As the DND/CAF Sexual Misconduct Apology, offered in December, may have evoked emotional responses in members of the Defence Team since, please remember that support is available.
As emphasized during the apology, bringing about positive culture change requires work and input from all levels across the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). We all have a role to play in supporting a comprehensive and coordinated approach towards our shared goal of a Defence Team that is truly diverse, inclusive, and respectful of each and every one of our members. Much of this work has already begun and below is an update on the progress, particularly for efforts and initiatives supporting survivors of sexual misconduct.
The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre (SMRC) has officially expanded its support services to include former CAF members and Veterans, and DND public service employees. The Response and Support Coordination Program will also be expanding to five additional regions across the country, with the hiring of more support coordinators to provide assigned and dedicated on-going care and assistance to clients.
Five new SMRC initiatives are underway:
- A joint initiative with Veterans Affairs Canada to co-develop an online and face-to-face peer support program with people with lived experience to better support those affected by Military Sexual Trauma. Consultations with those with lived experience have been completed to inform the development of a program model for peer support. Plans for hiring peer supporters are underway and the program is expected to launch by June 2022.
- A mobile application which will allow those affected by sexual misconduct to access SMRC support services and resources in an alternate format.
- An expansion of SMRC’s current transfer payment program to provide more flexible funding access for a range of community-based organizations that offer support services to those affected by sexual misconduct. Through this program, SMRC hopes to fund innovative programs to reach remote and underserved members of the CAF community.
- Focused research efforts on how to better prevent sexual misconduct in the military and the development of response frameworks, guidelines, and training curriculum to support decision-making by leaders within DND/CAF.
- A program to provide access to independent legal advice for victims of sexual misconduct within the military, with the aim to have it in place by April 2022.
On November 15, the SMRC also launched the Restorative Engagement (RE) program, as part of the CAF-DND Sexual Misconduct Class Action Final Settlement Agreement. This program creates opportunities for supported class claimants (current and former CAF members, Veterans, current and former DND and Staff of Non-Public Funds employees) to share their experiences with Defence representatives; and for the representatives to acknowledge, understand and learn from these experiences, as well as to take individual and collective responsibility for its causes and impacts. These experiences and learnings will also contribute to broader culture change efforts.
The initial group of claimants contacted to participate in the Restorative Engagement program is small to ensure that all of the necessary resources, supports, and systems are in place to proceed with contacting a larger group of class members, beginning in 2022. A claimant may modify their claim to express interest in the Restorative Engagement program, provided their claim was submitted on or before November 24, 2021.
To continue providing support services, and deliver on the expansions and new initiatives, the SMRC team has tripled its staff since last spring and will continue growing in 2022.
The SMRC’s efforts to enhance supports to those affected by sexual misconduct are a critical component of Pathways to Progress, a whole-of-Defence-Team approach to addressing conduct and culture, which Chief Professional Conduct and Culture (CPCC) is coordinating and monitoring. This agile, flexible approach has three focus areas:
- Supports to survivors by building comprehensive support structures through dialogue with survivors, increasing scope and access to resources;
- Justice and accountability with the timely and appropriate resolution of cases while ensuring procedural fairness and transparency. It tracks implementation of recommendations from a multitude of reports and studies, as well as an examination of options for external reporting mechanisms; and
- Culture change to establish a cohesive, comprehensive approach to culture change across the Defence Team. We are coordinating efforts to ensure we are an organization where all Defence Team members have a sense of belonging, are valued for their unique capabilities, and are encouraged to be their authentic selves participating fully in the workplace.
People are the heart of our institution and supporting them and providing them with what they need to do their work in a safe environment is essential for our continued success. Work will continue across the Defence Team and we will continue to collaborate with an array of stakeholders, and partners to improve services, and enhance the SMRC, knowing that the centre is invaluable to members, their loved ones, and the health and wellbeing of the Defence Team.