Sexual Misconduct Response Centre celebrates first anniversary

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Over the past while, Corporal H.S. Clochebelle has been feeling increasingly uneasy at work. Her boss, an older and senior colleague, is being unduly friendly and sometimes makes suggestive remarks to her.

She is bright and is respected by her male and female peers as a strong performer and future leader. Up to now, she loved her work, her unit, her friends, and what has always been a supportive and respectful environment.

Now she constantly tries to avoid being near her tormentor. If she goes to the major or tells anyone, she will be considered a troublemaker and her career will be ruined, or so she thinks.

Today Cpl Clochebelle has a powerful advocate—the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC)—a one-stop-shop where she can find confidential, supportive, and professional counselling and advice on the best approach to take to counter the inappropriate sexual behaviour she has experienced and to restore her self-worth and confidence.

Executive Director Glynnis French and her team at the SMRC recently welcomed General Jonathan Vance, the Chief of the Defence Staff, John Forster, the Deputy Minister, and other senior Defence Team leaders to celebrate the centre’s first anniversary.

Gen Vance applauded the work of the centre and reminded everyone that Operation HONOUR and the care and well-being of every member of the CAF family are top of his list of priorities.

“Your work demonstrates to me that military members are increasingly more confident that they will be heard and that we will act,” said Gen Vance. “The SMRC, first and foremost, is here to support victims and survivors, but I recognize the vital advice you provide all leaders who are committed to understanding how best they can support their people.”

The centre is intentionally independent from military oversight and the chain of command, which sends the distinct message to victims of sexual misconduct that they have access to secure, professional, and confidential counselling. While the centre directly supports CAF members, it reports to the civilian authority of the Deputy Minister.

“I am extremely pleased with the progress we have made over the past 12 months and I applaud the sensitive and specialized assistance our counsellors provide to everyone who calls,” says Mr. Forster. “Our counsellors, supported by a wonderful and experienced administrative team, are on duty to listen, support, and provide knowledgeable advice and guidance so victims are empowered to move on with their lives and careers.”

The centre is unique in providing confidential counselling to CAF members, free from any reporting processes. It also has the ability to live-transfer a victim, if and when he or she decides to submit a complaint to key partners such as the military police, who have a liaison officer embedded with the team. Counsellors also have direct links to community victim support services that can intervene on behalf of a victim in a community setting.

The centre’s most important clients are victims of sexual misconduct. First and foremost, the counsellors listen, acknowledge the incident, and then provide the necessary support and guidance.

“By listening, we want people to feel comfortable, heard, and supported,” says Senior Counsellor Megan Leslie. “If a victim doesn’t know what to do, and the system can be overwhelming, people feel lost within it. Our job is to provide clear and real options about which course of action would be the most appropriate to their individual situation.”

Early in the SMRC`s development it became clear that success would be based on providing access to expert support teams within the CAF. A key member on staff is Military Police Liaison Officer Lieutenant-Commander Mike Amirault.

“The counsellors have the capability to connect a victim directly to me so I can answer their questions regarding the investigative process. While I share the same principle of confidentiality as the counsellors, I help to empower all victims and ensure that they understand that I have a duty to report should they wish to provide sufficient information to enable a police investigation.”

The centre is expected to reach its final operating capability by July 2017.

“My most important objective in the months ahead, as we progress to full operational capability next summer, is to continue to raise awareness of our unique professional capabilities in all CAF communities across Canada and overseas where people are serving,” says Ms. French.

CONTACT US

Have you been affected by inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces workplace? Call the SMRC, a bilingual and confidential support and counselling service.

To speak with one of our professional counsellors:

• Call toll free at 1-844-750-1648, or
• Call collect at 1-613-996-3900

Hours of operation: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time
Our after-hours message will direct you to 24-hour support.

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