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SECD - Standing Committee

National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs


Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
National Security and Defence

Issue No. 29 - Evidence - Meeting of June 11, 2018

OTTAWA, Monday, June 11, 2018

The Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence, to which was referred Bill C-211, An Act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder, met this day at 1:34 p.m. to give clause-by-clause consideration to the bill; and to examine and report on Canada’s national security and defence policies, practices, circumstances and capabilities (Topic: sexual harassment and violence in defence and security institutions).

Senator Gwen Boniface (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, today we will be moving to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-211. At 2:30, we will be joined by the General Vance to talk about our study on sexual harassment.

Is it agreed that the committee proceed to clause-by-clause consideration of Bill C-211, An Act respecting a federal framework on post-traumatic stress disorder?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the title stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the preamble stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, stand postponed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 2 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 3 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 4 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 5 carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall clause 1, which contains the short title, carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the preamble carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the title carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Shall the bill carry?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Does the committee wish to consider appending observations to the report?

At this point, we can move in camera to discuss the text of those observations.

(The committee continued in camera.)

(The committee resumed in public.)

The Chair: Welcome back to the National Security and Defence Committee. Before we begin, I will ask my colleagues to introduce themselves.


Senator Dagenais: Jean-Guy Dagenais from Quebec.

Senator Boisvenu: Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu from Quebec. Welcome.


Senator McIntyre: Paul McIntyre, from New Brunswick.

Senator Griffin: Diane F. Griffin, Prince Edward Island.

Senator Oh: Victor Oh, Ontario.

Senator McPhedran: Marilou McPhedran, Manitoba.

Senator Jaffer: Mobina Jaffer, British Columbia. Welcome.

The Chair: This afternoon, we will be continuing our study on sexual harassment and violence in defence and security institutions. We are very pleased to welcome General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, who is accompanied by Dr. Denise Preston, Executive Director, Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

General Vance, we will hear your opening comments, after which we will ask you to take questions.

General Jonathan Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: I believe that Dr. Preston has some comments as well.

Good afternoon, Madam Chair, senators. I am very pleased to be here today with Dr. Denise Preston of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre.


I want to thank you not only for inviting me to speak to you, but also for your diligent work on the issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.


Following Ms. Deschamps’ landmark report on sexual misconduct and harassment in our institution, many of us, including myself, were shocked by the gravity and scope of the problem. As Canada’s defenders we are rightfully held to a higher standard than the general population, and it was hard for many of us to accept that we had fallen so short of that expectation.

Sexual misconduct is, at its core, a leadership issue. That is why upon becoming Chief of the Defence Staff in 2015, I accepted all 10 of Ms. Deschamps’ recommendations and launched Operation HONOUR. I deliberately chose to treat this as a military operation to ensure that it made sense to our people and to use the best parts of our culture to tackle and eliminate the worst parts of our culture.

I have since issued five additional written orders relating to sexual misconduct, including the requirement to integrate the Gender-based Analysis Plus framework into every level of our training, planning and operations.

Three years later, we are still grappling with the issue along with many other subcultures in our military. Sexual misconduct is deeply rooted in government, business, universities, the media, entertainment organizations and sports leagues. While this is entirely unacceptable, I see this as an opportunity for the Canadian Armed Forces to show decisive leadership and demonstrate to Canadians that we can and will succeed so that everybody can.


Today I will focus my remarks on the following three areas: prevention and reporting, victim support services, and justice.


I want to first qualify what constitutes sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. We break it down into four categories.

The first is inappropriate sexual behaviour, which includes sexually demeaning language and jokes, as well as displays of sexually offensive material not specifically targeted at an individual.

Second is sexual harassment, which includes unwelcome sexual invitations, unnecessary touching, leering at a person’s body, taunting, making sexually suggestive remarks, and displays of sexually offensive material specifically directed at an individual or group.

The third category is sexual assault, which includes unwanted sexual touching, sexual violence and non-consensual sexual activity.

And, finally, situations with Operation HONOUR nexus, including times when the complainant has yet to be determined or cannot be determined or cannot be disclosed.

These terms form the basis upon which the chain of command acts when made aware of a complaint or the basis upon which a complaint can be lodged by a victim.


Eliminating all forms of sexual misconduct and harassment has always been — and will continue to be — the end state of Operation HONOUR. To get there, we need to promote a culture where all our people feel safe and supported, especially those with the courage to report sexual misconduct.


We have undertaken considerable effort to make reporting sexual misconduct simple and efficient. We are implementing an integrated conflict and complaint management program to modernize how we deal with grievances, harassment complaints and conflict. We developed the program in close consultation with the SMRC and the Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct, who developed training that all staff are required to complete. Even before full implementation, the program has seen 883 complaints, 31 of which were related to Operation HONOUR.

Last year, there were a total of 427 reported incidents of sexual misconduct, 109 of which were investigated and closed, while 318 of those incidents remain under investigation. The majority of those cases were referred to either civilian police, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, or a harassment investigator.

I think it is important to highlight that a third party reported nearly half of these cases, and in many situations that person was in a leadership situation and first sought advice from the SMRC.

