The Defence Team reflects on progress and ways ahead – addressing intersectionality, achieving equity

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By Captain Kathleen Soucy

On March 21, the Defence Team gathered in the National Defence Headquarters concourse to commemorate International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. 

Fifty-nine years ago, in Sharpeville, South Africa, 69 people were killed by police at a peaceful demonstration against the country’s apartheid pass laws. Six years later, the United Nations General Assembly called on the international community to intensify its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination, proclaiming a special day of observance to be held annually, on March 21. 

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is a day to reflect on our progress as a society, but also to acknowledge that each individual has a role to play in ending racism.

“Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members must live up to our ethos and values, and take action on their duty to stand up and eliminate any type of racial discrimination and intolerance. All Canadians, regardless of their background or ethnicity, are welcome to join us in uniform and proudly serve Canada,” said Lieutenant-General Charles Lamarre, Defence Visible Minorities Champion and Commander of the Military Personnel Command.

This year, the Defence Team chose the theme “Addressing Intersectionality – Achieving Equity” for its national event. Claude Rochette, Associate Deputy Minister of National Defence, spoke in his address about the importance of using Gender-based Analysis+ (GBA+) as an integral part of our work.

“A GBA+ analysis is not just a checklist or a rote action you do before you submit a proposal,” Mr. Rochette said. “It is an important assessment of the different impact your product, policy or plan could have on different people.” 

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Lieutenant-General Lamarre further emphasized the importance of intersectionality by explaining how it helps us address unconscious bias. He also spoke about the importance of the occasion to openly discuss issues of racism and discrimination, and highlighted the central role of the Defence Visible Minorities Advisory Group. 

Following leadership remarks, Dr. Barbara Waruszynski, Director General Military Personnel Research and Analysis (DGMPRA), presented the findings of a study on the perceptions of racism and harassment as experienced by visible minorities and Indigenous peoples in the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF. She raised the importance of using these findings in combatting racism and harassment, and improving diversity, inclusion and employment equity. 

The event closed with an interactive discussion on “Mindsets and Behaviours” led by Nadia Lécuyer, Director General Integrated Conflict and Complaint Management. Ms. Lécuyer talked about unconscious bias and its link to intended or unintended micro-aggressions. 

The Defence Team is committed to building a workforce that reflects the Canadian ideals of diversity, respect and inclusion. Diversity is about making each individual count and enabling their competencies while maximizing their potential. As a matter of practice, policy, and institutional culture, we recognize, embrace, and actively promote diversity as a core institutional value.

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