CDS Message to Canadian Armed Forces on Harmful Sexual Behaviour

Article / July 23, 2015

Ours is a proud heritage of selfless service to Canada often under the most extreme conditions and for the most honourable of causes, the protection of our citizens and the security of our world. In so doing we assume enormous risks and many have made the ultimate sacrifice or have been left maimed and wounded. We face adversaries and danger every day, and there are many who would do us harm. It is therefore abhorrent to me that anyone would mistreat another by bringing harm or the fear of harm through assault or harassment. I lament the fact that there exist within our ranks those that would bully, degrade or assault others, especially another member of the CAF or a member of the Defence Team. Moreover, to attack the dignity of any member by sexual assault and harassment serves only to weaken our force when we need to be strong, and serves to make some feel less worthwhile when we know that everybody is important. Indeed, to treat each other well, to treat everybody with respect and honour is a military virtue and has always been a part of our culture. We must ensure it remains so.

I will not engage in any discussion or debate about the degree or severity of sexual misconduct in the CAF. It does not matter, for even a single incident is too many, and even unintentional harm or offense is unacceptable. This is a serious matter. Whether you are a leader, a subordinate or a peer, any form of harmful sexual behaviour undermines who we are, is a threat to morale, is a threat to operational readiness and is a threat to this institution. It stops now. Consider this my first order to all members of the CAF.

To those that have been the target of inappropriate sexual behaviour, the CAF will support you. We must ensure it does not happen again, and we will all respond to the need for change to ensure that respect and honour, cornerstones of our culture, are consistently upheld. I will lead you through this change.

I intend to see all of the recommendations stemming from the External Review on Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment (the Deschamps Report) implemented as rapidly and as effectively as possible. My senior leadership will be supported by the CAF Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct in furthering all efforts associated with the implementation of these recommendations.

While I recognize commanders at all levels have already begun to take action, providing initial guidance to their organizations, I will sign a CDS Operation Order shortly that will direct our collective actions. I see this as an operation and have chosen the name Operation HONOUR. The CAF have never failed on operations in the past, and we shall not fail now.

I have summoned all the General and Flag Officers and my commanders at the formation level, along with their CWOs, to a one-day, single issue CDS Commanders’ Seminar in August to lay out the way ahead.

Although we rely heavily on the chain of command to direct and see to the execution of tasks, it is leadership at all rank levels that is at the core of our culture, it is leadership that makes us tick, it is leadership that inspires, it is leadership that protects, it is leadership that teaches and encourages and it is leadership that will eradicate sexual misconduct from within our ranks. It is the business of us all to make sure that everyone who dons the uniform or who supports us feels valued, respected, confident and motivated. Predators and bullies who act contrary to the betterment and wellbeing of any in our ranks are neither useful in operations nor in garrison and are not welcome in the CAF.

You will see changes and announcements in the near future that will herald a significant improvement in how the CAF deals with persons affected by sexual misconduct. In the interim, anyone needing immediate emergency assistance should call 911. I encourage anyone who feels harassed or is a victim of inappropriate sexual behaviour to reach out to your chain of command or the Canadian Forces Military Police. If you have been subject to, or witnessed, an incident of sexual misconduct, you can also report directly to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.

In many cases, the first point of contact for a CAF member who is experiencing problems is their primary care physician at their local CAF clinic. Medical professionals will offer the necessary help or will refer you to a more appropriate resource. CAF chaplains are also trained to listen without judgment and to provide spiritual support if desired.

CAF members may also access the Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program or CFMAP. CFMAP is a voluntary, confidential counselling service that provides short-term (1 to 8 hours) counselling services for those in need of assistance. The service is available 24/7, is provided free of charge, and can be accessed by calling 1-800-268-7708. As well, CAF members may contact the CAF/DND Ombudsman’s Office for assistance. The Ombudsman’s Office is a direct source of information, referral and education. You can contact them by calling 1-888-828-3626 or ombudsman-communications@forces.gc.ca.

A CAF member’s family can contact the Family Information Line (FIL) for any support they may need as a result of the unique nature of military life. The FIL is confidential, personal and bilingual, providing supportive counselling 24/7 and can connect a caller with helpful national and local resources, including the local Military Family Resource Centre. Numbers are 1-800-866-4546 (International) and 1-613-995-5234 (Collect calls).

We are professionals. We rely on one another to see us through any and all challenges. This is no different. Let us all work together under the banner of Leadership, Respect and Honour to eliminate sexual misconduct forever.

I am proud to be your new CDS together we will ensure respect and dignity for all.

General Jonathan Vance

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