Logo #1: capital letters T, M and C side by side in colours of yellow, teal, and dark grey, respectively. “Transforming Military Cultures” is written in black font across T, M and C.

The TMC Network seeks to share research, analysis, and ideas on the topic of military culture change. We welcome submissions from all Network members, including emerging scholars and practitioners. We are especially interested in timely interventions into ongoing national and international conversations on military culture change.

Take a look at our blog submission guidelines for information on how you can contribute!

International Perspectives 2024

Blog post by Ash Grover | May 7, 2024


On January 24, 2024, members of the TMC Network gathered for our second webinar in the series titled, “International Perspectives on Transforming Military Cultures.” In this webinar, Network members Kyleanne Hunter and Morten Ender (United States), Chiara Ruffa and Annick Wibben (Sweden), and Hannah West (United Kingdom) each began by addressing their respective country’s most critical challenges with respect to military culture change and then shared best practices for transforming military cultures from their unique contexts.

Click below to read more.

The United States


  • There is a lack of clarity in how culture change is defined, highlighting the need for specificity regarding the question: What do we mean when we talk about culture change?
  • Change is often approached through wider policy developments, rather than through everyday operational changes directly informed by consultation with impacted groups.
  • There is a disjuncture between understandings of culture change at the macro, meso, and micro levels regarding the questions: What is the role of the military in society? How should military members be socialized?

Best Practices

  • Reframe military sexual trauma at the policy level as directly impacting and limiting the operations side of the military.
  • Enforce policies which connect time lost from sexual assault and abuse to the readiness of military personnel, to foreground the importance of safety, health, and wellbeing.
  • Establish a clear vocabulary surrounding culture change efforts, to encourage a critical learning lens that will enable transformation.



  • Sweden’s proximity to ongoing wars has meant heightened risk of militarization and therefore de-prioritization of gender mainstreaming.
  • Sweden displays a high level of gender equity overall, although less so in the military context as the military structure remains fundamentally gendered. This often translates into exporting gender expertise to other countries without working on Sweden’s own existing issues.

Best Practices

  • Culture change efforts must seek to address pockets of resistance against gender integration.
  • Consider how gender and organizational dynamics influence one another to create culture change beyond the integration of women.

United Kingdom


  • Engrained ideologies and practices often go unnoticed as critical distance is needed to see things that personnel normalize during their service, such as sexual harassment and violence.
  • What is framed as critical thinking in military spaces often differs from what is considered critical thinking from an academic perspective.

Best Practice

  • Conduct participatory research with diverse military personnel engaged in creative and sustained conversations to support critical thinking about assumptions and normative practices.
  • Reframe critical thinking to enable critical friendships, skeptical curiosities, and a culture of questioning.


Overall, the webinar demonstrated common themes among countries such as the need to examine the military institution holistically, pay attention to the different levels of implementation for culture change, and encourage communication between such levels. The panelists stressed the importance of giving military personnel the critical social science vocabulary to understand and engage in culture change, fostering creative practices and deep curiosity to overcome challenges, addressing resistance to change, and critiquing normalized practices.

“I just want to be treated like everyone else” – Healthcare for Trans People in the Canadian Military

Blog post by Sophia Konermann, B.Sc., PhD Candidate, University of New Brunswick | Recipient of 2022-23 TMC Network Research Scholarship | April 5, 2024

Understanding history to understand the present is essential. In 1992, the Canadian Forces Administrative Order (CFAO) 19-20 was declared unconstitutional. CFAO 19-20 rendered “homosexuality” a justifiable rationale to discharge members from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and led to their persecution. During the LGBT Purge, the military used CFA 19-20 to discriminate against, persecute, interrogate, and discharge LGBT-suspected members from the CAF. Research and advocacy combined contributed to the federal government’s apology to the 2SLGBTQIA+ community in 2017 (Gouliquer, 2000; Gouliquer et al., 2018; Gouliquer & Poulin, 2005; Poulin, 2001; Poulin et al., 2009, 2018; Poulin & Gouliquer, 2012). Government mandated reports in recent years indicate that people who are members of specific gender and sexual minorities are more likely to experience harassment and discrimination in the CAF (Arbour, 2022; Deschamps, 2015). This is the case even though the Canadian military has made a supposed effort to become more inclusive and to take an active stance against sexual misconduct, discrimination, and harassment, with limited success (Government of Canada, 2023; Okros & Scott, 2015). Policies detailing care and accommodations for trans people have been adapted over the years as the public discourse on trans people has shifted. For example, the new 2022 dress regulations allow CAF members to order uniforms traditionally associated with either binary gender without prior approval.

Click below to read more.

I am part of the multidisciplinary research group, Psycho-Social Ethnography of the Commonplace (P-SEC), led by Drs. Carmen Poulin and Lynne Gouliquer, that is currently carrying out a pan-Canadian study to document the experiences of serving 2SLGBTQIA+ CAF members and their partners. This is the context for my involvement in examining the contemporary experiences of trans soldiers, more than 30 years after the end of the Purge. In collaboration with my co-supervisors Drs. Poulin and Gouliquer, I examined interviews of trans military personnel in the CAF. This has led to my deeper understanding of CAF policies and politics affecting this group of CAF members and facilitated my connections to scholars and military personnel across Canada. The research experience has advanced my knowledge of and exposure to qualitative interdisciplinary research, relevant to my training as an applied psychologist.

For me, being involved in this study on trans CAF members is both challenging—as CAF regulations are constantly changing—and fascinating. I have had the opportunity to analyse interviews conducted with trans military members and to see the impact of (changing) policies on their day-to-day experiences. I also reviewed numerous CAF institutional healthcare policies, such as all publicly available information about the CAF Spectrum of Care. The trans CAF members’ stories reveal not only their challenges related to healthcare, but also their coping strategies. Together, this information can be used to generate ideas for sociopolitical change.

Thus far, the study has revealed several insights. Participants discussed how the military healthcare system allows for people to access gender-affirming care, but many procedures (e.g., voice therapy or laser hair removal) are not covered under the CAF healthcare policy because they are categorised as cosmetic. Additionally, trans people often do not get the necessary sick leave to undergo surgeries and adequate recovery time post surgery. Trans people struggle to secure referrals from military medical personnel for specialists outside the CAF because they are required to obtain care from CAF medical professionals first. These referrals are time-intensive and, if sought outside the CAF, cost-intensive for many trans people. In addition, the unwillingness of some doctors to support trans patients aggravates the situation. The participants’ experiences highlight that trans people struggle to obtain gender affirming care.  As a result, the CAF fails to recognise the multitude of trans experiences, as the CAF strives for a one-size-fits-all approach to transitioning.

Participants have coped by finding support in groups or online networks of other CAF trans people: they supported each other via information sharing and through activism (e.g., engagement in trans positive spaces). Many participants have become outspoken advocates for trans healthcare and are working tirelessly to educate the CAF and the public.

Taken together, the results suggest that more inclusive military practices (e.g., the inclusion of trans people in policy making) and CAF policies (e.g., an up-to-date healthcare plan for the coverage of gender affirming care and change in sick leave rules) are necessary. Such changes represent a challenge to the military’s culture of universality and conformity because the current military medical model is underpinned by a traditional binary gender assumption and a pathologization of the trans experience.

Based on the accounts of the participants in this study, and the reports by the Honourable Louise Arbour (2022) and Marie Deschamps (2015), fundamental changes to CAF assumptions and practices are critical to provide a healthy sense of agency to diverse members, without placing the burden of change on their shoulders. Our timely and relevant findings coincide with some other current workplace initiatives aimed at creating a healthy and flexible environment to support a diverse and inclusive workforce. The active inclusion of trans individuals in the workforce has proven beneficial for both trans workers and their cisgender colleagues (Bozani et al., 2019; Huffman et al., 2021; Peate, 2020).

