Canadian Army improves promotion criteria for members with new directive

Article / March 9, 2017 / Project number: 17-0058

By Devon Atherton, Army Public Affairs

Ottawa, Ontario – Maintaining a high standard of physical fitness and health is important for members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), with Canadian Army (CA) leadership focusing on a new directive, now in place, that removes barriers to promotion which were based on a member’s medical status. The directive also encourages personnel to seek medical help as soon as they need it.

Majors Jeff Manley and Peter Bishop, both CA Personnel Policy writers and analysts, are part of the team responsible for making sure the implementation process for the directive runs smoothly.

Major Manley explained that the directive ensures members no longer need to have perfect physical fitness immediately in order to move up a rank. Now, instead of having to complete physical fitness testing and career courses prior to promotion, CAF members have a flexible timeline to meet promotion criteria while being promoted to an acting rank.

This change is intended to help ease anxiety about seeking medical treatment earlier, and allows members sufficient recovery time without negatively affecting their careers.

“We feel members should have confidence that the CAF is modernizing,” explained Maj Manley.

Major Bishop added, “Changes to promotion requirements will improve the Forces’ health overall and ensure that members are promoted based on their merit.”

Maj Bishop pointed out that physical fitness is extremely important within the CA specifically.

“If you think about it comparatively to the Navy and Air Force, the Navy fights with ships and the Airforce fights with aircraft,” said Maj Bishop. “But from the Army perspective, we fight with our soldiers. They are the weapons.”

Maj Manley noted that the Army places such an emphasis on physically demanding work that applying the directive will require much consultation and coordination between Career Managers and Unit Command Teams. However, he added that, “making this policy work, regardless of the challenges, is perfectly within the Army’s scope.”

The CA’s most senior medical officer, CA Surgeon Colonel Annie Bouchard, said that the earlier a patient seeks treatment, the more effective it will be.

“Health Services Group has high hopes that this will decrease the stigma around consulting the medical clinic in a timely manner,” added Col Bouchard. “Particularly in the case of mental health disorders, consulting early improves those outcomes.”

Maj Bishop was part of a working group held in November 2016 and tasked with finding solutions to medically based promotion barriers. He said there were some concerns early on, but the directive does not lower existing promotion standards, which remain merit-based.

“The discussion around delinking medicals from promotion started with a shared concern among the working group members that the change would lower promotion standards,” he said. “But Universality of Service still applies, because in order to be substantively promoted, a member still has to meet the requirements of the promotion.”

Under the directive, those members with a medical condition who are given an acting promotion will be evaluated regularly to determine whether they are healthy enough to complete the remaining requirements for permanent promotion. “In this way,” said Maj Bishop, “members are given a reasonable amount of time to recover and receive treatment without lowering overall fitness standards in the long run.”

Additionally, when it comes to deployment, CA leadership isn’t taking any chances, Maj Bishop explained.

“If, for example, a member with a broken leg is due to be deployed on operations, they would replace him or her. They wouldn’t send a member off on operations if he or she couldn’t physically do it.”

However, the directive still outlines very important changes for promotion standards, even if it does not apply to deployment.

“Normally, you’re not promoted into a position for deployment except in very rare circumstances,” Maj Manley said. This means that most promotions are usually for domestic postings. Members are not often given a promotion with the intention of deploying them right away, so the directive still applies in most cases. For this reason, the majority of members facing promotion will have less reason for anxiety when revealing their medical needs.

Maj Manley asked for members to be patient and understanding as the changes begin to roll out.

“This represents a great opportunity for our organization,” he said. “But, as with any change, there’s going to be a transition period where we, the Army, are going to have to adjust to a new system. That’s a very natural and healthy part of policy modernization, and we need to keep the bigger picture in mind.”

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