As a scholar of civil-military relations, I have been watching the Canadian scene closely for a few years. I was not closely following the Deschamps report and its implementation, but as I learn more about it and listen to experts on gender and the Canadian Armed Forces, I realize that civilian control of the military in Canada is really lacking. No, this is not about the possibility of a coup, it is about whether the CAF will do what the civilians want. Whenever I talked about civilian control in Canada and how lame the Parliament is in this process, pointing out that the only two civilians that matter are the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence, folks would point to the Department of National Defence and the Deputy Minister. I would respond that those civilians are not elected, limiting democratic control of the armed forces. But now, I have to go a bit further.
I have been thinking about this since Stéfanie von Hlatky and I interviewed Deputy Minister Jody Thomas and Acting Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre for the BattleRhythm podcast. For me, the most striking part of the podcast was at the 43:20 mark (or thereabouts) when Thomas says that her views on the Deschamps report were not welcome and that nothing structural was done to implement Deschamps's recommendations. This is most striking because the DM and the CDS have overlapping responsibilities but are supposed to work as a team. This interview suggests that Vance and his team left the civilians entirely out of it.
This does not absolve the civilians of blame or responsibility, but points again to the most relevant civilians--the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence. I have been harping away for a few months that Harjit Sajjan does not understand the job of the Minister of National Defence, mostly because of how he responded to questions from the Defence Committee about how to deal with allegations about the Chief of Defence Staff. But the sexual misconduct/abuse of power scandal is deeper than that. For me, the big question is: why weren't some of the Deschamps recommendations implemented and why was Operation Honour so focused on an element, Duty to Report, that was the exact opposite of what Deschamp recommended?
So, before I get back to civilian control, let me remind myself and whoever reads this what Deschamps recommended and what was implemented (blue) or not (red) or maybe/sort of (purple):
- Acknowledge that inappropriate sexual conduct is a serious problem that exists in the CAF and undertake to address it.
- Establish a strategy to effect cultural change to eliminate the sexualized environment and to better integrate women, including by conducting a gender-based analysis of CAF policies. [Op Honour really did not aim to change the culture of the CAF, and, as I will discuss further below, the way GBA+ was applied, it really didn't hit lots of core of the sexualized environment.]
- Create an independent center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment outside of the CAF with the responsibility for receiving reports of inappropriate sexual conduct, as well as prevention, coordination and monitoring of training, victim support, monitoring of accountability, and research, and to act as a central authority for the collection of data. [Not sure how independent the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre is, but Thomas says in the interview that the data collection remains a problem.]
- Allow members to report incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault to the center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment, or simply to request support services without the obligation to trigger a formal complaint process. [Duty to report contradicted this directly, requiring anyone who experienced, witnessed, or heard about sexual misconduct to report. The experts argue that "Duty to Respond" is a better way to go--to require agencies and personnel to respond to a situation as the survivor wants, as some want treatment/help but not prosecution of the perpetrator. In the US, one can do a restricted report which focuses on care of the survivor and then later change to unrestricted which brings in the legal process (h/t to Megan Mackenzie for pointing this out to me)].
- With the participation of the center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment: Develop a simple, broad definition of sexual harassment that effectively captures all dimensions of the member's relationship with the CAF. [Not sure about all of this but the stories of the past three months indicate that the consent issue is hardly clear or well worked out within the CAF--this is something that Stef vH has focused on in her testimony before the Defence Committee and in our podcasts]
- With the participation of the center for accountability for sexual assault and harassment, develop a unified policy approach to address inappropriate sexual conduct and include as many aspects as possible of inappropriate sexual conduct in a single policy using plain language. [Given that there seemed to be different rules for the CDS and other double standards, nope.]