Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence Ethics Program

Rosalie Bernier, Manager
Defence Ethics Program
Chief Review Services

A paper prepared for presentation to the Joint Services Conference on Professional Ethics XVII
Washington, D.C. January 25-26, 1996

 (The views presented herein are entirely those of the author, and do not repres ent the official position of the JSCOPE Conference, the Canadian Department of National Defence or the United States Department of Defense.)


The last decade has seen an increased emphasis on the renewal of public sector management practices. At the same time, global and national economic pressures continue to weigh heavily on Defence and industry. The result has produced radical changes in the way the Defence Team conducts business. These changes will create a climate of uncertainty during the transition to a new style of management, particularly as employees have devolved to them new and unfamiliar responsibilities, greater freedom in decision-making, and increased responsibilities for administering Defence resources. In response to this and to reflect the emphasis placed on ethical decision-making and integrity in government, Defence Senior Management has endorsed the Defence Ethics Program as an umbrella program to provide a corporate focus to the multiplicity of management initiatives in Commands and National Defence Headquarters Groups. On 18 February 1994 the Defence Management Committee (DMC) mandated the Chief Review Services (CRS) to implement a Canadian Forces and National Defence-wide Ethics Program.



The Defence Ethics Program is a shared values-based initiative. It has been designed to provide a number of tools and policies to assist commanders and managers in meeting the challenges they face under management renewal in a changing environment. It complements emerging policies arising from Defence 2000 and other management reforms of the 1990s. The Defence Ethics Program is an umbrella program covering the activities of the functional areas within the Canadian Forces (CF) and the Department of National Defence(DND). The Ethics Program is being implemented through the chain of command and line management. Once the Program is fully implemented, Chief Review Services (CRS) will continue the on-going development of a Defence Centre of Excellence in Ethics and provide expertise, advice and support to the Commands and National Defence Headquarters Groups.



The key components of the Defence Ethics Program are:

 a) Ethics Awareness
b) Ethics Education
c) Development and Enhancement of Core Values
d) Ethics Advice in the Workplace



Ethics ultimately rests with the individual. An ethical Defence Team is the sum of the individuals within the team who act ethically. Ethics must be reflected in every day behaviour and actions. Ethics Awareness is therefore a major component of the Defence Ethics Program. We will use every communication vehicle available including internal bulletins, newsletters and other media to communicate with all Defence Team members and we will develop additional information and awareness raising tools to assist individual managers in communicating the shared values and fostering ethical decision-making.


The initial efforts of the Ethics Program have centered around an education module which is nearing completion and will soon be delivered throughout the CF and DND. A training package called Ethics in the Workplace has been structured to be responsive to the changing need for ethics training and awareness. Ml or portions of this package are also intended to be included in all major formal Canadian Forces and departmental courses. The complete training package is flexible and adapts itself to virtually any target audience and the time available. It can run from three hours to a frill day and combines discussions, slides, videos and case studies to facilitate the learning and the practice of the basic components of the ethical decision-making process. The Ethics in the Workplace package contains a core which focuses on ethical concepts and values and more importantly includes interactive discussions of ethical issues and dilemmas. This core can be presented in approximately one hour to one hour and thirty minutes and gravitates around the 25 minute video, Ethics in the Workplace. The Chief of the Defence Staff and the Deputy Minister have personally delivered their own ethical and cultural message to all Defence Team members in the opening scenes of the video. In this way, they are taking the lead to demonstrate the need for senior management to be seen and perceived as committed to the practice of strong ethical principles and values.



We are developing a Statement of Core Values for the Defence Team, similar to the codes of ethics of other professional bodies. A statement is currently being drafted around the concept of a value system, values ordered in terms of precedence, as that which is the most influential in ethical decision making situations. In the meantime, we have focused on the following cluster of four core values: Integrity, Trust, Justice and Probity. We have planned to conduct studies that use focus groups and other research means to further validate these values. The Statement of Core Values will be widely publicized throughout the Canadian Forces and the Department of National Defence. The Statement of Core Values will be integrated in the existing range of professional development and management courses.



Ethics Advice in the Workplace responds to the need for an internal information and guidance mechanism that employees at all levels can turn to when they seek additional knowledge and understanding for making decisions or more focused advice in the face of ethical dilemmas. As part of the process of designing the Ethics Advice component, we are working in concert with Commands and National Defence Headquarter's groups. Our goal is to create an ethics advice network that supports and assists all Defence Team members in knowing and doing the right thing.



CF and DND personnel are proud of their ethical culture, and of their integrity and probity. Our unified goal is to maintain that pride notwithstanding the magnitude of the changes that we are experiencing. The Defence Team recognizes that it has an obligation, which the nation has a right to expect, to achieve its mission and mandate by adhering to sound ethical practices. The Defence Ethics Program provides a framework to meet this objective.