Effective January 18, a Canadian Forces General Order eliminates a big barrier to care. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces are no longer denied a promotion based on their need for medical attention, de-linking promotion from a medical category.
“One of the observations that’s come up over the last couple years was that individuals were reluctant get medical care as they approach promotions, because we had this policy in place that if you’re not medically fit, you’re not going to be a promoted,” Major-General Wayne Eyre explains.
At the start of the year, the Armed Forces Council had a one-day briefing session to look at the CAF’s personnel policies. The military personnel approached the council with changes they wanted to put in place, one of them being the medical category. The senior leadership asked if they could figure out a policy immediately. Within 24 hours, it was accomplished: the policy was looked at by current administration, the medical team, lawyers, and ready to be approved.
The response so far has been great, Eyre says. The removal of the barrier improves the morale of the soldiers, he says, because stigma is reduced. And from an operational perspective, there is no concern. The Forces’ primary goal is still operational excellence. For positions requiring a certain level of physical fitness, that cannot be sacrificed because effectiveness will be compromised.
“At the end of the day, we still have to produce what Canada expects us to produce, and that’s operational excellence,” he says. “We still need to have our members ready for operations.”
But, this will help.
“Because, as has been well proven, the earlier that you seek and get that help, the likelier your chances of recovery are going to be,” Eyre says. “It’s a bottom-up desire, empowered by top-down direction.”
Going forward, Eyre says this is an example of where the Canadian military is headed.
“We’re doing a fundamental review of a lot of our policies,” he explains. “We are too small a military to have a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to dealing with our people.”
Eyre explained that as societal expectations change, the military should continually learn as well.
“We need to make sure we remain attractive to the people of Canada who want to join the military and serve their country. And this is just one example of doing that.”
If that means taking a little more risk, then Eyre says they will do so. Though he explains that bureaucracy has been traditionally averse to taking risk, Eyre says they are now willing to change that a little, if that means rapidly adapting and changing as the circumstances do so.