Military police have referred its investigation to Quebec’s public prosecution service to determine whether criminal charges should be laid against Major-General Dany Fortin, who headed the country’s vaccination drive, over an allegation of sexual misconduct.
The Armed Forces Provost Marshal said Wednesday that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) conducted a probe into an allegation of sexual misconduct against Maj.-Gen. Fortin. It has now been sent to the director of criminal and penal prosecutions in Quebec.
A source said Wednesday that Provost Marshal Brigadier-General Simon Trudeau, commander of the military police, informed acting chief of the defence staff Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre late last week that he was making the referral.
Quebec is one of the jurisdictions in Canada where Crowns must review criminal charges before they are laid.
The source said Lt.-Gen. Eyre informed Jody Thomas, deputy minister of Defence, and they told Maj.-Gen. Fortin on Friday that he had to step aside from his military duties and resign from managing vaccine distribution.
The Quebec prosecution’s office was subsequently informed it would be receiving the military police report on Maj.-Gen. Fortin. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Late Friday evening, the Department of National Defence released a statement indicating Maj.-Gen. Fortin had left his assignment with the Public Health Agency of Canada, pending the results of a military investigation. DND also said Lt.-Gen. Eyre would be reviewing next steps with Maj.-Gen. Fortin and it would have no further comment.
The Canadian Armed Forces is currently facing a crisis over concerns about military sexual misconduct that has led to a number of major commanders stepping aside. It has also resulted in the appointment of former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to study the creation of an independent reporting system for such incidents.
The details of the sexual-misconduct allegation are known to only a few senior officials and it is unlikely the information has been shared with the offices of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, according to the source.
If charges are laid, the prosecution would take place in a Quebec court, said retired colonel Michel Drapeau, who has handled many military cases. Mr. Drapeau said if the alleged offence occurred prior to 1998 and is considered an allegation of sexual assault, the military did not have jurisdiction over the matter at that time and the civilian justice system would be responsible.
Daniel Minden, a spokesperson for Mr. Sajjan, said Wednesday that the acting chief of the defence staff and the deputy minister of Defence informed the minister of a continuing CFNIS investigation on Maj.-Gen. Fortin in March.
“The minister asked that the complainant receive any necessary support and stated that the investigation must take its due course,” he said.
Maj.-Gen. Fortin has denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this week, counsel Commander Mark Letourneau said that his client “vigorously and categorically denies this allegation.” He also said it was a news reporter who informed Maj.-Gen. Fortin of details about the allegation against him on Sunday.
“This took him completely by surprise,” Cdr. Letourneau said.
The Globe reported Friday that the alleged incident happened years before Mr. Fortin became a major-general.
The Prime Minister said Tuesday that his office was alerted weeks ago about the misconduct allegation against the former head of Canada’s vaccine rollout, but said he was not aware of details.
“In situations like this, those authorities can make a determination to inform me and my office, which they did in this case a number of weeks ago,” he said.
On Monday, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced Brigadier-General Krista Brodie has assumed Maj.-Gen. Fortin’s position on vaccine distribution. Mr. Trudeau said Brig.-Gen. Brodie has already worked with a military team responsible for getting millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Canadians.
In recent months, the Liberal government has faced sustained political pressure from opposition parties over how it handled an allegation involving former chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance three years ago. Mr. Vance is also facing an investigation by military police along with his successor, Art McDonald, who stepped aside from the role in February.
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