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Sunday, September 26, 2021

Former top soldier Vance charged with obstruction of justice following military investigation

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OTTAWA — Former chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance has been charged with one count of obstruction of justice under the Criminal Code, the Canadian Armed Forces announced Thursday.

In a statement, the Department of National Defence said that the charge was laid by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) on July 15, and that: “considering the specifics of the case and in the interest of justice… the CFNIS decided to pursue the relevant criminal charge in the civilian justice system.”

Specifically, Vance has been charged with one count of “Obstruct Justice, contrary to Section 139 of the Criminal Code.”

Military police launched an investigation into Vance in early February over allegations of misconduct, following his retirement. It was in the course of this investigation that the military said the obstruction is alleged to have occurred.

The CFNIS is the specialized unit within the military police system that focuses on “serious and sensitive matters.”

Since the allegations against Vance first were reported in early 2021, the military has faced a reckoning over misconduct within the ranks, with several high-profile officers—including Vance’s successor, Admiral Art McDonald— facing investigations into allegations of past inappropriate behaviour.

Vance has denied the allegations against him, allegations which CTV News has not independently verified. The obstruction charge has yet to be tested or proven in court.

The Liberal government has faced strong criticism for its handling of the Vance allegation upon hearing about it as early as March 2018, however an investigation into his behaviour following “rumours” of an inappropriate relationship began in 2015, when he was first appointed defence chief.

Testimony before the status of women and defence committees—both of which studied the issue before Parliament adjourned for the summer—centred on how Vance and other senior leaders rose to the top of the chain of command with a history of alleged sexual misconduct, how difficult and complex the reporting process is for members, and what culture change should look like.

Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan declined to comment Thursday, citing the “ongoing legal proceedings,” as Sajjan’s office put it.

With files from CTV News’ Sarah Turnbull

More coming…

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