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Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks during a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, April 19, 2021.PATRICK DOYLE/Reuters

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says she is “disturbed” by the military’s decision to let the commander of the Royal Canadian Navy keep his job after golfing with the former chief of the defence staff under military police investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct.

Vice-Admiral Craig Baines caused outrage earlier this month when it was revealed he and then-defence vice-chief Lieutenant-General Mike Rouleau golfed with retired general Jonathan Vance.

Both Vice-Adm. Baines and Lt.-Gen Rouleau apologized, with the latter also resigning from his position.

Acting chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre said he would consider the next steps for the naval commander and decided to give Vice-Adm. Baines a chance to redeem himself.

Ms. Freeland says she was “surprised” and “disturbed” by the decision, which follows months of military officials and the Liberal government being under scrutiny for systemic misconduct among the ranks of the Armed Forces.

She says her immediate thought was: How would she feel if she were a Canadian woman in the Armed Forces?

“What would that decision tell me about how seriously my bosses were taking the essential work of transforming the culture of the Canadian Armed Forces? And I don’t think if I were wearing a uniform today, I would be reassured by that decision,” she said.

Lt.-Gen. Eyre said in a statement Tuesday that while he knew not everyone would agree with the decision, he has to believe that people can learn and grow from their mistakes.

“Knowing his moral authority has diminished, [Vice-Adm. Baines] is determined to regain the trust and confidence of all through humility and showing us how to learn, reconcile error, and become a better leader,” Lt.-Gen. Eyre said.

Ms. Freeland’s comments are “extremely hypocritical,” Conservative defence critic MP James Bezan said in a statement Wednesday, adding that the minister has stood by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

“If Minister Freeland truly cares about our women and men in uniform, she will join the countless Canadians calling for Minister Sajjan’s immediate resignation,” he said.

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