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Minister Anand Updates Parliament on Reforms to Address Sexual Misconduct

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In May 2022, former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour provided the Minister of National Defence with recommendations to address these issues and better support survivors. In response, Defence Minister Anita Anand tabled a report in Parliament that outlines the reforms that will be implemented to address each one of Madame Arbour’s recommendations.

In particular, Madame Arbour’s final report, which Minister Anand welcomed in May 2022, provides 48 recommendations to effect transformative change in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF). Since receiving her report, DND/CAF analyzed, undertook consultations, and provided options to Minister Anand on the path forward. Pursuant to Recommendation 47, the report tabled in Parliament today serves as Minister Anand’s official response to all of Madame Arbour’s recommendations. As outlined in the report, Minister Anand has rejected none of the 48 recommendations and has directed DND/CAF to move forward on all of them. The report outlines the work undertaken to implement the immediately accepted 17 recommendations the steps that will be undertaken to address the remaining 31 recommendations, as well as ongoing and forthcoming DND/CAF culture change initiatives.

Madame Arbour’s recommendations range from issues such as the CAF’s definitions of sexual misconduct and harassment, to the mandate and responsibilities of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) to the jurisdiction of the CAF over a number of criminal sexual offences, to issues around recruitment, military training and colleges, and internal and external oversight mechanisms.

One of Madame Arbour’s recommendations, Recommendation 5, calls for the removal of criminal sexual offences from the jurisdiction of the CAF – both prosecutorial and investigative (with some exceptions) – stating that such cases should be investigated by civilian police forces at the earliest opportunity, and that they should be prosecuted exclusively in civilian criminal courts.

As stated in her report, Minister Anand has directed DND/CAF to implement Recommendation 5. As such, the Minister has asked DND/CAF to present options regarding how such jurisdictional change can occur, and to do so in consultation with federal, provincial, and territorial partners and other actors. The Minister has also further directed that the implementation of this recommendation address potential issues such as: the capacity for civilian police services to investigate historical cases; Canada’s obligations under international law; the ability of civilian authorities to investigate cases outside of Canada (including civilian police force capacity to deploy to conflict zones); and discrepancies in providing victims’ services between the civilian and military justice systems, among other things.

Since receiving Madame Arbour’s report in May, a series of other recommendations have been implemented, or are in the process of being implemented. For example, in October 2022, Minister Anand announced the appointment of Jocelyne Therrien as the External Monitor. Madame Therrien’s appointment and terms of reference, which require her to oversee DND/CAF’s efforts to address Madame Arbour’s other recommendations, satisfied Recommendation 48, and will provide crucial oversight going forward. In addition, changes to promotion and selection processes, beginning with those for general and flag officers, are underway. The SMRC has expanded its reach and services. And work to transfer the investigation and prosecution of Criminal Code sexual offence cases from the military justice system to the civilian justice system, per Madame Arbour’s interim recommendations in the fall of 2021, is continuing.

The need for meaningful culture change is clear. While progress has been made, much work lies ahead. As we move forward, openness and transparency will be crucial. This means that DND/CAF will continue to offer regular public briefings to parliamentarians and stakeholders on the progress that is being made, so that Canadians can hold those responsible for change to account.

Minister Anand is grateful to Madame Arbour and her team at Borden Ladner Gervais for their months of tireless work to produce their report which provides clear, transformative recommendations for reform. The Minister is grateful to DND/CAF members who spoke with Madame Arbour and her team – especially those who courageously shared their difficult experiences. Their initiative will help deliver a better institution for the next generation of sailors, soldiers, aviators, special forces, and defence civilian employees. Progress is necessary, possible and achievable and we must work towards it together.

“As Minister of National Defence, I frequently visit military bases in Canada and travel to visit our personnel deployed abroad. I have met with thousands of Canadian Armed Forces members and Department of National Defence employees – and I am deeply proud of them. My sincere hope is that every Canadian feels this same pride in the people who protect our country and who keep us safe. But, this can only happen if we rebuild lost trust by delivering transformative change. Culture change cannot happen from the top down. It will only succeed if it is a team effort, and it will continue to require the involvement and commitment of every DND employee and CAF member. I invite them all to take up this call to arms, and to pursue this mission with the same commitment and vigour for which they are known around the globe.” The Honourable Anita Anand, Minister of National Defence

“As I speak with our members and leaders at all levels, I see a strong desire for change with my own eyes. Simply put, we owe it to our people to make serious changes—we owe it to our people to have confidence in their leadership and their reporting systems. Our ability to defend our nation depends on it, and our future operational effectiveness is predicated on forming diverse and inclusive teams where everyone is able to carry out their duties to the very best of their abilities. Change is absolutely necessary, and we will do so not only because it is what Canadians rightly expect of us, but ultimately because it is the right thing to do.” General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff

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