Report 5—Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour—Canadian Armed Forces

At a Glance Report 5—Inappropriate Sexual Behaviour—Canadian Armed Forces

What we examined (see Focus of the audit)

This audit focused on whether the Canadian Armed Forces adequately responded to inappropriate sexual behaviour through actions to respond to and support victims and to understand and prevent such behaviour. Operation HONOUR’s success depends on achieving significant cultural change over the long term; we examined the progress of the Operation during the third year of implementation. The audit identified areas for improvement to help ensure that the organization is on track to achieve the Operation’s objectives.

Why we did this audit

This audit is important because inappropriate sexual behaviour is wrong. It undermines good order and discipline, goes against the professional values and ethical principles of the Department of National Defence and the Forces, and weakens cohesion within the Forces.

Overall message

In August 2015, the Chief of the Defence Staff launched Operation HONOUR and informed all members of the Canadian Armed Forces that he and senior leaders intended to change the culture in the Forces and stop inappropriate sexual behaviour. This set an imperative and expectations for positive change.

We found that Operation HONOUR increased awareness of inappropriate sexual behaviour within the Canadian Armed Forces. However, the Operation had a fragmented approach to victim support as well as unintended consequences that slowed its progress and left some members wondering if it would achieve the expectations set for it.

We found that, after the implementation of the Operation, the number of reported complaints increased from about 40 in 2015 to about 300 in 2017. The Forces believed that the increase was an indication that members trusted that the organization would effectively respond to inappropriate sexual behaviour.

However, we found that some members still did not feel safe and supported. For example, the duty to report all incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour increased the number of cases reported by a third party, even if the victim was not ready to come forward at that time. Moreover, the Military Police had to conduct an initial investigation of all reports, regardless of a victim’s preference to resolve the issue informally. This discouraged some victims from coming forward. Many victims also did not understand or have confidence in the complaint systems.

Information gathered by Statistics Canada during a 2016 survey indicated that there were many unreported incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian Armed Forces. In mid-2018, the Forces acknowledged that inappropriate sexual behaviour remained a serious problem and that a significant focus on victim support and the use of external, independent advice were required.

What we found about …

Victim Support

Education and training on inappropriate sexual behaviour

Oversight of the response to inappropriate sexual behaviour

Entity Responses to Recommendations

The entity agrees with our recommendations and has responded (see List of Recommendations).

Related information

Report of the Auditor General of Canada
Type of product Performance audit
Completion date 14 September 2018
Tabling date 20 November 2018
Related audits

For more information

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Illustration with a quote from the report