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View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
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 Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I want to make a few comments on the comments that have been made in this debate so far.
Following up on the most recent, in relation to Madam Arbour, I don't think anyone on the committee doubts her tremendous ability. The Deschamps report identified the type of process—the need, for instance, for independence, etc.—but the mechanism for doing it, of the various things that need to be done, was not outlined. Madam Arbour, I agree, will be great at providing a detailed road map on how to get to the places Madam Deschamps suggested.
The discussion a few minutes ago related to training is also a good example of how the solutions to this aren't easy, being that it's been endemic for decades in our military, and in other militaries. Simple solutions will not do the trick. A good example was the emphasis put on appropriate training. Training sessions were put up, but I heard one witness—and I can't remember if it was at committee or at another event—talk about how she, as the trainer, was laughed at. They made fun of her, and that's all part of the culture.
That's what's important about the Bloc amendment. As I said before, unfortunately, it's tied to an untenable main motion, but on the culture, it is a huge item. We're all part of a culture. We're social, and to a large extent we work within and follow a culture that we're in.
Dr. Okros made a good comment on that:
The...comment I would make with this is that there does need to be a unique military culture. Canadians require very specific things from the women and men who are providing security for them. That requires some very specific things. There is no other employer that has the concept of unlimited liability, that expects and requires people to put themselves in harm's way.
To do that, to generate those capabilities and the capacity to endure...what can be really arduous circumstances, does require something unique that most private sector employers don't need.
The issue is, what should that culture be? I think that's the issue that is really up for debate and discussion. Again, what the comments we're providing here...[this] is a tension in the military as well around evolving over time. One thing that is baked into the military philosophy is that there are really important lessons that have been learned, that were paid for in blood over the centuries, that we will never forget.
That is of importance, but that can hold the military back from trying to envision the future military culture that they need to be building within a 21st-century security context, and with young Canadians who are seeking to serve their country in uniform.
It needs to be a unique culture. The debate, really, is about what should that culture be, what should be retained and what needs to fundamentally change.
It just emphasizes my previous point that nothing is simple, and that's why our debate should be revolving around these critical issues that we've heard. We've had many, many meetings. We've heard from the survivors and from the experts who can give us a way forward, and now we need to debate and come up with those recommendations. They're not simple, and that's why they need discussion. If they were simple, they would have been done already.
That's why we need the discussion on these critically important things that will help the survivors. That's why it's disappointing that the main motion, the way it's written, would allow recommendations to go through without any debate on them.
I'd be interested in hearing more from Madam Vandenbeld on culture, because I haven't studied that in any great depth.
There are two last things I want to say. One is that I like the idea of modifying Mr. Barsalou-Duval's motion that we do a report based on what we could come to a consensus on. As Mr. Garrison said, we all agree we want to help, and I am sure there are a number of recommendations that we could come to a consensus on and that would make a difference for the survivors.
The other thing from the amendment that I want to come in on is that there's been a lot of talk—the word “victims” is in there—about improved support for survivors and victims. I will discuss that at length when we get to the main motion, but the point is—and I said this earlier in debate—that hopefully we don't have to have a huge network of supports. Hopefully, by making the appropriate changes, we'll drastically reduce the incidents that Mr. Garrison said are so common at the moment.
Only we as a committee—well, not only we; they can go ahead without us—could add support and strength to consensus recommendations. They would go a lot further and would really make a difference for survivors and give the minister the moral authority to move quickly on the things we are recommending.
I'll leave it at that for right now.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I would agree. I would implore that we stop this waste of time by debating motion after motion and witness after witness, which is unnecessary and is delaying the study. I implore Mr. Bezan to remove the motion, which, as he probably knows, has a number of problems with it. It doesn't bring forward the witnesses we need if we want to go further into the who, how, where and when, which I'll go into in great depth when we get to the main motion.
For the exact reason that people expect a report to come out, stop doing motions that recall witnesses who have been here for hours and who have nothing to add to the debate. Stop calling a witness whose potential testimony has already been dealt with and then a motion that wouldn't allow us to put a stop to looking at each recommendation, debating them and coming out with a serious report.
We had an anonymous email and no one knew what was in it because the person wanted their privacy, and they were allowed their privacy. It's incredible that, instead of dealing with the major problems to help the people in the military, Mr. Bezan would keep calling witnesses related to that email and not all the great testimony we've had from experts and victims.
If you want to go back.... I don't. I want to get on to dealing with those serious issues, but if you want to go back to the who, why and where, and then, as Mr. Garrison said, the serious issues related to the appointment of General Vance, as Mr. Garrison said, when people should have acted and failed to act.... There were potential investigations, one, apparently, there was pressure to stop on the day General Vance was appointed, and another one, a quote from someone.... The vice-chief of the defence staff said it was a mystery who investigated, seeing as it didn't occur.
Those are the serious questions that people want to go back to. I don't want to go back to that. I want to get on to the issues of helping the people in the military. As Mr. Barsalou-Duval said, why are members acting the way they are by bringing witness after witness, trying to recall witnesses and extending on this one email that's already been fully investigated as far as it could go, because the person didn't want to let any of the details forward.
We only have so much time in government. As everyone knows who's been in government, there are a huge number of federal departments, agencies and things that have to be dealt with, so there are rare points in time when you can get to the item that you want to make progress on. I think this is one of those points in time when we have a minister who's supportive of dealing with this, and all the committee members are supportive of dealing with sexual misconduct in the military. That's what we should be dealing with.
I could, in the future, if need be, explain or outline all the times and the quotes from the minister over the last several months as to how he says over and over again that much more needs to be done and that there's no tolerance.
Unfortunately, it's also been said in this debate that nothing has been done, or that nothing of consequence has been done. In fairness to the members of CAF and DND, they have been working hard to try to address this serious issue.
I think we have to dispose of that misinformation because some things have been done. There has to be a lot more, obviously, as Mr. Garrison outlined, and I've outlined in a number of committees the hundreds of complaints that have occurred. Much more needs to be done, but it's also not fair to suggest that nothing's been done. I'm going to go through some of those things, to give credit where credit's due.
The government has announced an external review, the creation of the chief of professional conduct and culture position, as well as initiatives around peer support, the extension of the SMRCs' reach across Canada and work on implementation of Bill C-77.
DND and CAF also released a joint CDS-DM initiating directive, which has provided our defence team members, veterans, observers and all Canadians much-needed clarity on DND and CAF's vision for Lieutenant-General Carignan's position and what she'll be empowered to do. Going forward, one of General Carignan's first areas of focus is developing a plan for engagement and consultation, including targeted focus groups in coordination with our colleagues in public affairs, to ensure that we keep up the momentum on listening.
In the budget that we're now debating in the House, $232.2 million over five years has been set aside, plus $33.5 million per year ongoing to address sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the military and to support survivors. These funds will be used for gender-based violence prevention, fully funded at $33.9 million over two years; internal support to victims, including access to legal advice; expanding the contribution program to support community-based sexual assault service providers; and a peer support pilot, online and in-person. I'll speak to that a bit later.
