ARCHIVED - The Way Forward

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Evolution of the office of the DND/CF Ombudsman

From Concept to Reality

On June 9, 1998, I was mandated with the task of setting up an Ombudsman's Office for the DND/CF. The Ombudsman position was in fact established and subsequently characterized as a "pioneering position" mandated to affect positive change.13 While it is true that my appointment came in the wake of several highly publicized reports on sexual harassment and assaults in the military, it is important to note that the concept of an independent oversight agency for the DND/CF had in fact been in constant evolution for several years. 14 Key landmarks are essential in understanding the road that has led to the need for and the creation of the DND/CF Ombudsman’s Office.

Somalia – 1993

The impact and consequences of the events surrounding the deployment of troops to Somalia in 1993 are too many to recount. The impetus for increased transparency, openness and accountability in the overall administration of the DND/CF has come from valuable lessons from the Somalia mission15. Some of the issues brought to light included:

  • systemic and institutional deficiencies at headquarters and in theatre operations;
  • lack or absence of leadership responsibility and accountability16;
  • inadequate practices and real or perceived double-standards for junior and senior ranking members in the application of rules17.

While the Somalia Commission Inquiry was well underway, widespread low morale prevailed among Canadian Forces members. Considerable restructuring and massive downsizing initiatives undertaken by the DND/CF contributed to members feeling aggrieved18. Morale continued to decline:

  • We are bound by limited resources and cutbacks. Morale is low for our civilian employees – basically they have no job security. (Meeting with a Senior Officer, CFB Esquimalt, August 31, 1998)
  • Problems are coming/stemming from lack of human/financial resources. Everything is frozen. It is hard, very discouraging, morale is low. (Meeting at HMCS ALGONQUIN, September 1, 1998)
  • The existing small number of survivors of the cuts are shell-shocked by the workload. (Meeting with Senior Officers - MARPAC, Victoria, August 31, 1998)
  • We lost fifty percent of civilian staff in this office in the past three years. All the stresses related to this attrition – survivors of these cuts wonder what will happen next and if they will still have a job in a week, a month, two months, etc. The institution is not taking care of these survivors. The turmoil has been tremendous due to cutbacks. (Meeting with Senior Officers, Ottawa, August 13, 1998)
  • […] Our system is supposed to work but with downsizing and cuts it’s hard. The majority of issues are due to lack of funds. (Meeting with 1 AMS Group, 4 Wing Cold Lake, September 15, 1998)
  • With all the cutbacks, most of us are now doing four or five jobs. The work is piling up and there are no pay increases or advancements in [our] trade, no additional money. (Meeting with Senior NCOs, CFB Gander, October 6, 1998)
  • Ils ont perdu confiance dans l’organisme. On a rationalisé beaucoup. Ils ont peur de perdre leur travail. On a créé un sentiment d’insécurité. (Meeting with Senior Officer, CFB Valcartier, October 27, 1998)
  • We are doing more with less – stress, personnel resource cuts result in burn out, we have less support staff and working more hours. (Meeting with Senior Officer, 1 Area Support Group – Edmonton, September 2, 1998)
  • Les gens ont perdu confiance dans la chaîne de commandement, sa restructuration administrative a créé beaucoup de tension. On a peut-être fait les choses trop vite, cela a créé un choc. Nos gens n’ont pas eu d’avis préalable des compressions budgétaires. C’est arrivé du jour au lendemain – l’attrition, les coupures. Voilà d’où vient la crise actuelle. (Meeting with Senior Officer, CFB Valcartier, October 27, 1998)
  • It’s affecting people so much they’re close to suicide – five people with families are losing their jobs. (Meeting with Civilian Union Representatives, CFB Gagetown, October 30, 1998)
  • I’ve never picked up a paper and read about the hard times we civilians are having, the focus is only on the military – we work right under their thumb and they ignore us […] if they think that the CF is not being treated fairly, tell [the Minister of National Defence] to take a look at the civilians. (Meeting with Civilian Union Representatives, CFB Gagetown, October 30, 1998)
  • It is a crime what [the government] is putting the military and civilians through – do more for less – cutting back, just dumping on us. (Meeting with Civilian Union Representatives, CFB Gagetown, October 30, 1998)
  • An individual got up and as he was leaving stated: I’ve got a job I’m trying to keep and this is not helping me keep it. (Meeting with Civilian Union Representatives, CFB Gagetown, October 30, 1998)
  • We are more than disillusioned, we’re disgusted, we’re tired, we’re fed up – you’ll have to forgive us for our negativity. (Meeting with Civilian Union Representatives, CFB Gagetown, October 30, 1998)
  • Par rapport aux ressources, on tire la couverte de partout, de chaque coin et on arrive difficilement. Ça va briser à quelque part, à un moment donné si ce n’est déjà arrivé. Ça fait mal à ce moment-ci. C’est rendu à ce point là. (Rencontre avec les officiers et sous-officiers supérieurs, Cours de formation professionnelle, St. Jean, le 7 décembre 1998)

Exacerbating declining morale, occurrences of the past indicated that members no longer had the same level of confidence in the chain of command’s commitment and ability to deal with complaints and grievances in a timely, fair and equitable fashion.