As a result of these incidents, we removed 35 people from command, leadership, instruction or supervisory duties. In another 99 cases, we took administrative action ranging from written warnings, repatriation of deployed personnel, removal from training and termination of a civilian contract.

These numbers are encouraging initial steps for a few reasons. First, more members feel confident we will address their complaints. Second, leaders are seeking out independent expert advice on how to deal effectively with sexual misconduct. It also means many of our members have less and less tolerance for any form of sexual misconduct, regardless of scale. Moreover, our support for the member is clear and unequivocal.

To better track and analyze these numbers, we introduced the Operation HONOUR tracking and analysis system. This tool standardizes reporting so that we can track incidents, identify trends and evaluate the effectiveness of our efforts.

In addition to better tracking, later this year, Statistics Canada will begin a second comprehensive survey of our members. We expect those results to be available in early 2020.


In the meantime, we have undertaken our own research on groups that were not included in the first Statistics Canada survey, including officer cadets and the Canadian cadet program. The ongoing “Unit Morale Profile” and “Your Say” surveys also show the vast majority of our members feel leadership takes sexual misconduct seriously and is reinforcing a culture of mutual respect, honour and dignity. The victim support study is gathering input from members who have experienced sexual misconduct so we have a better idea of what’s working and what’s not.


But prevention also goes beyond reporting and analysis. We have delivered bystander intervention training to more than 67,000 military and civilian employees. We also know that our newer members are more likely to engage in or be affected by sexual misconduct, which is why all new recruits and officers receive Operation HONOUR training. This way it is clear to all Armed Forces members that if they choose to engage in sexual misconduct, we will take away the privilege of wearing Canada’s uniform. If we cannot change their behaviour, we can certainly change their employment.

Despite our best efforts, sexual misconduct still happens. As Chief of the Defence Staff, my main concern is the welfare and morale of my personnel. I need to know that everyone has easy access to reliable and professional support services.


We have teams of mental health and medical professionals across Canada and the world who are always on call to provide specialized services to our members suffering from sexual trauma and abuse. Additionally, the Chaplaincy Branch’s sentinel program is a peer-support initiative that trains our people to look for signs of distress and connect struggling members with professional services.


I also recently ordered that all victims of sexual misconduct will remain in the Canadian Armed Forces so that they can keep accessing these services throughout their recovery, no matter how long it takes. If someone cannot continue their career with us, they will stay in uniform until all long-term support services are in place for their life outside the military.

Allowing victims to see us deliver justice is an essential part of the healing process. That is why our military police and justice system take a victim-centric approach that balances due process with efficiency.


When a member makes a criminal complaint of sexual misconduct, highly trained investigators from the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service take the lead. Within that branch, the Sexual Offence Response Team has 18 investigators who specialize in sexual misconduct investigations. Part of their mandate is to work closely with the investigators and share best practices with other investigators to help minimize investigative delays and ensure procedural correctness.


There are also major legislative changes coming to the National Defence Act and the Code of Service Discipline. As part of a broader program of military justice reform, the changes will create statutory rights for victims of service offences in four areas: the right to information about the progress of the investigation, prosecution and sentencing of the person who harmed them; the right to protection from intimidation and retaliation, as well as providing accusers with the option of public anonymity; the right to participation to ensure their views about the proceedings are considered throughout and that they are allowed to produce a victim impact statement; and the right to restitution to ensure courts martial consider reasonable financial compensation for any losses.

To help understand these new rights, the legislation intends to provide victims with a liaison officer, which goes a step beyond the Canadian Victims Bill of Rights.

Our overall conviction rate for sexual misconduct has been 87 per cent since we began Operation HONOUR. This puts our conviction rates higher than in the civilian justice system for both sexual assault and lesser offences, speaking to both the effectiveness and necessity of our military justice system.


We are only at the beginning with Operation HONOUR. I am proud of those leaders and members who have internalized this problem and work tirelessly to change our culture. But we still have a lot of work to do. There is no miracle solution that provides a recipe for success.


It’s not enough to rely on punishment and deterrence. In addition to policies, orders and training, we are in the process of adopting a significantly different approach that relies on active and engaged leadership at all levels. Leaders need to drive change by providing vision and a consistent personal example that empowers and inspires subordinates to set the conditions for the elimination of sexual misconduct.

My next steps are to formalize governance arrangements and policies to increase the rigour of our planning and analysis. This includes implementing a formal culture change model and developing a comprehensive performance measurement system, all of which will implicate the SRMC more than it is now.

We also need to share and integrate best practices with our public service leaders to better meet the needs of our civilian defence team members.

Our operational effectiveness depends or on our ability to attract the best and brightest from all walks of life and to employ them effectively. I want Canadians to know that a career in the military is one of life’s most rewarding experiences. We are doing everything in our power to ensure everyone courageous enough to join us has only to be concerned about one thing, and that is service to Canada.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

The Chair: Thank you. We will now go to Dr. Denise Preston.


Denise Preston, Executive Director, Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: Honourable senators, ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to thank you for inviting me, and for giving me the opportunity of giving you a global perspective of the operations and initiatives of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, within the context of responding to the problem of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.