It is my hope that the insights provided by this research can help in the development of new practices, better informed policies, and more of an agentic and equitable response to the needs of trans CAF members. My vision is that such a transformation would lead to a better, more diverse, adapted, and flexible military overall.


Arbour, L. (2022). Report of the independent external comprehensive review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Government of Canada, Department of National Defence. https://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/independent-external-comprehensive-review-into-harassment-and-sexual-misconduct-in-the-department-of-national-defence-and-the-canadian-armed-forces-853257606.html

Bozani, V., Drydakis, N., Sidiropoulou, K., Harvey, B., & Paraskevopoulou, A. (2019). Workplace positive actions, trans people’s self-esteem and human resources’ evaluations. International Journal of Manpower, 41(6), 809–831. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJM-03-2019-0153

Deschamps, M. (2015). External review into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/reports-publications/sexual-misbehaviour/external-review-2015.html

Gouliquer, L. (2000). Negotiating sexuality: Lesbians in the Canadian military. In B. Miedema, J. M. Stoppard, & V. Anderson (Eds.), Women’s bodies/women’s lives: Health, well-being and body image (pp. 254–276). Sumach Press.

Gouliquer, L., & Poulin, C. (2005). For better and for worse: Psychological demands and structural impacts on gay servicewomen in the military and their long-term partners. In D. Pawluch, W. Shaffir, & C. Miall (Eds.), Doing ethnography: Studying everyday life (pp. 323–335). Canadian Scholars’ Press. https://www.canadianscholars.ca/books/doing-ethnography

Gouliquer, L., Poulin, C., & Moore, J. (2018). A threat to Canadian national security: A lesbian soldier’s story. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 15(2–3), 323–335. https://doi.org/10.1080/14780887.2018.1430206

Government of Canada. (2023, December 5). Sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, 2022. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-603-x/85-603-x2023001-eng.htm

Huffman, A. H., Mills, M. J., Howes, S. S., & Albritton, M. D. (2021). Workplace support and affirming behaviors: Moving toward a transgender, gender diverse, and non-binary friendly workplace. International Journal of Transgender Health, 22(3), 225–242. https://doi.org/10.1080/26895269.2020.1861575

Okros, A., & Scott, D. (2015). Gender identity in the Canadian Forces: A review of possible impacts on operational effectiveness. Armed Forces & Society, 41(2), 243–256. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X14535371

Peate, I. (2020). Working towards the trans-inclusive workforce. British Journal of Healthcare Assistants, 14(1), 31–35. https://doi.org/10.12968/bjha.2020.14.1.31

Poulin, C. (2001). The military is the wife and I am the mistress: Partners of lesbians in the Canadian military. Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice, 26(1), Article 1.

Poulin, C., & Gouliquer, L. (2012). Clandestine existences and secret research: Eliminating official discrimination in the Canadian military and going public in academia. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 16(1), 54–64. https://doi.org/10.1080/10894160.2011.557643

Poulin, C., Gouliquer, L., & McCutcheon, J. (2018). Violating gender norms in the Canadian military: The experiences of gay and lesbian soldiers. Sexuality Research & Social Policy: A Journal of the NSRC, 15(1), 60–73. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-017-0304-y

Poulin, C., Gouliquer, L., & Moore, J. (2009). Discharged for homosexuality from the Canadian military: Health implications for lesbians. Feminism & Psychology, 19(4), 496–516. https://doi.org/10.1177/0959353509342772

Sowing the Seeds of Change through Critical Education at Canadian Forces College

Blog post by Vanessa Brown | December 18, 2023

In April of 2022, after 9 years of contract instruction, I became an assistant professor at Canadian Forces College. Spring of 2022 was an interesting time to learn the ropes as a new faculty member. The Defence Team was experiencing a flurry of action precipitated by sexual violence scandals; an external report on sexual misconduct (Arbour, 2022); a class action lawsuit on sexual harassment, sexual assault and discrimination (“Heyder and Beattie”); and, a Statistics Canada survey reporting that in 2019, most (68%) student respondents from the Royal Military College of Canada and Royal Military College Saint-Jean witnessed or experienced unwanted sexualized behaviours in their post-secondary learning environment (Maxwell, 2020). These events came on the heels of another disturbing report released in the winter of 2022 about race and other types of intersecting identity discrimination in the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF). This report indicated, “persistent racial discrimination for Black and racialized members, harassment of women and members of the LGBTQ2+ community, lack of informed medical support for transgender transformations, neglect of persons with disabilities and a disregard for the importance of partnership with Indigenous Peoples” (Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination, 2022).

Click below to read more.

For many, the magnitude of recent events has certainly been shocking, but not surprising. Despite years of effort towards institutional equity by so many committed people within and outside of the Defence Team, research and reports substantiate patterns of violence and the continuation of systemic, structural, and cultural barriers for diverse military personnel. In navigating the socio-cultural spaces of the military, DND/CAF members experience the institutional (re)production of and resistance to hegemonic systems of power—patriarchy, colonialism, classism, ableism, and heteronormativity—every day. At Canadian Forces College, military officers have opportunities to unpack these experiences by partaking in lectures and discussions on critical theory such as decolonial, intersectional, post-modern feminist, and hegemonic masculinities theories. Military learners graduate with advanced critical thinking skills, and as my research illustrates (Brown, 2021), some go on to use these skills as agents of transformational change.

Canadian Forces College has been mainstreaming gender, intersectional, and other critical perspectives in military education for some time. This work gained momentum in 2016 with the formal Chief of Defence Staff direction to integrate Women, Peace and Security principles and Gender-based Analysis Plus across all military activities, including education (Chief of Defence Staff, 2016). That year, I was struck by a conversation with students about sexual and gender-based violence where some shared what it was like to be interviewed by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps about their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault in the CAF (Deschamps, 2015). Perspectives ranged from sentiments that sexual violence was not a problem in the CAF to statements like “it happened to me.” For some students, critical conversations such as this provide exposure to diverse lived experiences and opportunities for self-reflection. Several graduates of Canadian Forces College have gone on to influence diversity, equity, and inclusion changes in personnel and procurement policy as my research has shown (Brown, 2021). They have advanced work on Women, Peace and Security within NATO (Brown, 2023) and applied gender and intersectional perspectives in the conduct of domestic and expeditionary operations (Brown, 2023). Graduates have even established grassroots organizational change initiatives, such as the Anti-Racism Workshop and expanded the Positive Space Program to include and support diverse voices.

There is much to be hopeful about, even as DND/CAF experience a complicated series of structural and cultural failures as outlined above. From outside of the institution, the tensions, conflicts, anxieties, and challenges of culture change are not readily visible. These struggles are often latent and tacit even among those who lead change. Perhaps together, under the current weight of an institutional reckoning, we can begin to make deeper and wider transformative strides.

The spring of 2022 initiated what, for me, feels like an atmosphere that belies inertia. As The Byrds and Ecclesiastes say, “to everything there is a season. Turn, turn, turn.” Drawing from military learners’ experiences and my research, I know seeds of transformational change have been planted, taken root, and begun to grow. Maybe this season DND/CAF will become more capable at sowing seeds of change through critical education.


Arbour, L. (2022). Report of the Independent External Comprehensive Review of the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/reports-publications/report-of-the-independent-external-comprehensive-review.html

Brown, V. (2021). Integrating gender and cultural perspectives in Canada’s Professional Military Education: Transforming military culture through informed leadership [Doctoral dissertation, Carleton University]. https://doi.org/10.22215/etd/2021-14630

Brown, V. (2023). Whither professional military education: Socialization, learning, and culture change in the Canadian Armed Forces. Canadian Military Journal, 23(2), 13-23.

