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Thursday, December 9, 2021

Ottawa’s handling of military misconduct complaints raises ‘abuse of power’ concerns: Tories

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Federal Conservatives say new reports on how the government responded to allegations of misconduct against Gen. Jonathan Vance and Adm. Art McDonald raise concerns about an “abuse of power.”

And they say the new reports drive home the need to expand the House of Commons defence committee probe into sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces.

An exclusive report by Global News on Sunday exposed alleged threats being made against a senior naval officer who sources say reported the allegation of sexual misconduct against McDonald that led to him stepping back as chief of the defence staff late last month.

The other report from Global News revealed that just one day after the ex-military ombudsman brought a 2018 allegation against Vance to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, someone whose name was redacted in documents obtained by Global News was telling the Privy Council Office to “put some things in writing.”

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EXCLUSIVE: Senior naval officer was threatened after reporting McDonald allegation, sources say

“This is more evidence that Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government have gone to great lengths to cover-up allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces,” said a joint statement issued by Conservative defence critic James Bezan along with fellow Tories Pierre Paul-Hus and Leona Alleslev.

“We ask a lot of the brave Canadian women who serve in our Armed Forces. In return, we have a duty to protect those who have sworn an oath to protect all of us. That’s why Conservatives will continue to search for answers and further expose this cover-up.

“Threatening a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to secure their silence is a clear and concerning abuse of power. The lengths that the Liberal government will go to in order to hide the truth from Canadians is appalling.

“That is why Conservatives are calling for an emergency meeting of the Defence Committee, so that we can understand the extent of this orchestrated cover-up.”

The defence committee is scheduled to meet on Monday at noon to discuss a motion put forward by the Conservatives last week in the wake of explosive testimony by Gary Walbourne, the former military ombudsman.

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Walbourne said in his testimony to the committee that he brought an allegation of misconduct against then-chief of the defence staff Vance to Sajjan directly in March 2018.

But he said that when he tried to show Sajjan evidence, the minister refused to look.

“I did tell the minister what the allegation was. I reached into my pocket to show him the evidence I was holding. He pushed back from the table and said, ‘No,’” Walbourne said.

“The minister didn’t want to see the evidence.”

2:56
Ex-military ombudsman testifies Sajjan refused to look at Vance allegations in 2018

Ex-military ombudsman testifies Sajjan refused to look at Vance allegations in 2018

Conservative MPs want to call Sajjan back to committee to answer questions after he refused to provide any details during his testimony a little more than two weeks ago, and after he responded to Walbourne’s testimony by saying he disagreed with it.

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Sajjan provided no evidence to dispute any of the allegations made by Walbourne.

While the members of the defence committee had initially voted unanimously to hold a short study into the allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Vance first reported by Global News on Feb. 2, it is far from clear whether they will agree to expand the probe now.

Liberal members on other committees seeking to expand or continue probes into politically damaging topics, including the WE Charity scandal, have repeatedly filibustered and blocked committee work from moving forward.

During Walbourne’s testimony, Liberal MPs repeatedly attacked his handling of the allegation and suggested repeatedly that Walbourne could have opened an investigation himself.

However, documents obtained by Global News back up Walbourne’s testimony that he repeatedly told Privy Council Office officials he could not share any information without the permission of the complainant, which he has said he did not receive.

Officials in the office also noted in briefing notes from March 2018 following the allegation that Walbourne did not have the authority to investigate sexual misconduct complaints.

The matter has led to growing calls on social media for Sajjan to be removed from his position, with critics arguing he “chose to turn a blind eye” to complaints of misconduct against top military leaders.

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9:52
Alleslev says Defence Minister ‘chose to turn a blind eye’ to allegations of sexual misconduct against former CDS

Alleslev says Defence Minister ‘chose to turn a blind eye’ to allegations of sexual misconduct against former CDS

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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