Just over a year ago, I was selected to lead Victim Response and Support Operations at the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre. This appointment is the culmination of an extensive career at the Parole Board of Canada as a regional director general and with the Correctional Service Canada as a psychologist. I have 30 years of experience working with sexual, violent and mentally disordered offenders and with victims of sexual abuse and assault.

As the Executive Director of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, I am accountable to the Deputy Minister of National Defence for the delivery of evidence-based victims support services that meet the needs of CAF members. As part of the Department of National Defence and independent from the chain of command, the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre ensures the provision of timely, compassionate and comprehensive support to Canadian Armed Forces members affected by sexual misconduct, while working in partnership with the CAF to increase understanding, improve preventive measures and enhance the response to sexual misconduct.

While I strive to work collaboratively with CAF service providers, I remained committed to the centre’s independence. I have communicated with Madam Deschamps and affirmed that we share a similar vision of independence and of victims’ needs. An external advisory council was recently established to further the legitimacy of the centre’s independence. Additionally, I have established a working relationship with It’s Just 700 to ensure I remain attuned to victims’ needs.

The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre was established in September 2015. It offers confidential, bilingual, client-centred service to members who are affected by sexual misconduct. The services are available 24/7 and may be accessed by members at any time, no matter where in the world they may be. The intent is always to empower members to make informed choices. The centre’s counsellors all have expertise in working with survivors of sexual trauma and do not have a duty to report.

Since its inception, just over 1,000 individuals have contacted the centre for a variety of reasons. This indicates a demand for the centre’s services. However, more must be done to better address victims’ needs. For example, our data indicate that males underreport incidents, that there is a need to coordinate interagency processes that are complicated for victims to navigate and that there is a need to establish victim liaison assistance to support victims.

My priority over the coming months is to enhance the horizontal collaboration between service providers within the CAF. This is essential to ensure that victims receive seamless, consistent care and are not required to tell their stories multiple times or to repeatedly establish relationships with new care providers as their case progresses. A case management function will further this objective in addition to providing oversight of individual cases. The effort to develop the case management function will be enabled by the establishment of a victim liaison assistant role, which is consistent with the recent announcements made by the Minister of National Defence.

I look forward to my second year at the centre and continuing to steer it toward recognition as a centre of excellence in victim support. The focus will remain on a safe, healthy and respectful workplace where prevention is paramount, but if incidents of sexual misconduct do occur, responses will be efficient, effective and compassionate in order to take the best care of our people.

Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you, witnesses. We will now move to questions.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you to both of you for being here. Your presentations were interesting.

I want to start with you, if I may, General Vance. First, I want to thank you for the leadership you have shown. I remember the last time you were in front of this committee on this issue, you really showed leadership and you continue to show it with Operation HONOUR. I also want to thank you for setting up an ethnic advisory committee in Vancouver under the leadership of Rear-Admiral McDonald. I had the honour to present in front of that committee, and I was truly impressed, because the “who’s who” of Vancouver are volunteering on that committee. I thank you.

My question is indirectly about Operation HONOUR.

I also want to thank you for your bystander program. I am impressed by that.

I want to read to you one of the two guiding principles that were adopted when Operation HONOUR was established. It refers to “any attitudes or behaviours which undermine the camaraderie, cohesion and confidence of serving members threatens the CAF’s long-term operational success.” I am absolutely convinced that you, sir, believe in it. I am not questioning you on that, but I am concerned.

I would like you to tell us something. There are two instances that are bothering me. One is that five Canadian Armed Forces members joined with a well-known hate group called the Proud Boys to disrupt Aboriginal activities during Canada Day celebrations last year. My understanding is that they didn’t face much criminal or disciplinary charges for their acts. I may be wrong. They were only put on temporary probation, and four of the five men are back on regular duty.

And almost half a year ago, I heard on CBC News that they identified 70 Canadian Armed Forces members as part of a far-right hate group called La Meute. No disciplinary action was taken. When it was last reported, 50 of the 70 members identified were still with La Meute.

General, members who believe in hate are part of the military. I don’t want to need an “Operation INCLUSIVE” in the future, like we have Operation HONOUR. We need to nip it in the bud now. What is your opinion on this?

Gen. Vance: Thank you, senator. I appreciate your leadership on this as well and your interest in what we are doing.

There is no question about it that both the Proud Boys and La Meute are organizations that we would not want any member of the Armed Forces to be associated with, let alone be active with. In the aftermath of that, I have put out a CANFORGEN that made clear the standard of conduct for members and unequivocally clear where the line is regarding what could draw administrative sanction versus what could draw criminal sanction.

I know that it is a common reaction by many Canadians who would see that and say, “Kick them out,” but they deserve due process as well. If they don’t perform a criminal act in the process of what they are doing, then they wouldn’t be charged and treated criminally.

All of them were treated administratively. Our administrative sanctions can be reasonably severe, but they are also private between the military and the individual. All of the people involved in that act were dealt with in ways we believe to be fair. Those who were on their way to be released were released.

Senator Jaffer: I respect that they were private, but I didn’t know what happened to them.

You are not meeting your recruiting numbers. You are trying to attract all Canadians, but Canadians who look like me don’t feel comfortable joining when there are these kinds of problems.

