Clarity provided on expected behaviour from CAF members

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A military occupies a special place within a nation’s identity. It fights and puts its members’ lives on the line for the principles that a nation seeks to uphold, both at home and abroad.

Every member of that military must do their utmost to uphold such principles and beliefs through their actions, and in Canada that includes respect for diversity and the rule of law.

General Jonathan Vance, Chief of Defence Staff for the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), has made clear what is expected from CAF members in terms of the behaviour they display in the public sphere through a new Canadian Forces General Order (CANFORGEN) that specifies several behaviours that are unacceptable for CAF members. These behaviours include pursuits such as group affiliation, political activism, and online activity.

The guiding principles behind these directives include the CAF’s commitment to equality, dignity, and the worth of all people. Discriminatory conduct is not tolerated in this organization, and the CAF is committed to eliminating all forms of discrimination within its operations.

Discrimination based on race, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any number of things runs contrary to the ethos of Canada’s military, which fights for the freedom and dignity of all Canadians and people around the world.

It should also be noted that the Department of National Defence (DND), as outlined in the new defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, is stepping up efforts to attract and retain CAF members and civilian employees to meet the challenges Canada and its allies will face in the years ahead. With this in mind, it is paramount that Canadians from a broad spectrum of backgrounds feel comfortable working for this organization.

This new directive from the Chief of Defence Staff makes it clear that it is unacceptable for members to be involved in any activity that contributes to the promotion of discrimination and hatred. This includes membership in certain groups, opinions expressed publicly or on online platforms, and public demonstrations of a political nature.

CAF members are seen by the public as representing the institution, whether they are on or off duty. It is the responsibility of CAF members to avoid any behaviour that casts Canada’s military in a negative light. This also includes any involvement with organizations that members know to be involved in criminal activity. Such affiliations deteriorate Canadians’ trust in their military.

Credible evidence indicating any deviation of members from these standards could result in an investigation, and if the inappropriate behaviour is substantiated, could result in a range of disciplinary actions, including release from the CAF.

That said, the CAF’s chain of command is quite aware that just a small minority of members have been involved in any of the activity that makes this CANFORGEN necessary. However, the transgressions of the minority tend to get proportionally more attention than the great work done by the vast majority of members on a daily basis. The misdeeds of the few can result in the CAF as a whole being painted with a very broad brush.

For the sake of this organization’s operational efficiency, the essential services it performs for Canada and its global allies, and its reputation, it is necessary to set these high standards for our members and follow through accordingly.

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