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DND & CAF Advance Initiatives to Support Survivors and Deliver Meaningful Culture Change

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The Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) announced updates on their work to support survivors of sexual misconduct and to deliver meaningful culture change for DND employees and CAF members.

These updates focus on areas where broader culture change efforts are supported by programs that make a tangible difference for people affected by misconduct, build healthy teams, and help to prevent conflict. This progress demonstrates National Defence’s commitment to build an institution where all members of the team feel supported, protected, respected, and empowered to serve Canada.

The Sexual Misconduct Support and Resource Centre (SMSRC) is an independent organization that provides support services and referrals to currently serving and former members of the CAF and DND public service employees who are affected by sexual misconduct.

The SMSRC today announced the launch of its Independent Legal Assistance (ILA) Program intended for individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct. The first phase of the program provides reimbursements of eligible legal expenses incurred by individuals on or after April 1, 2019, as a result of experiencing one or more incident of sexual misconduct. This is an important step in addressing recommendation 14 of the Independent External Comprehensive Review, led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour.

Individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct and who have sought or are seeking legal assistance relating to the incident(s), either within the military or criminal justice systems, can submit a reimbursement application for up to four hours of legal information and advice. Legal fees for representation during criminal proceedings where a victim has the right to be represented by a lawyer may also be eligible for reimbursement. Those interested in applying for reimbursements may call the SMSRC’s 24/7 line at 1-844-750-1648 to speak with a counsellor who can provide additional information.

The ILA program is available to all serving members of the CAF, and other individuals who have experienced sexual misconduct by a CAF member. The program aims to facilitate access to legal assistance so that individuals can make informed decisions based on their specific circumstances, needs and goals. Reimbursements for eligible expenses will be provided while the SMSRC continues to develop the permanent program model in consultation with key partners, including people who have experienced military sexual misconduct.

The SMSRC is also officially expanding its services to Cadets, Junior Canadian Rangers and to family members of the wider Defence community, aged 16 and older. The SMSRC has also continued to expand its Response and Support Coordination program to have teams available in locations across Canada to provide regionally based services.

The Centre has also changed its name to the Sexual Misconduct Resource and Support Centre – fulfilling recommendation 12 of the Independent External Comprehensive Review, led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour. The SMSRC was previously known as the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre.

The Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture (CPCC) is the organization mandated to unify, guide and integrate culture evolution efforts across DND/CAF. An important element of CPCC’s work is preventing and addressing harmful behaviours. CPCC today highlighted three key programs that focus in on building healthy, effective teams: the Leadership Support Team, the Defence Team Coaching Program, and Restorative Services. These programs are designed to proactively prevent harmful behaviours and restore relationships, where possible, when misconduct has occurred. More information on the program updates can be found in our Backgrounder.

We are continuing to take action in response to the IECR led by Madame Arbour, and the Third Independent Review Authority to the Minister of National Defence, led by former Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish.

One of the most impactful IECR recommendations, Recommendation 5, calls for the removal of jurisdiction of the CAF over a number of criminal sexual offences. In December 2022, and in response to Recommendation 5, the Minister of National Defence directed officials to present options on how jurisdictional change can occur, in consultation with federal, provincial, and territorial partners. To address these matters, a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Deputy Minister-level committee has convened to inform the way forward.

Meanwhile, the Office of the Canadian Forces Provost Martial (CFPM) continues to work with civilian police partners across the country to move forward with the implementation of Mme Arbour’s interim recommendation to move the investigation and prosecution of these cases to the civilian system. Most recently, the Office of the CFPM has worked closely with the Ontario Provincial Police to implement a means for the referral of criminal offences of a sexual nature between these two organizations, similar to the work done with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Sûreté du Québec, and other police partners across Canada. We will continue to make progress on ensuring a smooth process for case transfers and supporting those who have experienced sexual misconduct in the military.

National Defence also continues work on Recommendations 28 and 29 of the IECR, including seeking out external experts to lead a comprehensive review of the military colleges. The Minister of National Defence will announce the members of the Canadian Military College Review Board in the coming months.

“Our efforts to support survivors and deliver meaningful culture change are moving full steam ahead. There is real momentum behind this mission – and I address my sincere thanks and admiration to all DND employees and CAF members who are contributing to these efforts. This mission is critical to Canada’s security, and we continue to make progress.” The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence

“The Sexual Misconduct Support and Resource Centre is proud to be launching the first phase of its Independent Legal Assistance program. We are committed to supporting anyone who has experienced military sexual misconduct. The ILA program is an integral part of the support services and resources we offer.” Linda Rizzo Michelin, Chief Operations Officer, Sexual Misconduct Support and Resource Centre

“Ensuring that we have an inclusive and respectful workplace enables the building of cohesive and strong teams. In a volatile and uncertain world, where learning and collaboration are required for success, high performing teams are only possible when individuals feel secure enough to contribute fully to readiness and operational effectiveness.” Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan, Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture

 

ADDITIONAL INFO

• In December 2022, Defence Minister Anita Anand presented a Report to Parliament, outlining the steps that the Government of Canada would take to respond to all 48 recommendations included in the final Report of the Independent External Comprehensive Review. DND/CAF continue to work on meaningful reform and culture change in response to the recommendations.

• On October 24, 2022, Defence Minister Anita Anand announced the appointment of Jocelyne Therrien as External Monitor to oversee DND/CAF’s efforts to address sexual misconduct and harassment on the Defence Team, delivering on IECR Recommendation 48.

• The SMSRC operates independently of the CAF chain of command. It provides support services to those directly or indirectly affected by sexual misconduct such as serving members of the CAF, former members of the CAF (veterans), DND public service employees, families and caregivers of the above, Cadets, Junior Rangers, and members of the Defence Team who support those affected.

• Budget 2021 provided $236.2 million over five years to expand the department’s work to eliminate sexual misconduct and gender-based violence in the military and support survivors. The funding included a proposal to enhance internal support services to victims, including access to free, independent legal advice and enabling affected individuals to access services without making a formal complaint.

• The creation of an independent legal assistance program formed part of the recommendations in the reports of the Third Independent Review Authority to the Minister of National Defence, the IECR Report, and the Survivor Support Consultation Group.

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