Saturday, February 20, 2021

Allegations against former Chief of Defence Staff of Canadian Forces

Throughout the month of February 2021, senior decision-makers in the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Forces (CF) have been under scrutiny in light of allegations against the former Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS), General Jonathan Vance, first reported by Mercedes Stephenson of Global News on 2 February 2021.

Although General Vance may have retired from his position as CDS, pursuant to subsection 60(2) of the National Defence Act (NDA), he remains subject to the Code of Service Discipline, even after retirement, for any infraction that may have occurred while he was serving in the Regular Force (and, therefore, subject to the Code of Service Discipline at that time).

On 4 February 2021, it was confirmed that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) had opened an investigation into the allegations published by Global News.  There is no indication of when the investigation will likely be completed.

However, there are several potential problematic obstacles to the operation of the Code of Service Discipline if the former CDS is charged with one or more Code of Service Discipline offences.  That issue is the subject the Blog article: "Prosecuting the Chief of the Defence Staff".

On 9 February 2021, the Standing Committee on National Defence met to debate a motion requesting a meeting to examine these allegations, and, in particular, whether government decision-makers, including the Minister of National Defence (MND), Harjit Sajjan, failed to take appropriate measures when the former DND/CF Ombudsman, Gary Walbourne, allegedly brought concerns to the attention of the MND in March 2018.

The afternoon of Friday, 19 February, 2021, the Standing Committee on National Defence convened the first of a series of meetings to hear from: the MND, the Deputy Minister (DM) of National Defence, and representatives from the Privy Council Office (PCO).  The next meeting will be held Monday, 22 February 2021.

During this meeting, some members of the Standing Committee, including Conservative Member of Parliament, (and a Vice-Chair of the Committee) James Bezan, accused the MND of being evasive.

The MND repeatedly asserted that he could not disclose any information concerning any discussions he purportedly had with the DND/CF Ombudsman, citing confidentiality and the importance of the 'independence' of the Ombudsman.  For additional commentary on the nature of the DND/CF Ombudsman's Office, confidentiality, and his purported independence, see: "A Word or Two About the DND/CF Ombudsman".

We may safely anticipate that this matter, and its impact on General Vance's flagship initiative, Op HONOUR, will not be resolved any time soon.

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