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General pleads guilty to misfiring weapon

Brigadier-General Daniel Menard, commander of Canada's task force Afghanistan, speaks to reporters in Kandahar on Jan. 30, 2010.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Canada's top soldier in southern Afghanistan has been fined for accidentally firing his rifle twice at Kandahar airbase - a mishap that took place in front of his boss.

A military judge in Gatineau, Que., levied a penalty of $3,500 on Brigadier-General Daniel Menard, commander of Joint Task Force Afghanistan, as punishment.

Brig.-Gen Menard had earlier pleaded guilty to one charge in relation to the misfiring of his rifle.

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The court heard that Canada's most senior soldier, Chief of the Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk, was with Brig.-Gen. Menard on March 25, 2010, as he mishandled his weapon while trying to secure it before departing in a helicopter.

Instead of switching the C8 carbine rifle to the "safe" position, Brig.-Gen. Menard ended up flipping it to the "automatic" setting - and firing a double-burst.

The bullets flew between armoured vehicles, soldiers and helicopters on the runway but didn't hit anyone or damage equipment.

It's an offence under the National Defence Act to unintentionally fire a weapon.

The charge Brig.-Gen. Menard accepted carries a maximum penalty of dismissal from the military. He pleaded guilty to violating section 129 of the National Defence Act, which says any act or neglect "to the prejudice of good order and discipline" is an offence.

Brig.-Gen. Menard's defence lawyer had argued for leniency, however, noting the commander reported the mishap to investigators and discussed it in front of his troops.

"He mans up right away and says 'I did it'," Lieutenant-Colonel Troy Sweet told the court.

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Brig.-Gen. Menard isn't the first senior military member to be charged with such an offence. In 2000, then-Lt.-Col. Peter Atkinson was fined $5,000 for accidentally firing a machine gun from a Leopard tank near Kosovo.

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