I bring this up because it is my only opportunity to bring it up today, but with Operation HONOUR and what I am calling “Operation INCLUSIVE,” those are just later reactions. We need prevention. Also, the public doesn’t know what happened to them.

I want people who look like me to join the Canadian Armed Forces. I am proud of the Canadian Armed Forces, but it doesn’t make me proud when these people are still part of it, because that isn’t a Canadian value.

Gen. Vance: To remove someone from the employment of Canadian Armed Forces, to take away their living, there is a fairly high threshold. They have to be unresponsive to corrective training; they have to be unwilling to change. To align yourself with different groups is not illegal; it is what you do while aligned with those groups. We have to follow the laws of the land, too.

I understand the visceral reaction by Canadians, particularly those who would be concerned about an inclusive Armed Forces in the future. They would like to see the hammer fall and these people publicly removed from the forces. I must follow due process.

I would ask you, senator, to trust and believe that not only did we react, but I think we reacted fairly and in a balanced way. We reacted in such a way that the individuals concerned are very clear about what is required, as are the people around them in the military.

We made it clear in the public domain that this was inconsistent with military values. This was inconsistent with how people should conduct themselves, and they would be dealt with. Thereafter, it’s a matter of privacy, and we cannot absent ourselves from the privacy laws of this country simply because we want to make a point.

Nonetheless, I think that if you followed the way we approached this in the media, we made our point. Every day I continue to make the point that we need to be able to attract, reach and inspire the full depth and breadth of the Canadian population to consider joining us and to see us as a viable place to work.

As it relates to La Meute, I’m not sure your numbers are entirely accurate. I think many of those are retired members of the Armed Forces. But we have also made it very clear, through my order, what the today standard of behaviour is. That includes belonging to outlaw motorcycle gangs or aligning yourself with anything that’s illegal.

I believe, with that order having gone out, I have taken the issue to the fullest extent that I can. Now it’s a matter of the deterrence, the leadership and, indeed, the judicial or administrative responses to be dealt across the forces.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you.


Senator Dagenais: Thank you, General Vance and Ms. Preston. General Vance, I want to come back to the testimony of retired Judge Deschamps, who appeared before our committee on May 28. She seemed surprised that she had not been invited to follow up on the progress of her recommendations, which were welcomed publicly with great openness. Do you think she could help you move forward with the current approach to sexual misconduct? Ms. Deschamps found it surprising that there is no real independent office to receive sexual misconduct complaints. Could you comment on that?

Gen. Vance: Thank you, Senator.


I reviewed Madam Deschamps’ testimony very closely, and I have met with her since that testimony and before today. We had a very good discussion.


I completely agree with Ms. Deschamps’ testimony.


I really am, I think, in the same space as she is in terms of the general view of where we are and are not getting to in Operation HONOUR. I would disagree with her on a few points, but, generally speaking, we are of one mind.

She would, of course, be a valuable resource to us. But she is busy, and we have agreed that I will certainly reach out to her more often in the future, as will my staff.

We need to try to deal with this, take her recommendations and implement them to best effect, and interpret them or, where no interpretation is necessary, take the written word of her recommendations and put them into effect.

To this point, we are still developing and learning. What she would think is independent, other people may have a different view of independence. I think we have about the same idea of what independence is.

We had a very good engagement with this new external advisory council that will sit with Dr. Preston and the SMRC. I think there is much more work and a greater expansive scope of work for the SMRC to be perhaps more independently capable of judging the analysis, collecting the analysis and making sense of the data. Lots of data is being collected across the Armed Forces, but I do believe that there is an increasing role for the SMRC. I will wait for advice on best practices from the external advisory council and Dr. Preston and the deputy minister on how we might do this.

This question of independence is interesting. I have made the point a number of times that — and I beg you for a little forgiveness here, chair, as I explain this — we cannot have an environment that is so independent of the chain of command as to make the chain of command irrelevant. The chain of command is entrusted with the very lives and the operational success of the Canadian Armed Forces. Therefore, we have a moral obligation to not only lead people into harm’s way but to care for them while they are our subordinates. What we want to avoid is having the chain of command removed inappropriately from the support and leadership function that they ought to play at the exact moment when someone is at their worst or has been hurt or harmed. It is the appropriateness of the relationship. Right now, we’re judging the appropriateness to be through the eyes of the victim. The victim wants distance from the chain of command, wants to work through the SMRC or work through a civil jurisdiction, fine. But, ultimately, the accountability is mine, at the top of the chain of command. I must ensure that the Armed Forces are fit for combat operations, fit to defend Canada, and that we are taking care of out of people correctly.

To find the formula of independence versus the enabling of the chain of command to do the right thing is what we are working on right now. We have had a number of discussions about how to do that, how to be and be seen to be sufficiently independent to cause confidence in people that may need that, while also empowering and supporting the chain of command in the very real need to change the culture. Culture has to change from within. We know a lot about culture change. Culture can’t be forced upon an institution. It has to make operational sense.

I think we are contemplating the right things. I do, as I say, broadly agree with Madam Deschamps. She is speaking of getting the formula right.


