Monday, February 5, 2024

R v Edmundson -- the last of the GOFO allegations

This morning, the trial of Vice Admiral (VAdm) Haydn Edmundson (retired) quietly resumed in an Ottawa courtroom, before Justice Matthew Webber, of the Ontario Court of Justice.  Trials before the Ontario Court of Justice (a provincial court) are conducted without juries. 

The charges, which date back to 1991, include one count of "sexual assault" and one count of "commits an indecent act".  The former charge cannot be tried by court martial, as it predates the amendment of s 70 of the National Defence Act (NDA) by Bill C-25, which was enacted in 1998.  The amendment of s 70 came into force 1 September 1999, and permitted allegations of sexual assault (and variations of that offence), arising within Canada, to be prosecuted before court martial under the Code of Service Discipline.  Now, a generation after that amendment was made - which was done at the urging of various "stakeholders" and public sentiment - similar stakeholders are insisting that the amendment be reversed.

VAdm Edmundson (ret'd) is the last of the General Officers/Flag Officers (GOFO) - at least those who were actually charged - to face trial.  Thus far, none of the GOFO accused of wrong-doing have been convicted.  There was only one finding of guilt: General Jon Vance (retired), a former Chief of the Defence Staff, pled guilty of "obstruct justice" before a civil court of criminal jurisdiction at the end of March 2022, and received a conditional discharge.  This resulted in a finding of guilt, but without a conviction or criminal record (provided that the offender successfully completes the probationary conditions for the discharge).

VAdm Edmundson, like most of the GOFO accused of wrong-doing, faces charges relating to allegations arising at a time long before he became a Flag Officer.  At the time of the allegations, he was a Lieutenant-Commander.  He has pled not guilty and is represented by one of Canada's pre-eminent criminal defence counsel, Brian Greenspan.

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