and will support the ongoing efforts to bring the remaining provisions of Bill C-77 into force. That will include bringing the declaration of victims rights into the National Defence Act.
The next order of business will be for the team to establish a framework that will help achieve a number of longer-term goals. They will realign responsibilities, policies and programs that address elements of systemic misconduct across National Defence and the forces. They will also simplify and enhance misconduct reporting mechanisms, including for people outside of the chain of command. They will give greater agency to and strengthen support mechanisms for those who have experienced misconduct. They will enhance tracking mechanisms from initial reports of misconduct to case closures, and they'll integrate additional data points, such as intersectionality, reprisals, member satisfaction and retention. Finally, they will lead institutional efforts to develop a professional conduct and culture framework that tackles all types of harmful behaviour, biases and systemic barriers.
Much work to build healthy, safe and inclusive workplaces is already being done within the department. Many organizations are focused on developing programs and policies that move us in the right direction. Among them, there's the GBA+, the integrated conflict and complaint management program, the anti-racism secretariat, the Canadian Armed Forces diversity strategy, Canada's anti-racism strategy and Canada's national action plan for women, peace and security. The professional conduct and culture team will work with the people leading each of those efforts to further their good work, and they will make the most of ongoing consultations, conversations, external and independent reviews and analysis to inform the way ahead.
The professional conduct and culture organization is being established with the clear understanding that previous culture change efforts have fallen far short of what was needed, and this, of course, is acknowledged in the amendment that is the subject of this discussion today.
As Lieutenant-General Carignan has said, those efforts were fractured, which resulted in segmented efforts and piecemeal changes. With the standing up of this new organization, the defence team is taking a fundamentally different approach. As Lieutenant-General Carignan also said, the new approach will be a more holistic and coherent way to address the complex challenges faced by the Canadian Armed Forces.
I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge Canada's good fortune at having such a decorated leader as Lieutenant-General Carignan leading this vital initiative. With 30 years of military experience, she has served in operations around the world and most recently took on a tremendous leadership role as the commander of the NATO mission in Iraq from November 2019 to November 2020. She's been invested as a Commander of the Order of Military Merit and is a recipient of the Meritorious Service Medal, earned as a result of her exceptional commitment to our Canadian Armed Forces, its missions and our country.
Reading her professional biography is an exercise in humility. In addition to an exceptional work ethic, she brings a profound understanding of military best practices to this role, and she has already shown herself to be a truly gifted leader.
I would like to reiterate our deepest concern for the well-being of every member of the defence team. The standing up of the professional conduct and culture organization is a testament to our government's genuine commitment to the defence team. We have shown that we are dedicated to creating a lasting culture change across the defence team. We will do just that, and I trust that these remarks were of some value to these deliberations.
Thank you for the time, Madam Chair.
View Yves Robillard Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to apologize to my colleagues for this technical issue.
We have to learn from those we failed. We have to listen to them and make changes that really take our people and their needs and diverse backgrounds into account.
Recently, the Minister of National Defence announced the launch of an external, independent and comprehensive review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. This is a step in the right direction. I think that we should try to move in that direction and make our contribution by reviewing the recommendations rather than inviting more witnesses. Also, the culture and professional conduct in the defence community must reflect the core values and ethical principles that we aspire to uphold as a national institution.
This is what the military members, veterans, recruits, public service employees and the Canadian public expect and deserve. We all have a personal responsibility to create a workplace free from violence, harassment and discrimination of all forms. The chief, professional conduct and culture group will help us ensure that we meet this standard.
This new group will unify and integrate all associated culture change activities across the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. It will become the centre of expertise and single functional authority for professional conduct and culture. It will be led by Lieutenant‑General Jennie Carignan, who will be directly supported by an assistant deputy minister.
The initial team will be inclusive of members of all ranks and classifications and will emulate the diversity that Canadians expect. The actions that we undertake to change the culture will incorporate what we hear from those impacted by misconduct.
We will listen to our people at all levels, in all regions of the country.
These lived experiences and suggestions will guide the chief, professional conduct and culture's actions, solutions and decision‑making to eliminate discrimination, biases, harmful stereotypes and systemic barriers.