Chief of the Defence Staff. (2016). Directive for integrating UNSCR 1325 and related resolutions into CAF planning and operations. Ottawa. https://www. canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/services/ operations/military-operations/conduct/cds-directiveunscr-1325.html

Deschamps, M. (2015). External review into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/reports-publications/sexual-misbehaviour/external-review-2015.html

Maxwell, A. (2020). Experiences of unwanted sexualized and discriminatory behaviours and sexual assault among students at Canadian military colleges, 2019. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2020001/article/00011-eng.htm

Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination with a focus on Anti-Indigenous and Anti-Black Racism, LGBTQ2+ Prejudice, Gender Bias, and White Supremacy (2022). Final Report. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/reports-publications/mnd-advisory-panel-systemic-racism-discrimination-final-report-jan-2022.html

Transforming (Military) Cultures: Getting Serious About Change

Blog post by Maya Eichler, Tammy George, and Nancy Taber | September 26, 2023

Maya Eichler, Tammy George, and Nancy Taber are the co-directors of the DND-MINDS funded international collaborative network Transforming Military Cultures.  

There is currently a tremendous opportunity and appetite for transformative change in Canadian society. Institutions and organizations across the board are grappling with culture change initiatives. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, inequities were revealed across sectors including, but not limited to, the labour market, health care, and higher education. A few months into the pandemic, George Floyd’s death mobilized massive protests across the globe and catalyzed a rewriting and reclaiming of history. These events, along with the ongoing climate crisis, human rights abuses, geopolitical instability, and the rise of right-wing movements, are threatening political and social institutions and profoundly impacting the lives of individuals and communities. For many, returning back to “normal” is simply not an option.

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It is important to locate the issue of culture change in the Canadian military alongside these larger societal shifts. In recent years, a series of class action lawsuits, external and internal reviews and reports, and Statistics Canada surveys have documented the systemic and interlocking problems with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) culture. Sexual misconduct is widespread, as are discrimination and hostility towards women, 2SLGBTQI+, Indigenous, Black, and people of colour military members. Culture change has been declared a priority of the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF.

Numerous change initiatives have been undertaken, but the problem persists, as demonstrated in 2021 when some of the most senior CAF leaders who had previously called for the elimination of sexual misconduct, allegedly perpetrated by others, were themselves accused of sexual misconduct. In September of 2023, court-martial proceedings began against Lt.-Gen. Whelan, who was previously the Chief of Military Personnel and responsible for policy redesign in the wake of the Heyder-Beattie and LGBT Purge class action lawsuits. It is concerning to see the military now dropping its entire case against Lt.-Gen. Whelan. This decision will likely perpetuate the existing chilly climate awaiting those who come forward with reports of sexual misconduct and abuse of power. The handling of this case, and the tone and accusations being made publicly about the complainant and the related emails, demonstrates the limited ways in which the CAF is engaging in culture change and the pushback against it.

DND/CAF have officially recognized culture change as a top priority, promising to go beyond a focus on symptoms and individual behaviour. The Initiating Directive for Professional Conduct and Culture (CPCC) issued by the Chief of the Defence Staff and Deputy Minister states, “we have simply not achieved the cultural change required and we must embark on a fundamentally new approach to address the root causes of systemic misconduct.” However, DND/CAF’s focus has since shifted, recasting change in terms of evolution and growth, sending the message that the core of CAF culture does not need to be challenged, but should be accepted. We at the TMC Network argue for transformative change—what is needed is to question all aspects of CAF culture, consider alternatives, and imagine ways to bring about meaningful change. We therefore ask and are guided in our work by the following questions:

  • How can transformative culture change be achieved?
  • Will institutions like the CAF be fundamentally changed in their constitution
    and functioning or will change efforts only amount to performative gestures?
  • How do power and cultural expectations continue to reassert themselves
    in the midst of culture change?
  • How will we know when transformative change has been achieved?

The co-directors of the TMC Network have co-edited a forthcoming special issue of the Canadian Military Journal (CMJ). In this special issue, we provide readers with insights and recommendations for meaningful military culture change. The articles discuss research on root causes, lived experiences of racialized military personnel, contested military identities, familial norms, critical feminist education, and trauma-informed pedagogy as they relate to transforming military cultures. The issue also includes an article about Argentinian public and military gender policies as well as a book review essay on Australian and Canadian military cultures. The issue concludes with perspectives pieces, which respectively focus on military culture change through research, professional, and personal lenses in relation to women’s experiences on deployment, regimental ritual objects, feminist identity in a military context, CPCC, and youth.

As we show with the special issue, military culture change is necessary and possible, with concrete ideas, approaches, and recommendations to move us in the right direction. In particular, we argue for the need to:

  • Name the root causes of harm in the CAF as they relate to colonialism, racism,
    homophobia, sexism, and ableism;
  • Challenge the image of an ideal warrior to create one which embraces inclusive
    military membership;
  • Recognize how root causes and the valuing of a specific type of ideal warrior are
    structurally embedded in DND/CAF policies, practices, traditions, education,
    informal learning, and rituals;
  • Rewrite related policies and reconsider related practices to foster inclusivity,
    instead of asking members to conform to CAF ideals, the CAF itself should change;
  • Be trauma-informed in recognizing how the CAF can cause harm, and in preventing
    and rectifying the harm;
  • Treat CAF members as whole embodied beings who have diverse needs and families;
  • Incorporate critical education into all aspects of the CAF education system.

In light of how the military justice system has handled the case against Lt.-Gen. Whelan, we would also add: closely consider how the system too often ends up protecting senior leadership at the expense of those who make complaints related to sexual misconduct and abuse of power.

The military can and should play an active role in dismantling enduring systems of power and privilege both within and beyond its institutional boundaries. The stakes are high, especially in view of the military’s central place in the nation. Achieving meaningful culture change in the military will have positive ripple effects across Canada’s social and political landscape and inform broader societal and institutional change initiatives. As the work on culture change progresses, we will continue to ask the question: Are DND/CAF, and the Government of Canada, serious about military culture change or too focused on maintaining the status quo?

*Parts of this blog are adapted from the authors’ co-edited CMJ editorial.

Institutional Ethnography: Understanding the Gap between Canadian Armed Forces Values and Everyday Experiences within Training and Education

Blog post by Marshall Gerbrandt, PhD Student (Education), University of New Brunswick | Recipient of 2022-23 TMC Network Research Scholarship | July 5, 2023

My military journey lasted 20 years. I graduated high school and, despite having no familial connection to the Canadian Armed Forces, I immediately joined the Navy as a non-commissioned member. My expectations were formed through flashy recruiting advertisements and popular culture focused on adventure and danger. In truth, my experience in the Navy was mostly repetitive monotony interspersed with brief moments of excitement, both of which occurred alongside an opportunity to travel. I enjoyed my time in the Navy for the most part, but after five years I left and joined the Army as an officer. While the change in uniform led to my being more engaged in my work, the ratio of monotony and excitement probably remained the same, although the travel destinations were a tad more austere. My time in the military was filled with a variety of experiences such as combatting shipboard fires, deploying internationally, and confronting the personal or ‘real life’ issues experienced by military members daily. While military training prepared me to lead and follow, it fell short in providing the necessary skills to see soldiers as people outside of their uniform. These people had friends and family who were ill or dying; they had kids and partners who struggled with the demands that military life imposed upon us.

Click below to read more.