There are additional conduct items that are fully funded at $33 million over two years to support $15 million for increased investment in the SMRC—which I'll talk about later as well—$15 million for external oversight and $3 million for external assistance with training.
Then there are investments from existing reference levels of $158.5 million, and this includes the implementation of Bill C-65 and the workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations, which I'll talk a bit about later; support for development of character assessment and training; additional support to enhance the military justice system; personnel support to base commanders; development of the departmental litigation oversight capability, which we've talked about a lot in this committee; and upgrading data management and tracking into a single system, which we've talked about having as a recommendation.
Additionally, DND and CAF are going to respond to the government with suggestions related to the CAF child care program and the clinical occupation and deployment health needs of women in uniform.
I also said I was going to get back to the work, and the deputy minister mentioned that a lot had to be done, but she also mentioned that there were good things being done. She mentioned the advancing initiatives related to the SMRC; the gender-based violence national action plan initiatives; the regional expansion of SMRC services, including a response and support coordination program; the expansion of support services to include service to DND public service employees and veterans; and the increasing need for virtual training options and targeted prevention training. The staffing of positions for that is also under way. I'll get back SMRC a little bit later and also the next time that I get to speak.
C-65's implementation is under way, which is another item of progress, so it's not fair to say that nothing has been done or accomplished.
In the departmental approach, there's work on the implementation of the workplace harassment and violence prevention, WHVP, legislation, which continues to progress. Direction and guidance on the WHVP workplace assessment is to be released by August 2021. A service-level agreement to provide access to WHVP training for CAF members is being finalized. Training will be available online by June 2021.
Mandatory training for public service employees is progressing well. As of March 31 this year, 40% of employees and 13% of members—
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
Madam Chair, I think it was actually that member who said that nothing's been done. Also, that member in his preamble veered totally away from the amendment, so I will just carry on. If he didn't want to know what's being done then he shouldn't have said in previous comments that nothing is being done by CAF and DND—
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
—related to this motion.
To give credit where credit is due on the things we've done, to supplement the employee assistance program, the WHVP centre of expertise is establishing additional assistance for employees affected by harassment or workplace violence.
While CAF is not subject to the Canada Labour Code, CAF is working on a harassment prevention modernization initiative to further align and integrate accountability and prevention components of the WHVP with the CAF system.
Stage one of the CAF harassment prevention modernization initiative is nearing completion, including through the issuance by the VCDS of an initiating directive, development of tools and supporting documents for the relevant DAOD on harassment prevention and the establishment of a governance structure and working group.
In stage two, the focus is on a CAF harassment prevention, a vision statement and the development of additional tools, guides, consultation and options. Analysis is being finalized. This work will take into consideration and align with the work of Bill C‑65, Bill C‑77, negotiations on policy measures and class actions [Technical difficulty—Editor] and the evolution of the chief of the professional conduct and culture organization.
I will now go on to military sexual trauma. Also, in relation to Mr. Bezan's last comment, I wonder why he won't change his motion to bring forward the real witnesses to the serious problems that have now arisen since the motion was designed, which have been brought forward by the press along with this serious potential cover-up related to the investigations during the time of the appointment of General Vance.
On military sexual trauma, MST, we've constantly heard from stakeholders and those affected by sexual misconduct that they want sexual trauma connected with military service to be acknowledged and recognized as such, and that they want to be supported accordingly. Along with Veterans Affairs Canada, the SMRC and external stakeholders, we're working on developing a definition of sexual trauma connected with military service. This work is being done in full consultation with survivor groups as well as with members of the SMRC external advisory council and others. While it is not a critical term, we acknowledge that the injury is associated with sexual trauma connected to military service. We are working with VAC to ensure that there continues to be policy alignment between the two departments particularly in the delivery of supports and benefits to those affected.
I want to talk about peer support now. This committee has heard from witnesses that our focus should be on the survivors and on helping them. They've asked for peer support. Work is under way. I hope we have recommendations. When we get to the main motion, I will go a lot into the recommendations, because the motion allows for a cut-off on debate on those recommendations.
As announced, DND, CAF and Veterans Affairs Canada are working on developing a professionally co-facilitated peer support program. This is another initiative that is a high priority for stakeholders, as we heard from witnesses. This is funded through budget 2021.
Because of our present situation and the direction of the world, we need to do more things online. SMRC, the CAF transition group and VAC are working to adapt an existing online peer support mobile application that was developed for Canadian Public Safety personnel. The process of adaptation, modification and implementation of the app is expected to take several months. Of course, this is very important because our military are stationed around the world.
There's also support for individual people, which CAF and DND have worked so hard on. Our government, as I've said, is not done. We have a lot more to do. As I've said at every meeting, that's what we should be working on, recommendations on those procedures. Some progress has been made. As we know, we need a lot more.
We're going to continue to consult with the experts, some of whom we had before our committee, and those who have been affected by sexual misconduct.
I want to highlight some of the measures that are already in place and accessible to the DND and CAF members. The SMRC, as I mentioned earlier, offers members confidential support 24-7 and anywhere in the world. I'm happy to say that budget 2021 has increased support for that. We heard from a number of witnesses how that wasn't the be-all and end-all, but it was certainly providing helpful services. It operates outside the military chain of command. Reporting directly to the deputy minister, it allows affected persons to access support in a confidential manner.
SMRC offers many programs and services to help affected members. One of them is the response and support coordination program, which helps CAF members navigate systems from the moment they make contact with SMRC until they decide they no longer require support. At every step of the way, SMRC personnel accompany those affected by sexual violence, providing whatever support may be necessary.
CAF members seeking information about the reporting process can contact the SMRC to explore their options while remaining anonymous. Civilian members of the defence team can also access support through SMRC, as well as the employee assistance program. Though SMRC is an important tool, we haven't got this right yet. That's why the defence team is in the midst of a top-to-bottom change of its institutional culture.
This is the right thing to do. It is not just a moral imperative. It is also vital to the success of the Canadian Armed Forces now and into the future. We've heard that time and time again. I think every committee member knows this a critical problem that we have to deal with to come up with solutions. A number of things are being done already, but obviously much needs to be done.
It was great to hear the acting chief of defence staff—I think it was yesterday or the day before—so open to hearing outside expertise to make sure this is done right. The culture change that's been so hard to do.... I mean, this isn't new. It's been there for decades upon decades. It's not easy to change quickly. Just making paper changes is not enough. That's why we have all these initiatives and why we should be discussing the complexity of that culture change and how we do it.
That's why the Madam Arbour announcement will be helpful. Culture change is mentioned right in the amendment to this motion, which is why this is an important discussion as well.
The initial independent external comprehensive review led by the former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour is very important. Obviously, all the recommendations from the previous Deschamps report haven't been implemented. Much more needs to be done, but Madam Arbour will provide the road map and a suggested way to actually achieve the things that Madam Deschamps said needed to be done. It will look into harassment and sexual misconduct in both DND and CAF and will examine the policies, procedures, programs, practices and culture within National Defence and make recommendations for improvement. From that, we'll learn what did not work from all these things that I'm talking about today of the processes that are in place. We can build on what did work, see what did not work and why it did not work.
