Army commander orders Canadian soldiers to call out racism in the ranks


Canadian Armed Forces

OTTAWA – Soldiers will be expected to blow the whistle to their superiors under a sweeping new order issued last week by the commander of the Canadian Army.

The new directive, which is being distributed to all army units across the country, also warns of consequences for those who turn a blind eye.

“We will hold our members accountable for their actions,” Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre wrote in the order.

Soldiers “at all levels will be expected to intervene and report incidents,” he said, “and where necessary, we will provide support to those affected by these behaviours.

“Failure to act is considered complicity in the event.”

Eyre, who verbally outlined his expectations last week at a virtual meeting of commanding officers from across the country, promised he would give explicit direction on how to handle a growing number of cases of far-right extremism in the ranks.

The 25 page order, which was signed on Wednesday last week, said that a commanding officer is now “directed to take a proactive response to concerns of hateful conduct and does not need a written complaint to investigate any concerns.”

Those in charge of army units and formations now also have the authority to “temporarily” relieve someone accused of racist behaviour from duty “until the appropriate investigation or follow up has concluded.”

There are limits to that authority, however: the order says that commanders must “balance the public interest, including the effect on operational effectiveness and morale, with the interests of the member” before taking the formal step of relieving soldiers of duty.

And the order still depends on the willingness of soldiers to call each other out over racist and inappropriate behaviour.

“Bystander intervention training will be key in our efforts to eliminate hateful conduct, because we all have a responsibility to act and respond if we witness hateful conduct and associated incidents,” says the order.