Senator Dagenais: I would like to address the issue of missions abroad. Logic dictates that measures be taken, among other things, to avoid contact between victims and their abusers before the outcome of an investigation or trial, if there is one, is known. What actions are supposed to be taken when complaints of sexual misconduct are filed on missions abroad? How does that work?

Gen. Vance: Thank you, senator.


There is a range of options available to the Armed Forces. The first principle of which option we select is: What is the opinion of the victim? Depending on the nature of the incident, depending on the resilience of the individual, depending on the victim’s sense of how best to address things — every incident is different — the victim really is considered first. What is it that they want?

Now, if a victim is overseas, speaks to the SMRC and says, “I’m trapped over here and don’t know with to do,” but doesn’t want to come forward, that is a complex situation. I haven’t felt that yet, but I think we’d react to it. While the mission is ongoing, job one is to support the victim.

There is a range, then, of things that we can do. There have been some celebrated things in the media about what we have done. Sometimes the victim wants to be removed because they don’t want to work there anymore. They have been harmed. They are incapable of focusing on the operation, or they simply want distance. The victim can be removed either to a different part of the mission or altogether. That is very rarely done and is done, really, if it is at the victim’s request or if it makes the most sense at the time.

Generally speaking, and almost in every instance, it is the offender that is removed when we have some certainty. We have to understand — and I think Canadians need to understand — that we give everybody due process. Someone may be accused, and if, on the balance of probabilities, it happened and that person has been subject to an investigation and we’re pretty certain, even if it’s a unit investigation, that what the victim says is true, then they are dealt with and removed.

So we move as quickly as we can and get the facts as well as we can. For an operational deployment, generally speaking, it’s the offender that would be removed and then dealt with back in Canada, while the victim or the survivor carries on. Sometimes it’s both because the offender needs to be removed and the survivor or the victim wants to be removed as well; they want to do something else.

Ultimately, there’s a range. We try to take in every case the victim’s assessment first and understand that. As long as it doesn’t add more harm or cause a problem to themselves, then we would certainly enact that.


Senator Boisvenu: Once again, welcome, General Vance and Ms. Preston. General Vance, what percentage of victims went to civilian court compared to those who went to court martial?


Gen. Vance: I don’t have that figure at hand, how many went through a civil process versus a court martial.


Senator Boisvenu: At the outset, in your report, you said that more and more military members are turning to the civilian court.


Gen. Vance: I think that increasingly, if they want to go through a civil process, they can.


Senator Boisvenu: What percentage of the victims decided to go to civilian court, with the army’s consent, instead of going to military court?


Gen. Vance: We’ll check and see if we have that figure. If I can’t answer that now, I’ll take it on notice.


Senator Boisvenu: I have read that 111 soldiers were convicted of sexual assault, 39 of whom committed several forms of sexual assault. According to your report, 30 members have been discharged. You have dismissed 30 members, correct?

Gen. Vance: Yes.

Senator Boisvenu: That is just over 10 per cent of the military who received what I would call an exemplary sentence, only 10 per cent. So 90 per cent remained in the army or were demoted. Are the 10 per cent of members who have lost their jobs proportional to the number of charges laid? Of the 231 charges laid, of which 111 for sexual assault, only 30 members were removed from the Armed Forces.

That is why I am asking the question. How many charges were handled in civilian court? Do you operate in the same way as police forces, that is to say, as soon as a member of the police force has a criminal record, do they automatically lose their job? If a member of the Armed Forces is convicted of sexual assault in civilian court, meaning they have a criminal record, do you automatically remove them from the Armed Forces or do you keep them?


Gen. Vance: I think the question you’re asking me, we’ll get the percentages. I don’t have them immediately at mind. Like I say, if I can’t give them to you today, I’ll certainly give them to you.

The point about a conviction, and the stats that I gave you, some of the convictions were for criminal sexual assault or for lesser convictions. I think I was giving you those statistics to show you the performance metrics of our justice system.

That said, the decision as to whether or not they will be released is not automatic. There is no “automatic-ness.”


Senator Boisvenu: Even if they have a criminal record.

Gen. Vance: Even if they have a criminal record.

Senator Boisvenu: So your rules are different from those of the police forces.

Gen. Vance: Perhaps, I don’t know all the rules.

Senator Boisvenu: In Canada, if police officers commit a crime, they are automatically suspended from their jobs. We cannot keep police officers in the police force if they have committed a sexual assault, for example.

Gen. Vance: That may or may not be the case, I don’t know.

Senator Boisvenu: That is why I asked the question. Could you provide me with that data? How many military members who have been tried before a military tribunal have remained in the ranks? And how many military members who have been tried before a civilian court have remained in the ranks? I want to know whether you treat your military personnel in the same way, whether they are tried before a civilian court or a military tribunal.

Gen. Vance: They are treated in the same way. We put the same effort into it after conviction.


Once they’re convicted, we go through a deliberate due process with the intent of issuing them a notice of intent to release. But as we go through the process — and some of the statistics are skewed because we’re still going through that process, so it’s not necessarily up to date — a conviction does not result in an automatic release from the Armed Forces because it depends on the nature of the conviction and whether or not there’s a rehabilitation.

