Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance prepares to appear before the Standing Committee on National Defence on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Dec. 6, 2018.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

General Jonathan Vance is the first to admit that his effort to change the gender balance in Canada’s military by creating a safer and more welcoming environment for women has proven to be a challenge.

Three-and-a-half years after he announced that sexual misconduct within the ranks would not be tolerated, the percentage of armed-forces personnel who are female has nudged up only slightly to 15 per cent.

And Gen. Vance is preparing to issue new directives around Operation Honour – the forces-wide campaign he initiated to reduce sexual assaults and harassment – after both the Auditor-General and an internal military assessment found it had the unintended consequence of making some victims reluctant to step forward.

Story continues below advertisement

Related: Military’s zero-tolerance policy on sexual assaults still leaves gaps, Auditor-General says

The general is not sure how much the culture within the Canadian Forces has changed since he took over as Chief of Defence Staff in July, 2015 – in part because culture is almost impossible to measure. But, he said in a year-end interview in his office in downtown Ottawa, there will be no retreating from the goals, only a revision of the game plan to reduce sexual misconduct and boost the number of women in the armed forces.

“The nature of warfare, the characteristics of conflict, are changing,” he said. “We need a broader range of people. So, even if you are dyed-in-the-wool against gender balance, you can’t make a case any more for why you would only want men [in the military].”

The forces must adapt to cyberspace, and real space, and domains that are far different from traditional war theatres of the past, Gen. Vance said. “We need a broader range of skill sets, including critical thinking and creativity, because, in a chaotic conflict environment, doctrine and dogma here won’t work,” he said.

At 67,600 members, the military is at its target size. And with 60,000 people expressing an interest in joining every year, and 7,000 being hired annually, Gen. Vance says he’s confident he will have no problem expanding the ranks to 71,500, the new target as laid out in the most recent federal defence policy.

But, he said, he wants the right mix of people. First, he said he wants women to make up 25 per cent of the forces – a tough goal when their numbers are climbing by about one percentage point a year, and when news stories about the military’s sexualized culture make women reluctant to consider becoming soldiers.

“I don’t want to spin the stories because we deserve everything that is written about us; I just have to change the environment,” Gen. Vance said.

Story continues below advertisement

To that end, the military adopted its zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment and assault as soon as he became Chief of Defence Staff. But according to a recent report by the federal Auditor-General, the duty to report all incidents of inappropriate sexual behaviour means third parties are reporting incidents even when the victims are not ready to step forward. And the military police is required to investigate all incidents even when victims would prefer to resolve the issue informally. Some victims are choosing to keep quiet rather than risk the ostracism of their comrades, the auditor said. So, Gen. Vance is about to change the directives.

A new set of guidelines will be released shortly. They will say the duty to report sexual assault and harassment still exists, but what happens after a report is made will be done with the input of the victim, Gen. Vance said.

Experts at the newly created Sexual Misconduct Response Centre have been asked to flesh out the plan. But the general expects all victims to be assigned an advocate who can guide them through the system. And an investigation may not have to start right away, Gen. Vance said. Maybe, he said, the person who receives the report of the sexual misconduct “doesn’t immediately have to do anything other than activate a mechanism that puts care and control and support around the victim.”

Gen. Vance said it is his sense that the climate is not getting worse, but there has not been a significant and measurable reduction of incidents of sexual misconduct in the military over the past three years. So, another part of his plan is to ensure that prospective soldiers understand from the outset what kinds of behaviour are unacceptable.

“We may have to think about making people good people before they are good soldiers,” he said. “Before you even begin recruit training, before you even get issued a uniform, maybe we have to spend a month [with pay] to teach you what right looks like.”

But that is a proposal for the future.

Story continues below advertisement

The military, Gen. Vance said, was designed for mass recruitment. Now, it has the business tools and practices that allow for the selection of individuals. “That is a culture change for us,” he said. “Managing the armed forces one [recruit] at a time versus 100,000 at a time. That’s where we are headed.”

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies