Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland says she understands and sympathizes with concerns being raised about “the possibility of real fairness” in the wake of the news that senior military leaders went golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance while he remains under military police investigation.
Military police opened a probe into Vance in February after Global News reported he is facing two allegations of inappropriate behaviour, which he denies. That investigation remains underway but on Saturday night, military officials confirmed to Global News that two senior military leaders, including the vice-chief of the defence staff, had been out golfing with him the previous week.
Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, the vice-chief of the defence staff, also holds oversight authority for the military police investigation into Vance, while Vice-Adm. C.A. Baines, head of the navy, is at the top of the chain of command for two naval officers involved in an allegation against the current chief of the defence staff, Adm. Art McDonald.
“I learned about this over the weekend as did the rest of our government. I was very disappointed, very surprised,” said Freeland when asked about her reaction to the reports published on Saturday night.
“I think this showed very poor judgement and I absolutely understand and sympathize with the sentiment that men and women but maybe especially women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces have having seen this, and the concerns that it causes them to have about the possibility of real fairness for them.”
“They need to know that if harassment or abuse happens, there is a clear, objective, impartial way that their complaints will be addressed,” Freeland continued.
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She added the decision “sends entirely the wrong message to the entire country.”
Navy head apologizes for golfing with Vance, describes move as ‘public display of support’
News of the golf trip quickly prompted outrage among members of the military on social media, while sources who spoke to Global News expressed deep concerns that the decision contradicts messages by senior leaders encouraging members experiencing sexual misconduct to come forward.
Rouleau has issued no public statement in the days since.
Baines, however, issued a statement on Sunday night in which he apologized for not understanding how the actions would be viewed, but also described his actions as a “public display of support.”
Senior military leaders went golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance amid military police probe
“I fully accept responsibility and accountability 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,” read Baines’ statement.
The vice-admiral said he would be taking a few days of personal leave, and that Rear-Adm. Chris Sutherland would be acting in his place in the meantime.
Baines’ statement comes after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said earlier on Sunday that senior military leaders who golfed with Vance need to “answer for themselves.”
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who is also a military veteran, addressed the conduct of Rouleau and Baines in a press conference on Monday morning.
“It was completely inappropriate and it shows that there is a broken culture at the senior ranks in the Department of National Defence, that they did not have the personal judgment to make a better decision,” said O’Toole, who said a lack of action from Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan is connected.
“There is zero leadership from Justin Trudeau and Minister Sajjan.,” he said.
“That is setting a tone of no accountability.”
More to come.
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