My military experience was a privileged one, and that privilege extended beyond rank. It included all aspects of my identity—an identity which is able-bodied, white, male, and conforms to institutional norms. I recognize my experience does not compare to those that were and are excluded because of their diverse identities and systemic institutional inequities. Alongside military obligations, I met my partner, we had children, and we tried to manage my work, her work, and our family as best we could. From the standpoint of the institution, I was an ideal member because I deployed and left home to train when required without question or complaint. I progressed professionally and advanced academically. From my vantage point, I was able to see myself in my superiors, subordinates, and peers. For much of my career, I thought my experience was the experience, but that is because I joined and served in an institution that was designed for me to the exclusion of others. During my service, the Deschamps Report was released, highlighting longstanding systemic issues related to sexual misconduct, discrimination, and exclusionary practices. This was a moment that caused me to reflect upon my actions and inaction and how both contributed to these systemic issues.

Dorothy Smith (1987) draws upon the geological metaphor “line of fault” to describe a disconnect between dominant ideologies and the everyday worlds of those who are othered. This term speaks to the space between what one experiences and what is professed within dominant ideologies (Norris, 2001). I found Smith’s phrase useful as I attempted to make sense of the disconnect between espoused values and actual experiences. I draw upon this term as conceived in Smith’s (2005) work, Institutional Ethnography: A Sociology for People, to encompass those whose experience exists outside the military hegemony. It is this space, the space between what is espoused and what is experienced, that I hope to explore in my research. It is also within this space that I reflect upon my own military service to understand the ways in which I both contributed to, and operated against, the cultural status quo. It is this disjuncture or perhaps these types of disjuncture that draw on my curiosity while also evoking a sense of shame in the institution. My military experience did not exist within this othered space—it felt familiar. The clothes and equipment issued to me fit because they were designed with me or those like me in mind. Time off and away from work coincided with the holidays I grew up celebrating without the need to justify the extent to which I believed or how they mattered to me. I was ignorant and unaware of this space for much of my career, and I know that my actions likely harmed people, from the language I used to my beliefs about what constituted leadership.

In the context of the Canadian military, this idea of being othered speaks to those who have been systematically excluded, whether they were permitted to serve openly or not. By recognizing the privileged place I once occupied within the military, I must also recognize the ways in which I, alongside my former institution, oppressed others. As a member, I experienced multiple attempts by the military to address individual conduct and unacceptable behaviors through training via check-in-the-box pedagogy. Here, the provision of lists describing acceptable and unacceptable behavior alongside online efforts that valued completion rather than comprehension was deemed sufficient. The military failed to approach these issues as an adult learning problem that requires critical examination of both oneself and the institution and the roles each play in perpetuating an undesirable status quo. It is through institutional ethnography that I hope to understand, make visible, and explicate three inter-related issues: (1) the disconnect between the institution’s values with respect to policy, and the daily experience of military members within the classroom; (2) the ways in which military members witness institutional policies upheld and contradicted within their learning environments; and, (3) the unnecessary or hidden work imposed upon some in order to succeed in training. Institutional ethnography is an appropriate approach for my research as it has a long history of being used in the military context (e.g., abuse against women and children in military families, Harrison, 2006; gender bias in leadership training, Matheson & Lyle, 2017; military partners’ deployment experiences, Norris, 2001; and, dominant narratives of ideal military membership, Taber, 2009).

Issues of heteronormativity, racism, and sexual assault and misconduct exist within  members’ communities, their homes, and beyond. While this may seem like a bleak note to end upon, I do have hope. Partly, my hope comes from the actions of an institution trying to change alongside those members in uniform pushing for change, but it also comes from those who continue to critically examine the CAF’s actions and speak up when daily experiences fall short of espoused values. It is my hope that institutional ethnography will make visible the different ways, from the obvious to the more subtle, in which the CAF’s values and ethos fail to manifest within the learning environment of its members.


Deschamps, M. (2015). External review into sexual misconduct and sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces [External Review]. External Review Authority. http://www.forces.gc.ca/assets/FORCES_Internet/docs/en/caf-community-support-services-harassment/era-final-report-(april-20-2015)-eng.pdf

Harrison, D. (2006). The role of military culture in military organizations’ responses to woman abuse in military families. The Sociological Review, 54(3), 546-574. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-954X.2006.006

Matheson, L. I., & Lyle, E. (2017). Gender bias in Canadian military leadership training. Journal of Ethnographic & Qualitative Research, 12(1).

Norris, D. (2001). Working them out…working them in: Ideology and the everyday lives of female military partners experiencing the cycle of deployment. Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice, 26(1), 55-64.

Smith, D. E. (1987). The everyday world as problematic: A feminist sociology. Northeastern University Press.

Smith, D. E. (2005). Institutional ethnography: A sociology for people. Rowman Altamira.

Taber, N. (2009). The profession of arms: Ideological codes and dominant narratives of gender in the Canadian military. Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture & Social Justice, 34(1), 27–36.

“It was sad. It was shitty”: How Children in Military Families Experience Military Culture

Blog post by Kathryn Reeves, Undergraduate Student (Psychology) | Recipient of 2022-23 TMC Network Research Scholarship | June 29, 2023

Throughout my childhood, my experiences were colored by the tempo of military life. Segal (1986) described the military and the family as greedy institutions, depending on commitment and loyalty from their members. Children in military families (CIMF), like myself, find themselves within the intersection of these two institutions, often attempting to balance life within the precarious divide between being a child and being a supportive intergenerational link to the armed forces. Stressors associated with serving in the military affected me and my sibiling as well as my father. As often as he was away on a deployment or training, I was home missing a parent. Every time he was posted and uprooted from previous support networks, so was I. However, the lived experiences of children in military families are often neglected in conversations of how military culture is experienced. Despite the large population of CIMF, my experience of support for military related stressors was limited. Civilian health care providers, teachers, councillors, and peers are often unaware of the ways in which military culture manifests and influences childhood development. My current research aims to address the limitations I saw throughout my life as a military family member. In my research, I aim to directly integrate the voices of CIMF, who are often underrepresented, in order to create more robust understandings of intergenerational impacts of military life or stressors.

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The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) consists of a unique culture, with particular regulations, traditions, history, language, and customs permeating all areas of life. Although there has been an increase in research examining the impact of militarized culture on the experiences of serving members, military family members often find themselves omitted from the conversation. For CIMF, the operational tempo of military life impacts virtually every area of their development, including behavioral, social, and psychological traits (Chandra et al., 2010). CIMF experience unique stressors compared to civilian peers, such as frequent relocations, lengthy separations from the serving parent(s), heightened awareness of international conflicts, and participation in longstanding hierarchical traditions. There is an abundance of empirical support demonstrating that CIMF are at increased risk of receiving mental health diagnoses during their adolescent years, particularly in relation to their serving parents’ deployments or deployment related mental health struggles (Cramm et al., 2019; Krešić Ćorić et al., 2016; Lester et al., 2010). Despite the prevalence of existing literature, however, the majority of studies have relied on reports from parents or psychologists rather than engaging with the direct experiences of the child. To understand the role of military culture in the upbringing of CIMF, researchers must seek to integrate the unique and diverse perspectives of these individuals. By integrating these perspectives, my aim is to provide effective support that addresses the unique stressors of military life while also fostering a more positive relationship between the CAF and military families.