It's been noted and, as I said in previous meetings, a number of things are very puzzling. There were a number of good things in place. Why were they not working? Why did they still lead to the hundreds of cases that Mr. Garrison and I referred to in previous meetings.
It's noted in the terms of reference that Madam Arbour will be delivering a “work plan within 30 days to the effective date of” her contract.
I just wanted to mention that one other thing about the peer support program is that budget 2021 also includes funding to enhance other support services including access to free independent legal advice that will help enable CAF members to access support without making a formal complaint.
Another step forward, once again to give credit where credit is due for things that are being done and have to be acknowledged, it has been announced that Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan will begin a new role as the chief of professional conduct and culture, which will unify, integrate and coordinate all policies, programs and activities that currently address systemic misconduct across culture change.
She's moved quickly in her new role and is actively working on building a core team around her. She's already begun to turn her attention to key issues including developing an outreach and consultation plan to continue hearing from defence team members, veterans and stakeholders, and mapping resources and reporting processes to get a clearer sense of what currently exists to inform future efforts to streamline.
Another step is that in addition to these steps, our government is following through on its commitment to consult with victims of service offences, which will inform the development of the regulations needed to implement the declaration of victim rights from Bill C‑77.
The Department of National Defence has engaged directly with victims groups and will soon be launching an online questionnaire to collect anonymous feedback from DND employees and CAF members. Certainly we've heard from victims from both of those groups, and it will be really good to get that anonymous feedback for which they will have no fear of retribution or reprisal. That, we have heard, is one of the top three things on which this committee should be coming up with recommendations to help the minister, a minister who is open to making major changes at this critical time when we could actually make improvements.
Our government has heard from the victims groups who have generously devoted their time and energy to sharing lived experiences and feedback with us and also with committees. We have heard them and we are taking action. This is what the survivors and experts who have testified at this committee and the committee on the status of women have been advocating for.
There are some other sources available to CAF members to access counselling, advice and other support services, and this may be one of the things that the report of Madam Arbour comes up with. Members aren't aware of all of these supports and maybe that's one reason they haven't been as effective as they should be. There are the CAF medical centres, military chaplains, the CF members assistance program, military family resource centres and family information centre.
There are also complaint management centres. These are another avenue for members to bring forward concerns or incidents through one of the 16 complaint management centres located across the country under the integrated conflict and complaint management program. This service combines harassment, grievance and alternative dispute resolution approaches in a streamlined fashion, and they report tracking and resolved complaints of inappropriate behaviour like sexual harassment. If the nature of the sexual misconduct requires involvement of the military police and justice system, there are supports for CAF members during this process as well.
Another support is the sexual offence response teams. The military police have established six sexual offence response teams trained to handle sexual misconduct cases appropriately and with empathy. These teams are sensitive to survivors and help them connect with other resources and support systems they need. I'm certainly looking forward to survivors and complainants getting much better treatment than some of the witnesses we heard from did and hopefully these new centres and the training will have far more appropriate support and training for survivors.
In addition, the director of military prosecutions has established a sexual misconduct action response team made up of specially trained prosecutors. Their role again is to make sure survivors are treated with compassion and understanding and that they receive information and the support they need through the military justice proceedings.
Supporting survivors of sexual misconduct is essential, and that's why steps have been taken to ensure support is available and is provided from the moment a person seeks advice or counsel through to investigation and prosecution. Along with the future changes, these steps will help to build a safe and inclusive workplace where all people are supported and treated with respect.
We're creating a defence workplace where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and we hope all our colleagues will join us in this effort. We'll build the right system, so that when an incident occurs, members of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence have access to a process that is sensitive, fair and compassionate.
CAF and DND are listening. They're learning. They're taking action to create an environment where sexual misconduct is never minimized, excused or ignored. We owe it to the men and women in uniform—as I think all committee members have said—to all members of the defence team and to Canadians to get this right, and we'll continue working hard to do just that on top of all these initiatives.
There has also been Bill C‑65, with new regulations on preventing harassment and violence in the workplace. Harassment and violence in the workplace in any form, of course, will not be tolerated. Amendments to the Canada Labour Code contained in the workplace harassment and violence prevention regulations came into effect on January 1, 2021, and will expand the existing prevention-of-violence framework known as Bill C‑65.
These amendments will strengthen the provisions of the Canada Labour Code by putting in place one comprehensive approach that takes all forms of harassment and violence into consideration. This will help departments to better prevent this and to respond to and provide support to those affected by harassment and violence in the federal public service. This new regulation will affect all DND public service employees and the Canadian Armed Forces members who supervise them. The coordination and implementation of this new regulation is assigned to the ADM of civilian human resources as the functional authority for the health and well-being of the public service employees within the department. Committee members have heard about harassment or sexual misconduct related to those employees—not just CAF members.
In short, this means that, along with all Government of Canada departments and agencies, our obligations with respect to harassment and violence in the workplace will increase. While we'll see more details in the coming weeks, some examples of what we will do under this new legislation include ensuring that a resolution process is in place and that issues are resolved in a timely and transparent manner; identifying the risk factors that contribute to harassment and violence in the workplace and developing and implementing preventive measures to mitigate these risks; and developing harassment and violence training and ensuring that all parties in the workplace, including employers, participate in this training.
In parallel, the VCDS has been tasked with addressing potential changes to the CAF policies and programs. For now, DAOD 5012‑0, “Harassment Prevention and Resolution”, and the harassment prevention and resolution instructions, accessible only on the National Defence network, will continue to apply to the CAF. Early in the new year, a working group will be be stood up to conduct—that's this year—a holistic review of the CAF harassment framework in order to modernize and align it, where possible, with the Canadian Labour Code. The working group will also be tasked with looking at opportunities to streamline and align existing interrelated mechanisms and programs, so that, as much as possible, the employees at DND and the CAF members will have very similar treatment and help.
Existing programs, preventive measures and support will remain in place to keep our defence team free as much as possible from physical and psychological harm. However, when harassment or violence does occur, we must work together to identify it, root it out and take action to prevent reoccurence. With this new legislation, Bill C‑65 will help to strengthen all our efforts on all fronts.
The other bill that we brought in—again, to be fair, things have been done and have been moving forward—is Bill C‑77, An Act to amend the National Defence Act—the declaration of victims rights.
The summary of the bill states:
This enactment amends provisions of the National Defence Act governing the military justice system.
It adds a new Division, entitled “Declaration of Victims Rights”, to the Code of Service Discipline, that specifies that victims of service offences have a right to information, protection, participation and restitution in respect of service offences. It adds or amends several definitions, including “victim” and “military justice system participant”, and specifies who may act on a victim's behalf for the purposes of that Division.
I know that the Conservatives are very sensitive and supportive of victims rights.
