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Politics Second-in-command of Canadian Forces to resign, cites aborted plan to replace him with Norman

Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk.

Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

The second-in-command of the Canadian military is stepping down, citing aborted plans to replace him with Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, the military officer who had been the subject of an abandoned prosecution for leaking secrets.

Lieutenant-General Paul Wynnyk said he will resign as vice chief of the defence staff as of Aug. 9.

In a letter sent to Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance, leaked Tuesday, he said that he had delayed his retirement to serve in the No. 2 spot in the military until 2020. But when charges against Vice Adm. Norman were dropped this spring, Gen. Vance asked him to step aside so Vice Adm. Norman could return to that post.

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Vice Adm. Norman eventually decided to retire, Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk said in the letter, but despite the “change of heart” the lieutenant-general decided to retire. The Globe confirmed the contents of the letter, first reported by Global News, with a Defence Department source, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk’s decision to leave the Canadian Forces, effective Aug. 9, represents the latest blow to the military, whose senior leadership has been in perpetual turmoil since Vice-Adm. Norman was suspended in January, 2017.

In a statement released by the Defence Department, Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk attributed his decision to resign to his desire to return to his family. But the letter sent to Gen. Vance suggests different reasons.

In particular, the letter reveals that Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk had planned to retire this summer before Gen. Vance asked him last year to serve on a permanent basis as the vice-chief of the defence staff. Gen. Vance reportedly insisted on a two-year commitment from Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk.

Previous to that, Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk had been one in a string of senior officers filling the role in an acting capacity as the military waited for Vice Adm. Norman’s breach-of-trust case to make its way through the courts.

“After much thought and consultation with my wife, I agreed to continue to serve away from my family and beyond maximum pensionable time,” he wrote to Gen. Vance, “giving you my word that I would not seek outside employment until retiring in 2020.”

However, according to the letter, Gen. Vance asked Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk to resign and make way for Vice Adm. Norman to resume his duties as the military’s second-in-command after the case against Vice Adm. Norman was dropped in May.

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“You advised that my continued service as the VCDS was no longer in the best interests of the (military), that you intended to restore Vice-Admiral Norman to the position,” Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk wrote.

The comment represents the first confirmation that Gen. Vance was intending to reinstate Norman, who had asserted after the case against him was dropped that he wanted to return to his former position.

That was before the government reached a settlement with Vice Adm. Norman, who in the process announced his own resignation from the military last month. According to the letter, Gen. Vance at that time asked Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk to stay on until next summer as planned.

But Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk writes: “While I appreciate the change of heart, I respectfully decline and intend to take my release from the Canadian Armed Forces as expeditiously as possible.”

The Defence Department released a statement announcing Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk’s resignation late Tuesday, nearly a year after the former army commander took over the vice-chief of the defence staff position on a permanent basis. A replacement has not been named.

In the statement, Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk is quoted as saying he had considered the decision for several months and decided with his wife that it was time for their family to be reunited. Lt.-Gen. Wynnyk has maintained a permanent home in Edmonton.

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With a report from the Canadian Press

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