OTTAWA — Canada’s top military commander Admiral Art McDonald wants his job back, saying that he has “been exonerated,” and remains a “champion of culture change” within the Canadian Armed Forces.
McDonald is currently on leave as commander of the Canadian Armed Forces, but speaking to CTV National News’ Genevieve Beauchemin for the first time on camera about the misconduct allegation that sidelined his career, he makes his case for reinstatement.
“I have not done anything wrong,” McDonald said. “I’ve acted with integrity in response to allegations. I’ve been exonerated as a result of a rigorous and thorough investigation, and I’ve remained a real champion of culture change, I’m committed to it. And, I think that by advocating for my job what I am saying is simply that: Listen, we can’t have a system where allegations alone are sufficient for removing someone.”
The naval officer stepped down as chief of the defence staff in February, after a Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) initiated investigation into an allegation of misconduct made against him.
In August, the nearly six-month investigation ended with military police determining there was not enough evidence to lay charges against him.
Now, he wants to take back command from acting defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre, despite the federal government putting him on administrative leave pending a decision about the position.
“Public office holders have an obligation to perform their official duties in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law,” said the Privy Council Office in a statement at the time.
McDonald is one of several senior officers in the Canadian military who have faced allegations and come under investigation in the last year, prompting a conversation about how seriously the military is pursuing its pledges to stamp out harassment and sexual misconduct within its ranks.
In September, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that it “is obvious,” that military leadership “still don’t get it.”
In an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play, Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute said that the example of McDonald speaks to an ongoing challenge the military is facing: What to do when someone is not charged, even though there has been an allegation made.
“I would disagree with his claims that he’s in a positon to go back to the role of chief of the defence staff for the simple reason that he was not exonerated. What the CFNIS was saying is that there was not enough evidence to charge him, which is completely different,” she said. “Second of all, as the top soldier in Canada, any doubt on his ability to lead culture change and doing it truthfully and in a genuine fashion is problematic,” she said.
The exclusive television interview with McDonald will air tonight on CTV National news.