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Minister Blair appoints Michelle Douglas as the CAF’ Honorary Colonel for Professional Conduct and Culture

Flag of Canada on the military uniform. Canadian soldiers. Army of Canada. Remembrance Day. Poppy day. Canada Day.

The Minister of National Defence, the Honourable Bill Blair, has appointed Michelle Douglas as the Canadian Armed Forces’ first Honorary Colonel for Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture.

Ms. Douglas, a Carleton University graduate, is a veteran, retired public servant, and a survivor of the “LGBT Purge”, a term applied to the Government of Canada’s discriminatory practice and unjust treatment towards Two-Spirit, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and additional sexual and gender identities (2SLGBTQI+) federal public servants, including those in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). She served as an officer in the CAF for three years (1986-1989), when she was honorably discharged, despite a distinguished service record, for being deemed “not advantageously employable due to homosexuality”.

In 1992, Ms. Douglas launched a landmark legal challenge against the Department of National Defence that resulted in Canada ending its formal policy of discrimination against 2SLGBTQI+ members in the CAF.

Professionally, Ms. Douglas worked in the federal public service for three decades. She retired from the Department of Justice in 2019, where she held the position of Director of International Relations. Currently, Ms. Douglas, serves as the Executive Director of the LGBT Purge Fund, an organization that supports reconciliation and memorialization projects relating the purge.

Ms. Douglas has received several awards recognizing her incredible commitment to Canadians and inclusion, notably the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the Canada Pride Citation, and was the inaugural recipient of the Public Service Pride Network Pioneer Award.

Honorary Colonels may be former CAF members or distinguished Canadians who help to foster esprit de corps within the CAF and greater community. Through their established relationships and ongoing work, they build and develop community support by enhancing the public profile of the CAF.  

 

Quotes   

“For decades, Michelle Douglas has stood up for what is right and fought to build a more inclusive Canada where everyone is treated with respect and fairness. Her extraordinary commitment to all citizens of this country, especially 2SLGBTQI+ communities, make her the perfect Honorary Colonel to advance culture change at National Defence and in the Canadian Armed Forces. I thank Ms. Douglas for taking up this role, and I look forward to working with her to build a safe and healthy work environment where everyone can reach their full potential.”

The Honourable Bill Blair, Minister of National Defence     

“My organization, Chief, Professional Conduct and Culture, is extremely honoured to welcome Michelle Douglas as our first Honorary Colonel. Her heroic efforts to raise awareness of and bring an end to the purge of 2SLGBTQI+ Canadian Armed Forces personnel have had a lasting and powerful impact on Canadian society and our institution, in particular. Her willingness to put on a uniform again and engage in a collaborative relationship is an inspiration to us all.”

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

 

Minister Blair noted that substantial progress has been made over the past year, and that 19 of the IECR recommendations will be implemented by the end of 2023. This includes the ability to take complaints for sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of sex directly to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, as well as the function and reports of the External Monitor. Minister Blair announced that DND/CAF is implementing recommendations 1 and 2, which require the revision of key terminology, starting with the abolition of the definition of “sexual misconduct” from policy.

Quick Facts 

• The Independent External Comprehensive Review (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 was released on May 30, 2022. 

• Exactly one year ago, on December 13, 2022, the Minister of National Defence presented a Report to Parliament on Culture Change Reforms in response to former Supreme Court Justice Arbour’s recommendations, where all 48 recommendations were accepted.  

• In November 2023, the External Monitor appointed to oversee the progress of DND/CAF’s implementation of the recommendations in the IECR released her second status report, which provides observations on progress of all 48 IECR recommendations.

 

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