Defense Minister Anita Anand will release a much-anticipated report this morning that is set to blame the military for not doing enough to tackle racism in the ranks over the past two decades.
The report is the result of a year-long review by a group of retired Canadian Armed Forces members tasked with finding ways to combat hate, racism and discrimination within the ranks.
The review was launched in December 2020 amid concerns about systemic racism in the military, as well as reported links some members have with hate groups, right-wing extremism and white supremacy.
An internal document summarizing the panel’s key findings obtained by The Canadian Press says the military will be criticized for failing to act on previous reviews and recommendations to address the problem over the past 20 years.
“The report strongly reiterates that the Defense Team needs to place greater emphasis on the previous recommendations that were made, as it believes the organization has the knowledge and expertise to implement them in order to ensure effective and meaningful culture change,” reads the summary dated April 14. .
The panel also calls on the military to “raise the voices of those with lived experiences” and emphasizes monitoring the implementation of past recommendations to ensure real culture change within the ranks.
“The advisory board emphasizes in the report that the only way change will happen is with greater accountability starting at the unit level and flowing up through all levels of the organization,” the executive summary reads.
Allegations, far-right groups are actively recruiting members
There have been growing concerns about racism in the armed forces and links between some military personnel and hate groups following a series of incidents and reports that some right-wing groups are actively recruiting military personnel.
These incidents include a group of sailors associated with the Proud Boys who disrupted a Mi’kmaq ceremony in Halifax in 2017 and media reports of other members associated with neo-Nazi groups such as the Atomwaffen Division.
A 2018 military intelligence report said officials knew 30 active service members were part of a hate group or had made discriminatory or racist statements.
Anand has had the panel’s report since early January, but his failure to release it so far had been questioned by the office of military ombudsman Gregory Lick.
His office conducted its own study of the military’s efforts to increase diversity in the ranks and will release the results in early May.
“We have repeatedly requested to see the panel’s report through multiple channels prior to its release for months now,” said ombudsman office spokesman Andrew Bernardo, who noted that the results of the review of Lick “are not pretty”.
“Whatever new initiatives are put in place as a result of the panel’s report, the ombudsman insisted that the same mistakes do not happen again and that the department and the military must do things differently.”
The summary document says that officials from the Armed Forces and Department of Defense have worked to implement its 47 recommendations. Yet despite the panel’s emphasis on action, the summary document indicates that only about half of the panel’s recommendations are being implemented.
“Others will take longer and require more in-depth review and consultation across the organization due to the scope of the recommendations, their complexity and the need to collaborate with external partners.”
The work is being coordinated by a new internal committee tasked with reforming military culture based on the panel’s report as well as several others, including retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor’s forthcoming report on the fight against terrorism. sexual misconduct in the ranks.
The panel is also expected to call for “uncomfortable” conversations about race and white privilege, and how systemic barriers have negatively impacted Indigenous, Black and racialized troops.
Recruitment and retention concerns
The panel’s report should also talk about the impact of colonialism and the current imbalance in the share of service members who are white males relative to the rest of the Canadian population.
“Panel members wish to stress that they in no way diminish the contribution of white males to the Defense team; they are a symptom of the problem,” the briefing document reads.
The document includes a proposed response to criticism that the panel’s report is simply “wokeism at play”, saying: “We have found that the concept of wokeism continues to be misaligned with its original meaning, from be socially aware and knowledgeable.”
And while the military’s current focus is on the war in Ukraine and other threats, the briefing paper describes culture change as essential to recruiting and retaining enough troops to meet these challenges.
“It is important that we create a fair and inclusive environment so that we are better positioned to recruit and retain the people we need to address the pressing issues of the day,” reads the executive summary.
“Without our people, we cannot address or fight the ongoing wars. People only stay where they feel they belong.”