Report on the study of Mechanisms of Voice / Complaint Resolution in the Canadian Forces - The Doshen Paper #1 – November 1995

Brig.-Gen. (ret’d) Larry T. Doshen was retained by the DND/CF to study the issue and recommend alternatives to the existing “mechanisms of voice” at that time already available to CF members.19 By November 1995, the Doshen Paper #1 had been completed and enunciated a series of six conceptual public policy options along the following lines:

  • Amendments to the existing redress of grievance procedures;
  • Creation of an external review agency;
  • Creation of a military union or association;
  • Creation of an Inspector General system;
  • Creation of a classical Ombudsman Office; or
  • Creation of an Organizational Ombudsman Office.

Brig.-Gen. (ret’d) Doshen concluded that “a classical Ombudsman would be the most effective mechanism of complaint resolution but is probably prohibitively expensive”20. With respect to the six conceptual options above, the Doshen Paper #1 recommended that the redress of grievance process be streamlined in order to provide more timely resolution of complaints21. It also concluded that while an external review agency could have some “perceptual benefit” at some cost, it would not contribute greatly to the resolution of members’ complaints22. The Doshen Paper #1 indicated that a military union or association “was negatively viewed by almost all military personnel and would not likely be welcomed by CF members.” 23 The paper further stated that despite the fact that both an Inspector General system and a so-called classical Ombudsman would “do the most to give members confidence that their grievances would be resolved justly, […] there would be considerable, perhaps prohibitive cost in establishing such an office”24. In the end, the Doshen Paper #1 recommended the establishment of an Organizational Ombudsman, as opposed to a so-called “classical” Ombudsman solely on the basis of cost25. It should be noted, however, that the paper did not offer or present any figures as to projected costs of such an option nor any form of cost/benefit analysis with respect to the various above-mentioned public policy options.

Proposed Implementation Plan - Organizational Ombudsman the Doshen Paper #2 – July 1996

In early 1996, Brig.-Gen. (ret’d) L.T. Doshen was commissioned to do a follow-up report on his initial findings. In July 1996, he submitted a second paper – an implementation plan for the Office of an Organizational Ombudsman26. In the months that followed, however, increasing concerns over the viability of a military Ombudsman were voiced primarily by senior management within the DND/CF27. The thrust of these concerns was of potential interference with and intrusion on the chain of command and on the Divisional system by an independent oversight body, such as that of an Ombudsman’s Office. The rationale fueling these concerns was that an Organizational Ombudsman would ultimately erode military authority and leadership28.

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Abandoning of the Ombudsman Concept

The Armed Forces Council (AFC) is one of the highest advisory boards which, through the office of the CDS, “reviews matters of policy, major defence programme issues and major activities of the CF in order to provide the CDS with military advice”29. The AFC is chaired by the CDS. Members include the VCDS, the CMS, the CLS, the CAS, the ADM(Per), the DCDS and others. Subsequent to the Doshen Papers #1 and #2 and the increased concerns over the implementation of an Ombudsman’s office, the Armed Forces Council had decided, by January 1997, to “shelve the Ombudsman proposal”30.

Recommendations of the Special Advisory Group on Military Justice and Military Police Investigation Services in the Dickson Report – March 1997

Other internal reviews of the DND/CF were simultaneously underway during this same time frame. In December 1996, the then Minister of National Defence Doug Young undertook a complete review of leadership and management in the CF, supported by a Special Advisory Group on Military Justice and Military Police Investigation Services, chaired by the late Right Honourable Brian Dickson.

