New advisory group focused on culture change


Peter Mallett
Staff Writer

Organizers of the base’s newest employment equity group – the Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization –  say raising the Pride flag atop flag polls for Public Service Pride Week, Aug. 23 to 27, is satisfying, but their overall focus is the betterment of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The Defence Team Pride Advisory Organization (DTPAO) officially stood up on Dec. 9, 2020, as the fifth Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) employment equity advisory group.

The new group’s mandate is to offer guidance to the CAF leadership on matters relating to LBGTQ2+ members, both civilian and military.

At CFB Esquimalt, the military and civilian co-chairs of the local chapter are MS Erin Rautenstrauch and Steven Cleugh. They say inclusive policy changes for LBGTQ2+ members will be key to enhancing military and operational success for everyone in the Maritime Forces Pacific (MARPAC).

“Allowing members to serve and express who they are without systematic and cultural barriers enables them to focus on the task at hand and contribute to CAF operational success,” says MS Rautenstrauch.

At last count, membership in CFB Esquimalt’s DTPAO totalled 90 members of varying ranks and jobs. Due to COVID-19 health and safety restrictions, the DTPAO meets on MS Teams, but that hasn’t dampened enthusiasm or demand for change among its members, adds MS Rautenstrauch.

About the military co-chair

MS Rautenstrauch joined the military in 2011. She grew up in Grande Prairie, AB, and is a member of the Pride community.

She has experienced both discrimination in the workplace and support from the military community.

She currently works for Canadian Fleet Pacific as a Battlespace Management Operator at the Maritime Regional Interface Control Cell.

MS Rautenstrauch says she jumped at the chance to become involved in the DTPAO when it was formed.

“I have been supported by [LGBTQ2+] advocates in the past and since I learned a lot from them, I felt it was important to carry the torch and make MARPAC and the CAF a more inclusive and accepting organization,” she says.

About the civilian co-chair

Steven Cleugh agrees with his military counterpart that operational success for the CAF is crucial to the mission of his group, but also feels that a culture change is long overdue for both military and civilian employees at the base.

Cleugh is a marine industrial labourer who has worked with Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton for 14 years. Two of his children are members of the LBGTQ2+ community along with his wife who is bisexual.

He grew up in Duncan, BC, during the 1970s and says discrimination against LBGTQ2+ people was a systemic problem at his schools and in his community.

After undergoing his own personal learning curve with his wife, Cleugh says he felt inclined to become involved with the group because he wanted to encourage a culture change in his workplace.

“A lot of people, both in my workplace and society in general, are resistant to this cultural change because they just don’t understand,” he says. “My role is to act as an ambassador and help educate some of these people into understanding why this culture shift is taking place and that discrimination is also bad for business. When there is discrimination directed at any group it also effects productivity in the workplace and that should concern everyone.” 

Cleugh says he is already seeing a culture shift in the workplace and believes the DTPAO is helping people come forward and point out systematic issues and problems.

“Now there is a place for them to go; in the past they didn’t have that,” he says.


The DTPAO is a part of a wider network of five advisory groups at the local and regional levels, offering guidance to the CAF leadership.

The Department of National Defence Employment Equity Defence Advisory Groups are: DTPAO, Defence Aboriginal Advisory Group (DAAG), Defence Visible Minority Advisory Group (DVMAG), Defence Women’s Advisory Organization (DWAO) and the Defence Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities (PWD).

The DTPAO also works closely with the Positive Space Working Group (PSWG), which focuses on the training and education of the base community.


Filed Under: Top Stories

About the Author:

RSSComments (0)

Trackback URL

Leave a Reply

If you want a picture to show with your comment, go get a Gravatar.