—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 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.
(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.
(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—