My intent is to issue a notice of intent to release from anybody charged with and ultimately found guilty in either jurisdiction, military or civilian, and then have them released from the forces. But they must go through due process. So the numbers that I’ve given you are where we are at now, and some of that due process takes time.


Senator Boisvenu: When a military member is convicted of sexual assault, what criteria do you use to decide whether they should be discharged or retained in the Armed Forces?


Gen. Vance: The criteria that I have used and that I have directed is that we will go through due process with the individual; in other words, to remove them from their job to take away their employment, we have to tell them we intend to release them. Then we would go through their file, give them an opportunity to make representations.


Senator Boisvenu: Let me ask my question differently. In the case of two soldiers who have each committed rape, for example, will they be treated equally and fairly or will they be treated differently?


Gen. Vance: It will be a different treatment for someone charged with —


Senator Boisvenu: So you are not judging the act that was committed, but you are judging the consequences. Do you judge the context? Is the act of sexual assault as significant as the consequences or the context in which it was committed? I’m trying to understand. In our justice system, when a woman is raped, the crime is tried first.


Gen. Vance: That is our intent. I’ve issued the direction that any conviction associated with an Op HONOUR nexus will result in the formal issuing of a notice of intent to release to that individual. That individual will then be given due process before they are released. That is our intent and we are carrying on that way.

I don’t think the statistics I’ve given you are intended to provide you a one-for-one “case following” of each individual, sort of where we are at this year. I don’t think we can compare them on a per capita basis.


Senator Boisvenu: In 2017, you said you would adopt a zero tolerance policy, but that is not quite the case. You have a form of tolerance, don’t you?


Gen. Vance: No, we do not.


Senator Boisvenu: If, for the same crime, such as rape, some members will keep their jobs and others will lose them, that means that there is a form of tolerance, because a zero tolerance policy means there would normally be at least one suspension for each crime committed, such as rape.


Gen. Vance: Senator, the tolerance that we have is zero. How we administer our people with a zero tolerance policy doesn’t mean an automatic, immediate removal from the Armed Forces. We have to give them due process.

Every single person who commits a sexual assault or a crime of an Op HONOUR nexus and is convicted of such a crime will be issued a notice of intent to release. Then we go through the process thereafter. There would have to be, I suspect, a real misunderstanding in their file if they were to be retained.

So I don’t think the numbers are giving you everything you need. We’ll try to sort this out for you.

The best measure of a no-tolerance policy is not necessarily you do it and you’re out. If there is a possibility to recover an individual and to rehabilitate someone, if there is genuine remorse and it’s not a violent sexual crime — my staff goes through an assessment and then each individual is assessed on the merits of the case. So I would just caution you against a black or white assessment of what zero tolerance means based on, “Do we get rid of them from the forces right away?” Sometimes it takes time. Some people are represented and fight their release, even though we intend to do so.

Although I can’t give you the percentages at this juncture, I would be surprised if we’re not at 100 per cent release for those people charged, accused and found guilty of a sexual assault or a sexual crime.

Those found guilty of lesser offences that may have a nexus to them — and I think that’s what you’re talking about. Those found guilty of lesser offences because it was not proven in a court of law that they in fact did that, then we take other career action. It could be release if there were multiple cases of this over time. If they merit release, they will be released, or if they merit an effort at rehabilitation, or if there is an opportunity for appropriate reconciliation and so on.

I think our intent is clear, and I would encourage you not to think of us as having a partial tolerance policy. We do not.

If your measure of tolerance is you’re instantly out, then I would argue that is probably not a fair measure and not consistent with Canadian values.

Senator Oh: General, thank you for your presentation. Most of my questions you have answered, but in your opening statement you mentioned there were a total of 427 reported incidents of sexual misconduct last year. Is that an alarming figure? Is that a figure that you are concerned about? Your personnel probably know you are on top of sexual misconduct. So the 427 reported incidents that happened last year, can you tell the committee, is there a concern and is it related to minority groups?

Gen. Vance: I don’t think it’s related to minority groups, per se. Of course it’s of concern, particularly when I want there to be zero. Not only do we have a tolerance of zero, but I want there to be an incidence rate of zero. There are additional stats to that number that would identify how many of those are each category of what we consider to be sexual misconduct.

As we said, 111 of them would fall into the sexual assault or violence or non-consensual sexual domain. There are 111 of them that would fit into the classic dangerous assault, and the rest fit somewhere else. It doesn’t take away from the fact that the overall number is 427.

Of course it’s of concern. We are going to conduct, as you know, the StatsCan survey this year to try and get a sense of whether we are improving in any domain or whether we are worsening somewhere so we can learn and change our approach. Nonetheless, any incidence rate is of concern, absolutely.

A lot of these cases — unfortunately, far too many of them — occur as a result of activity during after-duty hours, when alcohol is involved. Too many of them are like that, and we must continue to work on changing the culture and providing people tools to understand what kind of situation they’re getting into no matter if you’re a potential victim or a potential perpetrator. Some occasions create a higher likelihood, so we continue to train people on that.