By March 14, 1997, the Special Advisory Group had submitted its report to the then Minister of National Defence31. It embodied thirty-five recommendations designed to improve the efficiency and independence of the military justice system and of the military police. The notion of establishing an Ombudsman’s office had regained a sense of legitimacy:

It is very important that CF members be given a voice, consistent with the appropriate authority of the chain of command, so that their concerns and complaints can be independently investigated and, if necessary, dealt with. For in the broadest sense, military justice must include an effective, independent channel or mechanism through which members can express their concerns about any aspect of the military establishment, without feeling their only outlet is the media. Such a mechanism would ultimately strengthen the chain of command. We wish to stress, that oversight and review requirements go far beyond the military justice system and the military police. They pertain to a myriad of individual issues in which CF people may feel the need to have a voice and be heard. [It was recommended] that an independent office of complaint and review system oversight, such as a military Ombudsman, be established within the Canadian Forces, and that it report directly to the Minister of National Defence32. (Emphasis Added)

The Young Report – March 1997

On March 25, 1997, the then Minister of National Defence submitted to the Prime Minister a series of twelve documents now commonly referred to as “The Young Report33. Specifically, in Leadership and Management of the Canadian Forces, the then Minister endorsed the Special Advisory Group’s recommendation in part and directed the creation and full implementation of an Ombudsman’s office. Contrary to the recommendation of the Dickson Report, it was recommended by the then Minister, Doug Young that the Ombudsman would report to the Chief of Defence Staff and to the Deputy Minister. The intended plan was to:

Set up an office of Ombudsman outside the chain of command under the authority of the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Deputy Minister before the end of the year. The Ombudsman will provide information, advice and guidance to all personnel, military or civilian, in need of help or who believe they have been treated improperly 34.

Dishonoured Legacy: the Lessons of the Somalia Affair – June 1997

On June 30, 1997, the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia submitted its final report to the Government containing 160 recommendations35. The Somalia Report recommended, inter alia, that “the National Defence Act […] be amended to establish an independent review body, the Office of the Inspector General, with well-defined and independent jurisdiction and comprehensive powers […].”36 The Inspector General, it was intended, would report to Parliament. The Somalia Commission of . Inquiry stressed the need for renewed commitment to principles of Independence, Impartiality, Transparency, Objectivity and Protection from Retribution for all members of the institution:

[…] left uncorrected, the problems that surfaced in the desert in Somalia and in the boardrooms at National Defence Headquarters will continue to spawn military ignominy. The victim will be Canada and its international reputation37.

In addition, the Somalia Commission of Inquiry requested that the Department of National Defence report to Parliament by no later than June 30, 1998, and that the Department be made accountable for the implementation of its recommendations.

A Commitment to Change – October 1997

By the fall of 1997, the Department of National Defence had had the opportunity to analyze the recommendations contained in the Somalia Report and various other reports, notably that of your predecessor, former Minister Doug Young38. You announced that your Department endorsed 132 of the 165 recommendations in the Somalia Report, “in whole or in part”, and that it had already implemented many of the proposed changes39. Recommendation 16.1 (COIR 16.1) had been accepted in part – that is, the establishment of an Inspector General had not been accepted, but a variety of initiatives had already been underway to achieve greater transparency and accountability within the Department and the Canadian Forces. Amongst the initiatives already underway came the commitment to a forthcoming appointment of an Ombudsman.

The concept of an independent Ombudsman, under your leadership, continued to evolve. The DND/CF Ombudsman would once again report directly to the Minister and operate independently of the chain of command40:

This position was recommended by my predecessor, Doug Young, in a report to the Prime Minister a little over a year ago. I’ve taken the recommendation one step further in recommending that rather than reporting to the Chief of Defence Staff and to the Deputy Minister, it [will] report to myself, report to the Minister 41. (Emphasis added).

Appointment of the Ombudsman – June 1998

I was appointed as the first Ombudsman for the DND/CF on June 9, 1998, and took office on June 15, 1998, for a three-year term. I was then invited to develop and propose an operational framework, which would carry out the mandate and the vision of the Ombudsman’s Office.

13. Maclean’s, December 14, 1998 at page 22.

14. This impression has been voiced on many occasions during our consultation process: “Sir, are you here in response to the Maclean’s feature on sexual harassment in the Canadian Forces?” (HMCS ALGONQUIN Mess, September 1998, Victoria).

15. D.J. Bercuson, Ph.D., FRSC, A Paper prepared for the Minister of National Defence, University of Calgary, March 25, 1997. “On a broader level, the CF, and particularly the Army, appears to be suffering from some of the symptoms of a breakdown in discipline, though this is far from uniform across regiments and units. In a sense, the CF is in a phase comparable to that which troubled the United States military during and after the Vietnam debacle. The most telling feature of the incidents involving the Canadian Airborne Regiment at Petawawa and in Somalia were that neither officers nor senior NCMs called a halt to destructive, murderous events; indeed, some officers appeared to lead them. This suggests either fear of the NCMs, a stupid “boys will be boys” attitude, or a misplaced “macho” Ranger/Special Forces style that has no place in the CF; none of these is acceptable and all suggest an army turning inward on itself.” “[Le Département de la Défence Nationale et les Forces canadiennes font] un peu comme les Américains ont fait le ménage après le massacre au Vietnam.” (Meeting with The Honourable Mr. Justice Gilles Létourneau, Ottawa, September 30, 1998 at page 1). “USA had post-Vietnam; DND is having post-Somalia”. (Meeting in Wainwright, September 3, 1998).

