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Senior military leaders golfed with former top soldier currently under investigation

cbc.ca logo cbc.ca 2021-06-13 Ashley Burke
Jonathan Vance wearing a suit and tie: Former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance is currently under investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service over claims of an inappropriate relationship and a separate allegation of a racy email sent to a subordinate. He told Global News he denies the claims. © Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press Former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance is currently under investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service over claims of an inappropriate relationship and a separate allegation of a racy email sent to a subordinate. He told Global News he denies the claims.

Two senior military leaders went golfing with the former chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance last week while he's at the centre of a military police investigation for allegations of inappropriate behaviour involving female subordinates.

The vice-chief of the defence staff, Lt.-Gen Mike Rouleau, and the head of the Royal Canadian Navy, Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, met with Vance on June 2 at the Hylands Golf and Country Club in Ottawa, said a senior defence official speaking on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Todd Lane, press secretary for the defence minister, said Harjit Sajjan was not aware the three individuals went golfing until this afternoon following media inquiries.

"The decision by LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines to go golfing with Gen Vance is troubling and unacceptable," said Lane in a statement. "The Minister will discuss next steps with Acting Chief of the Defence Staff."

As second-in-command of the military, Rouleau has authority over the military's provost marshal, which is in charge of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service that is investigating Vance. Vance has told Global News he denies the allegations.

An official said Rouleau is slated to move into a new position as a strategic advisor to Eyre next month. Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen is expected to replace Rouleau and become the first woman to serve as vice-chief of the defence staff.

Rouleau's decision to go golfing with Vance comes after witness testimony raised concerns about a sexist double-standard on fraternization at a parliamentary committee reviewing sexual misconduct in the military. The testimony revealed cases where women's careers were cut short while high-ranking male officers in similar cases are allowed to carry on after being involved in the same behaviour.

A Global News reporter asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about the golf game and what confidence the victims could have they will get due process in their cases.

"I know that the minister of defence is following up with the acting chief of staff on this issue," Trudeau told reporters at the English seaside community of Carbis Bay, U.K. 


Video: Trudeau says senior military leaders who golfed with Vance need to 'answer for themselves' (Global News)

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'We recognize the seriousness of the matter'

Global News and the Globe and Mail first reported on the meetup at the Ottawa golf course, described on the course's website as a "first-class golf venue" for Canadian Forces personnel and their families. 

Neither the chief of defence staff, Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, nor the deputy minister of National Defence, Jody Thomas, were aware of the golf game and learned from the media on Saturday, said the official. It was also unclear on Saturday if action would be taken against Rouleau and Baines, the official said.

Jessica Lamirande, spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, said the department is assessing what to do next after being "made aware that LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines went golfing with Gen (Retired) Jonathan Vance."

"We recognize the seriousness of the matter and, as such, we will gather facts and advice in order to determine next steps."

Leah West, a former armoured officer, Justice Department lawyer and now counterterrorism expert at Carleton University, testified at a parliamentary committee that she was essentially drummed out of the military after a consensual relationship almost a decade ago with a member of equal rank from the U.S. military while in Afghanistan.

West tweeted on Sunday the senior leaders who went golfing with Vance should have understood what message it sends to the rank and file during an institutional crisis.

"If you can't realize the impact this has on the troops you are trying to lead through a crisis you don't have the skills or character necessary to be a senior flag officer in the Canadian Armed Forces," she said in her tweet.

The woman at the centre of Vance's sexual misconduct case, Maj. Kellie Brennan, delivered bombshell testimony to a parliamentary committee in April. In it, she said Vance considered himself "untouchable" and that he fathered but does not support two of her children. 

In the second case, Vance allegedly sent a racy email almost nine years ago to another woman, who was a junior non-commissioned officer at the time.

CBC News submitted a request for comment to Rouleau and Baines on Saturday night but has not yet received a response.

The military is in the midst of a crisis of leadership with more than half a dozen senior officers swept up into the sexual misconduct crisis, including Vance's successor Admiral Art McDonald.

A landmark review by former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish into the military's judicial system found sexual assault and misconduct cases should be turned over to civilians in the interim until the military puts in place more protections for victims. 

The government has tasked former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour with leading an external review of sexual harassment and misconduct in the military. The Department of National Defence also created a new position of "chief of conduct and professionalism", now held by Lt.-Gen. Jennie Carignan.

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