Family Violence and the Military Community Research Team (1996 - 2004)


To learn more about family violence in the Canadian military community; to understand how the Canadian Forces are presently responding to family violence; and to make recommendations about how the Canadian Forces might respond to family violence more effectively, and take steps to reduce its incidence.


The original team's study, based on institutional ethnography feminist methodology, consisted of 126 lengthy semi-structured interviews carried out (1996-2000) in four Canadian provinces with:

  • present and former civilian female partners of CF members, who were survivors of abuse [64];
  • regional civilian and CF social service providers, and CF supervisory personnel [52]; and
  • National Defence Headquarters program administrators and generals in Ottawa [10].

The research, which received full co-operation from Canada's Department of National Defence, was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Women and Change program) and Status of Women Canada.  Organizational partners were the NB River Valley Health Corporation and the Manitoba Family Violence Prevention Program.  Findings can be grouped into three categories:

  • the extraordinary social and economic vulnerability of military spouses, especially those who are abused by their partners;
  • the inability of military social services to meet abused civilian spouses' needs; and
  • the role of the hypervigilance and unit cohesion aspects of military culture in the response to abused spouses which is perpetrated by the chain of command.

The Report on the Canadian Forces' Response to Woman Abuse in Military Families can be viewed or downloaded.  (see publications below)

Research Team

  1. Chantal Bourassa, École de Service Social, Université de Moncton
  2. Capt Jerry Deveau , CFB Gagetown
  3. Penny Ericson, Nursing, University of New Brunswick (UNB)
  4. Gaila Friars, social worker, River Valley Health Corporation, Oromocto
  5. Deborah Harrison, Sociology, UNB (national coordinator)
  6. Ann Koller, counsellor, Oromocto
  7. Lucie Laliberté, Founder & President, Organization of Spouses of Military Members; and retired family law lawyer, Vineland Ontario
  8. Francine Langlais, nurse, River Valley Health Corporation, Oromocto
  9. Maj Jurden Rice, BSWO, CFB Gagetown (now Air Command Hdqtrs, Winnipeg)
  10. Beatriz Sainz, family physician, Oromocto
  11. Beverley Bailey, Education, Brandon University
  12. Marlene Bertrand, Family Violence Prevention Program, Manitoba
  13. Maj-Gen Eric Linden, Canadian Forces and Sociology, U of Manitoba
  14. LCol Henry Matheson, Directorate Medical Policy/Social Work Policy, Canadian Forces, Ottawa
  15. Mary Jean Merry, transition house counsellor, Winnipeg
  16. Kathy Phillips, former RCMP civilian dispatcher, Brandon
  17. Jane Ursel, Sociology, U of Manitoba; Director, RESOLVE Centre (Manitoba coordinator)

Research Assistants

  • Elizabeth Blaney, Education PhD student, UNB
  • Kelly Gorkoff, Research Associate, RESOLVE Centre, Winnipeg
  • Joan Hanley, Psychology PhD student, UNB
  • Sharon Kuropatwa, Research Associate, RESOLVE Centre, Winnipeg
  • Michelle LaFrance, Psychology PhD student, UNB (now Dept of Psychology, St. Thomas University)


A number of papers presented by various team members at national and
international scholarly conferences (1998 - 2004 and continuing)

  • 2000.  Harrison, D. with entire MMF Centre and RESOLVE teams.  Report on the Canadian Forces' Response to Woman Abuse in Military Families.  Submitted to the Minister of National Defence, May  8.
  • 2001.  Department of National Defence Canada.  Family Violence Action Plan (contains response to each of team Report's 51 recommendations; modified continually until 2003). (
  • 2000.  Harrison, D. with the collaboration of L. Laliberté, M. Bertrand, E. Blaney, J. Deveau, P. Ericson, G. Friars, & A. Koller.  The First Casualty: Violence Against Women in Canadian Military Communities.  Toronto: James Lorimer and Company (, 1-800-565-1975, or fax 902 425 0166).
  • 2004.   Deborah Harrison was one of 4 keynote speakers at the Washington, D.C.  inauguration of Amnesty International U.S.A.'s 2-year campaign to combat military violence against women.

Several articles published in books and refereed journals.