The House of Commons defence committee agreed Monday to summon Canada’s former military ombudsman to additional its investigation into what the Liberal authorities did and did not find out about allegations of inappropriate behaviour by the nation’s former chief of the defence workers earlier than they grew to become public.
The committee took the uncommon step after former ombudsman Gary Walbourne declined an earlier, friendlier and fewer formal invitation to testify on the recommendation of his lawyer.
The movement to subject the summons was launched by the opposition Conservatives, who keep the former watchdog’s proof is significant to their work of probing allegations in opposition to Gen. Jonathan Vance.
“We do need to hear from him,” mentioned Conservative defence critic James Bezan. “There are a number of questions surrounding what he knows.”
Bezan mentioned the committee wants to listen to from Walbourne to “get to the bottom” of stories that Walbourne warned Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan about attainable inappropriate conduct by Gen. Vance at a non-public assembly between the 2 on March 1, 2018.
Appearing earlier than the committee final week, Sajjan wouldn’t reveal what transpired in that assembly — citing the cloak of confidentiality that’s wrapped round all communication with the ombudsman.
Bezan accused Sajjan of obfuscation.
NDP defence critic Randal Garrison went additional and mentioned the committee has to name Walbourne due to the minister’s non-answers.
“It is necessary for us to take this step,” Garrison mentioned. “This could have been precluded by the minister being more forthcoming.”
He instructed Sajjan may need to write to the committee to amend his testimony.
“No one was asking him to talk about the specific allegations, but we are asking if he had knowledge of allegations,” mentioned Garrison.
Following a Global News report virtually three weeks in the past that alleged Vance had an inappropriate relationship with a feminine subordinate, the military’s National Investigation Service started an investigation into whether or not the former prime military commander had violated the Code of Service Discipline and whether or not any legal guidelines had been damaged.
In his testimony, Sajjan repeatedly deflected the committee’s questions by citing the necessity to shield the integrity of the investigation and to be truthful to witnesses who’ve spoken to military police.
But the girl on the centre of the allegations, Maj. Kellie Brennan, spoke at size in an interview on Sunday with Global News — shedding vital gentle on allegations of a long-standing affair with Vance, her interplay with military police and a brand new bombshell declare that the former defence chief needed her to mislead investigators.
Brennan wanted permission from her superiors earlier than doing the interview – one thing the minister’s workplace ought to have identified about forward of time.
‘A spectre of concern’
CBC News reported on Feb. 4, 2021 that Walbourne had a falling-out with Sajjan after elevating considerations in regards to the allegations of inappropriate conduct by Vance — a disagreement that in the end led to his resignation as ombudsman.
At the time, a senior authorities supply acknowledged that “a spectre of concern related to the former chief of the defence staff” was raised on the March 2018 assembly, however the minister insisted the difficulty be directed to the “proper authorities” for investigation — which incorporates the Privy Council Office (PCO), which oversees appointments such because the chief of the defence workers.
At the time, PCO, which helps the prime minister’s workplace, mentioned that when it got here to the casual allegations almost three years in the past, “no information was provided to PCO which would have enabled further action to have been taken.”
Sajjan may have ordered a probe, says skilled
The defence committee heard Monday from retired colonel and military regulation skilled Michel Drapeau, who mentioned Sajjan had the choice underneath the National Defence Act to name a board of inquiry or appoint a military choose to analyze allegations and even considerations in regards to the chief of the defence workers.
Drapeau mentioned which may have helped to additional any investigation PCO might need been ready to undertake.
Multiple sources have instructed CBC News the Privy Council overview of the considerations about Vance was hamstrung by Walbourne’s refusal at hand over documentation and the identify of a complainant who approached his workplace.
Drapeau mentioned the independence of the ombudsman’s workplace and the privateness it grants to complainants made cooperation with the PCO out of the query.
The committee additionally heard at the moment from retired Supreme Court justice Marie Dechamps, whose groundbreaking 2014 investigation prompted the military’s crackdown on sexual misconduct.
She instructed MPs that Operation Honour — the formal marketing campaign to rid the Armed Forces of harassment and assault — remains to be value pursuing regardless of the credibility hit it has taken due to the allegations in opposition to Vance.
Deschamps mentioned that, if something, the scandal has strengthened her perception that there ought to be an unbiased physique outdoors of the military to deal with stories of sexual misconduct.
“When I read that Maj. Brennan didn’t know where to turn to, I find that unbelievable,” Deschamps mentioned, including individually that it has been six years since her report and proposals had been launched.