Senator Oh: You said you are concerned about alcohol. What happens if marijuana is legalized? Are you concerned about that in the Armed Forces?

Gen. Vance: I’m not concerned about marijuana coming into the Armed Forces, save for the fact that I have the same concerns about any intoxicant interfering with our ability to do our job in the military.

Marijuana coming into law in Canada changes the laws of the land. We change with it, but we must have and will have similar controls to how we deal with alcohol so as to ensure that we are operationally effective.

The fact that many sexual assault incidents or Op HONOUR violations would occur after hours when alcohol is involved or drugs and alcohol are involved or just drugs are involved is, of course, a concern, but I don’t think it’s specific to marijuana. I think it’s specific to relaxed circumstances where a potential perpetrator is emboldened in one form or another, is insufficiently aware of what they’re doing, or they are aware of what they’re doing and they’re doing it anyway. Of course that’s of concern to me.

Madam Chair, on Senator Boisvenu’s point, civilian cases have dropped from 33 per cent down to 22 per cent this past year. In other words, there’s a reduction of people going to civil jurisdictions and staying within the military jurisdiction. This past fiscal year, we did 99 administrative actions and released 66 people since the adoption of my order to do that.

I don’t have in front of me the tracking of an individual and when they were released. I suspect that we’re going to have to do that, given the nature of your question. Nobody goes by without scrutiny for the purpose of release. If we don’t release them, it’s for very good reason, because it’s fair to them and meets the laws and values of our country.

Senator McPhedran: General Vance and Dr. Preston, thank you for being with us here today.

I’m very much struck by some of the language in your statement, General Vance, in particular your reference to implementing a performance measurement system. You stated that in the context of a formal culture change model. My questions are geared to that.

I do want to say that I fully appreciate that you’re in the middle, some would say an even earlier stage, to this process. So I’m not expecting perfect, complete answers, but I think it would help us a lot to understand the kind of investment that you, throughout the chain of command, are making in following through on Operation HONOUR.

As a point of information, I will say that the term zero tolerance of sexual abuse actually comes from a task force that I chaired in Ontario in 1991. It has now spread worldwide. But always, for us, the conceptualization of zero tolerance had to include proper procedure and due process, because you cannot have a sustainable policy if that policy rots from within. So I think your answers were very consistent with how we envisioned it when we created the idea.

Gen. Vance: You said “consistent”? I thought I heard “inconsistent.” Consistent, thank you.

Senator McPhedran: Consistent, yes.

On the point of a performance measurement system, I want to ask about what you can share with us around method and indicators that you’ve identified on how you’re going to measure your progress. I would put in brackets, at this point, regret that at the current time the only progress report we have on the centre is from April 2017, so updating of that would certainly be very welcome, and also consequences. Those are all aspects of a performance measurement system. They’re all aspects of making deep and sustainable cultural changes.

I would ask a more specific question. In looking at this major cultural change, do veterans fit in anywhere? If so, where?

Gen. Vance: That’s a specific question. I’ll answer it and then perhaps if you want to then ask a question about the other?

Senator McPhedran: I’m happy to.

Gen. Vance: My responsibility as CDS is to our members while they are in uniform. What we are doing now, in the broader effort to converge our transition process with that which VAC does, is to professionalize that transition period. If someone is being released from the Armed Forces, they’ve decided to release or they’re retiring from the Armed Forces and, through the transition process, it is determined that there is an outstanding problem for them as it relates to sexual assault or harassment, and it hasn’t been resolved, then we’ve got two options.

The preferred option is to retain them in the Armed Forces and continue their transition until it’s dealt with. In other words, we don’t want people to be released who should be undergoing medical care or appropriate care and therefore potential recovery so they could stay in.

Preventing someone from leaving the forces and becoming a veteran, and is untreated or improperly treated, psychologically or medically, we try to avoid that.

Post release, what we will have, because of a new transition system, is the ability for a veteran to reach back into the Armed Forces with a known case file. They will be a known quantity if they have late manifestation of problems associated with a sexual assault that occurred while in the forces.

So we’re doing everything we can to ensure they can be appropriately administered by Veterans Affairs by keeping our records and being open to them coming back to us.

More importantly, we would be able to share the appropriate information, medical or otherwise, with Veterans Affairs so as to substantiate their case so that they can either receive the care or the benefits that they need.

Senator McPhedran: Thank you for that.

I’m cognizant of the time, so I will try to zero in on what I think is a really critical aspect of both your presentation and Dr. Preston’s.

You know that Madam Deschamps was with us. From her perspective with regard to her recommendation 3, she said “. . . not even a shadow of the centre I outlined . . . .” It’s good to hear there have been subsequent discussions with her.

One of the gaps that she identified to us, though, which ties into my question about the performance measurement system and the formal culture change model, is policy drafting and consultation on policies and procedures as they roll out for prevention and training purposes.

I want to be sure that understood you. Did I hear you tell us today that those functions will remain separate from the centre and that because of the way in which you approach your responsibilities, you see those as needing to remain separate from the centre? When I say that, I’m talking about the policy and consultations, and also the centre point for data collection.

