CAF deplores hateful conduct by members

National Defence

Hateful conduct, be it through words or actions, is completely incompatible with Canadian Armed Forces’ (CAF’s) values and culture. It erodes cohesion and esprit de corps, and diminishes our authority as a force for good in Canadian society and around the world and will not be tolerated in the CAF.

Hateful conduct will call into question a member’s suitability for continued service in our military, and subsequently, suspected cases of such are investigated. If the suspicion is verified, the implicated member may face severe career consequences, including release from the CAF. See Defence Administrative Orders and Directives (DAOD 5019-0) for more information on processes for dealing with performance and conduct deficiencies in the CAF.

If members have engaged in or endorsed inappropriate activities due to ignorance rather than hatefulness, the CAF will endeavour to correct their ignorance and rehabilitate them. Measures implemented can include a recorded warning, counselling, and/or probation.

If a member’s conduct gives rise to a charge under the Code of Service Discipline, the matter may be dealt with through the military justice system. Although there are no service offences specific to hateful conduct, depending on the nature of the inappropriate conduct, one or more charges under the National Defence Act could apply. More information regarding the Code of Service Discipline, including details on service offences and punishments, can be found online in the National Defence Act:

In some instances, hateful conduct by a CAF member can be dealt with through the civilian justice system, though actions to address the misconduct through the military chain of command can take place concurrently.

It is completely unacceptable for a CAF member to participate in an activity or have membership in a group or organization that is connected with criminal activities, and/or promotes hatred, violence, discrimination, or harassment on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination as defined in the Canadian Human Rights Act. Read more about the Chief of Defence Staff’s direction on this subject.

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 (CANFORGEN) message 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.