The Canadian military has decided to repeal a long-established regulation directing troops to report cases of misconduct, explaining that it’s been counter-productive and has harmed the victims.
“It’s really counterintuitive. We want to encourage people to report misconducts, but the effects of this regulation have been in fact counter-productive,” Lieutenant-General Jennie Carignan said in announcing the policy change on Aug. 30.
Lt.-Gen. Carignan is the Chief Professional Conduct and Culture overseeing cultural changes in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
The Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF said in a statement the move seeks to “restore relationships with members of the institution who have been harmed by sexual assault, sexual harassment or discrimination based on sex, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.”
The “duty to report” misconduct regulation was established in 1939 to define standards of expected behaviour for military personnel and to serve as a tool to uphold morale and discipline. DND now seeks to fully repeal it by winter.
The move follows recommendations on the issue, one of which was the Louise Arbour report of May last year.
Lt.-Gen. Carignan told reporters in a briefing that the regulation has become an obstacle to reporting incidents. She cited issues surfacing from reporting misconduct within the context of a team, which involve “very complex human factors.”
According to the lieutenant-general, another concern is that the victim loses control over their complaint. “As long as the individual is not ready to come forward with the complaint, or doesn’t feel safe, there’s a lot of obstacles to report the incident.”
Despite the duty to report misconduct, Lt.-Gen. Carignan said that since 1999, no soldier has been charged for failing to do so.
The Aug. 30 announcement follows a related change made by the CAF on Aug. 15, which allowed members to file a misconduct complaint directly with the Canadian Human Rights Commission. Previously, CAF personnel had to go through the organization’s grievance and harassment process.
They will now be able to choose which avenue to take, but CAF members and DND civilians are still encouraged to resolve problems like harassment informally and at the lowest possible level.
When cases cannot be resolved informally, the organization has set up a Conflict and Complaint Management Services centre to provide support and guidance.
Defence Minister Bill Blair said in a statement that repealing the “duty to report” is part of the “transformative change” being carried out in the CAF.
“We are listening to external experts and stakeholders, and most importantly, CAF members, to develop real solutions that address systemic challenges and will help build a more diverse and inclusive workplace,” he said.
The CAF has embraced social justice and principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) for its culture change. They previously told The Epoch Times that they’re in part drawing from critical race theory, a quasi-Marxist ideology, to guide the change.
“Diversity is a superpower,” Lt.-Gen. Carignan told reporters.
Amid the cultural change, the CAF is experiencing high attrition and low recruitment numbers.
An internal DND March report on the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) says that its ability to meet current and future posture and readiness requirements is “compromised.”
“Program data suggest the RCAF is experiencing a personnel crisis linked to both recruitment and retention,” says the report.
The DND report posits that increasing DEI could help improve RCAF readiness and reduce attrition, which is attributed in part to COVID-19, mobility considerations, and familial aspirations.
“The lack of adequate diversity and inclusion within the RCAF could be considered a hindrance to its readiness posture.”