Two high-ranking Canadian Armed Forces commanders went golfing with former chief of defence Jonathan Vance at an exclusive military country club earlier this month, even though he is under military police investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.
Vice-Chief of Defence Staff Michael Rouleau and Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, head of the Royal Canadian Navy, entertained and golfed with General Vance on June 2 at Hylands Golf and Country Club in Ottawa, an exclusive golfing venue for the Canadian military.
Gen. Vance is under military police investigation for alleged sexual misconduct, which he has denied. The Canadian Forces National Investigative Service, which is the military police, report directly to Lt. Gen. Rouleau.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office confirmed that the golfing event took place and said the minister was not aware that it had happened and was upset that two senior military commanders thought that this was an okay thing to do.
“The Minister was made aware of this situation . . . following media inquiries. The decision by the LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines to go golfing with Gen Vance is troubling and unacceptable. The Minister will discuss next steps with Acting Chief of the Defence Staff,” press secretary Todd Lane said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.
Two senior government officials said Acting Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre and Jody Thomas, deputy minister of National Defence, were also unaware of the golf outing. One source told The Globe that the Hylands Golf and Country Club was cleared of other golfers so the three men could play on the course without anyone noticing the presence of Gen. Vance.
The two officials said it remains unclear whether the high-ranking officers will face disciplinary measures for their actions. Lt. Gen. Rouleau is moving to a new post as strategic adviser to Lt. Gen Eyre in July and is being replaced by Lt. Gen. Frances Allen.
“We have been made aware that LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines went golfing with Gen (Retired) Jonathan Vance,” National Defence spokesperson Jessica Lamirande said in a statement to The Globe. “We recognize the seriousness of the matter and, as such, we will gather facts and advice in order to determine next steps.”
Lt. Gen Rouleau and Vice Admiral Baines were not immediately available for comment.
Military police launched an investigation into Gen Vance after Global News reported in February about alleged inappropriate behaviour from the general towards two female subordinates, possibly violating directives that govern personal relationships and such actions might contravene provisions in the National Defence Act that relate to good order and discipline.
Major Kellie Brennan told Global News that she had a long-standing sexual relationship with Gen. Vance while he was her superior and he fathered two of her children. A second women, whose name has not been revealed, alleged that Gen. Vance suggested in an email in 2018 that they should go to a clothing optional resort. He has denied the allegations.
The Vance allegations have rocked the military and led to a sexual misconduct crisis that has blemished the military, forced a number of major commanders to step aside and resulted in the appointment of former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to study the creation of an independent watchdog to investigate complaints of sexual harassment, sexual assault and rape.
The latest review will follow one from six years ago, when another former Supreme Court justice, Marie Deschamps, recommended an independent centre of accountability for sexual assault and harassment outside the Forces.
Four military police investigations are known to be under way into the conduct of Gen. Vance, Admiral Art McDonald, who succeeded Gen. Vance, Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson and Major-General Dany Fortin, who headed the rollout of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccinations before being forced to step aside. Major-Gen. Peter Dawe, commander of special forces, left his post after it was revealed that he wrote a letter of support for a soldier convicted of sexual assault of a female member.
Three years ago, Mr. Sajjan was alerted to the 2018 allegation that was raised directly with then-military ombudsman Gary Walbourne. Mr. Sajjan declined to see the evidence and alerted his former chief of staff, Zita Astravas, who made the Prime Minister’s Office aware. The PMO then referred the matter to the Privy Council Office, the department that supports the Prime Minister and cabinet, but it could not obtain further information, Mr. Trudeau has told Parliament.
Two parliamentary committees have been studying the issue of sexual trauma in the military in the past number of months, including the defence committee, which has focused on Gen. Vance.
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