CAF members have spoken: Harmful sexual behaviour remains a problem

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More than 43 000 CAF members of the Regular and Primary Reserve Forces responded to the Statistics Canada survey on Sexual Misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the results are now in.

They indicate that:

  • The rates of sexual assault within the CAF ranks are reported to be twice that of the general population;
  • More than 25 percent of female members and four percent of their male counterparts report having experienced sexual assault personally at some point in their careers;
  • More than 10 percent of women and two percent of men, have experienced it in the last decade;
  • Nearly two percent of CAF members have experienced a sexual assault in the year preceding this survey;
  • Victims are predominantly younger and more junior in rank;
  • These issues are consistent across every environment and command; and
  • Ninety-eight percent of CAF members say they are aware of Operation HONOUR and its mission.

“I expected the results of this survey would be sobering, and they are,” said Gen Jonathan Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, upon the release of the survey. “They affirm the reason why I made Operation HONOUR my first order as the Chief of the Defence Staff. Harmful sexual behaviour is a real problem in our institution. We know it, and we are trying to tackle it head-on.”

A key initiative under Operation HONOUR, the survey results reaffirm the findings of the external review conducted by Madame Deschamps, and the need for a comprehensive and dedicated response to harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour. While it is sobering and disappointing to know that members continue to be victimized and feel threatened in their work environment, the survey confirms the need for a significant culture change to eliminate inappropriate sexual behaviour and ensure a workplace free from harassment and discrimination.

The results of this survey will serve as a benchmark against which the institution and CAF members will measure the effort, response, and effects of Operation HONOUR as it continues. While the information in the survey may be difficult for some to accept, the responses have come directly from CAF members, and this is the first time that the CAF has had information specific to sexual misconduct.

“I am extremely disappointed and I’m more motivated than ever to eliminate this behaviour and the perpetrators from our ranks, because this survey shows some people were victimized after I launched Operation HONOUR, after I gave an order to every member of the Canadian Armed Forces that this behaviour had to stop,” Gen Vance said.

“My orders were clear. My expectations were clear. And those who choose, or chose, not to follow my orders will be dealt with through disciplinary or administrative action, as we have done for the 30 people we have removed from command or supervisory positions this year. And as far as I’m concerned, I’m happy if they leave our ranks permanently.”

He went on to reassure any victims who choose to come forward to make a report that there would be no repercussions or negative actions against them, but there would be for perpetrators.

The survey results will help to refine the priorities and initiatives across Operation HONOUR’S four lines of effort: understanding; responding, supporting, and prevention. The CAF will now further analyse the survey results and develop an action plan focussed on problem areas and challenges or gaps the survey identifies. This will better shape the continuing efforts to effect lasting culture change and eliminate this behaviour from the Canadian Armed Forces.

For more information and to access the survey results, visit the Defence Team intranet site at intranet.mil.ca.

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