By Brendan O'Brien
(Reuters) - The leaders of Canada's military have failed to address systemic racism and discrimination over the past two decades and that has harmed national security, a scathing report released on Monday by the minister of defense found.
A minister's advisory panel, which began working in January 2021, issued its final report with 13 proposals to change the culture and remove barriers to inclusiveness.
"Exclusionary practices are degrading, demeaning and violate the dignity that everyone deserves," Defense Minister Anita Anand said during a presentation of the report. "These obstacles hurt our operational capacity and harm the security of our country."
The four-member advisory panel found that minorities, persons with disabilities and women are vastly under-represented in the Canadian Department of National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces and urged the recruitment of a more diverse workforce.
It pinned systemic racism and discrimination on leadership, saying an abuse of power was a "key corrosive factor."
The report comes as Canadian military personnel are engaged in NATO missions in Latvia and Poland and helping migrants in response to the war in Ukraine.
Panel member Major Sandra Perron said more than 250 recommendations were submitted over the last two decades to military leadership to address diversity, inclusion and professional conduct. But these were poorly implemented, shelved or discarded.
"The defense team does not need to wait for an additional external team such as ourselves to tell them what to do," she said.
The report said that it was "time to be uncomfortable" when dealing with sexual misconduct in the armed forces. The Canadian military has been under pressure over allegations of sexual misconduct by senior officers, including Canada's former top soldier.
The panel called on the Canada's military to improve education while empowering indigenous people, Black people, women, transgender people and persons with disabilities.
(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)