Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces Harassment Prevention and Resolution Policy

Link to External Site / April 15, 2014 / Project number: BG-13.052

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) do not tolerate harassment. The Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) policy on harassment prevention and resolution is based on the Treasury Board Policy and the Canadian Human Rights Act. The initial policy on harassment, introduced in 1988, was revised in 1993, 1995, and in December 2000. The current policy includes military personnel and civilian employees, and focuses on prevention and early resolution through alternate dispute resolution mechanisms.

The Harassment Prevention and Resolution Defence Administrative Order and Directive (DAOD) 5012-0 and the Harassment Prevention and Resolution Guidelines are comprehensive documents that emphasize harassment prevention and early resolution measures, specifying the rights and responsibilities of all parties.

This policy continues to make one fact clear: all DND employees and CAF members have the right to be treated fairly, respectfully and with dignity in a workplace free of harassment, and they have the responsibility to treat others in the same manner. It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure a harassment-free work environment.

The DND/CAF believe a work environment that fosters teamwork and encourages individuals to contribute their best effort in order to achieve Canada’s defence objectives is essential. Provision of a work environment that fosters teamwork is key to operational readiness and deployability. Mutual trust, support, and respect for the dignity and rights of every person are essential characteristics of this environment. Not only is harassment in certain forms against the law, but it erodes mutual confidence and respect for individuals and can lead to a poisoned work environment. As a result, operational effectiveness, productivity, team cohesion and morale are placed at risk.

In 2012, the DND/CAF initiated a review of the Harassment Prevention and Resolution Policy, and has been conducting stakeholder consultations. All DND/CAF policies are periodically reviewed to ensure their relevance and efficacy.

What is Harassment?

The DND/CAF define harassment as any improper conduct by an individual that is directed at and offensive to another person or persons in the workplace, and that the individual knew or thought reasonably to have known it would cause offence or harm. It comprises any objectionable act, comment or display that demeans, belittles, or causes personal humiliation or embarrassment, and any act of intimidation or threat. It includes harassment within the meaning of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

The Canadian Human Rights Act provides that every person in the workplace has a right to freedom from harassment based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, marital status, family status, disability, pardoned conviction or one in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered and sexual orientation. These are referred to as prohibited grounds.

Action and Education

The policy’s overall goal is to provide and ensure a respectful workplace by promoting prevention and prompt resolution of harassment. To help achieve these goals, the DND/CAF have established organizations responsible for harassment policy and training.

In addition, several other measures have been implemented to reduce the incidence of harassment. Harassment awareness training is in place for DND employees and CAF personnel. All CAF members receive harassment prevention and resolution training. All new recruits receive instructions and lessons on harassment prevention, units conduct annual briefings, and prior to deployment, many policies and guidelines, including harassment prevention and resolution, are addressed. As part of the DND Orientation Program, it is mandatory that new civilians take a harassment prevention and resolution course, and the Harassment Prevention and Resolution for Supervisors course is mandatory for new supervisors of civilians. Other courses are available through the Learning and Career Centres and the Canada School of Public Service.

Commanding Officers, Commanders and their civilian equivalents, which are known in the policy as Responsible Officers, have an overall managerial and leadership responsibility for ensuring a harassment-free workplace. Such responsibility includes leading by example in matters of appropriate workplace behaviour, the implementation of harassment awareness and prevention training programs, and the maintenance of a positive ethical climate. The Responsible Officers also appoint harassment advisors which are responsible to advise them on the harassment program and the complaint process, as well as assisting them in fulfilling their obligation to educate their personnel by conducting harassment awareness and prevention activities.

When harassment has occurred and/or a harassment complaint has been submitted, DND employees and CAF members are encouraged to resolve harassment issues at the most appropriate, lowest possible level, through alternative dispute resolution techniques. It is well recognized that early resolution and the use of alternative dispute resolution techniques often provides for quicker and more satisfying resolution to workplace conflict situations. These techniques may include addressing a situation directly (self-help), through supervisor intervention or through a mediation process. If the use of alternative dispute resolution techniques does not resolve the issue or is inappropriate, a formal complaint may be submitted. The Responsible Officer then determines though a Situational Assessment if the complaint meets the criteria for harassment, and then may launch an administrative investigation.

The Responsible Officers must deal with harassment complaints as quickly and impartially as possible, initially by engaging alternative dispute resolution techniques when appropriate. Incidents of a more serious or criminal nature are immediately referred to and investigated by the appropriate authorities.

For a member or employee found to have committed harassment, the Responsible Officers decides what administrative, restorative and/or disciplinary action is to be taken. For CAF members, administrative action can vary from a formal written reprimand, mandatory counselling and training, to removal from the immediate work place and may even include release (i.e. termination of employment). Improper conduct by a CAF member can also lead to administrative action through the Administrative Review process and may lead to a member’s release from the CAF.

In addition to the Harassment Prevention and Resolution Policy, the DND/CAF culture is shaped by the Defence Ethics Program. One of the key factors in preventing and dealing with harassment is the development and maintenance of a positive and supportive ethical climate. The ideal organizational foundation is one of respect for the rights and dignity of others, rather than fear of punishment. Creating this ethical foundation is a direct obligation of leadership. The Defence Ethics Program requires leaders to be ethical persons and to build ethical organizations. This program also outlines the basic ethical guidelines pertaining to respect, fairness, obligations for the welfare of others and accountability, that are necessary to mitigate harassment issues.


The DND/CAF are committed to educating their personnel and employees on the prevention and resolution of harassment situations, stressing the responsibility among leaders, managers and supervisors for creating and maintaining a positive, harassment-free workplace, and responding quickly to problems that arise. The Department expects that all members and employees are familiar with the harassment policy and apply its principles that strive towards the goal of eradicating harassment and unlawful discrimination from its workplace.

Even one incident of harassment is one too many, and the DND/CAF will continue to enhance harassment prevention efforts at all levels in the organization.

For more information on the Harassment Prevention and Resolution Policy, please refer to the DAOD 5012-0.


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