Operation HONOUR, the most recent survey and progress indicators

Article / June 17, 2019 / Project number: 19-0184

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By Brigadier-General Jennie Carignan, originally sent to the 2nd Canadian Division team via e-mail on June 3, 2019

Montreal,, Quebec — On May 22, Statistics Canada published the results of a survey conducted in 2018 on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). As you have no doubt noticed, the publication of the survey has generated a strong response, both within our institution and in the national press. 

First, I will provide some background information. During the 1990s, sexual misconduct was reported in the media as being a major problem within the CAF. In 2014, sexual misconduct again received extensive coverage in the media. Subsequently, former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps was asked by the Chief of the Defence Staff to conduct an external review, and she submitted a comprehensive report that indicated the existence of a sexualized culture. This revelation led to the official launch of Operation HONOUR in August 2015 by General Jonathan Vance.

An initial Statistics Canada survey was published in November 2016, and this second one was designed to permit a comparison of the results with those of the first survey through the use of benchmarks. Without going into the details, the survey indicates a slight decrease in the prevalence of sexualized and discriminatory conduct and very little change with respect to sexual assault. Several media outlets have called this a failure and are criticizing the CAF for not doing enough in this area.

From my perspective, Operation HONOUR, the mission of which is to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the CAF, operates by effecting gradual changes in culture, behaviour and perception. As Albert Einstein so aptly put it, “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them”. There is no roadmap for us to follow in fighting against this social scourge; in this unexplored territory, we are leaders. Let us not lose sight of the fact that eradicating sexual misconduct will require ongoing efforts and that we must never let our guard down.

Are survey results the only measurement tools at our disposal and the sole indicators of progress in this issue? I do not believe so. As, for example, with workplace violence or bullying, it is unrealistic to imagine that we control the actions of the men and women in our institutions. Instead, we influence their conduct in a variety of ways. To do so in this respect, we have implemented a set of measures in conjunction with awareness and educational campaigns. Therefore, from my point of view, to judge the success of Operation HONOUR, one must also consider the scope of the actions undertaken to combat sexual misconduct. A set of policies, the creation of the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, a victim support program, training for leaders at every level, actions taken against aggressors, talks given by victims, an information and awareness campaign: all of these measures have been put in place to bring about the desired change of culture.  We have been busy.

I am not satisfied with the results of the Statistics Canada survey. Far from it. This survey clearly indicates that we have a lot of work to do; analyzing it will help us better understand the phenomenon of sexual misconduct so that we may continue to take actions that are adapted to a constantly evolving situation.

The scope and variety of measures that we are bringing to bear in the fight against harmful and inappropriate sexual misconduct are strengthening our teams by putting an emphasis on respectful conduct. For the good of all civilian and military members of 2 Canadian Division and to protect the integrity of our mission, I know I can count on the steadfast commitment of our leaders at every level. I am confident.

Strong. Proud. Ready.

Every man and woman who serves Canada deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Any behaviours that undermine the camaraderie, cohesion and confidence of members serving together threaten the CAF’s long-term operational success. Operation HONOUR is the CAF mission to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

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