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Minister’s office knew of concerns about Vance in 2018: sources

UPDATE: Since this article was posted, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service has confirmed it is opening an investigation into the allegations against Gen. Jonathan Vance. Click here to read the latest.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office knew in 2018 of concerns about then-chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance.

Two government sources told Global News that the Canadian Forces Ombudsman shared concerns about alleged inappropriate behaviour by Vance, and a senior government source said that Sajjan’s office referred those concerns to the Privy Council Office.

Sources said the information shared by the ombudsman left Sajjan “concerned.”

A source said the Privy Council Office confirmed getting an email raising concerns.

But a spokesperson for the Privy Council Office said nothing they received prompted further review.

“Everyone deserves a safe workplace and we take these matters very seriously,” said Pierre-Alain Bujold, spokesperson for the office.

“Throughout the Government of Canada, including the Canadian Armed Forces, we ensure all processes for complaints are properly followed. With respect to your question, no information was provided to PCO which would have enabled further action to have been taken.”

Sajjan faced questions from Conservative MPs in question period on Thursday, repeating the response he gave on Wednesday that he has always taken allegations of misconduct by anyone in the military seriously, and referred them to the proper authorities.

“We will ensure a very thorough, full, independent investigation is conducted,” Sajjan said.

A senior government source said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Prime Minister’s Office were not aware of any allegations regarding Vance prior to the report from Global News.

Vance is facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with two female subordinates.

One regards an alleged relationship with a woman he significantly outranked while he was chief of defence staff. The other is in relation to a 2012 email in which Vance appeared to suggest to a much younger female corporal that the two go to a clothing-optional vacation destination.

Vance denies all allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

He says the relationship with the female subordinate while he was chief of defence staff was never sexual, describing himself as a “supporter” and “friend” as she considered joining a class action lawsuit for military victims of sexual misconduct.

He says he has no recollection of the 2012 email. He says if he ever did send it, it was intended as a joke and not as a solicitation.

He says he is willing to “apologize.”

Global News has also learned the woman who says she had an intimate relationship with Vance while he was chief of defence staff has requested a meeting with military police.

Chief of Defence Staff Adm. Art McDonald said on Wednesday in an internal message to military staff that there will be an investigation into the allegations reported by Global News on Tuesday night.

The details of that investigation have yet to be determined.

David Perry, vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a defence policy expert, said the allegations and the promise of an investigation carry a heavy impact for both the military and Operation Honour, the mission launched by Vance in 2015 to eradicate sexual misconduct.

“We have to wait and see what bears out,” said Perry.

“More broadly, though, I think it’s difficult to underestimate the very significant impact that this would have on national defense … you could liken it to a tidal wave going through the national defense establishment, and this is massively consequential.”

Global News reached out to the female subordinate alleged to have had an intimate relationship with Vance while he was chief of defence staff. She said the allegations are true but asked to remain anonymous.

A source with direct knowledge said that the 2012 comment was shared with the Canadian Forces Ombudsman but said that no official complaint was ever filed. The office would not confirm whether any investigation was opened.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in question period on Wednesday that the government has “no tolerance for any form of sexual misconduct.”

“When such allegations are brought to the minister of national defence’s attention, he has always taken them seriously,” Trudeau said.

“He has also always ensured that they are reported to appropriate authorities to begin relevant investigations that might be warranted regardless of rank or position. This is something this government has always taken seriously, and we always will.”

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office added officials “are aware that the CAF/DND will be reviewing this matter.”

The allegations come a little over two weeks after Vance formally handed over command after announcing his decision to resign last summer, which Global News confirmed came after the Prime Minister’s Office did not recommend him as a candidate for the top post of Military Advisor to NATO.

Vance’s tenure as chief of defence staff was marked by a cultural and legal reckoning over rampant sexual misconduct in the military’s ranks.

He became chief of defence staff in July 2015, just three months after former Supreme Court of Canada justice Marie Deschamps issued a damning report outlining the extent of the “hostile” and “sexualized” culture in the military, with a particular focus on the chain of command not taking misconduct seriously.

Sources: Global News | Mercedes Stephenson | Posted February 04 2021 7:26 AM | Last Updated: February 04 2021 2:49 PM

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