Lieutenant-General Michael Rouleau resigned from his role as second-in-command of the Canadian Armed Forces on Monday after he and the commander of the navy went golfing with former chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance, who is under military police investigation.
Lt.-Gen. Rouleau said in a statement that he acknowledges the golf outing has contributed to an “erosion of trust” in the leadership of the Canadian Forces.
Separately, Major-General Dany Fortin filed an application for judicial review of the government’s decision to publicly terminate him as the head of Canada’s vaccine rollout over an allegation of sexual misconduct.
Maj.-Gen. Fortin’s lawsuit argued his “reputation has been irreparably harmed” and he expects to no longer be considered for promotions because of “significant reputations damage” that resulted from the decision to dismiss him.
The legal documents said that Maj.- Gen. Fortin believes the decision to terminate his role was made by the ministers of health and defence in collaboration with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Privy Council Office. The Chief of the Defence Staff ought to have made the decision by virtue of their statutory duties, powers and functions, the documents said.
Last month, military police referred its investigation of Maj.-Gen. Fortin to Quebec’s public prosecution service to determine whether criminal charges should be laid. The details of the alleged sexual misconduct allegations are known to only a few senior officials.
The lawsuit, golfing controversy and resignation of Lt.-Gen. Rouleau highlight a growing crisis within the Canadian military that has been rocked by allegations of sexual misconduct and has led to two parliamentary inquiries and a review of how the military deals with the issue.
The Globe and Mail reported Saturday that Lt.-Gen. Rouleau and Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, the head of the Royal Canadian Navy, entertained and played golf with Mr. Vance on June 2 at the Hylands Golf and Country Club, an exclusive venue in Ottawa for the Canadian military.
Mr. Vance, who retired this year, is under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct, which he has denied.
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, the military police force, reported directly to Lt.-Gen. Rouleau.
A source with direct knowledge told The Globe that Lt.-Gen. Rouleau will be taking an indefinite medical leave. He was slated to move to a new post as strategic adviser to acting chief of the defence staff Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre in July and is being replaced by Lieutenant-General Frances Allen. (The Globe is not identifying the source because they did not have authority to speak publicly on the matter.)
Lt.-Gen. Rouleau said in his statement that the three golfers did not discuss the investigation into Mr. Vance during their golf game. He said he organized the day on the links because he was worried about the mental health of Mr. Vance, who faces two sexual misconduct allegations.
“In this particular case, I was reaching out to a retired member of the CAF to ensure his wellness,” Lt.-Gen. Rouleau wrote. “This was a private activity, and I can assure every member of the CAF that none of us discussed matters pertaining to any MP investigation.”
Lt.-Gen. Rouleau acknowledged though that his decision to play golf with Mr. Vance “has intensified recent events and contributed to further erosion of trust.”
He apologized, saying the trip “could lead some to perceive a potential conflict of interest and controversy, given the current context, but nothing can be further from the truth. "
Lt.-Gen. Rouleau added that “Adm. Baines’ participation was surely predicated on my attending therefore I would ask that only I be held accountable.” Vice-Adm. Baines sent out a statement Sunday, saying he regretted his decision to play golf with Mr. Vance.
The golf outing was revealed as the Canadian military is facing a sexual misconduct crisis that has tarnished its image and prompted several commanders to step aside. Former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour has been named to study the creation of an independent watchdog to investigate complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the military.
On Monday, government ministers and opposition parties expressed strong disapproval of the two high-ranking officers and the signal their action sent to female members of the Canadian military.
“I was surprised and disappointed by this. It shows very poor judgment and sends entirely the wrong message to the whole country,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, a former air force officer, said two senior officers thinking it is okay to go golfing with Mr. Vance demonstrates a “broken culture” in the Canadian military.
He put the blame on Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who has denied knowledge of the golf outing. Mr. Sajjan has been under fire over accusations he did not act on sexual misconduct allegations against Mr. Vance in 2018.
“There is no leadership from Sajjan, no respect for him given his role in covering this up,” Mr. O’Toole told reporters. “There is zero leadership from [Prime Minister Justin] Trudeau or Sajjan, that is setting a tone of no accountability.”
Vice-Adm. Baines said in his statement that he was sorry 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.”
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 woman, 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.
Three years ago, Mr. Sajjan was alerted to the 2018 allegation against Mr. Vance, which 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, Mr. 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.
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