Two recent reports show that the severity of the toxic workplace culture within the Department of National Defence (DND) is still being misunderstood and underestimated by top officials in the department. "The Minister of Defence, and Members of Parliament who sit on the Status of Women Committee, still do not understand the impact of the toxic culture within the department on the lives of thousands of civilian DND workers,” said Union of National Defence President June Winger.
The first report, a new position paper, written by DND Ombudsman, Gregory Lick, echoes what PSAC-UNDE members have warned.
“The most recent sexual misconduct scandal has put on display a culture that insulates its bad actors and demands silence of its victims. This is not a new problem, nor is it limited solely to sexual misconduct. It applies to all forms of discriminatory behaviour and misconduct where there is a power imbalance and fear of reprisal.”
British Columbia PSAC-UNDE member, Krystina MacLean, whose story of racism and sexual harassment at work has recently been in the media, says “DND will not be a safe place to work until DND bases its promotions, from Base Commander up to the Minister, on who actually rolls up their sleeves to make things better, instead of who pulls down the blinds to make things go away.”
In the second case, many of the recommendations made by the Status of Women Committee in their recent report, Eliminating Sexual Misconduct Within the Canadian Armed Forces, will be important, however the study did not include the more than 20,000 civilian employees of DND or their unions. Providing supports only to members of the armed forces ignores the dangers faced by the non-military workers who provide critical services at all levels of the department across the country and abroad. .
“Neglecting to have bargaining agents present for House of Commons committees when studying issues affecting workers, and without recommendations addressing the concerns of civilian workers are serious oversights,” said PSAC National President, Chris Aylward. “Nevertheless, we support these recommendations, as their implementation will be a step to preventing harassment against members of the military and will help to address the systemic workplace culture that fosters all types of harassment in the first place.”
An additional investigative review, currently being conducted by The Honourable Louise Arbour, is an opportunity for PSAC-UNDE members to be heard and is another step to make their workplaces safe for everyone. PSAC-UNDE has already exchanged correspondence with Arbour, and we look forward to working together over the course of her review.