After a barrage of media criticism, complaints of sexual harassment and a lengthy report conducted by Marie Deschamps calling for a culture change within the CAF, General Jonathan Vance issued Operation Honour earlier this month.
Operation Honour is the tough blueprint the Department of National Defence (DND) is using to hopefully eradicate sexual harassment and misconduct within the CAF. Amongst the list of offences the chief of defence staff is hoping to eliminate include:
Crude language and jokes,
Explicit materials in the workplace,
Verbal abuse of a sexual nature,
Exploiting power relations for sex and anything else that can be Considered as unwelcomed sexual advances.
One of the most tangible goals in the Op. Honour is the creation of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRCI) which opens its doors on Sep. 15, 2015.
The SMRC(I) is designed to be the first source CAF members can turn to.
Victims can gain access to information and services, assistance planning their next steps and helping them to safety, counselling and empathetic listening.
Located in the National Capital Region, the centre is in its initial stages and expected to be fully operational within two years. Led by civilian executives, it will operate outside of the chain of command and will report to the deputy minister. With time, the government will look into the possibility of making it into a 24/7 hotline.
The centre is just one of the many steps outlined in Op. Honour. The order calls for leadership and members to report incidents. The basic principles of the Op Honour are reflected in the four lines of effort: understand, respond, support and prevent.
The “zero tolerance” attitude is visibly reflected in Op Honour and is clear that CAF leaders will be held responsible.
General Vance’s, “Intent is to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within the CAF by leveraging the unequivocal support of my Commanders and all leaders in the CAF. Any form of harmful and Inappropriate sexual behaviour is a threat to the morale and operational readiness of the CAF, undermines good order and discipline, is inconsistent with the values of the profession of arms and the ethical principles of DND and CAF, and is wrong. I will not allow harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour within our organization, and I shall hold all leaders in the CAF accountable for failures that permit its continuation,” .
Op. Honour is a result of the report conducted by the External Review Authority Marie Deschamps. In her report, she draws attention to the fact that “there is an underlying sexualized culture in the CAF that is hostile to women and LGBTQ members…” Deschamps called for an institutionalized cultural shift in the CAF to combat these unfortunate happenings.
Senior leadership of the CAF and government have taken the report very seriously as evident in the following statement from an internal message issued by the chief of defence staff and deputy minister, “Our goal is for all CAF members, and indeed for all Defence Team members, to be able to perform their duties in an environment free of harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour and to be able to fully enjoy the support of an institution that fosters mutual trust, respect, honour, and dignity.”
The SMRC(I) will be open between the hours of 7 a.m- 5 p.m. The number for the centre is 1-844-750-1648. Other resources available for CAF members include the Family Information Line and the Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program.
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