Video message from the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer on the survey into sexual misconduct in the CAF

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Video / December 5, 2016


Chief Warrant Officer Kevin West. Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer. Most of you know me. I know most of you throughout the Canadian Forces as I’ve moved around. What I want to talk about here is Operation HONOUR and how we as Senior NCO’s and above, Sergeants, Petty Officers Second Class and above, within the Canadian Armed Forces, are failing at this operation that the CDS has tasked us with. We have, some of us, at these rank levels, that are not taking care of our people. That is our entire purpose in life, is people. It’s not KIT, it’s not end of mission, it’s taking care of the people to get that mission done and we are failing at it in certain areas right now. And that is completely unacceptable. Worse than failing at taking care of our people is right now over half of Sergeants, Petty Officers Second Class and above, over half, remember that number, are actually the perpetrators of these incidents going on in the Canadian Forces. That is unbelievable. When that report came to my desk and I started going through it and I saw what the numbers are and more than half is actually being generous. How can we, the trust that is given to us, as members of this organization, leading our people, young Canadians from across this country, how can we be committing these types of acts toward these people? It is unfathomable to me with 32 years of service, that we would even consider that, let alone not taking care of our people.

Operation HONOUR is about three things. It’s about respect, it’s about leadership and it’s about honour.  When we talk respect people get confused even though it’s a very simple word. In our domain, in the world that we live in right now, in the Canadian Armed Forces we wear a uniform every single day. If you are a member of the Canadian Armed Forces and you wear this uniform you deserve the respect. As the Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer, I demand that we respect everybody in uniform, regardless of gender, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion, I don’t care. If you wear this uniform, you’re part of one family, and that is the family of the Canadian Armed Forces. We are entrusted with the privilege - and when I say privilege, it is, it’s a lot of weight - but the privilege of leading, and leading people which is the key. So we need to take this seriously. You need to take this seriously. Because the impacts that you have on the people across the Canadian Forces – your people, our people, young Canadians – is immense. You are their leaders, right? But right now we have some of you, some of you in this organization at our rank levels, that are breaking that trust. That is completely unacceptable! Completely unacceptable!

We cannot have this happen in this organization.  Young Canadians - women, men - join this organization to be you. They want to be us. We were all in the same boat however long you’ve been in. When you first show up at that recruiting centre you want to be that person that was behind the counter, right, wearing that uniform so proudly. But some of you and some of us are failing these people. Some of you, some of us are hurting these people physically, emotionally, mentally destroying young people. We have incidents right now of troops driving to work, as they get close to the main gate of their work, and I’m not making this up, are physically getting ill before they get to work. That’s how toxic some of the situations are that these people are involved in. We cannot accept this anymore.

If you remember back when you graduated out of recruit school, Cornwall, St-Jean, wherever you went through, and I see it today because I’ve had the opportunity to go to some of these recruit grads, they stand there after 10, 11, 12 weeks of training, proud, ten feet tall and bullet proof in their uniform with their families around them thinking, ‘This is my future. I am going to be something. I am going to be what this organization is’. And right now, months later, some of these are actually crushed. We are crushing them emotionally, physically in some cases, and mentally by some of the actions that we are either not taking as leaders or actions that we are actually committing to some of these people. Like I said, over 50%, over half of our core, Senior NCO’s and above, are committing these type of acts, unacceptable.

The other piece is leadership. You are all in leadership positions. As soon as you put up the rank of Sergeant, Petty Officer Second Class or above, you’re a leader, like it or not, you have no choice. Actually, you do, and I’ll give you the choice. The choice is, you don’t want to lead once you have the rank, I just like the few extra dollars it gives me, I don’t need you. We don’t need you. I will help you leave, guaranteed. We cannot afford to have this type of mentality in the core that we hold. Like I said, the trust and confidence that is given to us as Senior NCOs and above is unbelievable. We need to take this seriously.  You’ve all seen the news, in the future we’re going to be deploying again. We’re going to have people all over the world. The demands of being a member of the Canadian Armed Forces is huge. The stressors of military life are big. Nobody else in society lives with the stressors that we live by. We need to make sure that we do not add to these stressors by our actions or our inability to lead and take care of the people.  We cannot allow this to happen anymore. I can’t be any more clearer than that. We cannot allow this to happen anymore.