My Current Project

I recruited adults who grew up in military families, whose parents deployed on at least one mission with the potential of moral injury, to take part in one-on-one qualitative interviews. Interview questions were developed through a lifespan perspective, allowing participants to reflect on various long-term implications they experienced during their parent’s service in the CAF. Specific questions directed towards the experiences of military culture were included, such as “how did military culture impact your experiences of growing up?” and “are there instances where military culture continues to impact your life?” with responses reflecting a variety of experiences. While some participants reflected on the resiliency factors they developed throughout their childhood, many reflected on moments where “It was sad. It was shitty”. These participants noted that the culture of the military was ever present, and there was a distinct void of support directly available to them. Where supports may have been offered, CIMF were dependent on the at-home parent to access them. This may present CIMF with a dilemma: the militarized culture in which they find themselves discourages seeking support (Peck & Parcell, 2021), and parents may be less likely to make CIMF aware of support options available. However, participants in this study also noted the many positive changes they have seen the institution implement throughout their life. Participants frequently reflected on the benefits of Military Family Resource Centres, additional opportunities to communicate with family members while deployed, and optimism that the CAF is moving in the right directions.

Potential Implications

My research has broad implications, for both civilian and military members. My findings support that military culture has long-lasting impacts on CIMF, and demonstrate the need for inclusion of child specific support options to military families. Additionally, academics and researchers can build on my findings to conduct more studies that involve the direct perspectives of CIMF. This will allow us to better understand the nuances of military culture and directions for future military culture change.


Segal, M. W. (1986). The military and the family as greedy institutions. Armed Forces & Society13(1), 9–38. https://doi.org/10.1177/0095327X8601300101

Chandra, A., Lara-Cinisomo, S., Haycox, L. H., Tanielian, T., Burns, R. M., Ruder, T., Han, B. (2010). Children on the homefront: The experience of children from military families. Pediatrics, 125(1), 16–25. https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2009-1180

Cramm, H., McColl, M. A., Aiken, A. B., Williams, A. (2019). The mental health of military-connected children: A scoping review. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 28(7), 1725–1735. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01402-y

Krešić Ćorić, M., Klarić, M., Petrov, B., Mihić, N. (2016). Psychological and behavioral problems in children of war veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The European Journal of Psychiatry, 30(3), 219–230.

Lester, P., Peterson, K., Reeves, J., Knauss, L., Glover, D., Mogil, C., Duan, N., Saltzman, W., Pynoos, R., Wilt, K., & Beardslee, W. (2010). The long war and parental combat deployment: Effects on military children and at-home spouses. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 49(4), 310–320. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaac.2010.01.003

Peck, B. S., & Parcell, E. S. (2021). Talking about mental health: Dilemmas U.S. military service members and spouses experience post deployment. Journal of Family Communication, 21(2), 90–106. https://doi.org/10.1080/15267431.2021.1887195

Lead by Example: Culture Change in DND/CAF’s CNAP3 Implementation Plan

Blog post by Sandra Biskupski-Mujanovic | May 31, 2023

This year, Canada will release its third National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security (CNAP3). Civil society actors have provided recommendations to improve the next National Action Plan (NAP) and many of the recommendations involve strengthening the domestic agenda, including culture change in the Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF). This moment is an opportunity for DND/CAF to take these recommendations seriously and approach the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda, a framework of United Nations Security Council Resolutions that recognize the unique effects of conflict on women, with an inward focus that prioritizes transforming military culture.

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Canada’s first NAP, released in 2010, lacked clear targets and budget allocations, did not include civil society input, and appeared to have been developed in an ad hoc manner. The second NAP, released in 2017, addressed many of the criticisms of the first iteration. While the first NAP was focused on the protection of women, the second was more focused on the gendered consequences of conflict through five objectives:

  • increasing women’s participation in conflict prevention, resolution, and post-conflict state building
  • preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence and sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by peacekeepers and other international personnel
  • promoting and protecting women’s and girls’ human rights and gender equality in fragile, conflict, and post-conflict settings
  • upholding women’s sexual rights and reproductive health
  • strengthening the capacity of peace operations to advance the WPS agenda (GAC, 2017).

Since the second NAP, Canada has demonstrated a strong commitment to the WPS agenda through many of its actions, including most recently reappointing Jacqueline O’Neill as Ambassador for WPS and continuing to consult civil society for input. The development of CNAP3 is an opportunity for Canada to build on its previous National Action Plans (NAPs) and address recent critiques and recommendations made by civil society.

CNAP3 Recommendations

In mid-2022, the Women, Peace and Security Network-Canada organized a series of activities seeking civil society input on CNAP3 and we should look out for how these recommendations will be included. Drawing on 162 responses, these dialogues resulted in recommendations organized under the following eight themes:

  1. Strengthen feminist ambition, goals, and approaches
  2. Make policy coherence a priority
  3. Strengthen and provide clarity on the ‘domestic agenda’
  4. Refocus on the “peace” in women, peace and security
  5. Bring a feminist lens to the “security” in women, peace and security
  6. Dedicate resources to each objective, indicator, and activity
  7. Strengthen Government of Canada links with non-governmental actors in Canada and in conflict-affected countries
  8. Strengthen accountability and reporting (WPSN-C, 2022).

The Research Network on Women, Peace and Security outlined similar themes in their report based on dialogues with civil society, public servants, and scholars about Canada’s NAPs. With regard to DND/CAF, the report notes that organizational culture change is necessary and that the CAF must engage with questions of inclusion and gender, beyond only training a select group of gender advisors. Further, the report highlights inconsistency in how GBA Plus is applied across federal departments and a need to ensure consistent systematization of GBA Plus in all policies and programs. The report states, “GBA+ is often considered as the ‘home game’ and the WPS agenda as the ‘away game’” (Beaulieu, 2022, p. 4). As such, it is necessary for public servants to better understand how GBA Plus and WPS interact and intersect (ibid.).

In relation to the domestic agenda, WPSN-C recommended that the CAF increase women’s representation, implement recommendations from the Minister’s Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination Report and the Arbour Report, and focus on culture change. Numerous other recommendations apply to DND/CAF as well, such as: operationalizing intersectionality; including the voices of diverse women (women with disabilities, Indigenous and racialized women, and gender-diverse people); ensuring timely reporting; increasing commitment to transparency; improving reporting through indicator clarity and tracking; and, consistently engaging with civil society (WPSN-C, 2022).

DND/CAF Implementation

DND/CAF’s implementation plan of the second NAP focused on governance; training and education; accountability; recruitment and retention; and, integration of women into operations. One of the goals was to increase the representation of women in the CAF by 1% per year to achieve a desired goal of 25% women’s representation by the end of 2026. This goal will not be met as women’s representation has only marginally increased (from 16% in 2019/2020 to 16.3% in 2020/2021).

Arbour (2022) noted that some CAF members are “more at risk of harm, on a day to day basis, from their comrades than from the enemy” (p. 9). Without a culture free from psychological harm, it is irresponsible to continue to call for the increased representation of women and other marginalized groups, including the 2SLGBTQI+ community. To add women (and other diverse groups) and stir will not result in the culture change needed to ensure current CAF members feel safe and that Canadians want to join the CAF in the future. While CAF members can be ordered into harm’s way, they should feel equitably treated by the institution and their colleagues as well as physically and psychologically safe in non-operational settings. Even in operational settings, they should be free from harassment and assault.

Further, while diversity is essential, it should not be a goal that is primarily driven by operational effectiveness. DND/CAF’s 2020-2021 progress report on the implementation of Women, Peace and Security states:

Diverse personnel broaden the range of skills and capacities, improve the delivery of peace and security tasks, enhance situational awareness and early-warning by facilitating outreach to communities, and improve a military force’s accessibility, credibility, and effectiveness in working among local populations (DND, 2021, para. 1).

Relying less on operational effectiveness arguments for diversifying the CAF is essential as many of these instrumentalist and essentialist justifications are not only unwarranted but place a burden on women to fix the very structures in which they are marginalized. DND/CAF should not rely on the logic of operational effectiveness to foster culture change either. While it may be a way to get military buy-in, if operational effectiveness arguments are favoured above principles of gender equality, military culture remains virtually untouched.

