Ethical Scenario Commentary - Getting what you want

The Maple Leaf
January 2017

The October Ethically Speaking scenario was about the fictional Captain Finch-Ouellette abiding by the DND and CF Code of Values and Ethics, and how they applied to a charitable campaign.

Interpretation of these principles and values should always be made in relation to their intent, and clearly the intent of the current policies is to restrict the use of DND and CAF resources when it comes to fundraising for charities. In the end, military equipment has been acquired to fulfill mandated missions of DND and the CAF and is not to be used as a means of fundraising.

There are instances, however, such as provision of services, where a commanding officer can decide to use his or her personnel and materiel to support the activities of charitable or civil society organizations in the community, to help raise money or to foster public support. But these mechanisms are framed by policies and regulations to ensure accountability for their use, and this aligns with the principles of the DND and CF Code of Values and Ethics, which is to respect the dignity of all persons, to serve Canada before self, and to obey and support lawful authority. Several readers made this observation, with one reader suggesting that Capt Finch-Ouellette’s behaviour directly violates the ethical principle of respecting the dignity of all persons, which requires working together in a spirit of openness, honesty, and transparency.

Liberally interpreting policies, such as Capt Finch-Ouellette proposes to do in this case by using simulators or riding in CAF vehicles on a pay-per-use basis to raise funds, goes beyond the intent and permissibility of these policies. As one reader noted, the proposed actions of Capt Finch-Ouellette would be a clear violation of CANFORGEN 136/15: Charities, Solicitation, Sponsorships, Donations and Acceptance of Gifts, Hospitality and Other Benefits, which states in paragraph 3, “Government property can only be used for officially approved activities.

This prohibits the use of government property as fundraising tools.” The captain’s intent jeopardized the integrity and accountability of DND and the CAF.

The true ethical question beyond this is the use of the general intent of one’s superior in a manner that has not necessarily been intended by that superior. By stating outright that “the base commander told me personally this is what he wants and we must make it happen,” she knows her statement is false. Many readers noted this falsehood, with one reader suggesting her statement to the comptroller was patently dishonest as it implied that the base commander wanted the fast weapons skills simulator to be used in a fundraising scheme.

Capt Finch-Ouellette has attempted to cloak herself in the authority of the base commander who would have at least considered whether this was a good idea, especially once he or she became aware of the policies and the recommendation of the comptroller. She did not provide the base commander with a responsible choice: she decided to assume the authority of the base commander’s position to get what she wanted because she believed she was right.

At the very least, she should have verified with the base commander that this was his or her intent. If so, at that point, as one reader noted, a cost/benefit analysis regarding the use of the simulator for this purpose could have been conducted, the applicable policies reviewed, and the office of the JAG consulted—following all of which, an informed opinion as to whether to proceed or not could have been made by the command team. Instead, the captain chose not to act with integrity toward her superior or the comptroller.

The base commander relies on the subject matter experts under his or her command to remain well-informed of policies that must be adhered to. Capt Finch-Ouellette should have become acquainted with the applicable policies before proceeding.

Thank you to everyone who responded to this dilemma. Suggestions for future scenarios are always welcome.

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