Gen. Vance: You’re right. Madam Deschamps did comment on that and we have since spoken of it. While all that was going on, we were having the inaugural meeting with the external advisory council. I made it very clear to the external advisory council that the service required, at arm’s length, by the Armed Forces was such that the SMRC’s mandate needed to grow to more fully accomplish the recommendations of the Deschamps report.

As you heard from Dr. Preston, we’re pretty new at this. There are more resources, more mandate and more scope. Where I need to be involved, I’ve got to be accountable. The centre cannot be accountable to make the Armed Forces change. I have to be accountable. The centre can be the expert in terms of policy drafting, consultation, advice to the Armed Forces, definitions and so on, but in the end, to put it into effect, it has to be the chain of command and the Armed Forces. There is shared space.

Now, if the centre was to develop a policy or a definition and say, “We think this is the best practice,” and issue that and discuss it through the external advisory council and that is deemed the best practice, give it to the Armed Forces and say, “We recommend that you implement this,” then I would probably implement that. But I have to have the ability to look at it in the context of what we’re doing, how we implement and the steps we need to implement. It’s a shared space, and I think that is acceptable.

I think the centre needs to be more involved with data collection, data analysis and giving us a view of ourselves — giving the Armed Forces a view of the Armed Forces — without interference from the chain of command: “Here is what we think.” I welcome and relish that.

I’ll tell you, senator, one of the things I’ve learned about this is there is no one place in Canada, there’s no one expert, there’s no one group and there’s no one anything that has the answer to all of this. There is no institution that has gone from where we were to where we want to get to with a model on the steps to take, what to do and who to do it to get it all done. So we’re very much on the vanguard, and I am increasingly looking for advice, counsel and support for the Armed Forces as we go through this journey.

The Chair: I am sorry to interrupt. We have two more questions coming and I know your time is tight.

Gen. Vance: The centre can do more.

Senator McIntyre: Thank you both for your presentations.

Thank you, General Vance, for launching Operation HONOUR. I note that it was launched a few months after the release of the Deschamps report. It shows that you took the matter seriously and acted quickly.

To date, a number of new initiatives have been implemented, such as the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre which was created close to three years ago.

The most recent reports on Operation HONOUR available on the website date back to April 2017, and there was a progress report in September 2017 that was a statistics summary. When will the next data and/or report be published?

Gen. Vance: We’re working on the progress report now. In early 2020 we would expect to see the results of the StatsCan survey.

Senator McIntyre: I want a short answer to this one. It’s a follow-up to Senator Boisvenu’s question regarding victims. In the draft internal report coming from the Court Martial Comprehensive Review team, it suggested that the effectiveness and legitimacy of the court-martial system would increase if victims of military offences had rights at least equal to and access to resources at least as favourable as those available in the civilian criminal justice system in Canada. I’d like your thoughts on that.

Gen. Vance: As I said in my opening comments, senator, I think Bill C-77 and others will take us there and, in fact, we’ll go a step beyond that to provide the victim liaison services.

Senator McIntyre: Dr. Preston, in your opening remarks, you addressed the idea of developing a case management function. Could you elaborate on that, please?

Ms. Preston: Yes. What we are envisioning with the case management function is that from the time of first report — that is, when a victim comes forward and discloses to no matter whom in the organization — we would have a centralized referral system for that referral to come to the centre. We would have a victim liaison assistant who is immediately assigned that case and accompanies the victim through whatever processes end up taking place. Whether the person needs medical care and chooses not to file a harassment complaint or go to the police, or accompanying them to courts martial, and helping them write victim impact statements, it is basically to help them navigate what is a very complex system at the best of times let alone when they are traumatized.

Essentially, they would follow and support them until such time as the victim indicates they no longer need support. That could be a short or a long time, depending on the circumstances.

The case management function would be a tracking system following the victim through all those processes so that the victim liaison assistant is, at all times, interfacing with various parties in the system on behalf of the victim, making sure time frames are met and that appropriate follow ups are done, et cetera.

Gen. Vance: Sorry; I made a mistake. It is 2019 not 2020 when the results of the StatsCan survey will come out. My apologies.

Senator Griffin: For the LGBTQ2 community, do staff at the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre have sufficient training to deal with complaints from this group? And for clients in general, are the resources adequate to serve the number of clients looking to you for service?

Ms. Preston: Your first question is a good one. Certainly, we recognize that members of the LGBTQ2 group are victimized at higher rates than other members. It is a priority for us to ensure that we are able to respond to their unique needs appropriately.

At this time, we are basically doing the groundwork and engaging in research to identify their unique needs, barriers to coming forward to make reports and what sort of unique interventions or responses we need to have in place for them. We are very much at a research phase with respect to them.

In terms of your second question, at present we are adequately resourced, but there have been many conversations with the Chief of the Defence Staff and with others that we know our mandate is going to expand and we are doing some strategic human resource planning right now.

The Chair: General Vance and Dr. Preston, as you can tell, there is great interest in this subject from our senators. Unfortunately we will not get to round two, but I want to thank you both for coming. This is a long-term study for us, and I am sure we will have the opportunity to have you back again. Thank you for your appearance.

Gen. Vance: Thank you for inviting us today.

(The committee adjourned.)

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