The Canadian Armed Forces’ problems with sexual misconduct burst into public view like never before in 2021, as members in the highest ranks were accused of misconduct or enabling the bad behaviour of others. Defence Minister Anita Anand apologized to survivors on the federal government’s behalf, saying it had failed to protect them. Ms. Anand moved outstanding cases to civilian authorities on the recommendation of Louise Arbour, whose independent review was the third report from a former justice of the Supreme Court to deliver similar advice to a government trying to address its military’s toxic culture. Here’s an overview of some of the major cases so far.
Facing criminal charges
Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson
Role: He was the Forces’ chief of military personnel from August, 2019, until he went on leave in March, 2021. Essentially the human resources manager of the military, he had authority over recruitment, retention and efforts to eliminate “harmful and inappropriate behaviour,” according the military’s website.
Allegations: In December, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service charged Vice-Adm. Edmundson with sexual assault and indecent acts. The case involves an incident that reportedly took place 30 years ago aboard a Royal Canadian Navy vessel outside Canadian waters, the Department of National Defence said in March, 2021. CBC, the first to report on the case, said DND only opened a CFNIS file when it learned a story about sexual misconduct was coming out soon. Vice-Adm. Edmundson denied the allegations in the CBC story.
Major-General Dany Fortin
Role: Mr. Fortin was in charge of Canada’s distribution plan for COVID-19 vaccines until the military removed him in May, 2021. He fought unsuccessfully in Federal Court to be reinstated to that job, which government lawyers argued technically no longer exists.
Allegations: In April, 2021, a military investigator told Mr. Fortin he was being investigated for an alleged incident in 1988, he said in an affidavit obtained by The Globe and Mail. The military announced his exit from the COVID-19 vaccine job the following month; three months later, he was charged at a police station in Gatineau, Que., with one count of sexual assault. He denies the allegation and is scheduled to face trial in September.
General Jonathan Vance
Role: Mr. Vance served as chief of the defence staff, Canada’s highest military post, from 2015 to 2021. He was replaced in January, 2021, after announcing his planned retirement the previous summer.
Allegations: Mr. Vance was accused of inappropriate behaviour with two female subordinates, Global News first reported in February, 2021. One was a younger soldier to whom he allegedly made sexual comments in 2012; another was a woman he significantly outranked. CFNIS concluded its investigation without laying military service charges or a criminal charge directly connected to the allegation, but he was charged separately with obstruction of justice stemming from his actions during the investigation. In March, he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and admitted that he tried to persuade a subordinate officer to lie to military police about their illicit affair.
Retired Lieutenant-General Trevor Cadieu
Role: Mr. Cadieu was set to become head of the Army in September, 2021, but he retired from the military while under investigation.
Allegations: The CFNIS charged Mr. Cadieu with two counts of sexual assault on June 15 this year in relation to incidents that allegedly occurred in 1994 at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ont. The lieutenant-general previously denied the allegations, which were first reported by the Ottawa Citizen in October, 2021. Harjit Sajjan, then the defence minister, and General Wayne Eyre, then the acting and now the permanent Chief of the Defence Staff, were told about the probe on Sept. 5, but the military said nothing publicly about it until the Citizen story came out.
Military investigation closed, no charges laid
Admiral Art McDonald
Role: Adm. McDonald was Gen. Vance’s replacement as chief of the defence staff for a few weeks before he, too, faced a CFNIS probe beginning in February, 2021. The government kept him on leave after the probe concluded, but he tried to fight back, saying he should return to the top job. The government disagreed and in November, 2021, fired Adm. McDonald as chief of the defence staff and permanently gave the position to Gen. Eyre.
Allegations: The CFNIS looked into a 2010 incident involving Adm. McDonald at a social event on a Canadian warship, but by August it concluded there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant criminal or Code of Service Discipline charges.
Lieutenant-General Steven Whelan
Role: Lt.-Gen. Whelan took over Vice-Adm. Edmundson’s job in May, 2021, then went on paid leave in mid-October after The Globe and Mail asked the military about the investigation into his conduct.
Allegations: In July, the military police charged Lt.-Gen. Whelan with conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline under the National Defence Act. The Forces said the charges were connected to an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. The complaint was filed with military police shortly after his appointment as chief of military personnel in May, 2021, a source told The Globe. Mr. Sajjan and Gen. Eyre knew about the case since June, 2021, the government said.
Whelan was initially facing two charges of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, but the charge related to what the military called an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate, was withdrawn during the first day of the court martial, Sept. 25, 2023. Whelan pleaded not guilty to a second charge, an allegation that he inappropriately changed a performance evaluation report for an employee.
Under fire for connection to another soldier’s misconduct
Major-General Peter Dawe
Role: Maj.-Gen. Dawe commanded Canada’s special forces until April, 2021, but was then quietly put in a new job to co-ordinate the military’s efforts at cultural change. He was removed from that job in October, 2021, amid an outcry from sexual-assault survivors.
Allegations: Maj.-Gen. Dawe is not accused of sexual misconduct himself but of writing a character reference for someone convicted of such a crime – Major Jonathan Hamilton, who was convicted in 2017 of unlawfully entering the Kingston home of a retired military couple, sexually assaulting the woman and physically assaulting her husband. CBC News reported in April, 2021, on how the couple learned about the character reference, which Maj.-Gen. Dawe provided after the conviction in order to influence the sentence. He was then put on leave, but subsequent revelations have raised questions about how he continued to work in other roles through the summer and fall of 2021.
Compiled by Globe staff
Based on reporting from Kristy Kirkup, Janice Dickson, Marieke Walsh, Colin Freeze and The Canadian Press
For subscribers: Get exclusive political news and analysis by signing up for the Politics Briefing.