The Canadian military is poised to publish key changes to the document that outlines the core expectations and values for those it is training for leadership.
That change comes in the wake of a year that saw the Canadian Forces leadership under fire in what has repeatedly been called a “crisis” of sexual misconduct by senior leaders.
“We’re about to publish a revised military ethos called Trusted to Serve,” said Gen. Wayne Eyre, chief of the defence staff, during an appearance at the House of Commons defence committee on Wednesday.
He said the revisions will focus on emphasizing character as a vital consideration when picking future leaders, along with explicitly stating that inclusivity must be a core factor as well.
“Previously we’d focused on competence. Still very important but even more so: character,” Eyre said.
“Character has to lead, competence can follow.”
The current military ethos is “duty with honour,” based on the document of the same name that was first published in 2003 and served as what the Department of National Defence called the “cornerstone document” for the military’s professional development programs.
That program and process, however, has been in the spotlight since Global News first reported in February 2021 about allegations of sexual misconduct against top leaders in the Canadian Forces.
Those revelations prompted twin parliamentary committee probes of the issue, as well as the launch of an independent external review of how best to set up an independent reporting system.
Witnesses repeatedly warned that key changes recommended in a landmark 2015 report into the “toxic” culture facing women and LGBTQ members of the military have not yet been made.
Defence Minister Anita Anand replaced Harjit Sajjan, who faced criticisms over whether he did enough to address the matter during his time in the portfolio.
Anand made her first appearance at the defence committee on Wednesday, and emphasized that fixing the culture of the Canadian Forces remains her top priority.
“For too long, far too many members of the defence team have suffered,” Anand said, noting the military is now at an “inflection point.”
“Things can change, they must change and they will change.”
Anand and Eyre offered a historic apology to survivors and victims of sexual misconduct in December.
She said work to fix the culture is underway and that she looks forward to receiving later this year the report by former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour, which was commissioned in April 2021. That final report is due this spring.
Both Anand and Eyre noted the military is facing unprecedented demands on its capabilities, both at home and abroad, and that it needs to be able to grow recruitment in order to keep up.
Both recruitment and retention must prioritize getting women and more diverse members into the leadership pipeline in order to change leadership and culture for the long term, Anand said.
“This is a priority to me,” she added.