Chief of the Defence Staff Message to Members on the External Review of Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces

Article / March 30, 2015

As you know, in April 2014, I ordered an independent external review to look into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces following a number of media reports on the subject and a subsequent Internal Review. I asked Madame Marie Deschamps, a former Supreme Court of Canada Justice, to conduct this independent external review, which she began in June 2014.

I received the English version of Mme Deschamps’ final report late last Friday. This is an important development and I would like to thank her for her insight and rigour in helping us understand the significance of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the CAF. During her review, she met with hundreds of CAF members and stakeholders across the country. Her perspective is invaluable in providing me with a clearer appreciation of the problem and what we, as an institution, must do to address it. 

You will remember that on February 25, 2015, I directed the establishment of the CAF Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct. This team, led by Major-General Chris Whitecross and supported by Chief Warrant Officer Helen Wheeler, will conduct a detailed review of the report and develop an action plan to address its recommendations. As I committed from the outset of this initiative, you will continue to be informed as we progress. Specifically, I will publicly announce the action plan and make the full report available to all CAF members once a comprehensive review of the report is complete.

Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West and I remind all CAF personnel that as a national institution, the Canadian Armed Forces must nurture a respectful, healthy and professional environment for all members. This responsibility extends beyond the workplace. The CAF’s continued success in operations across Canada and around the world in volatile, dangerous mission areas depends on the unwavering trust and cohesion amongst our members, regardless of gender, ethnicity, orientation or background. We are all brothers and sisters in arms the moment we take the oath to serve Canada, worthy of the same respect and dignity.

I will take this opportunity to reiterate that all allegations of inappropriate sexual behaviour are to be treated seriously at all levels of the CAF. Any member experiencing sexually demeaning or harassing behaviour of any kind, at work or off duty, has a range of options available to them. You do not have to approach your chain of command if you are not comfortable doing so. You can seek assistance from the military or civilian police, your local health clinic, your base chaplain, the CAF Member Assistance Program or the support network you are most comfortable with.

Our institution’s culture and legacy of personal and professional respect is non-negotiable. Everyone in uniform will be required to support and engage in the measures directed once our review of the report is complete.

General Tom Lawson
Chief of the Defence Staff

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