Government must address toxic culture in Canada’s military: PSAC-UNDE

THE external review into Canada’s military released on Monday highlights the sheer magnitude of systemic violence and harassment which has impacted thousands of workers of the Canadian Armed Forces and civilian members of National Defence, the Union of National Defence Employees (UNDE) and the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) said.

Led by former top United Nations official and Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour, the report is a biting critique of the impact of the military’s toxic workplace culture and the role and reputation of Canada’s military at home and around the globe.

“We know that one report will not ‘fix’ systemic violence and harassment. But this report is a tool that we will use to push the government towards meaningful and concrete actions,” said UNDE National President June Winger, representing more than 18,000 members working at the Department of National Defence.

“For far too long, sexual violence and harassment have been excused as an individual problem, rather than a systemic abuse of power that is upheld by policies, procedures, and workplace practices in Canada’s military,” said PSAC National President Chris Aylward. “Enough is enough. It’s time to move past slaps on the wrist and take concrete action to improve the toxic workplace culture in Canada’s military.”

PSAC-UNDE expect the federal government to act on the recommendations outlined in Arbour’s review to improve accountability and the workplace culture in Canada’s military. Acting on these recommendations must include engaging PSAC-UNDE as representatives of the tens of thousands of civilian workers in military workplaces, they said.

“Measurable and lasting changes are long overdue – from recruitment to the way that leadership is handled at the top,” added Winger. “We cannot tolerate a workplace culture that rewards toxicity and silences victims.”

Announced in 2021, Arbour’s external review of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces follows a similar 2015 review by then-Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps. PSAC-UNDE contributed to Arbour’s review to ensure that 19,000 civilian workers who have endured abuse, discrimination, and harassment are included in the scope of the report.