By Steven Fouchard, Army Public Affairs
A workshop designed to help Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel identify workplace sexual misconduct and support victims continues to roll out on a continuous basis at bases and wings across the country and has the potential to reach as many as 10,000 members a year.
Respect in the CAF: Take a stand against sexual misconduct (RitCAF) was developed by the CAF’s Strategic Response Team on Sexual Misconduct, in cooperation with the CAF’s Directorate of Force Protection and Personnel Support Programs.
The workshop is another aspect of Operation HONOUR, an ongoing, CAF-wide campaign to end sexual misconduct and foster a respectful, inclusive environment for all personnel.
Following a pilot project that began in late 2017, RitCAF is being presented on various dates at each of 24 locations across the country, including at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Petawawa.
CFB Petawawa holds RitCAF
Dana Lawson, Manager Health Promotion, Personnel Support Programs at CFB Petawawa, said RitCAF is a welcome addition to an already robust set of health initiatives available to CAF members that also address nutrition, fitness and addiction among many other areas.
“It’s actually an amazing program,” she said. “There are a lot of ‘lightbulb moments’ that we see happen.”
The day-long RitCAF workshop opens with a brief introduction for participants, including a PowerPoint presentation, but Ms. Lawson emphasized that it is designed to be highly interactive.
Workshop highly interactive
“It’s not your typical ‘death by PowerPoint,’” she said. “We talk about Operation HONOUR – values and ethics within the CAF. We then look at the spectrum of sexual misconduct – working interactively in groups, having discussions.”
“We look at myths and facts around sexual misconduct and have discussions around those, and the participants often bring different points of view, so you can see the learning happening.”
Becoming effective intervenors and supporters
Trina Mansour, Health Promotion Specialist at CFB Petawawa, is a RitCAF facilitator who undertook three days of training for the role in June 2018.
“As facilitators, we focus on the end objective,” she said, noting that the intent is to empower CAF members to become effective intervenors should they witness an incident as well as to be effective supporters for those who may disclose something that happened to them.
Participation is voluntary and the message gains life of its own
RitCAF’s developers opted to make participation voluntary to cultivate sincere and enthusiastic messengers who will spread the word to their respective units – an approach Ms. Lawson said that, in her experience, is proving effective.
“The people who leave the workshop often become ambassadors saying, ‘It was good, there’s some good discussion, you learn some skills.’ So I think they are probably our best option for spreading the word.”
Organized by peer ranks
Workshops are organized by rank level, with separate sessions for Privates to Master Corporals, Sergeants to Chief Warrant Officers, and another for officers, to ensure participants’ comfort levels are high.
“Having your different rank groupings, we feel, allows conversation to happen very naturally,” Ms. Lawson said. “Those rank groups are used to having those conversations together so we’re finding those groupings maximize that participation.”
Senior leaders ‘get it’ and pass it on
Ms. Mansour added that she appreciates the participation of senior leaders who speak at the conclusion of each session.
“I appreciate people like Chief Warrant Officer Shawn Mercer, the Brigade Sergeant Major for 2 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group here in Petawawa,” she said.
“I’ve been very impressed with the dialogue created with the participants. Every single senior leader who comes in encourages the personnel to speak freely and lets them know the chain of command is there for them.”