This team will work in concert with groups across DND and the CAF that are already making progress towards building healthy, safe and inclusive work environments, while also capitalizing on ongoing consultations, conversations, external and independent reviews, and analyses. Research, expertise and complementary strategies and initiatives from which the team can benefit include GBA+; the total health and wellness strategy; integrated conflict and complaint management; the anti‑racism secretariat; the CAF diversity strategy; Canada's anti‑racism strategy; and Canada's national action plan for women, peace and security.
We will incorporate and implement changes recommended by Louise Arbour through the independent external comprehensive review, including interim assessments and recommendations. The sexual misconduct response centre will continue to be an external body, independent from the Canadian Armed Forces chain of command, providing support to affected people, giving expert advice and monitoring progress in addressing sexual misconduct.
Moreover, budget 2021 provides new funding to expand our work to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender‑based violence in the Canadian Armed Forces and to support survivors. We will be announcing more about this in the coming weeks.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to thank colleagues for meeting during this constituency week to consider a new motion to look at more witnesses and dive deeper into what actually has happened in the sexual misconduct allegations against former chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance, former chief of the defence staff Admiral Art McDonald, and others, as this has evolved over the past 100 days.
Therefore, I would like to move the following motion. It was circulated by the clerk about 20 minutes ago, so I take it that all members of the committee have a copy in front of them.
It reads:That, in respect of the committee's study on addressing sexual misconduct issues in the Canadian Armed Forces, including the allegations against former Chief of the Defence Staff Jonathan Vance,
(a) recalling that Zita Astravas, former Chief of Staff to the Minister of National Defence, was invited on Monday, March 8, 2021, to appear before the Committee within 14 days and was ordered by the House of Commons on Thursday, March 25, 2021 to appear before the committee on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, and did not appear on either occasion, the committee issue a summons for Zita Astravas to appear before this committee, at a televised meeting, at a date and time determined by the Chair which is no later than Friday, May 21, 2021, or two days following the adoption of this motion, until she is released by the committee, provided that, in the event that Zita Astravas defaults on the summons, (i) the clerk and analysts be directed to prepare a brief report to the House, outlining the material facts of the possible contempt the situation would represent, to be considered by the committee, in public, at its first meeting after the consideration of the main report on the study has been completed, and (ii) the Minister of National Defence and Gary Walbourne, former National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman, be invited to appear jointly on a panel for two hours, at a televised meeting, no later than Thursday, May 27, 2021;
(b) that the study be expanded to include matters related to the allegations against Major-General Dany Fortin, lately Vice President (Logistics and Operations) of the Public Health Agency of Canada, which have recently come to light, with a view to addressing these matters in the report referred to in paragraph (c) or, if that is not practically feasible, in a further report to be tabled before the House begins its summer adjournment, and, to this end, the committee invite representatives of the Canadian Armed Forces, the Privy Council Office and the Public Health Agency of Canada to appear as soon as possible to discuss these matters; and
(c) that the provisions of the motion adopted on Monday, April 12, 2021, concerning a report to the House, be supplemented as follows: (i) notwithstanding the motion adopted on Monday, April 12, 2021, drafting instructions and recommendations arising from the evidence received by the Committee after Friday, April 16, 2021, may be sent to the clerk, (A) in respect of evidence received before the adoption of this motion, within 24 hours of the adoption of this motion, or (B) in respect of evidence received as a consequence of paragraphs (a) or (b), within 24 hours of the adjournment of the meeting where the evidence was received, (ii) until Friday, May 28, 2021, the committee hold at least one meeting per week to receive evidence related to the study and at least one meeting per week to consider the draft report, (iii) at 2:45 p.m. on Friday, May 28, 2021, or, if the committee is not then sitting, immediately after the committee is next called to order, the proceedings before the committee shall be interrupted, if required for the purposes of the motion adopted on Monday, April 12, 2021, and every question necessary for the disposal of the draft report, including on each proposed recommendation which has not been disposed of, shall be put, forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment, (iv) the committee declines to request, pursuant to Standing Order 109, that the government table a comprehensive response to the report, and (v) dissenting or supplementary opinions or recommendations shall be filed, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(b), in both official languages, no later than 4:00 p.m. on Friday, June 4, 2021.
Madam Chair, I would like to speak to the motion.
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