WPS and Culture Change

For Canada to be a global leader on WPS, it must lead by example. We cannot promote gender equality abroad without ensuring gender equality within Canada as well. For this to happen, a strong domestic agenda is essential, and culture change in the CAF should be central to the DND/CAF CNAP3 implementation plan. With increased attention to culture change, an opportunity is on the horizon for DND/CAF to take on a more transformative approach in their implementation of WPS, which necessitates looking inward and fostering, as well as prioritizing, despite increased global militarization, culture change.


Arbour, L. (2022). Report of the independent external comprehensive review of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces. Borden Ladner Gervais. https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/corporate/reports-publications/report-of-the-independent-external-comprehensive-review.html

Beaulieu, K. (2022). Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security: What We Heard from our Dialogue with Civil Society, Public Servants, and Scholars. Research Network on Women, Peace and Security.

Department of National Defence. (2021). 2020-2021 Department of National Defence departmental progress report for Canada’s National Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security. https://www.international.gc.ca/transparency-transparence/women-peace-security-femmes-paix-securite/2020-2021-progress-reports-rapports-etapes-dnd.aspx?lang=eng

Global Affairs Canada. (2017). Canada’s Action Plan for the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security – 2017-2022. https://www.international.gc.ca/transparency-transparence/women-peace-security-femmes-paix-securite/2017-2022-action-plan.aspx?lang=eng#a3

Women, Peace and Security Network-Canada. (2022). Civil society voices on Canada’s next Women, Peace and Security National Action Plan. https://wpsn-canada.org/consultations/wps-dialogue-fps/


Writing to Create Culture Change

This blog post, put together by Ash Grover, is based on work produced by participants of the TMC Annual Symposium held in Halifax in February 2023 | April 12, 2023


On the last day of our first annual symposium, participants attended a Writers Collective of Canada Workshop run by TMC co-director Dr. Nancy Taber, titled “Culture Shock: Writing Together to Reflect on Transforming Military Cultures.” During the workshop, participants were given writing prompts and invited to share their expressive writing and listen deeply to that of others. At the close of the workshop, participants were invited to write a favourite line from their own writing on a post-it note, to craft into a collaborative story. That collaborative story, titled “The Story Always Belongs to Us”, appears below.

Following the writing workshop, attendees participated in a found poetry exercise, using materials generated throughout the symposium. Found poetry is a form of writing which uses a bricolage approach, where pieces of text are taken from existing sources and repurposed, sometimes emphasizing aspects of the original meaning, and sometimes giving new meaning. Utilizing the prompt, “What have we learned about transforming military cultures?” participants were invited to reflect on discussions that had taken place, read the words posted on notes around the conference room and in the graphic recording, and craft a found poem based on different pieces of text that resonated with them. You can find some of those poems below, shared by members of the TMC executive team and other symposium participants.

Click below to read more.

Collaborative Story: The Story Always Belongs to Us

Based on lines shared by participants of TMC Annual Symposium writing workshop

I want to leave behind a story that helps others laugh and gives them the strength and confidence to be imperfect.

I can do hard things!

Willing to take the journey through storm and calm.

I do not know if I can leave behind the anger, abandonment. How others can revel in their liberty, and yet I will try.

Even when I feel frustrated at the speed of progress – I know I’m standing on the shoulders of giants and that I have community – and that gives me strength.

Take the time to pause.

If I knew then, what I know now, then I wouldn’t be who I am today!

Would I be better or would I be worse?

I would not give so much power to acts of resistance to my humanity and dignity.

The only approval I need is my own.

Feeling like an imposter, but it was exciting, captivating, an imposter no more.

I was keeping myself stuck.

I would have given pieces of myself I didn’t know I could give.

Collective identity, party of one.

I would tell her that she would be ok, that she would love and live again, she would be good, do good and feel whole again.

The pressure we all feel to persevere and keep pushing on even if it means we must conceal the fact that we just need time to heal.

Through the years, I have found healing in people and places that did not hurt me.

Don’t rock the boat, until you can.

Je veux laisser derrière les faux-semblants et les prétextes, les enjeux contraignants et l’absence de mouvement pour aller de l’avant avec ceux qui sont trop souvent laisses derrière.

I want to leave behind hope.

For their dark times…it will shine.

Or it would give voice to the ones who feel like they have nothing to say, like it’s not their place to speak, like they have no story to contribute.

The story always belongs to us.

Found Poetry: Where Do We Want to Go?

Poem shared by Ash Grover

Poem shared by Nancy Taber

Poem shared by Tammy George

Poem shared by Maya Eichler

Poem shared by Sandra Biskupski-Mujanovic

Talk About the Elephant

Poem by Lamare Robinson

CAF don’t cry.


Don’t cry. Don’t cry. Don’t cry.


We live in systems we didn’t create,

But we are responsible for them.

What?! That feels like betrayal.

Don’t be silenced.


Listen. Draw. Practise. Pause.


What can we do,

Tomorrow, six months, a year, two years?

What is the purpose?

What about hope?

I don’t know, but I hope.

Transforming Military Culture

Poem by Walter Callaghan

In OUR space, in this time and place

we engage

we share

we cry

we discover

We find meaning and purpose, solace and comfort,

the will and inspiration to fight for change

Can we take that with us

out there

back home

in the face of the abusers

and the willfully blind,

to confront those who decry

“woke” as treason and betrayal

Do we maintain strength and hold true

when we feel …


Hope that memory of this shared time will sustain us.

International Perspectives

Blog post by Nancy Taber | December 6, 2022


On November 22, 2022, members of the TMC Network gathered for the webinar, International Perspectives on Transforming Military Cultures. Network members Samantha Crompvoets (Australia), Laura Masson (Argentina), Anna Mensah (Ghana), and Ben Wadham (Australia) started off the session by each addressing their respective country’s most critical challenges with and best practices for transforming military cultures.

Click below to read more.



  • The abuse of power is conflated with leadership;
  • Culture change is poorly controlled by authorities and is in the hands of those lower in the institutional hierarchy;
  • Women are viewed as intruding on men’s space, which constitutes an “underworld” that has its own unwritten rules that enable the exercise of unbridled power and the exclusion of women.

Best practices:

  • Micaela’s Law requires training about gender and violence;
  • The adoption of international norms about gender and equity to national and military law;
  • The mainstreaming of gender perspective into military training.



  • A gender-neutral approach results in a bias that favours men, as it is based on a martial masculine norm;
  • Differential treatment to decrease marginalization is perceived as preferential treatment, as opposed to an equitable approach;
  • Women’s increased military participation is equated to a diverse military workforce, with little consideration of race or other forms of marginalization, resulting in a military that is largely white, male, and conservative;
  • The “cult of cultural change” may make it seem as though efforts are ongoing to affect change, but the busyness of it does not address or enable change, with less than impressive results;
  • The lack of an underpinning theory of change or lack of an understanding of what the future culture should look like.

Best practices:

  • Action-research and a qualitative approach allow for greater understanding of the experiences of marginalized members;
  • The creation of a Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response Office;
  • Promotion boards consider whether leaders engage in equitable practices.



  • The sexual exploitation of women is not addressed in national policy;
  • Although there is zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the military, there is no policy on it;
  • Height restrictions are based on the male average, not female, which disproportionally excludes shorter women from military service;
  • Only one female Brigadier General in the country’s history.

Best practices:

  • Ghana is one of the leading countries in the deployment of military women, at 15%;
  • Although women are not at the most senior ranks, there are women role models and trailblazers.


