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Defence Minister Bill Blair Initiates Repeal of Duty to Report Regulations

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A top priority for the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is fostering an environment where people affected by misconduct feel safe, supported, and able to report misconduct on their own terms. Today, the Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, announced that DND and the CAF are initiating a process to repeal the regulations on Duty to Report and will be strengthening and updating policies, orders, and directives to ensure appropriate reporting. Repealing the Duty to Report regulations addresses Recommendation #11 of the Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR), led by Louise Arbour, as well as recommendations received in other external reviews.

Repealing the Duty to Report is an important step in our efforts to restore relationships with members of the institution who have been harmed by sexual assault, sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation. While the Duty to Report was designed to promote good order and discipline among CAF members by requiring them to report misconduct to the proper authorities, it has created unintended negative consequences for survivors by taking away their agency and control in the reporting process. As Madame Arbour stated in her report, “experience has shown that the duty to report has not achieved its intended purpose and, worse, has served only to terrorize and re-victimize those it was meant to protect.”

Repealing the Duty to Report regulations will not limit a CAF member’s ability to report their own experiences of misconduct, nor will it prevent appropriate reporting. This change simply removes the general legal obligation of CAF members to report misconduct, thereby providing space for a more survivor-centric, responsive, and evidence-informed approach. The repeal will help DND/CAF move away from a one-size-fits-all approach to misconduct and we will provide a more focused, responsive, and evidence-informed approach to the reporting of misconduct to support consistency, optimize outcomes, and rebuild trust. Removing the obligation to report will create space for members to exercise discretion and choose the best path forward. There are many existing tools designed to help members make decisions that are in line with our high ethical standards. These tools include the CAF Ethos: Trusted to Serve, the Code of Values and Ethics, and the Code of Service Discipline.

As always, our priority is the health and safety of our members, and we encourage those who have been affected by misconduct to report incidents when they are ready and feel safe to do so. The stress of reporting should not prevent someone from getting the care and support that they need, and we will continue to work diligently to eliminate barriers to reporting.

Before the repeal comes into force during Winter 2023-24, DND/CAF is undertaking a holistic and in-depth review of all relevant regulations, policies, directives, and orders to identify what amendments or refinements may be required to address any issues flowing from the repeal. The review is considering the entire range of misconduct and seeks to address potential risks through the development of alternative mechanisms.

This process will also include targeted consultations with persons with lived experiences and relevant subject matter experts both internal and external to DND/CAF. It will be completed prior to regulatory amendments coming into force.

DND/CAF will continue to pursue comprehensive institutional reform in response to Madame Arbour’s report, and in line with the direction provided by the Minister of National Defence’s December 2022 Report to Parliament, which outlines the steps that the Government will take to address the IECR recommendations.

“Fostering a safe and respectful workplace for all Canadian Armed Forces members is my utmost priority. Today’s announcement further demonstrates our commitment to making meaningful and transformative change. We are listening to external experts and stakeholders, and most importantly, CAF members, to develop real solutions that address systemic challenges and will help build a more diverse and inclusive workplace.” The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence

“We must foster a culture where survivors, and all those affected by misconduct, feel safe, supported, and able to report wrongs on their own terms. As we repeal the Duty to Report, we will continue to encourage our members to use other available tools to appropriately assess and report misconduct. Ultimately, we must ensure that we provide everyone in our institution with a safe and inclusive workplace. Not only because this is what Canadians rightly expect—our members deserve no less and it’s simply the right thing to do.” General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff

“For incidents of an interpersonal nature, where the risk of trauma is higher, the victims and survivors need to have some measure of control over whether and how the incident is reported, and the actions taken. Repealing the Duty to Report regulations will help us move away from a one-size-fits all approach to misconduct that has had unintended consequences for affected persons. This change will not limit a member’s ability to report incidents in any way. Our intent is simply to create space for members to exercise discretion and choose the best path forward, with due consideration for the well-being of those impacted.” Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan, Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture

 

ADDITIONAL INFO

• The Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR), led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, was launched in April 2021 to examine the causes of harassment and sexual misconduct in the CAF through a review of policies, procedures, programs, practices, and culture within DND/CAF.

• Recommendation #11 from Madame Arbour’s May 2022 final IECR report directed DND/CAF to consider abolishing Duty to Report for all infractions subject to the Code of Service Discipline.

• In December 2022, Minister Anita Anand presented a Report to Parliament in response to the IECR report which outlined the steps the Government of Canada would take to respond to all 48 of its recommendations, including the establishment of a Duty to Report working group, led by the Chief Professional Conduct and Culture (CPCC).

• After careful consideration and consultations, DND/CAF recommended that the Minister of National Defence direct DND/CAF to initiate a repeal of QR&O articles 4.02(1)(e), 4.02(2), and 5.01(e).

• DND/CAF continues to work on meaningful reform and culture change in response to all recommendations.

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