I talk about respect. Some people, I travel around the country and I’ve had some people come to me: ‘Chief, you know you talk about respect and what you’re saying is, you know it’s weakness, we have to coddle people’. That has nothing to do with respect. Being a good respectful leader is knowing when I gotta kick somebody’s butt to get the mission done, or I gotta put my hand on their shoulder and say it’s gonna be ok. I as a leader will take care of you. That is what leadership is about, what respect is about. You gotta know when to transition from one to the other. If you as leaders right now across the Canadian Forces do not have that ability, you need to go and learn how to do this. There are people that will help you. There are people that will mentor you and get you to be able to transition back and forth, it’s difficult, very difficult to transition back and forth, but you are able to learn it. I can guarantee it. Different story if you don’t want to learn it. If you don’t want to learn it, I’ll revert back to option 1 which is: you gotta go. We’re a small force. Less than 100,000 people regular force and reserves.  We don’t have the capacity or the ability to hang on to people that don’t want to do the jobs that we need them to do. And in our case, your case, leading. Leading people, the most important asset that we have in the Canadian Armed Forces. So, if you don’t want to lead, you gotta go. And I will help you go, guaranteed, I will help you go. This is one of the most honourable professions in the country.  Who can have anything more honourable than protecting the citizens and your land. There isn’t anything more honourable than this. None of you, none of you, none of us have the right or the power to take away the pride that our people have wearing this uniform. This is serious, serious issues that we’re dealing with right now. We have to take charge, we have to lead, we have to engage with our people, and we have to, at the end of the day it’s as simple as, ‘you need to take care’. And yes, sometimes you’re taking care of people and you may get a malingerer somewhere. That’s Ok. We’ll deal with that separately. But we have people that have issues, and right now some of you, in this rank level are causing the issues. One, as I stated either you are not taking care of your people and paying attention to them or two, you are actually the ones perpetrating the acts, however horrible they are, against your own people. Your own people. How can this happen? Cannot make this happen anymore. We cannot let this happen anymore. Now if you think this doesn’t concern you, cause ‘well I’ve never seen, I’ve never been around one of these horrible acts or I’ve never heard anybody say something inappropriate’, if you think it doesn’t concern you, you are wrong. You are wrong if you think it doesn’t concern you. If you think, or not you think, if you don’t care, got an even bigger issue if you don’t care. Cause if you don’t care we’re back to option one, and if you’ve noticed there’s only one option: you gotta go. You’re either on board or you’re not. So you need to care. If you think ‘this respect thing and this leading thing, you know I get my pay cheque, I’m a warrant officer and I’m just gonna’…that’s not what it’s about. You are a leader first. That is the first thing that you are, is a leader. Besides being whatever occupation you are, you are a leader. And it’s a tough thing to do, I’m not going to lie. It’s a tough world to operate in, right, but that’s what you are here for. And you’re here because you wanted to be here. It’s not just about getting on a merit list and getting promoted. You’re here because it means something and you showed potential. Well, continue to show us that potential and how important it is. If you don’t think this is important, you need to go. I will help you go. I will open the door, I will hold the door with respect, and watch you leave. Our organization is too small to have people, for some of you in the crowd that I’m talking to, of all the people that I’m talking to right now, there are some of you like I said, that are committing these acts or either not taking care of your people. Cannot have this in this organization that is so proud and has done so well for so many years. We cannot have people of this type in this organization. We can’t have it. I can’t say it more than that. And I am in the last year of my tenure as a Canadian Forces Chief Warrant Officer and I need you to be on board. I’ll give you an example: If you are an instructor somewhere in a school, I need you to be taking this seriously. You are the first point of contact to our young troops. And I need you to make sure they understand what is Operation HONOUR. What does it mean to do the right thing, do the wrong thing? How do we treat people? I am not expecting everybody to be best friends. I’m not expecting you to go out on Friday nights and have a beer with everybody. But what I do expect and demand is that you respect everybody that wears this uniform including their families that surround them. I will help you learn what you need to learn. I will travel around the country and I will get to you if you are the people perpetrating these acts, not taking care of your people, I am telling you right now I will find you, we will find you and you will go.

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