Canadian Forces Writing ‘Playbook’ for Handling Allegations Involving Top Brass

March 23, 2021 Updated: March 23, 2021

OTTAWA—The Canadian Armed Forces is developing a suite of new initiatives aimed at tackling inappropriate behaviour in the ranks, the military’s acting commander revealed Tuesday, including a “playbook” for handling misconduct allegations against senior officers.

The Armed Forces is also looking to update its existing code of conduct to more clearly define actions that are unacceptable, acting chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre said, and are looking at ways to better select military leaders.

Eyre revealed the pending new measures in testimony to the House of Commons committee on the status of women, the second to probe the Liberal government’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against senior military officers.

Those include former defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance and his successor, Admiral Art McDonald, whose seat Eyre is filling after McDonald temporarily stepped aside last month, only a few weeks after taking over from Vance.

During his testimony, Eyre acknowledged the allegations against senior leaders had “shaken” service members, and suggested the military was at “an inflection point” when it came to misconduct in the ranks.

He repeatedly linked the problem of inappropriate sexual behaviour in the military to “power dynamics,” and said that is one of the areas that the military needs to better understand if it is to eliminate such misconduct.

“One of the things we have to get much better at understanding is human power dynamics, especially in a fairly rigid military hierarchy,” Eyre told members of the committee. “Understanding what constitutes the use … of that power.”

Such analysis is unlikely to develop overnight. In the meantime, Eyre listed a number of different initiatives in the works to address sexual misconduct on a shorter timeline.

That includes coming up with the “playbook,” the development of which Eyre said was one of his first orders upon being named acting defence chief on Feb. 24, “to help me deal with any further incidents of senior leader misconduct, so we can rapidly deal with those.”

Eyre did not provide further details, except to say the document is now in draft form.

The Canadian Armed Forces is also planning to update its existing code of conduct, Eyre said, “to add much more detail is to what is expected under each of our values, and then we need to hold ourselves to account.”

The acting defence chief also indicated the military was looking at ending Operation Honour, the all−encompassing effort to eliminate sexual misconduct that was first launched by Vance upon his taking command of the Armed Forces in July 2015.

Some, most notably Lt.−Col. Eleanor Taylor, who recently announced that she was quitting the military following its failure to address misconduct in the ranks, have suggested that Operation Honour was poisoned because senior leaders failed to set a good example.

“I believe, and I’ve heard from many, that perhaps this operation has culminated and we need to harvest what has worked from there, learn from what hasn’t, and go forward with a deliberate change plan,” Eyre told the committee.

The acting defence chief, who was appearing with Lt.−Gen. Frances Allen, the first woman to have been named second in command of the Canadian Armed Forces, also said work had already started on new ways to select and promote military leaders.

That includes psychological testing and giving subordinates more say in how prospective leaders are assessed in an attempt to identify “toxic behaviours.”