It continues:
It amends Part III of that Act to, among other things:
(a) specify the purpose of the Code of Service Discipline and the fundamental purpose of imposing sanctions at summary hearings;
(b) protect the privacy and security of victims and witnesses in proceedings [which involve] certain sexual offences;
(c) specify factors that a military judge is to take into consideration when determining whether to make an exclusion order;
(d) make testimonial aids more accessible to [the] vulnerable witnesses;
(e) allow witnesses to testify using a pseudonym in appropriate cases;
We've all heard about potential retribution.
It continues:
(f) on application, make publication bans for victims under the age of 18 mandatory; (g) in certain circumstances, require a military judge to inquire of the prosecutor if reasonable steps have been taken to inform the victims of any plea agreement entered into by the accused and the prosecutor; (h) provide that the acknowledgement of the harm done to the victims and to the community is a sentencing objective; (i) provide for different ways of presenting victim impact statements; (j) allow for military impact statements and community impact [assessments] to be considered for all service offences; (k) provide, as a principle of sentencing, that particular attention should be given to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders;
As you know, there are provisions in the Criminal Code for that as well.
It continues:
(l) provide for the creation, in regulations, of service infractions that can be dealt with by summary hearing;
That's so more cases can go forward—
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
Madam Chair, as I said earlier, I wouldn't have to be doing this if the member had not suggested, on probably more than one occasion, that nothing has been done.
The terms of our committee—in fact, the terms of the motion—start out to address sexual misconduct. To say that nothing's been done is not accurate and not fair. This is what we need to build on. This is why we should not be debating a motion that doesn't really add anything. I think all members can see the motion before us really does nothing in relation to the serious advances forward.
I'm almost finished them. I'm definitely not reading from the report by Mr. Fish, but I should have actually included the fact that we've done that. I've not included that in my remarks, but I've not seen that report. I have no idea what's in it, so I'm definitely not reading from it. I'm almost finished here, so I'll just continue to give credit where credit's due and stop members from suggesting nothing's been done by the government, by CAF and by DND and a supportive minister.
It's also provided in regulations of service infractions that they can be dealt with by summary hearing, as I said, to get more cases forward. This can provide a scale of sanctions in respect of service infractions and for the principles applicable to those sanctions, provide for a six-month limitation period in respect of summary hearings, and to provide superior commanders, commanding officers and delegated officers with jurisdiction to conduct a summary hearing in respect of a person charged with having committed a service infraction if the person is at least one rank below the officer conducting the summary hearing.
Finally, the enactment makes related and consequential amendments to certain acts. Most notably, it amends the Criminal Code to include military justice system participants in the class of persons against whom offences relating to intimidation of a justice system participant can be committed.
Madam Chair, I think all this suggests strong, serious steps forward, and in some cases it's helping and will help. A lot of this work is under way right now and people should know that. I think members of the committee will be appreciative of that, but that's why, to be serious, our discussions, instead of dealing with the motion.... Although I appreciate the amendment, it still keeps the inappropriate parts of the motion, the constant recalling of witnesses to deal with an anonymous email where no one knew what was in it because the person wanted it to be confidential, which they have every right to.
Instead of dealing with the motion, we need to get on with what the committee heard, and they heard about the three areas. I think Yvan and other committee members have a great understanding that it's the culture change that is referred to in this motion, in the amendment. It's unfortunately tied to a bad motion, but the the good amendment by Mr. Barsalou-Duval talks about culture, which is the important thing that, if we're serious, we should be talking about instead of recalling witnesses who we've already had.
We should be talking about the reprisals. I'm not sure we've had enough discussion or recommendations. I may want to make some related to reprisals because I don't think it's hidden from anyone that one of the reasons that the reporting levels are so low is the fear of reprisals and the fear of the effects on a career that your family's sustenance depends on and that you entered with great honour and you want to serve with great honour. To then, for doing the right thing in reporting, have a fear of reprisal.... Are those serious discussions that this committee is undertaking?
The third of the three major items, I think, is how these fit in the chain of command, which was also referred to in the Deschamps report and for which Madam Arbour will hopefully be providing a road map of how we deal with.
However, we could be making serious progress on these issues for the survivors, which is where our focus should always be, instead of recalling witnesses, calling a witness who has already spoken or suggesting that the debate end at a certain time so that some recommendations could not be debated. Who's going to take a report seriously where we could not debate or discuss recommendations?
I will leave it at that for now. When we get to the main motion, I have a lot more detail to go into on some of these areas. I will pass that on for now.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this motion.
When the motion was first presented, I thought it was an improvement. I thought it was a step forward, and I was hoping, as Mr. Spengemann just said, that it would leave room so we could amend it in such a way that all the parties would agree that we could move forward in a co-operative way.
I have a number of things to say on the motion, at least four, but before that, as Mr. Bezan at times presents inappropriate preambles to the motions, I have to set the record straight on the comments he made in the preamble to the motion.
First of all, remember where we came from. There was an email. The person was anonymous. They didn't want their name put forward and they didn't give permission for the information to be put forward. So we had an email, and no one knew what was in it. It was anonymous. It was reported immediately to the investigative officials, who investigated as far as they could, case done.
Then, the Conservatives started presenting motions to bring in all sorts of witnesses about those emails. The Liberals agreed for a time, even though it wasn't studying the major things that witnesses, experts and survivors had told us we should be studying: the culture, the reprisals for reporting, the chain of command. There was nothing on that. It was on an email that no one knew anything about and that had already been investigated.
Finally, the Liberals said, enough, stop wasting the time of the committee on bringing forward motions to either bring back the same witnesses on that email, which no one knew what was in, or to bring other emails that were not necessarily appropriate. Let's get back to what we should be discussing, which has some possibility in the new motion.
I appreciate the things that Mr. Bezan mentioned in his preamble we should move on with, but going back to what the facts were, remember that the situation was investigated fully, as far as it could go, because there was no permission or information to do anything else.
What came out subsequent to that motion was that, at the time of General Vance's appointment, there were actually two serious allegations that the dogged research of the media found out—I think it was Global News and the Toronto Star—and General Vance was still appointed.
As I said, this isn't where I wanted to go on any of these past witnesses. I wanted to get on with the things the survivors wanted us to get on with, but those who were seriously thinking of calling more witnesses—Mr. Barsalou-Duval talked about more witnesses in his preamble—would really have to change the witness list to those who found out at the time about those two investigations, and why General Vance was still appointed.
One investigation, the military police ended it, or announced they were ending it, the day he was made commander-in-chief, and four days later it was ended. They said, under access to information, and I have no idea who filed it, that they were under pressure. That could be a serious allegation. If you're talking about witnesses, those would have been the types of witnesses.
The other investigation into General Vance at the time was referred to Mr. Novak. It was very similar to what happened with the email in 2018. In 2018, it was investigated as far as it could go. In the case of Mr. Novak, he said he went to Mr. Fadden—the very same process—but Mr. Fadden said there was no record of complaint or current investigation, so if there wasn't, then there needed to be one. But the national security adviser says he never did that investigation. If that investigation wasn't done, why was Mr. Vance appointed?
