The Role of Researchers Supporting “Operation Honour”: Investigating the Impact of Gender-Related Values on Military Socialization

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 16:45
Oral Presentation
Kyle FRASER, Department of National Defence, Canada
Shannon RUSSELL-MILLER, Department of National Defence, Canada
The External Review into Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF; Deschamps, 2015) reported that, while instances of sexual harassment are not unique to military organizations, there is an “underlying sexualized culture” in the CAF that contributes to an environment “hostile to women and LGBTQ members”, and thus called for a change in organizational culture. Among the organizational initiatives developed to respond to the challenges outlined in the External Review, “Operation HONOUR” provides senior leadership direction which seeks to eliminate harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the Canadian military. Researchers, internal to the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CAF have a responsibility to senior leadership to provide evidence-based recommendations to aid in mitigating instances of sexual misconduct and harassment, and to foster an inclusive environment for Canadian military personnel. This paper will explore the challenges of gaining access and conducting data collection for a qualitative study exploring CAF recruit socialization, and risk factors associated with sexual misconduct in the context of early training environments. Data collection methods include conducting focus groups with new entry candidates on basic recruit and officer qualification courses, interviews with trainers, and non-participant observation of the training environment. The impact of applying qualitative sociological research in a high surveillance institution will be examined as it relates to reflexive considerations of the dual insider-outsider (native/external) status of the researchers, social desirability response bias of participants, the sensitive nature of the topic being investigated, and the potentially vulnerable population under study. In particular, the paper will explore researcher experience and positionality as sociologists undertaking research related to sexual misconduct in the CAF.