The discussion that followed the presentations was animated and insightful. Participants explored the ways in which military service, and the notion of a specific ideal of military membership, affects military culture. While there has been some progress in culture change in the Argentinian, Australian, Ghanian, and Canadian militaries, there is also much resistance, particularly from military personnel who embrace a warrior ideal and seek out bastions of maleness and masculinity. With a return to “great power” confrontation in the international context, there has also been a return to traditional military actions and identities, which participants fear may inhibit military culture change. Finally, a gender-neutral approach—often phrased as “a soldier is a soldier is a soldier” in Canada—continues to be premised on a male and masculine norm.


Approaches and resistance to military culture change differ from nation to nation but also demonstrate remarkable commonalities. Policies are insufficient to change practices, traditional values continue to frame military service, and political and military leaders often fail to take responsibility. Despite this, there are dedicated academics, practitioners, and military personnel who have embraced and championed culture change. Their work has the potential to transform military cultures to the benefit of military personnel, military institutions, and society.

Why Anti-Oppression Practice is Not (and Never Should Be) Straightforward

Blog post by Ash Grover | November 21, 2022


On November 7, 2022, the TMC Network hosted the webinar, “Understanding Anti-Oppression as a Framework for Military Culture Change.” Network member and PhD student Ash Grover (she/her/elle) led the group in a discussion about systems of oppression, principles of anti-oppression work, and the application of anti-oppression to military contexts. During the webinar, Ash discussed the definition of oppression that informs her work, as well as key differences between inclusion and anti-oppression; she explained that inclusion focuses more on enhancing representation of diverse groups within military spaces and anti-oppression seeks to transform such spaces to make them more equitable. The webinar also explored three common forms of oppression and their relevance to military culture: sexism and patriarchy, homophobia and heteronormativity, and colonialism and white supremacy. The full webinar can be viewed here.

There are some basic components of anti-oppression that can be generally applied, but they still need to be tailored to each specific context. These include an awareness of power and privilege, acknowledgement of larger social structures and their impact at an organizational level, and an openness to apply an evolving and fluid framework. If we understand oppression as discrimination which is rooted in power, then we acknowledge that this power can be pervasive and often multifaceted, as well as contextual. How much power an individual holds depends on the room they are in, and who else is in the room, it depends on the overarching culture of the institution, and the cultural worldviews brought into the room by anyone else present. Power is complex, and it requires an equally complex practice of self and social awareness to address where power imbalances can lead to harm.

As a group, participants in the webinar discussed ways in which military members can reflect on their own internalized biases and complacency within systems of oppression, in order to use privilege and power to create meaningful change. One of the main comments from the group was that organizations that engage with the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) are often looking for a standardized framework they can apply within their unique institution. While the desire for a “one-size-fits-all” framework of anti-oppression that comes with clear step-by-step instructions is understandable, I argue, it is impossible for such an application to exist.

Click below to read more.

Why a “One-Size-Fits-All” Anti-Oppression Framework Can Never Exist

Anti-oppression as a concept requires deep consideration of context and an acknowledgement of subjective experience. In other words, anti-oppression work does not generalize regarding human experience and, instead, seeks to subvert systems of thinking that essentialize and stereotype individuals. A true anti-oppression framework honours the experiences of each individual and acknowledges the nuance between different people’s experiences as they are impacted by systems of harm. Throughout my years working in the field of equity, diversity, and inclusion, numerous people have asked, “How can we implement an anti-oppression framework in our organization?” Better questions to begin with might be, “Why are you seeking to be anti-oppressive? Do you care about the wellbeing of everyone within the organization, or are you concerned with the overall effectiveness of the organization itself? How deep into the institutional culture of your organization are you willing to go?” It is critical to recognize that being anti-oppressive is inherently decolonial in that it defies the valuing of productivity, efficiency, and operational effectiveness over everything else. Therefore, the very notion of efficiency and productivity as key priorities is directly challenged by anti-oppression practice. Anti-oppression theory teaches that lasting, meaningful, and informed transformation is not something that will ever come quickly.

The only way to determine if anti-oppression practice is working is to engage in a lengthy process of application and reflection – that is, continuously evolving and restructuring practice according to the feedback received from communities impacted. At some point, this will require an engagement with both the theory on anti-oppression practice, as well as the lived experiences of communities “at the margins” of military contexts. Neither will suffice on its own, and the voices of communities impacted must be amplified and integrated, in order to evolve any framework of anti-oppression.

What’s Next?

Dismantling systems of oppression requires an ability to determine what actions will be needed in each unique circumstance. In the context of the CAF, this translates into an awareness of the lived experiences of military members who are affected by such systems, as well as an exploration of the vast and various ways in which they experience those effects. An example of this can be found in Dr. Tammy George’s research exploring the experiences of racialized military members and how these experiences emphasize a culture of white supremacy in military spaces. Therefore, an effective model of anti-oppression needs to be adaptable and developed in collaboration. As many, if not most, of us know: collaboration takes time and is never easy or straightforward.

Culture Change Meets Health and Wellness: Reflections on our CIMVHR Workshop

Blog post by Tammy George | November 2, 2022


In October 2022, the Transforming Military Cultures Network (TMC) conducted a workshop entitled, “Culture Change Meets Health and Wellness,” at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) Forum. Understanding that culture change is a stated key priority of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), this workshop focused on how culture change intersects with health and wellness in the military context. In light of the 2021 sexual misconduct crisis and mounting class action law suits, issues of health and wellness among CAF members and veterans need to be central to contemporary culture change efforts. The primary goals of our workshop were to identify what lessons can be learned about culture change from the civilian health care sector as it too grapples with histories of ableism, colonialism, racism, sexism, and homophobia in its practices. The workshop also outlined an anti-oppression framework and illustrated its application to issues of health and wellness. Finally, some best practices for ongoing culture change efforts within Canadian Forces Health Services (CFHS) and Chief Professional Conduct and Culture (CPCC) related to health and wellness were discussed.

Click below to read more.

Workshop Purpose and Key Questions

Our workshop asked: How does culture change require a health and wellness lens and what culture change is needed specific to the CFHS? The military is unique in its dual responsibility for both the profession of arms and the provision of health care. Workshop participants engaged with our two guest speakers, LCol Trisha MacLeod and then Rear-Admiral (now Senator) Rebecca Patterson, as well as academics, military members, military health care professionals, and civilian health care professionals to think through, and reflect on, issues of equity and intersectionality in health care. As part of the TMC Network’s ongoing work on culture change, we recognize that health and wellness are central to service members’ and Veterans’ sense of belonging at various stages along their military trajectory. Our workshop discussion centered around the following four questions:

  1.  What are some of the obstacles and barriers to culture change and what are their personal and institutional impacts on health and wellness?
  2.  What do we mean when we evoke the idea of “culture change”? How do we understand this from a health and wellness perspective? How might culture change transform health service delivery?
  3.  How do we imagine and bring about meaningful change? How can an anti-oppression framework inform change strategies and transform, or limit, the health and wellness of the organization and its members?
  4.  How does military culture impact the health and wellness of Veterans and their family members long-term?

Emerging Themes

Fruitful and engaged discussion on a number of themes emerged from the workshop which included but were not limited to:

  • Understanding health as a spectrum and expanding our definitions of health
  • Breaking down silos and colonial structures within health services
  • Interrogating power dynamics embedded in the warrior identity
  • Equipping health care practitioners with tools to address inequity
  • Addressing nuanced aspects of mental health among marginalized Veterans
  • Targeting leadership in larger culture change efforts for healthier teams

Furthermore, there was a need to recognize service members’ experiences and trajectories into and out of the CAF. The importance of understanding issues of identity and the barriers to belonging and recognizing military families as mechanisms of support for members’ health and wellness needs were also noted. Finally, engaging with intergenerational trauma and understanding the shift from health care provided in the military and the transition to accessing care as a Veteran in civilian spaces were issues identified as important to include in future discussions on culture change and health.