16. Desmond Morton, A paper Prepared for the Minister of National Defence, McGill Institute for the Study of Canada, March 1997. “If the Canadian Forces in 1997 are in a crisis, it was not because of politicians or “pacifists”, journalists, or “whistle-blowers”. Those who leaked ugly secrets to the press gained nothing but the risk of exposure and expulsion an organization most of them wanted to save. It was a mark of their frustration that they felt compelled to expose their superiors to regain pride in a disciplined, effective military force.”

17.  Dishonoured Legacy: The Lessons of the Somalia Affair, Executive Summary, Minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada 1997.

18. VCDS Defence Planning Guidance 1997: Strategic Direction. “The Department has undergone significant personnel reductions over the past three years in response to the 1994 White Paper directions. It is estimated that by March 31, 1999, the Regular Force will have known an overall reduction of approximately 32 percent since 1989. By April 1999, the Reserve and the civilian employees will have also experienced an overall reduction of approximately 45 percent since 1989.

19. Larry T. Doshen, Report on the Study of Mechanisms of Voice/Complaint Resolution in the Canadian Forces, November 30, 1995 (hereinafter, “The Doshen Paper #1”).

20. Ibid., Executive Summary at page ii.

21. It was in further response to the then Minister’s Report of 1997, the Reports from the Special Advisory Group on Military Justice and Military Police Investigation Services and the Somalia Commission of Inquiry that amendments to the National Defence Act , R.S.C. 1985, c. N-5, were tabled in the House of Commons on December 4, 1997. The amendments would modernize the National Defence Act in general and in particular, its Code of Service Discipline (see: Parts IV to IX.I of the Act). Bill C-25 “as well as many other reforms underway, will strengthen our institution so we can better serve Canadians.” (The Honourable Art Eggleton, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence, News Release Communiqué dated December 4, 1997). Bill C-25 did in fact receive Royal Assent in Parliament on December 10, 1998 (News Release Communiqué dated December 11, 1998).

22. The Doshen Paper #1, supra, note 19 at page 61.

23. Ibid. at page 60.

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid. at page 62.

26. Larry T. Doshen, Canadian Forces Organizational Ombudsman Implementation Plan, July 10, 1996, (hereinafter, the Doshen Paper #2).

27. Organizational Ombudsman Implementation Plan Briefing Notes to Personnel Policy Board (PPB), dated October 9, 1996 at page 7: “As things now stand, MARCOM is firmly opposed to the Ombudsman concept and LFC does not support the mediation function. In particular, the Commander of MARCOM has great difficulty accepting that such a programme can be successful without having a detrimental effect on the chain of command and the Divisional System.”

28. The Doshen Paper #2, supra, note 26. See also: Briefing Notes to PPB, ibid. at page 7. “Erosion of Military Authority and Leadership: There is profound concern that the existence and operation of an Ombudsman as a complaint-resolution alternative to the chain of command will undermine military authority and leadership. From the very beginning of this project, this concern was recognized as a potential obstacle to accepting any departure from the status quo – and, regrettably, this hurdle has still not been successfully cleared.”

29. Armed Forces Council Resolution, s. 5, article 1 at page 6-5-1.

30. Karol W.J. Wenek, Internal Document provided to my Office dated January 14, 1997.

31. Recommendations of the Special Advisory Group on Military Justice and Military Police Investigation Services, March 14, 1997. (hereinafter, “The Dickson Report”).

32. Ibid., Recommendation #35 at pages 65-66.

33. Report to the Prime Minister, March 1997 (hereinafter, “The Young Report”).

34. Ibid., Recommendation #8 at page 10.

35. Dishonoured Legacy: The Lessons of the Somalia Affair, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia, Public Works and Government Services Canada, Ottawa, 1997 (hereinafter, “The Somalia Report”).

36. Ibid., COIR (Commission of Inquiry Recommendation) 16.1.

37. Ibid. at page ES-1.

38. The Young Report, supra, note 33.

39. A Commitment to Change: Report on the Recommendations of the Somalia Commission of Inquiry, Minister of National Defence, Ottawa, October 1997.

40. Ibid., Recommendation #8.

41. The Honourable Art Eggleton, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence, Transcript - Introducing the DND/CF Ombudsman, June 9, 1998, at page 1 of 10.


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