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Minister Bill Blair announces updates on culture change at DND and CAF

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence, provided an update on the implementation of external recommendations to advance meaningful culture change in the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF).  

Minister Blair announced that in response to Recommendations 1 and 2 in former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour’s Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR), the CAF is issuing interim policy guidance to abolish the definition of “sexual misconduct” from its policies and to include sexual assault as a standalone definition, referring to the Criminal Code as the applicable law. In response to these recommendations, the term “sexual misconduct” will be replaced with three new terms:   

  • “conduct deficiencies of a sexual nature”;  
  • “harassment of a sexual nature”;  
  • “crimes of a sexual nature”. 

“Sexual assault” will also be included as a distinct definition in relevant policies. These changes will provide better coherence and clarity, reduce confusion, and better capture the range of inappropriate conduct. 

Minister Blair also announced that the repeal of the Duty to Report regulations will come into effect on June 30, 2024, in response to Recommendation 11 of the IECR. Last summer, Minister Blair launched the process of repealing the Duty to Report regulations, after Madame Arbour found that they had created unintended negative consequences for survivors by taking away their agency and control in the reporting process. As Madame Arbour stated in the IECR, “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.” By repealing the Duty to Report, the Government of Canada is prioritizing trust and safety in reporting, and the agency and choices of victims, survivors, and affected persons.  

DND/CAF also released the Comprehensive Implementation Plan (CIP) – a detailed, five-year roadmap that indicates how the institution will address recommendations from four key external review reports. The release of the CIP comes after the External Monitor, Jocelyne Therrien, recommended the creation of an “overall strategic plan” setting out how the organization would move from one phase of the culture change effort to the next.   

This plan will help DND/CAF to ensure a deliberate, coordinated, and effective approach to addressing 206 recommendations from four reports, including:  

To date, DND/CAF has addressed 65 of the recommendations in the CIP, including 19 recommendations from Madame Arbour’s IECR. Notably, it is expected that all recommendations from the IECR will be addressed by the end of 2025.  

The CIP will drive institutional change. It was developed to prioritize, structure, and harmonize culture change work across the institution – and it reflects input and feedback received through extensive consultations with DND/CAF personnel, stakeholders, and external experts. Implementing the recommendations from these reviews will fostera safer, more inclusive workplace, where all members receive the dignity and respect that they deserve. 

“Every single person who comes to work at the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. To foster such an environment, we are making progress in implementing external recommendations. Today’s steps reaffirm our commitment to meaningful culture change. The work is not done – and we must keep going.”  

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence    

“This implementation plan reflects our organization’s commitment to a thorough and consistent approach to culture evolution. By following a rigorous process, we aim to continue to build trust and confidence that we’ll deliver on our commitment to further advance and implement meaningful and positive change. We aren’t interested in simply getting the job done; we need and want to get it right and set the conditions for continuous improvement.”   

Stefanie Beck, Deputy Minister of National Defence   

 “Being able to draw on the entire range of perspectives, experiences, and skills our country has to offer is crucial to our institutional success – which means we need every Canadian to be able to see the possibilities presented by a career in the Canadian Armed Forces. This means the evolution of our culture is both a moral and an operational imperative. We’ve put significant effort into understanding and working to meet the expectations of Canadians. Although we have more work to do, this implementation plan is a positive change towards creating a more effective organization.”  

General Wayne Eyre, Chief of the Defence Staff    

“This plan puts a solid structure in place for us to support our people. They are at the heart of our work to evolve the culture of our institution to help create a stronger and better Defence Team for everyone. We will continue to work with and for our members so that their concerns and ideas are reflected in our work.”  

Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan, Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture   

ADDITIONAL INFO

  • The IECR, led by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour, was launched in April 2021, to shed light on the causes of harassment and sexual misconduct in the CAF, by reviewing policies, procedures, programs, practices, and culture within the CAF and DND. The final IECR report, which was released on May 30, 2022, includes 48 recommendations for culture change reform.  
  • In December 2022, the Minister of National Defence directed the DND/CAF to move forward on all 48 recommendations.
  • In her final report, as part of Recommendations 1 and 2, Madame Arbour stated that the broad definition in the DAOD 9005-1 is “unhelpful” and “lacks coherence and clarity.” For this reason, she recommended abolishing the formal definition of “sexual misconduct” and bring its definitions regarding sexual offences in line with the wording of the Criminal Code.   
  • In December 2023, Minister Blair announced that DND/CAF was implementing IECR Recommendations 1 and 2, which requires the revision of key terminology, starting with the abolition of the definition of “sexual misconduct” from policy and including “sexual assault” as a standalone definition and referencing the Criminal Code.  
  • In response to IECR Recommendations 1 and 2, interim guidance and direction is being issued via a Canadian Forces General Message (CANFORGEN), notifying personnel of changes to Defence Administrative Order and Directive (DAOD) 9005-1 and other policies that will replace the definition of “sexual misconduct” with definitions for three new terms: “conduct deficiencies of a sexual nature”, “harassment of a sexual nature”, and “crimes of a sexual nature”. “Sexual assault” will also be included as a distinct definition in relevant policies. The CANFORGEN will remain in effect while DND/CAF works towards a comprehensive update of DAOD 9005-1 and other DAODs related to conduct.  
  • Through IECR Recommendation 11, Madame Arbour also recommended the exemption of sexual misconduct from the Duty to Report – and that consideration be given to abolishing it for all infractions under the Code of Service Discipline.   
  • In August 2023, Minister Blair announced that DND/CAF had begun a process to repeal the Duty to Reportto promote trust and safety in the reporting of misconduct. After careful consideration and consultations, Queen’s Regulations Orders articles 4.02(1)(e), 4.02(2), and 5.01(e), which are known as the “Duty to Report” regulations, have been repealed. This will come into effect on June 30.  
  • In preparation for the repeal of the Duty to Report regulations, DND/CAF has conducted an in-depth review of all relevant regulations, policies, directives, and orders to fully understand the impact of the repeal and to establish a plan. Over the coming months, CAF members can expect continued engagements to provide them with the necessary information and tools to make supportive and trauma-informed reporting decisions, while still upholding the highest standards of conduct, integrity, and ethics.  
  • The CIP was developed following a detailed analysis and cross-comparison of 206 recommendations from four key external review reports, including the IECR, that relate to DND/CAF culture.  
  • The CIP sets out a four-phase approach over five years (2023-2028) that considers real impact for people, organizational capacity to support requirements, stakeholder priorities, dependencies, and risks.   
  • As of December 2023, DND/CAF had implemented 53 recommendations in the first phase of the plan. As of today, 65 have been implemented.  
  • There are resources available to support current and former members of the Defence Team who have experienced or know someone who has experienced an incident of conduct deficiencies of a sexual nature, harassment of a sexual nature, and/or crimes of a sexual nature. The Sexual Misconduct Support and Resource Centre (SMSRC) provides 24/7 confidential support by telephone at 1-844-750-1648 and by email at DND.SMSRC-CSRIS.MDN@forces.gc.ca. A trained counsellor will take the call, listen, discuss the kind of resources best suited to the individual’s needs, and help with any next steps.  

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