If you really wanted to go back and do witnesses, then, unlike in Mr. Bezan's preamble, those are the witnesses you would call on what recently came to light, which was more serious. As I said, that's not my area of interest—it's getting on with the future.
Since that story came out, there was even more. The outgoing chief of the defence staff, General Tom Lawson, said he was crystal clear: No allegation related to misconduct by Vance in Gagetown was brought over to him at any time, including while he was helping find his replacement, the chief of staff. He said he wasn't fuzzy at all. He would have looked into it. Subsequently, more people have come forward, such as former vice-chief of the defence staff Guy Thibault, saying they were never told either.
Those are the types of things that the people who thought that other motion was appropriate.... If they were serious, then they would have changed the witnesses to discuss the serious allegations that were actually found later. As the Liberals have been saying all along, the important thing is to get on with what the experts and the survivors have been telling us needs to be done, and have a serious debate, not a two-minute debate, on the very complex things that need to be done and need to be recommended.
Good examples are that, for instance, the administrative changes that were made in some cases were very good. But obviously, as Mr. Garrison has pointed out in the past, and I have pointed out, there were many hundreds of incidents still going on related to sexual misconduct. It's not working. It may be working to some extent. We listed at the last meeting for over an hour the things that the government has done, but still obviously a lot more needs to be done. It's very complex, obviously, when that many things have been done that may have made progress forward in some areas. If it's too simplistic an answer, then obviously it's not going to make progress on that.
That's why I think—and I've said this at almost every meeting—that's where we need to be having serious debate. They are not easy issues. There's a saying that for every complex problem there's a simple answer and it's wrong. That's why we need to have more than a two-minute input on each item. Whether it's two minutes on a paragraph.... Does that paragraph do justice to the witnesses? If not, do you just get to speak for two minutes, and that's it?
Obviously, these are very serious changes of direction for an organization, the military. For some of these recommendations, is two minutes serious? As both Yvan and I have said, either in this or in previous meetings, how seriously is anyone going to take a report where you've had two minutes each to discuss a paragraph or a recommendation?
It has been said many times that the purpose of this study is to hold the government to account. On this motion, how could you hold the government to account if the government doesn't get to do a response? Why would we not want to have the government respond to the various recommendations? The government has already taken a lot of steps but is in the middle of taking some more, with Louise Arbour, etc. We need to make sure that what the survivors and the experts said is included in the report and the recommendations, in the things they are doing. If that's not included in the report....
Then, with a major report like this, with so many recommendations, I was hoping, similar to what Ms. Vandenbeld said, that we could in some way initially come to a way of agreeing on all the ones we all agree on, to get that part done. If not, when you have only two minutes and you don't know what's going to go through, is 48 hours really a reasonable time for a consenting report, with all the paragraphs that may be inaccurate or recommendations that may need further input?
Also, on the limiting of debate, I'm just wondering how the NDP or the Bloc would feel if this precedent passes and if in the future there's either a Liberal or a Conservative majority and they'll get two minutes per person input on major recommendations that could totally go against their party philosophy, against their principles. In fact, think of the things we're debating at length right now, for instance the Broadcasting Act; if you only had two minutes to deal with a recommendation there, would people think that was appropriate?
The last thing I would say at this time is that on this particular part of the procedure, which is where I think we could come to some agreement and have some discussion, because it's a very serious change in procedure, when I was chair of PROC the Conservatives and the NDP spent several months debating a change of procedure because they didn't feel it was appropriate. They made it pretty apparent, time and again, how important it is not to change procedures without all-party consent.
I'll leave it at that for now.
The last thing I would say, because it is related to my next comments, is that on the serious recommendations and serious paragraphs, if we have more than two minutes' input, we're going to have to make it now, during this debate. I assume all committee members who have some serious input on either paragraphs or recommendations, unless that has changed over the discussion of this motion, will put all their input into the recommendations or paragraphs for which they have more than two minutes' input to make their point, because this is the only time they're going to be able to make it.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
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Lib. (YT)
I have a few points.
One is that I was actually really buoyed this morning when I saw this motion, although it took a while to read it and everything. It's too bad that, as usual, it came in late, but Mr. Bezan has apologized for it, and I accept that.
I wasn't as much of an objectionist as some others. I thought there was a way forward here. I still think there is a way forward here, and I don't think Mr. Bezan withdrew the motion on more witnesses just because it became obvious that the next witnesses should be Mr. O'Toole, Mr. Fadden, General Lawson, Guy Thibault and the head of military justice who closed the report on Mr. Vance. It was to get a way forward.
He made an interesting point about closure in the House, and I wanted to comment on that a bit.
As you know, the Conservatives used closure a lot of the time when they were in Parliament, but I don't blame them for that, actually, because I think there's a structural problem. This has been brought up at PROC and was never resolved. There's a structural problem in the way the House of Commons works that leads to closure no matter who's in government. This has been solved by other parliaments. I think the Scottish Parliament is one.
The fact is that when you have over 50 departments and agencies, important work that needs to be done in all those areas and a huge agenda, no matter who is in government you need to have a plan that makes sense. Some things are very minor additions and some things are major additions. End of life is a very serious type of debate and discussion, but some minor things—because there's no programming and there's no schedule—take up excessive time. No matter who's in government, if you want to move on for the people of Canada and the many topics that need to be moved forward on, you will need closure.
How other parliaments have dealt with this is that the parties get together and do programming. They decide in advance what is serious and what needs more time, and they come up with a schedule that makes a lot of sense. It reduced, and I think in some sittings actually totally eliminated, the need for closure, because they came up with something that made a lot more sense. The serious issues got the serious time, and the minor amendments got the time they needed. I recommend that to everyone.
As I said before, I think there are things in the report, in either the clauses or the recommendations, where there are members from every party who wouldn't necessarily agree with them right now and would not want to end their debate on them at two minutes. My gut reaction is that not that many are controversial, although one member did suggest earlier in this debate that most of them were. I think all members of all parties who have an objection and want to speak for more than two minutes on a clause or a recommendation should do that during this debate, because if this motion passes, they're not going to have any other time. I look forward to hearing from all the members on what's important to them.
I'll give you an example from my perspective of something that I don't think there's enough attention given to, in either the report or the recommendations, and that is reprisals. As we heard from a lot of the witnesses, either they reported and there were reprisals to their careers, or they didn't report because they feared reprisals by reporting.
In the administrative directive or the code of conduct, I'm not sure if there are strong enough condemnations of inappropriate reprisals, particularly in sexual misconduct, but it could be for anything. That is an example of what I think should be looked at more and should have a lot more than a two-minute discussion, because obviously it is one of the major flaws in the system and we should take more time on recommendations and the paragraphs of the report.
The last thing I would like to do is just throw this out. I just thought about this five minutes ago, but having seen the motion and having thought of a way forward that people might think about, I'm not looking for a quick answer or anything. I'm just thinking as I go and letting people think about this: What if we were to go through the paragraphs and recommendations quickly and agree by unanimous consent which ones could be dealt with in the way Mr. Bezan is proposing, with two minutes per member for discussing them? I think that would deal with....
