The head of the Royal Canadian Navy issued a public apology Sunday for accompanying another high-ranking officer on a golf outing at an exclusive armed forces country club with former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance, who is under military police investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.
The Globe and Mail reported Saturday that Lieutenant-General Michael Rouleau, Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff, and Vice-Admiral Craig Baines entertained and played golf with Mr. Vance on June 2 at Hylands Golf and Country Club in Ottawa, an exclusive golfing venue for the Canadian military.
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, which is the military police, reports directly to Lt.-Gen. Rouleau.
Vice-Adm. Baines sent out a statement Sunday evening to all members of the Canadian Armed Forces, saying he regretted his decision to play golf with Mr. Vance, who retired this year.
“I fully accept responsibility and accountability for not understanding how such a public display of support sends the wrong signal as to my commitment to lead in resolving our systemic cultural and misconduct issues. For this, I sincerely apologize,” according to the statement obtained by The Globe.
The vice-admiral said he would be taking a “few days of personal leave” and Rear Admiral Chris Sutherland will assume his duties as commander of Canada’s navy.
Mr. Vance is under military police investigation for alleged sexual misconduct, which he has denied.
A senior government official said Lt.-Gen. Rouleau was resisting demands to also apologize. It remains unclear if he will face disciplinary actions. The Globe is not identifying the official because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
Lt.-Gen. Rouleau is slated to move to a new post as strategic adviser to Acting Chief of Defence Staff Lt.-Gen.Wayne Eyre in July and is being replaced by Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office said the minister was not aware of the golfing outing until alerted by The Globe and was upset that two senior military commanders thought that this was okay to do.
“The Minister was made aware of this situation ... following media inquiries. The decision by the LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines to go golfing with Gen Vance is troubling and unacceptable. The Minister will discuss next steps with the Acting Chief of the Defence Staff,” communications director Todd Lane said in a statement to The Globe and Mail.
The Globe reported Saturday that Lt.-Gen. Eyre and Jody Thomas, deputy minister of National Defence, were also unaware of the golf game. One source told The Globe that Hylands was cleared of other golfers so the three men could play on the course without anyone noticing the presence of Mr. Vance.
“We have been made aware that LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines went golfing with Gen (Retired) Jonathan Vance,” National Defence spokesperson Jessica Lamirande said in a statement to The Globe. “We recognize the seriousness of the matter and, as such, we will gather facts and advice in order to determine next steps.”
Lt.-Gen Rouleau and Vice-Adm. Baines were not immediately available for comment.
Military police launched an investigation into Mr. Vance after Global News reported in February about alleged inappropriate behaviour from him toward two female subordinates, possibly violating directives that govern personal relationships and possibly contravening provisions in the National Defence Act that relate to good order and discipline.
Major Kellie Brennan told Global News that she had a long-standing sexual relationship with Mr. Vance while he was her superior and that he fathered two of her children. A second women, whose name has not been revealed, alleged that Mr. Vance suggested in an e-mail in 2018 that they should go to a clothing-optional resort. He has denied the allegations.
The Vance allegations have rocked the Canadian Forces and led to a sexual-misconduct crisis that has blemished the military and forced a number of major commanders to step aside. It has also resulted in the appointment of former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to study the creation of an independent watchdog to investigate complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
The latest review will follow a study from six years ago, when another former Supreme Court justice, Marie Deschamps, recommended an independent centre of accountability for sexual assault and harassment outside the Forces.
Four military police investigations are known to be under way into the conduct of Mr. Vance, Admiral Art McDonald, who succeeded Mr. Vance, Vice-Adm. Haydn Edmundson and Major-General Dany Fortin, who headed the rollout of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccinations before being forced to step aside. Major-Gen. Peter Dawe, commander of special forces, left his post after it was revealed he wrote a letter of support for a soldier convicted of sexual assault of a female member.
Three years ago, Mr. Sajjan was alerted to the 2018 allegation against Mr. Vance that was raised directly with then-military ombudsman Gary Walbourne. Mr. Sajjan declined to see the evidence and alerted his former chief of staff, Zita Astravas, who made the Prime Minister’s Office aware. The PMO then referred the matter to the Privy Council Office, the department that supports the prime minister and the cabinet, but it could not obtain further information, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told Parliament.
Two parliamentary committees have been studying the issue of sexual trauma in the military in the past number of months, including the defence committee, which has focused on Mr. Vance.