Advisory Panel Forecasts Response from the Military

The Preamble to the Report of the Defence Minister's Advisory Panel is entitled It's Time to be Uncomfortable. The Preamble begins by referencing the 2015 review of military sexual misconduct and harassment conducted by Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps and the consequent apology by the Chief of Defence Staff in 2020 who said, "proper conduct starts now." While suggesting that "much has been done," it says that the sexual misconduct is "a symptom of a bigger ailment: a toxic environment within both the military and civilian workplaces."

The Advisory Panel predicts that if the problem is not "rapidly reined in and addressed," Canadians will be "repulsed" from joining the forces. "This is already happening," the report says, noting "numerous accounts ... that highlighted systemic barriers: persistent racial discrimination for Black and racialized members, harassment of women and members of the LGBTQ2+ community, lack of informed medical support for transgender transformations, neglect of persons with disabilities and a disregard for the importance of partnership with Indigenous Peoples."

Not only will people be repulsed from joining, the report says that victims of discrimination will leave "because the price ... to pay to persevere in the organization would be unbearable." It says "diversity and inclusion [will] flourish" only when the Defence Team fully understands what it means for victims to "sacrifice" their "personal identities" so as to "become valued members of the team." These "personal identities," it says, are the very things that would make the military "a stronger, equitable, more operational and more versatile force."

The "discomfort" which is referred to is identified as follows (the bold appears in the original):

"Some Defence Team members will leave [because they] are not willing to work towards a more inclusive society. Some members of the Defence Team will fight these cultural changes [and] can sometimes have the loudest voices in the organization and their influence is impactful. If these influencers cannot be educated towards a culture of inclusivity, they have no place on the team. The organization cannot risk the perpetuation of a toxic environment by those who do not see the value of creating a more inclusive Defence Team. Some members of the Defence Team will "shut up and put up." These are the people who do not agree with the changes but will resist silently. By virtue of inaction, they will support and maintain the status quo, perpetuating an environment of harm for Defence Team members.

"Many Defence Team members will try to adapt to this new environment. These members may sometimes be awkward or clumsy, but they are the Defence Team's key players because they are motivated to do what is right. At times, they will not know how. They will make mistakes, because they have been enmeshed in a discriminatory system for so long and many are blinded by what they do not know. They deserve to be coached, mentored, educated and guided in the right direction. As long as they are trying to do what is right, they deserve compassion, patience and support."

This article was published in
Volume 52 Number 5 - May 21, 2022

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