It's hard to say, but my thought is that a lot of the report could be dealt with really quickly that way, in the way Mr. Bezan says, on particular paragraphs and recommendations that we all agree will be dealt with in that two-minute debate per paragraph and per recommendation. Because obviously the recommendations and paragraphs have evolved from what the witnesses said, they can't be so inaccurate that we wouldn't come to an agreement on a lot of them. Then, for those few where we couldn't agree unanimously that they be dealt with in that process, we would go back to them and deal with them in the regular process for clauses and recommendations.
I'm just throwing that out as an idea for people to think about. I'll turn it over to the next speaker.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
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Lib. (YT)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I, too, was quite moved by Ms. Vandenbeld's stories. It reminds me of what an honourable career the military is for Canadians—what they have done and what they aspire to do. We should be working to make sure that it remains an honourable career, but safe at the same time.
As I've often done at these meetings, I have to compliment Mr. Baker for bringing us back to the central focus that we should be discussing.
I know all members of the committee want to improve the armed forces. As we're debating bringing in new material that's important for the report, including information from survivors and experts, I'm sure all committee members are thinking about what recommendations should deal with these complex problems.
As I've said—and Mr. Baker said at the beginning of most meetings—the three fundamental problems are: culture change; fear of reporting, partly because of the role of the chain of command; and fear of reprisals for reporting. I talked about the latter at the last meeting. If you've picked such an honourable career, why would you want a reprisal to affect you in that career?
I compliment everyone who his going to speak today. There have been very courageous women in Quebec and the rest of Canada who brought forward these stories. Mr. Baker mentioned one of them. I compliment every committee member today who will speak about how we can deal with these complex issues, the problems that have resulted in thousands of misappropriate actions in the military, and dealing with the three items that I just mentioned.
Later on, I will go through my position on those recommendations that I believe would help with these very complex and serious problems, As I mentioned, obviously, the present members and potential future members of the military, and sometimes DND, really want these issues addressed, as well as solutions that will deal with the thousands of people involved in the military and DND.
I will talk about those recommendations later. My intervention will be short, and I'll save my other information for later.
We've had many experts and editions to help us formulate those recommendations. I'm only going to read a paragraph here, but it's from a report entitled “Unmaking militarized masculinity”. It's a long report, well over 10 fine print pages, which I'm not going to read at this time. I'm going to read the abstract, so that people at least have a reference to it as they think about what recommendations we should make.
It's written by Sarah Bulmer of the University of Exeter at Penryn, UK., and Maya Eichler from the Department of Politics and the Canada research chair in social innovation and community engagement at Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The abstract begins:
Feminist scholarship on war and militarization has typically focussed on the making of militarized masculinity. However, in this article, we shed light on the process of ‘unmaking’ militarized masculinity through the experiences of veterans transitioning from military to civilian life. We argue that in the twenty-first century, veterans’ successful reintegration into civilian society is integral to the legitimacy of armed force in Western polities and is therefore a central concern of policymakers, third-sector service providers, and the media. But militarized masculinity is not easily unmade. We argue that in the twenty-first century, veterans' successful reintegration into civilian society is integral to the legitimacy of armed force in Western polities and is therefore a central concern of policymakers, third-sector service providers, and the media. But the militarized masculinity is not easily unmade.
I think everyone on the committee would agree with that.
The abstract continues:
They may have an ambivalent relationship with the state and the military. Furthermore, militarized masculinity is embodied and experienced, and has a long and contradictory afterlife in veterans themselves. Attempts to unmake militarized masculinity in the figure of the veteran challenge some of the key concepts currently employed by feminist scholars of war and militarization. In practice, embodied veteran identities refuse a totalizing conception of what militarized masculinity might be, and demonstrate the limits of efforts to exceptionalize the military, as opposed to the civilian, aspects of veteran identity. In turn, the very liminality of this 'unmaking' troubles and undoes neat categorizations of military/civilian and their implied masculine/feminine gendering. We suggest that an excessive focus on the making of militarized masculinity has limited our capacity to engage with dynamic, co-constitutive, and contradictory processes which shape veterans' post-military lives.
I won't get into the rest of that report at this time.
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Lib. (YT)
What I want to do before going into a lengthy paper or, as I said, going into all the recommendations I would have is to talk about a way in which we might be able to get some things forward fairly quickly. I'm just thinking off the top of my head.
From the experts and from the victims we've heard from—and I'm looking forward to hearing more from Mr. Baker—obviously the facts are the facts, and the situation is the situation. There are certain things that come up over and over again that obviously should be done, or that have been suggested by the experts and survivors that should be done.
I think that because of our common cause and the common facts that have come up in this way at great length, there should be a number of things that we can all agree on. What reports reflect is what the witnesses said. It's pretty hard to disagree with that in the reports.
Recommendations evolve from what the witnesses and the experts have told us. We should be able to come to an agreement on a lot of that.
I'm just thinking off the top of my head, and I'm looking forward to hearing what other people think of this idea. I'm not sure exactly how to word it yet. If we were to go through recommendations very quickly, one at a time, and just have a vote as to whether they could be dealt with in the way Mr. Bezan has proposed, if there was unanimous consent on each particular motion, on those motions—and I personally think there should be a lot of them that we could all agree on—then we would deal with them in the way that Mr. Bezan has outlined in his motion.
Then we would get through all of those things relatively quickly and have things to show, and then on the difficult ones that we can't all agree to have a quick decision on, we could go into debate.
My assumption—and I might be wrong—is that there are a lot of things we can agree on, but there are obviously, as there always are in committees, a number of items that need some more detailed debate.
I will just leave that idea, that proposal, to go quickly through all of the recommendations, find out what we could unanimously agree on, go through Mr. Bezan's proposal of a couple of minutes per committee member, and take care of those recommendations. Then for what's left, what we couldn't agree on and deal with quickly, we would debate at length.
In that way, we would have some production, some answers for the victims, relatively quickly, and then we would have other things that we would be debating at length.
I'll just leave that suggestion. That's one of the reasons I didn't want to go into all of my suggestions and recommendations or a lengthy report right now. I want to make possible that way for everyone to move forward together to help the victims. I'll leave it at that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
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Lib. (YT)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I just want to thank some of the members, now that these meetings have been extended, for the tremendous amount of additional information they've provided. Mr. Spengemann, for instance, provided information from other cases where these studies have been done.
In response to Mr. Baker's question as to what we will have achieved, we now have a tremendous record of data and information that those working on this, including Madam Arbour in the future, can use to come up with actions and recommendations that still need to be done at that time. Certainly if this committee can't come up with some recommendations, I will be inputting my recommendations, and we certainly have a lot of backup from experts and survivors to make those from.
