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. One of the first acts of the new federal Defence Minister, Anita Anand, was to move outstanding cases to civilian authorities who might be able to investigate in a more transparent way than military ones. That was an idea from former Supreme Court judge Louise Arbour, whose independent review will eventually address systemic issues that made the alleged abuse possible. In the meantime, here’s an overview of some of the major cases so far.
Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson
Role: He was the Forces’ chief of military personnel from August, 2019, until he went on leave this past March. Essentially the human resources manager of the military, the CMP has authority over recruitment, retention and efforts to eliminate “harmful and inappropriate behaviour,” according the CAF website.
Allegations: The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service’s probe centres on 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. CBC News, 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 denies the allegations.
Lieutenant-General Steven Whelan
Role: He took over Vice-Adm. Edmundson’s job in May, then went on leave in mid-October after The Globe and Mail asked him about the investigation he faced.
Allegations: CFNIS confirmed it was investigating “an allegation of sexual misconduct,” but little is known publicly about when and where it allegedly took place. It was filed with military police shortly after his appointment in May, a source with knowledge of the matter told The Globe. Defence minister Harjit Sajjan, then the defence minister, and General Wayne Eyre, then the acting and now the permanent Chief of the Defence Staff, knew about the case since June 2, the government and the Forces confirmed.
Lieutenant-General Trevor Cadieu
Role: Lt.-Gen. Cadieu was due to become head of the Army in September, but sexual-misconduct allegations postponed that appointment (a fact that would only become public knowledge in mid-October).
Allegations: The CFNIS took a statement from a woman about sexual-assault allegations against Lt.-Gen. Cadieu, the Ottawa Citizen first reported on Oct. 13. The lieutenant-general denied the allegations. Mr. Sajjan and Gen. Eyre were told about the probe on Sept. 5, but the military said nothing publicly about it until the Citizen story came out.
Facing criminal charges
Major-General Dany Fortin
Role: Maj.-Gen. Fortin was in charge of Canada’s distribution plan for COVID-19 vaccines until the military removed him in May. He fought unsuccessfully in Federal Court to be reinstated to that job, which government lawyers argued technically no longer exists.
Allegations: This past April 19, a military investigator told Maj.-Gen. Fortin he was being investigated for an alleged incident in 1988, he said in an affidavit obtained by The Globe. The military announced his exit from the COVID-19 vaccine job on May 14; three months later, he was charged at a police station in Gatineau, Que., with one count of sexual assault. He denies the allegations, which have not been tested in court.
General Jonathan Vance
Role: Gen. Vance served five years as chief of the defence staff, Canada’s highest military post, but was replaced in January after announcing his planned retirement the previous summer.
Allegations: Gen. Vance was accused of inappropriate behaviour with two female subordinates, Global News first reported in February. One was a younger soldier to whom he allegedly made sexual comments in 2012; another was a woman he significantly outranked. Gen. Vance said he didn’t recall the comment to the first woman and said his relationship with the second started almost 20 years ago but was not sexual. CFNIS concluded its investigation without laying military service charges, but separate criminal charges of obstruction of justice were laid; court documents allege Gen. Vance hindered CFNIS investigators by pressing someone to “make false statements about their past relationship.” The obstruction case goes to trial in May of 2023.
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 in February. The government kept him on leave after the probe concluded, but he’s fighting back, saying he’s been exonerated and should return to the top job.
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.
Under fire for connection to another soldier’s misconduct
Major-General Peter Dawe
Role: Maj.-Gen. Dawe commanded Canada’s special forces until April 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 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 who is – 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 on how the couple learned about the character reference, which Maj.-Gen. Dawe provided after the conviction 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, Colin Freeze and The Canadian Press
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