Canadian Safety Reporter

June 2015

Focuses on occupational health and safety issues at a strategic level. Designed for employers, HR managers and OHS professionals, it features news, case studies on best practices and practical tips to ensure the safest possible working environment.

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2 Canadian HR Reporter, a Thomson Reuters business 2015 Sexual misconduct rampant in Canadian military: Report Finds infrastructure for handling complaints architecturally flawed BY SABRINA NANJI A DAMNING REVIEW of sexu- al misconduct and harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) has sounded the call for organizational change. In May, Gen. Tom Lawson, chief of defence staff, made public the results of an exter- nal review led by former Su- preme Court justice Marie De- schamps. She interviewed reserve and regular members from the navy, air force and army, including all levels of rank and file, as well as health care, police, workplace advi- sors and social experts for the report. In it, Deschamps lambasted the military for what she deter- mined to be an under- lying sexualized cul- ture that is hostile to women and gay mem- bers, and conducive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault. "Consultations re- vealed a sexualized en- vironment in the CAF, characterized by the frequent use of swear words and highly de- grading expressions that reference women's bodies, sexual jokes, innuendos, discrimi- natory comments with respect to the abilities of women, and unwelcome sexual touching," Deschamps wrote. Sexual harassment was also reported in some instances, she said. "Some participants further reported instances of sexual assault, including instances of dubious relationships between lower rank women and higher rank men, and date rape," she ex- plained. "At the most serious extreme, these reports of sexual violence highlighted the use of sex to en- force power relationships and to punish and ostracize a member of a unit." The report also indicated the CAF's infrastructure for han- dling complaints is architectur- ally flawed. For example, a com- plainant might have to pursue three separate dispute resolu- tion processes before an issue is resolved — alternate dispute resolution (in which the alleged victim is encouraged to confront the alleged harasser informally), administrative investigation and a grievance. Deschamps called the proce- dures "overly long and burden- some," adding that they discredit the operation. "Victims will generally not be comfortable taking a con- frontational position with their harasser, particularly when the harasser was of a higher rank," she noted. "Many interviewees who did bring their complaint forward to a supervisor reported that the complaint was not taken seri- ously." The report is "disturbing," said Lawson. "The idea that any military member should, in addition to meeting the vast array of opera- tional challenges, have to defend themselves against the words or actions of another Canadian Armed Forces member is com- pletely unacceptable," he said in a statement. Recommendations, response The external review churned out a number of recommendations to reverse the history of sexual misconduct. First, a culture change is need- ed to close the gap between the high professional standards es- tablished by the CAF's policies and what happens in reality. This discrepancy has caused mem- bers to become inured to a sexu- alized culture. "There is a broadly held per- ception in the lower ranks that those in the chain of command either condone inappropriate sexual conduct or are willing to turn a blind eye to such inci- dents," Deschamps explained in the report. Changing culture starts with leadership, she added. "It is not enough to simply revise policies or to repeat the mantra of 'zero tolerance.'" Clarifying defini- tions of what con- stitutes sexual ha- rassment as well as streamlining the pro- cess for identifying, re- porting, investigating and resolving incidents would contribute to a culture change. The report also cited better training programs and the establishment of an independent body to keep the institution accountable. In response, Lawson accepted all recom- mendations in prin- ciple and announced a strategic response team to implement them and keep the or- ganization account- able. History of violence Tradition dictates military bod- ies are the province of men. So, perhaps not surprisingly, when women become integrated into such work environments, there will be blowback, according to Jennifer Berdahl, an organiza- tional behaviour professor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver who specializes in gender and diversity. CSR | June 2015 | News Credit: Todd Korol (Reuters) Soldiers from Lord Strathcona's Horse stand ready for inspection with their rifles in Calgary. A report has cast an unflattering light on sexual misconduct and harassment in the military. Machismo > pg. 6

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