Canada’s top soldier joined 630 CHED Wednesday afternoon to discuss where the Canadian Armed Forces is at in a review of sexual misconduct allegations within the institution.
Global News first reported the allegations against former top soldier Gen. Jonathan Vance in February.
Since then, allegations against other senior members of the military have been made and a probe into the allegations and the culture in Canada’s military has been launched.
“It is very clear that there are aspects of our culture that has not kept pace with society, aspects of our culture that have been exclusionary so that all have not felt welcome or that they can properly belong to this institution,” acting chief of defence staff Lt. Gen. Wayne Eyre told 630 CHED Afternoons with J’lyn Nye.
“This has manifested itself over decades as we’ve sought to integrate our forces, but we have not done as well as we should have.”
In previous interviews, Eyre has said he hasn’t witnesses any sexual misconduct in the more than 30 years he has served in Canada’s military.
However, Operation Honour — the official title for the military’s mission to prevent and address sexual misconduct — defines the misconduct as going beyond sexual violence or assault.
When pushed by Nye as to whether he had heard sexual innuendo about a woman, a sexual joke or off-the-cuff comment about an LGBTQ member, Eyre said he has been witness to those types of activities.
“Looking at it through today’s lens, absolutely unacceptable,” he said. “Things like the micro aggressions… being blind to their impact, the daily grind that some of our people faced.
“I personally wish that I had a better understanding of the the impact of some of those actions at the time.”
Operation Honour was created after an external review into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces was completed by Marie Deschamps in March 2015.
One of the biggest complaints being heard today is, despite that review showing the time was right for leadership to tackle the issue, enough hasn’t been done.
Eyre said the Dechamps report told the military what is wrong and what to do, but what needs to be done now is a better understanding of the “underlying issues of the exclusionary aspects of our culture.”
“We’ve got it structured such that we’ll be getting periodic reports as this external review happens, which is going to be necessary to rapidly implement the recommendations,” Eyre said.
“I’ll be right up front: we are not experts in culture change and so bringing in experts, bringing that external view to illuminate the aspects of our institution that need to be changed I think is essential.”
Putting more structure to the problem is not the solution, Eyre added, but it’s part of the solution and part of building a comprehensive plan and the platform that will allow the military to implement future recommendations.
“It’s also very important that we don’t rush to failure,” Eyre said. “We’ve got to to listen. We’ve got to learn. Have those deliberate learning sessions, deliberate listening sessions with our grassroots level, with those who have been affected.
“To listen to the accounts of survivors, listen to the experts, the outside experts and the internal experts — to get it right.”
The allegations against Vance came during the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning much of the work and debriefing the military has been going through has been conducted online.
According to Eyre, it’s hard to get a read on the senior leaders’ reactions to the review when meeting virtually.
“We have to view this current crisis as an opportunity,” Eyre said, adding it does seem there’s an appetite for change amid the ranks. “We cannot be defensive. We cannot rest on tradition and ‘this is the way we have done things forever.’
“We have to be open to new ways of doing business and we absolutely have to change.”