Between Military Intent and Experience: Understanding Disconnect through Institutional Ethnography


  • Marshall Gerbrandt University of New Brunswick


Recent scandal and longstanding systemic issues related to sexual misconduct, discrimination, and exclusionary practices have prompted the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) to undertake cultural reforms. CAF Ethos: Trusted to Serve (DND, 2022) speaks to the need for institution-wide culture change and the importance of leadership and education in this endeavour. Yet we don’t know how the ideas purported within Trusted to Serve manifest within training. This disjuncture between policy and culture may be stalling progress and raises the question, how can policy and culture better communicate? Inquiring into Institutional Ethnography, this article shows its suitability to: (1) make the disconnect between the institution’s values, articulated in policy, and the daily experience of cadets visible; (2) draw attention to the ways cadets witness institutional policies upheld and contradicted within their learning environment; and (3) raise awareness on the unnecessary work imposed upon military members by the actions and beliefs of others.