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Friday, September 24, 2021

Dany Fortin to be charged with one count of sexual assault: lawyer

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TORONTO — Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin will be formally charged by Gatineau police on Wednesday with one count of sexual assault, according to his lawyer.

He will present himself in court at 9 a.m. EDT, per police request, and is expected to speak with media about 15 minutes later.

His lawyer said they have not yet seen the paperwork for the charge.

Fortin has denied any wrongdoing. The charges are expected to be in relation to allegations that date back to 1989 when Fortin was a student at the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, Que.

Fortin was the face of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout until mid-May when he was removed when the investigation came to light. He was let go on May 14, five days before the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service referred a sexual misconduct investigation to the Quebec prosecution service to determine whether criminal charges should be laid.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan were aware of the investigation for weeks before Fortin was removed as leader of the COVID-19 vaccine taskforce.

“In regards to this situation, it is being led and followed up appropriately by appropriate authorities and military leadership. In situations like this, those authorities can make the determination to inform me and my office, which they did in this case, a number of weeks ago,” Trudeau told reporters on May 18. “As is appropriate, I didn’t receive details of what is being alleged, what’s going on in terms of the investigation.”

In an affidavit sworn on July 13, Fortin said the impact of the investigation on his reputation and career “has been devastating.”

“Currently my career appears to be over,” he added.

Fortin and his legal team have pushed back against his dismissal and the allegation against him. They allege that removing him from his post as leading Canada’s COVID-19 rollout was unreasonable, lacked procedural fairness and involved improper political interference in the military chain of command by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Sajjan.

Further, they argue that they breached his right to privacy and harmed his reputation by announcing his termination.

In July, his lawyers filed an application with the Federal Court seeking a judicial review of the decision to terminate his position with the Public Health Agency of Canada, for the decision to be quashed and for him to be reinstated at the PHAC or another position.

None of the allegations have been tested in court.

Notes by acting defence chief Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre released in August reveal the behind-the-scenes struggle of handling the allegation against Fortin dating back to March 16. The heavily redacted handwritten notes and emails show an effort to weigh the possibility of political fallout and public scandal.

A note dated March 19 marked and underlined “options.” The note shows three apparent choices: “leave in position,” “remove” and “step aside.”

Leaving Fortin in position came with “political” and “institutional risks,” the notes said.

– With Files from The Canadian Press 

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