The civilian quasi-judicial oversight agency that examines grievances about military police conduct says it will proceed with a public interest investigation into a complaint filed by retired major‑general Dany Fortin, even though it has been formally withdrawn.
Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) chairperson Tammy Tremblay said in a statement Monday that she first decided in April to investigate the conduct complaint, which was filed by Mr. Fortin in January. It pertained to how the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) handled an allegation of sexual assault against him.
In August, 2021, Mr. Fortin was charged with one count of sexual assault. The military cleared him of wrongdoing.
Mr. Fortin was acquitted of the charge at a trial last December. He recently retired from the Canadian Armed Forces and settled a lawsuit against the military and top government officials for an undisclosed amount.
A statement of claim that Mr. Fortin filed in March with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice accused officials of negligent investigation, inappropriate public disclosure of private facts, breach of confidence and conspiracy to cause damages. It sought $6-million in damages.
In Monday’s statement, Ms. Tremblay said a number of “important considerations” figured in to her original decision to declare a public interest investigation, including the seriousness of the allegations, the alleged involvement of senior officials and military police members, and public interest issues raised by the complaint.
“These considerations are still present and have not been diminished, nor have the allegations at the heart of this complaint lodged with the MPCC been resolved or rendered moot by the termination of the civil proceedings initiated by the Complainant.”
In May, 2021, Mr. Fortin was in charge of the country’s vaccine logistics when the Department of National Defence announced he had left his post while under investigation by military police. The DND provided no further details at the time.
According to a news release distributed by the MPCC on Monday, Mr. Fortin said in his complaint that he was charged by military investigators on the basis of insufficient evidence after a biased and partial military police investigation.
On Oct. 13, Mr. Fortin “formally withdrew his complaint through a letter from his legal counsel,” Ms. Tremblay said in a separate statement.
“The letter notes, however, that should I decide that the public interest investigation must continue despite the Complainant’s withdrawal of the complaint, the Complainant will fully participate in the process.”
Ms. Tremblay said Mr. Fortin’s statement of claim named several senior officials and military officers, including the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, as defendants after his acquittal.
Last month, she said the MPCC received a letter signed by Mr. Fortin’s lawyer, Thomas Conway, noting the complainant and DND issued a joint statement a day prior, on Oct. 12, that indicated legal proceedings “have been resolved.”
The letter said the parties had no further comment and that, given the circumstances, the complainant must withdraw his complaint, Ms. Tremblay said.
The MPCC chairperson said in April that Mr. Fortin raised concerns about “the failure to correctly investigate allegations of sexual assault” and that the CFNIS “mishandled the investigation” and was “generally biased in favour of the alleged victim” and “did not follow up on the ‘important contradictions’ in the alleged victim’s version of events.”
With a report from The Canadian Press