Before I get on to my input on what I think the recommendations should be, if this is the only chance I get to do that, I did want to say that Mr. Garrison made a good point. I think it would be fair for committee members to know how long the opposition is going to debate this inappropriate motion, when they could adjourn the debate or the meeting so that we could either get on with the report or get on with other important business. It would be good for committee members to know when the opposition plans to bringing back unreasonable motions related to, for instance....
We had one email that was reported within 24 hours. No one knows what's in it because the member didn't want that, and the report and the investigation was done and completed very quickly. Why would we have motions to bring back witnesses whom we've already heard from for up to six hours, etc.? It would be fair for the committee to know when the opposition members are going to stop bringing forward these things and causing these delays and stopping us from getting to the report.
Also, the committee members, before they move on, would obviously have to know why the opposition members are suggesting no response from the government. My understanding of what committees do is that they investigate with expert witnesses and study a topic and make recommendations for the government to act on. Why do the three opposition parties not want the government to act? Why do they not want a response to the report? It would be good to hear that. Obviously, we have to hear that before we can go on to Mr. Garrison's request.
Also, the response, as Mr. Baker said, to my idea, if I didn't make it clear enough, is a compromise from this apparent stalemate that's stopping us from getting to the report. The compromise would be that we could start right away on the items we agree on or go through every recommendation to see which ones we can agree to go through the Bezan procedure on, with a couple of minutes on each, so we would have some things we could tell the victims. As Yvan said, we could be proud we had items to move forward on. Then we would go back, and the things we couldn't agree on the committee could have the normal debate on those.
Of course, as Ms. Vandenbeld mentioned, we also have this whole Fish report, with a lot of valuable information we can get into. If we can't get into it through a reasonable route through the committee, then we would have to bring that into this debate.
Just to give time for the opposition parties to think about my compromise and to make some comments on that and on why there's no response from the government, I will, as I said earlier today, go on with some of the things that I think should be in the report if this is the only time I get to say them.
First, I would assume that all members from all parties would really want to have their input into the recommendations, but not necessarily under the conditions of this motion. One of the items would be, because there are suggestions that the effects, the results, of investigations depend on.... Before I get into that, I just wanted to say, also related to some of the points Mr. Garrison made, that he seems to have a slightly different view from the views of other committee members on the emphasis on a particular part of our report being on political accountability. If that's true.... That's fine. That's his view. But if that's true, then, of course, as we all know, since we started our reports, there have been at least three detailed inputs—and one was very recent—of evidence suggesting that the political accountability is at the time of the appointment of General Vance.... There is a recent one of, let's say, June 1. I'm not sure if Mr. Garrison has seen that, but I could read it into the record. I won't right now because I want to stay on the important things of culture change, the fear of reporting and the chain of command.
Really, if anyone wants to deal with the political accountability, that's obviously, from the facts that have come out very recently, where it would be at, but I want to stay on the things that would help the survivors. As I said, there has been input suggesting that the effect of investigations or reprisals or sexual misconduct is different between genders and ranks—junior and senior—so I think that data should be disaggregated, collected and analyzed as much as possible to help our decision-making or our recommendations or Madam Arbour's recommendations. I will certainly pass that on if I can't do it through the committee.
Another item would be that we want to make sure that the recommendations or the procedures we come up with are really ensuring that the wants and needs of those impacted by sexual misconduct and other forms of non-inclusion—the minister has been very strong on those other forms of non-inclusion—should be the guiding principle for research, policy and program services and benefits. There have been some suggestions.... I can't remember which report it was in now, but the administrative directives, I think it was suggested, were not centred around the survivors and around those victims. They were more centred around protecting the system. That's why I think a recommendation along those lines would be valuable.
I also think, of course, that to help Madam Arbour the CAF needs to do a strategic review of the existing processes, including oversight from the beginning to the end, with a trauma-informed, survivor-centric-informed lens, similar to the first item I talked about.
Also, I think there needs to be, in our recommendations or in our report, the trauma awareness. Some of that has come out through what Mr. Baker said today, but also from the many other victims who we've heard and who have come to us either individually or through the committee, or who you've heard even in the media and, from that, we have to respect that trauma affects the dignity of the impacted individual and that trauma is not short term.
It's not dealing with something where there's a penalty to the perpetrator and it's all over. This type of trauma will be in a person's mind quite often for the rest of their lives. Somehow that needs to be reflected in the report, as the witnesses have said, and the seriousness of the recommendations we make need to deal with that point.
I also think we need to recognize that, although the majority of times it affects women, as we heard from at least one witness, it's not just women who have been victims of this type of trauma.
I also want to talk about the support systems. As I said before, I'm a little hesitant to talk at length about support. I think we should concentrate more on eliminating the problem so that we don't have to have the support. Obviously when you have—as Mr. Garrison and I outlined in detail—hundreds of cases, we'll still need support, and we'll need support for situations that went on long before we studied this situation, because they can be long lasting.
Part of that support that the victims have asked for is a peer support network, which exists in other places. It should be tailor-made for the military under the special circumstances—and I know that military members of the committee would understand this—so that there can be a support network for a victim to discuss with other victims how to move forward.
Also, I think the seriousness of these types of injuries should really be defined as a full operational stress injury and identified as such within the scope of the federal framework on PTSD. I think that would give it more.... It would put it in a more serious light, where it should be.
Another area where I think we need a recommendation is on the attributes of an ideal soldier. It should be modernized to reflect the realities of the 21st century military needs, including an examination of the CAF's presently dominant heteronormative, white European background, assumed masculine culture. The values and attributes of the ideal soldier and the impact this norm has on sexual misconduct reporting must be critically examined.
Another area that we heard numerous times was related to the requirements or the things that help lead to promotions: what's considered, what would be considered, how that should be updated, the rewards of taking the appropriate actions and not taking inappropriate actions. All of these need to be discussed. I don't think any member of the committee thinks there shouldn't be a serious discussion on this type of issue.
I have a whole bunch more, but I think I will save them...except for one that I mentioned before.
I think it will take a more lengthy debate by committee members, because it hasn't been really talked about by members other than me. How do reprisals fit into the system, in either the code of conduct or in offences, even?
Obviously, reprisals—whether overt or not overt—have occurred in the past, but where is it listed that that's inappropriate, that it's an offence, that there's a result of having that offence on your record? I think if that were prohibited, it would certainly help many more victims come forward with the reports, as the recent report—
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Lib. (YT)
Thank you.
Just to recap where we are, we've been about 58 hours and 49 minutes on this very important topic. We found out about systemic, inappropriate sexual conduct in the Canadian military. We've had many, many witnesses and heard sad testimony from survivors. This has been going on for decades upon decades, and we certainly need very complex and important action to try to turn the tide of this.
The major items we heard from the experts and from survivors were on culture change, which I'm sure we'll be hearing more about today, and the fear of reporting, partly because of the order of the chain of command and the fear of reprisals in that, if you do report, it could affect the honourable career that you've chosen.
That's why I hope we can get to the report as soon as possible to deal with all these very serious issues in the military and do what we can as part of helping the survivors.
