The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) continues to undergo a cultural transformation that is said will “re-establish trust” in the institution as a professional, inclusive workplace.

CAF will implement legislation over the next several years in line with 48 points laid out by the former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour in the Independent External Comprehensive Review (IECR), released in May 2022.

Biannual status reports have since been issued by the External Monitor, Madame Jocelyne Therrien, determining their progress in a spirit of transparency.

In the latest report, the third of its kind, released in mid-May 2024, Therrien observed there is a strong desire to bring about change – but she also notes there is still a lot of work to accomplish – and that the institution needs to move faster on implementation.

Therrien raises several areas for advancement:

  • introduction of legislation to modernise the military justice system;
  • transformation of the complaints system, including grievances;
  • appointment of the Canadian Military College Review Board;
  • improvements to the enrollment and recruitment process; and
  • the creation of additional Captain (Navy)/Colonel positions in specified support and specialist occupations, which will provide more pathways to the General Officer and Flag Officer ranks for women.

Ministry of Defence response to Armed Forces changes

Welcoming the latest status report, the Canadian Defence Minister Bill Blair outlined the progress made to date and measures that will be taken to implement all 48 points by the end of 2025.

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“As Madame Therrien notes, in March I introduced legislation to amend the National Defence Act [that] would definitively remove CAF’s jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute Criminal Code sexual offences committed in Canada, giving exclusive jurisdiction to civilian authorities to investigate and prosecute such offences committed in Canada,” he was quick to point out.

“We are also making progress on other key recommendations. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces can now take their complaints for sexual harassment, or for discrimination on the basis of sex, directly to the Canadian Human Rights Commission, in line with Recommendations 7 and 9.”

He added: “we are transforming the complaints system by making it easier for members to submit grievances, ensuring the system is more responsive, and moves faster. The digital grievance submission form, launched in February, is an important step to this end.

“Additionally, we recently implemented a process to clear the backlog of files in the grievance system, which has positioned us to finalise nearly 70% of these files in the coming months.”