Key Highlights

The following highlights emerged from our workshop discussion and illuminate key considerations to build on moving forward:

  1.  Prioritizing the health and well-being of service members and Veterans is central to culture change and changing culture
    The health of the organization is directly linked to the health and well-being of its members. Understanding the nuanced and diverse needs of health care for service members (and Veterans) is key to developing effective and evidence-based policy on health and culture change in the CAF. Only then will policies reflect all CAF members. This insight should inform policy and program creation.
  2.  An anti-oppression framework should inform service delivery and practice
    The use and application of an anti-oppression framework in service delivery and practice is helpful in working towards culture change. A one-size-fits-all approach to health care must be resisted in order to address the inequities and access to care for service members and Veterans.
  3.  Advance research on and for diverse service members and Veterans, and on culture change
    Researchers need to develop ways to enact culture change at all levels of the organization. The research community needs to engage in qualitative and collaborative research with diverse military populations and not only cis-gender, white men. Understanding how healthy organizations are constructed and established is key to culture change and needs to be further engaged with among the research community.

Moving Forward

There is no doubt that culture change is complex and contested terrain. However, the link between culture change and the health and wellness of service members and veterans is essential to consider for the survival of the CAF. What does it mean to have a healthy culture? How can it be achieved? Given the sexual misconduct crisis and other grievances, what might health care professional need to consider going forward? Engaging with an anti-oppression framework is important because it can assist health care professionals to engage with how power operates in the delivery of health services. Furthermore, this framework assists health care professionals to think through how systems of oppression continue to play out in our assumptions around bodies, health, service delivery, and treatment. To foster these shifts, this workshop emphasized that we must avoid a one-size-fits-all approach, consider the contemporary context in the CAF, and consider in a more nuanced fashion how the health and wellness of service members (and Veterans) is vital to the survival of the CAF.


Responding to the Minister’s Advisory Panel Report

Blog post by Sandra Biskupski-Mujanovic, Maya Eichler, Tammy George, and Nancy Taber | September 8, 2022


In December 2020, Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan created an Advisory Panel to address racism in the Defence Team towards Indigenous, Black, and People of Colour as well as discrimination and bias towards women and the 2SLGBTQI+ community. As part of its mandate to eliminate racism and discrimination within the organization, the Advisory Panel was tasked with engaging with the organization’s existing policies, practices, and procedures and to provide recommendations. The result was a 120-page report that summarizes the factors that have led to ongoing racism and discrimination in the Defence Team, in addition to identifying 13 areas of opportunity, in which 43 recommendations are proposed.

As part of the TMC Network’s culture change efforts, we held a network meeting on August 24th to discuss the report. Our discussion was organized around two central questions: What are the promises and limitations of the report? How can the TMC Network best facilitate the recommendations stemming from the report? The following highlights emerged from our discussion and illuminate some key considerations to build on the Advisory Panel’s report.

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Lesson 1: Naming racism and white supremacy is powerful but does not go far enough

The report is a radical departure from previous reports in that it names racism and white supremacy as a foundational structure of the CAF and Canadian society. By naming colonialism, racism, patriarchy, heteronormativity, and ableism as the root causes of inequality, the report sets a new tone for discussion of culture change in the CAF. However, while the report names the military as a product of colonialism, it does not name the CAF as an agent of the colonial state. As a result, the report situates the CAF’s failures as unintentional and coincidental in nature. This has implications for how the CAF grapples with accountability. For example, how might the CAF meaningfully engage with truth and reconciliation if it does not recognize its own role in colonialism? If the CAF does see itself as an agent that problematically reproduces the colonial state, how might its responses to racism and discrimination be transformative?

Lesson 2: Power remains unexplored

Connected to the point above, naming white supremacy could have led to a more fruitful discussion of power and its operation in the CAF. There needs to be greater emphasis and more education on the difficult and uncomfortable work of acknowledging and dealing with white privilege and white fragility, especially among those who are the gatekeepers and decision makers within Defence. Understanding white supremacy at its core involves tracing and engaging with everyday encounters of racism and discrimination—not focusing only on extremism—and understanding that these occurrences are not exceptional, but rather grounded in larger relations of power. Coming to terms with how the CAF attracts racist behaviours and ideologies through problematic constructs of the ideal soldier, and challenging national myths grounded in racial and colonial constructs, including white saviourism, are necessary steps in transforming the military’s culture.

Lesson 3: Intersectionality missing

The report introduces intersectionality as a useful concept to understand racism and discrimination, however, does not apply it throughout the analysis of the report. Participants in our meeting had many recommendations, including that a greater emphasis be put on intersectionality without diluting the focus on racism and continuing to highlight the specific discriminations faced by racialized service members. More research needs to be conducted through an intersectional framework to provide a richer, more nuanced, understanding of military members’ experiences. As well, this report should be read in concert with other reports such as the Deschamps Report and the Arbour Report to work towards holistic, integrated, and intersectionally-informed responses to the problem of bias, discrimination, and abuse.

Lesson 4: Learn from local and regional best practices

Another recommendation from TMC Network members was to pay greater attention to emerging local and regional best practices. One way this can be accomplished is by showcasing promising practices and initiatives at the unit or brigade level that have been successful so that military members can have a clear example of the meaningful integration of equity, diversity, and inclusion. Through dialogue, this would also ensure that service members feel like they are in a “listening culture” where their concerns and grievances are heard, which is critical for military members who need accommodations.

Lesson 5: Implementation will be difficult

While the Minister’s report provides some important and insightful recommendations, these efforts will be difficult to achieve without acknowledging the foundational nature of the problem. Historically, responses to racism and discrimination in the CAF have been superficial and reactionary in nature, for example, focusing on providing courses or modules, with a lack of buy-in and continued internal resistance. There remain concerns among CAF members that addressing equity issues is in tension with operational effectiveness. However, the opposite is likely more true. How do we construct a narrative where the failure to address racism and discrimination are seen as having a negative impact on operational effectiveness?

Moving forward

The Minister’s Report was not the first time that discrimination and racism were brought to the forefront; however, for the first time they were named as foundational to the defence team culture, giving us pause to reflect. In order to avoid that the recommendations become side lined or translated into a check box, a careful multipronged strategy grounded in an intersectional approach must be adopted. Only then can the recommendations be transformed into meaningful, proactive, and integrated culture change. Several prior reports have pointed to the cultural dysfunction that has harmed the CAF’s most vulnerable members. This report is bolder and even welcomingly radical in some instances in its ability to name and locate racism as a historical reality that has had a profound impact on the CAF.

As we continue to build and expand on the ideas of this report, it is time to recognize that racism and discrimination are not only overt acts, but systemic and constitutive of the CAF as an institution and that it is imperative to move beyond superficial responses. It is time to facilitate change at the grassroots level, through restorative engagement, dialogue, storytelling, relationship building, and intersectional feminist experiential learning. Instead of reacting and constantly problem solving, it is time for the CAF to imagine itself anew as an institution that sees reducing the harm its service members experience as a result of racism and discrimination as paramount. Is it perhaps even possible to imagine the CAF as a proactive agent of change beyond the military, an institution that thinks through its broader societal role in anti-racism and truth and reconciliation efforts?


Department of National Defence. (2022). Minister of National Defence Advisory Panel on Systemic Racism and Discrimination with a focus on Anti-Indigenous and Anti-Black Racism, LGBTQ2+ Prejudice, Gender Bias, and White Supremacy. Available from: https://www.canada.ca/en/department-national-defence/news/2022/04/ministers-advisory-panel-on-systemic-racism-and-discrimination-final-report.html