The department and the minister have already taken action by appointing Madam Louise Arbour, and a number of steps are being taken. In the previous meeting, I went over almost an hour on things that have been done already, but obviously, more needs to be done, and we could certainly be part of that if we could get to a report right away.
I think the purpose of the report would be for the department and the minister to make the changes we're talking about. I don't imagine there's any member of the committee who does not want those changes that we recommend to be made or to be taken seriously, and the government should respond to them.
Somehow that isn't the case in the present motion, so I'm going to propose an amendment that the government has to respond to the things we're suggesting, the things the survivors have suggested and the things the experts have suggested, which could be a very productive report.
We want to make sure—and I'm sure all committee members do—that the government takes action and that the minister takes action on the items that survivors and experts have recommended could help the department move forward so it would be a safe working environment for members of both the CAF and the department.
The amendment I propose is to remove the first part of (b)(iv), which says, “the committee declines to request, pursuant to Standing Order 109, that the government table a comprehensive response...”
I would add “that pursuant to Standing Order 109, the government table a comprehensive response to the report”.
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Lib. (YT)
Just so people know, I'm amending subparagraph (b)(ii) of Mr. Bezan's motion to ask that the government provide a response to our report.
Just before I do that, I want to remind people that at the last meeting I threw out a suggestion of how we could proceed with the things we agreed on and leave the difficult things and then do them after. I haven't heard any objections to that from the opposition, but I'll leave that out there.
Related to my amendment, we want to make change. We're serious about making change. This is really a good point at which the committee could actually have influence and we could make that change.
We have a minister who, time and time again, has said that everything is on the table, that he wants to make the changes, that he wants to hear from us what those changes should be. We have an acting chief of the defence staff who has said he's very willing and eager to make changes and even agrees to take “outside” advice and do things outside the military chain of command.
These are dramatic, huge types of changes that will be required if we're really going to have an effect on what's been a sticking problem, not only in our military but in other militaries, as Mr. Spengemann has outlined in good detail.
Any problem like this requires complex and very thoughtful recommendations, which I hope we can get to soon, but change is major and, as everyone who has been around here long enough knows, change is difficult. It's not in human nature or organizational nature to make changes.
We would want the department and the government to offer a response to any recommendations we make. The whole purpose of our doing a report is that there would be changes. I don't think any members of the committee would not want changes or would want the minister and the government not to respond to our suggestions for these changes in terms of what they are going to incorporate out of what we're recommending.
It's sort of standard procedure when committees do reports to ask the government to respond to show that it is taking our recommendations seriously and is making changes that can really make life better for members of the military and make it a better option for people to choose. They should be able to choose that honourable career without fear of inappropriate sexual conduct, and all members should be able to carry on equally in one of the most honoured professions available to Canadians, one that is so essential to preserving our security.
I will leave it at that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
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Lib. (YT)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I think we're still waiting for the opposition to respond on a couple of items. It would be only fair to hear from them before we were to vote on them.
One is the proposal I made last week, to get to the report. As Mr. Spengemann just said, it's so important to get to the report and stop this stalling with inappropriate motions by Mr. Bezan.
The proposal I had made was that we use Mr. Bezan's process to go through all the recommendations and see which ones we could unanimously agree to, which we will use Mr. Bezan's process on and get those done. They would be done relatively quickly. We would have a substantive report that would help the survivors, that would give the defence department and the minister direction, and, if my amendment passes, they would have to respond to that.
Then, we would continue and deal with those items that, as in any committee, we're not fully in agreement on and have those hard discussions. I haven't heard any negative feedback from the opposition on that proposal, but we'll wait to see what their thoughts are on getting to the report right away.
The other item that we're waiting to hear from the NDP and the Bloc on is this amendment. It's as if they think that the government shouldn't respond. We don't know that, and I think it would be unfair to go to a vote.
I have to apologize for making this motion without their knowing in advance. If we have to wait until the next meeting for them to think it out, that's fine. I understand that.
A government agenda is tremendously complicated. No matter who's in government, there are all sorts of things lined up to get on the order table, to get done by committees. I think Madam Vandenbeld earlier today explained all the things related to the defence of Canada that are waiting in line on our committee. This is the one time when we have the leadership at CAF and the leadership in the minister's office.... We have a slot in time where we could actually make a difference.
Through my previous suggestion, or another way, and through this amendment, hopefully we could get to a report right away. The opposition could stop making that not possible. We could go to the report right away and come up with some substantive things to help survivors and make the department a much better place to work.
I, too, have to respond to what Mr. Bezan said. First of all, the purpose of Standing Order 109 is to give the government time. As many members have mentioned, and I've certainly mentioned, these are serious, very in-depth, complicated recommendations in which any government that's thoughtful would take the time to go over, analyze and come up with a response—not in a few minutes after a surprise concurrence motion is called.
I think it's very important to ask the government to think out and make a response so that we know, and that the survivors know that what they've said, and what the government is responding, shows they're being taken seriously.
I agree with Mr. Spengemann. I thought it was shameful that Mr. Bezan suggested that hearing the witness statements was not the most important item, that it was not critical. Obviously, we have a difference of philosophies here. What's to be emphasized in this report, or what's the most important part, from my perspective, and I think from some of my colleagues', is the survivors and the experts providing suggestions as to how we deal with the systemic problem that's affecting thousands of members of the CAF.
Mr. Bezan seems to think the emphasis should be on the problem with General Vance. The problem with Mr. Bezan's.... That's his right. He wants to concentrate on General Vance's problems, but what he hasn't done is admitted that what the evidence has shown is that the most serious problem with Mr. Vance was at his appointment.
We found out that there were two serious.... First of all, before that, in 2018, there was an anonymous email. The person didn't want to be identified, so nothing could come out of it. It was investigated within 24 hours as much as it could have been. The information was kept confidential, as the member of the CAF wanted, so that was totally taken care of.
There were many witnesses called about that anonymous email, which they couldn't say anything about or didn't know what was in it. We spent all that time on that in many meetings. I believe the survivors would really not think we were taking the survivors' situations and the situation in the military seriously if—
View Larry Bagnell Profile
Lib. (YT)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
At the last meeting we heard a shocking revelation that had just come in that committee meeting, and it was that a member of our committee, during this study that we're doing on sexual misconduct in the military, did not think the committee should be hearing testimony that had been given by victims.
To not hear testimony given by victims, that's incomprehensible.
I'm sure there are other committee members who were just as shocked as I was about not reviewing testimony given by witnesses. What could be more important on this study? I could just imagine what some victims might be feeling when their testimony was being read at committee, and a committee member said, that's not what we should be discussing. It was just not any committee member; it was a senior member.
I think that really provides a stark divide between committee members.
As I have said so many times, and I believe there are other members who feel the same way, we should be taking the testimony of victims and experts and recommending solutions. Not reviewing and using the testimony of victims in designing a report is incomprehensible.
I wonder what brave victims who came forward think when they are told we shouldn't be using their testimony and we should spend weeks upon weeks of our time on an anonymous email that no one was allowed to see, while actually we have real victims—
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