Written by Amanda Connolly, iPolitics
Months after a damning report found the Canadian Forces was fostering a “toxic” culture towards women and LGBT members, the new offices for the Department of National Defence will have gender-neutral toilets, iPolitics has learned.
“Some gender-neutral washrooms will be available in the [four] buildings currently being rehabilitated in the first phase of work at the Carling Campus,” wrote Public Services and Procurement Canada spokesperson Pierre Alain Bujold in an email to iPolitics. “We also intend to install such washrooms in other campus buildings, in upcoming phases of work.”
The Department of National Defence is in the midst of consolidating its 47 offices across the National Capital Region into seven offices, including the former Nortel main office on Carling Avenue.
The first 1,000 of roughly 12,000 DND employees had been expected to begin moving offices early this year but structural problems at the Carling Campus have delayed those plans.
It’s not clear exactly when the move will take place.
Over the past year, the subject of accommodation and support for LGBT Canadian Forces members has been in the spotlight.
In March 2015, former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps released adamning report that blasted senior military leaders for allowing misogyny and intolerance to take root, and called on them to take concrete action to stomp it out.
“There is an underlying sexualized culture in the CAF that is hostile to women and LGBTQ members, and conductive to more serious incidents of sexual harassment and assault,” she wrote at the time. “Cultural change is therefore key.”
Since then, the military has been working to increase awareness among its members about what kinds of behaviours constitute sexual harassment and assault as part of what’s been coined ‘Operation Honour.’
As well, it announced the creation of a new independent sexual assault reporting centre, which was one of the key recommendations from the Deschamps report given that the existing policy of reporting harassment and assault up the chain of command could deter members from filing complaints against accusers who are part of the unit or who are their superiors.
According to a progress report Deschamps issued in February 2016, the new Sexual Misconduct Response Centre received 246 contacts between mid-September and December 31.
Of the 204, 156 of the individuals were members of the Canadian Forces and half were female while the other half were male.
As of January 29, there are eight investigations underway into complaints made to the Centre.
Bujold said the department decided to include gender neutral toilets in its new offices because it recognizes it has responsibilities to its LGBT employees.
“The decision on whether to establish unisex (or gender neutral) washrooms in a given facility is primarily a response to a duty to accommodate,” Bujold said.