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CAF will ‘re-establish trust’ after sexual misconduct allegations: Eyre

Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre listens to speakers during a change of command parade for the Canadian Army on Parliament Hill Tuesday, August 20, 2019 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
The Canadian Armed Forces‘ (CAF) new acting chief of defence staff says the force will work to “re-establish trust where it has been broken,” in a letter to members released Wednesday.

“Recent sexual misconduct revelations and allegations are very disturbing, have shaken us, and made clear how much farther we need to go to be the CAF that our people deserve, and Canadians expect,” Lt.-Gen Wayne Eyre wrote.

Read more: Military needs ‘abuse of power’ training amid misconduct reckoning: top official

Eyre took on the role of acting chief of defence staff last month after Adm. Art McDonald stepped aside over a military police investigation.

That probe came just weeks after Global News first reported that former chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance is facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with two female subordinates.

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Two parliamentary committees are now investigating sexual misconduct within the CAF.

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In the letter, Eyre said “the societal problems of racism and hateful conduct continue to manifest themselves” within the CAF ranks.

“We need to view the current crisis as an opportunity and come out of it as a better organization,” he said.

“We will re-establish trust where it has been broken,” the letter read. “We need all of our members to work in an environment characterized by a sense of mutual respect, dignity, safety and truly belonging.”

Eyre said they will do so through two streams: external and internal actions.

He said the force will “fully support and welcome an external review” of the institution and its culture and will “embrace external recommendations, including an independent reporting chain.

Eyre also said the force will make a number of internal actions.

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Read more: Canadian Armed Forces misconduct allegations put spotlight on hostile sexualized culture

“Firstly, we must listen — to our own people at all levels, most importantly at the grassroots; and to external experts. From them we must learn and guide our actions accordingly.”

He said Operation Honour — a campaign aimed at eliminating sexual misconduct in the CAF — “has culminated.”

“Thus we will close it out, harvest what has worked, learn from what hasn’t, and develop a deliberate plan to go forward,” he said. “We will better align the organizations and processes focused on culture change to achieve better effect.”

He also said the force will “identify and take the steps necessary” to create a workplace where people feel “safe to come forward when they experience sexual misconduct.”

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According to Eyre, the force will also finalize and publish a Code of Professional Military Conduct which will include a new focus on power dynamics.

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“We need to improve mechanisms to listen and learn from the experiences of those who have been harmed,” the letter read.

He said the force will “support victims as they come forward, while at the same time respecting the fundamental right of due process for ongoing investigations.”

The letter comes a day after Eyre told the House of Commons standing committee on the status of women that while military members partake in sexual misconduct training each year, it is not enough.

He said there are key gaps in how leaders and members are warned about the potential for abuse  of power in sexual relations.

“Some of the gaps are becoming apparent such as power dynamics and understanding the use and abuse of power in a hierarchy like our own,” he told committee members.

Read more: Women in military feeling ‘seething undercurrent of rage’ over allegations: senior female officer

Eyre said the CAF is at an “inflection point that we have to seize as an opportunity to come out better.”

Speaking before the same committee on Tuesday, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said “trust has been broken,” adding that it will “take some serious work to rebuild.”

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He also underscored the need to eliminate “toxic masculinity” from within the force.

Read more: Senior female military officer quits over misconduct allegations: ‘I am sickened’

Last week a senior female infantry officer, Lt.-Col. Elanor Taylor, formally requested her release from the CAF.

In an email shared with Global News, Taylor said she was disgusted by the allegations and said she does not believe the military is capable of holding its leaders to account.

“I am sickened by ongoing investigations of sexual misconduct among our key leaders,” she wrote. “Unfortunately I am not surprised.”

Taylor said she is also “certain that the scope of the problem has yet to be exposed.”

— With files from Global News’ Amanda Connolly, Marc-Andre Cossette and Mercedes Stephenson

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