IOG Responds to the Resignation of Lt.-Col. Eleanor Taylor

2 minute read

By Ross MacLeod, Senior Associate

Lt.-Col. Eleanor Taylor, a decorated veteran of Afghanistan and recognized trailblazer in the Canadian Armed Forces has resigned over sexual misconduct by the senior command. In her letter of resignation: “I have been both a victim of, and participant in, this damaging cycle of silence and am proud of neither.”

The more we learn about misconduct in the Forces, the more it is clear that organizational culture is behind it. Culture runs deep in the beliefs and behaviour of organizations. It is notoriously resistant to change, nearly immune to resignations, replacing individuals, directives, and action plans. Changing the culture of large organizations, even starting from a healthy place, takes years. In this case it may take decades.

There are some red flags and some opportunities.

The first red flag is that there will be more allegations and findings of sexual misconduct. If it was happening at the most senior levels of the organization, then the message from the leadership to the lower ranks was that it was OK.

The second is that while none of this is news, leaders, right up to the political level, are moving slowly despite the urgency of the situation and the huge scale of the culture change that must happen. This means that more members of the Forces—most of them women--will be put in harm’s way.

Restoring the culture of the Forces can start right now. Victims of misconduct need a safe space and secure process of redress—immediately. Others can stop “participating in the damaging cycle of silence” by calling out inappropriate behaviour, no matter how minor. Men--in particular--should become “upstanders” rather than “bystanders”. This takes courage and they need absolute support and cover from the top regardless of their rank or role in the organization.

Despite past reviews, initiatives and having institutions in place (review service, an ombudsman and a distinct military justice system) the Forces are not dealing with this. The government has a duty to protect its employees in the workplace and should provide emergency oversight until there is evidence that sustained cultural change is underway.

An important institution has lost its way. It will take time and massive effort to build a healthy and safe workplace. The dedicated and hard-working members of the Forces deserve nothing less.

---

Ross MacLeod is a Senior Associate at the IOG. As a senior public servant he led the development of the Code of Values and Ethics for the Public Sector and the Policy on Harassment Prevention and Resolution.

About the author

Institute on Governance

Institute on Governance

Founded in 1990, the Institute on Governance (IOG) is an independent, Canada-based, not-for-profit public interest institution with its head office in Ottawa and an office in Toronto. Our mission is ‘advancing better governance in the public interest,’ which we accomplish by exploring, developing and promoting the principles, standards and practices which underlie good governance in the public sphere, both in Canada and abroad.

(613) 562-0090 or 0092