Canada Navy commander apologizes for golfing with former chief of defence staff under military police investigation
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The commander of the Royal Canadian Navy has publicly apologized for golfing with former top soldier, retired general Jonathan Vance, who is under a military police investigation over allegations of inappropriate behaviour with female subordinates.
Vice-Admiral Craig Baines issued a written statement Sunday night addressed to all military members and national defence public servants saying he was sorry for his conduct.
Senior military leaders went golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance amid military police probe
The Canadian Forces is facing a reckoning over multiple allegations of high-level sexual misconduct prompting military police probes into several senior leaders.That's despite Vance remaining under military police investigation following allegations of inappropriate behaviour first reported by Global News on Feb. 2, 2021.
Baines confirmed he golfed with Vance and military's second-in-command, Lt.-Gen Mike Rouleau, on June 2 in Ottawa.
"I fully accept responsibility and accountability for not understanding how such a public display of support sends the wrong signal as to my commitment to lead in resolving our systemic cultural and misconduct issues," Baines wrote.
"For this, I sincerely apologize."
The apology comes a day after Global News and the Globe and Mail first reported on the meet up between Rouleau, Baines and Vance at Hylands Golf and Country Club in Ottawa, which caters to Canadian Forces personnel and their families.
Baines said he will be taking "a few days of personal leave" and Rear-Admiral Chris Sutherland will be temporarily fulfilling his duties while he's off.
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The public statement is the latest in a series of cases that have seen senior military leaders swept up into the Canadian Armed Forces sexual misconduct crisis.
CBC News requested a comment from Rouleau on Saturday night, but he has yet to respond.
Rouleau and Baine's decision to go golfing with Vance comes after witness testimony at a parliamentary committee probing sexual misconduct in the military raised concerns about a. In some cases, senior military leaders are able to carry on with their careers while junior members are ostracized and drummed out, according to testimony.
Sign of support
Leah West, a former armoured officer, Justice department lawyer and now counter-terrorism expert at Carleton University, testified at a parliamentary committee that she was essentially drummed out of the military after a consensual relationship almost a decade ago with a member of equal rank from the U.S. military while in Afghanistan.
Senior military leaders golfing with Vance raises concerns about ‘fairness’ in probes: Freeland
Sources who spoke to Global News expressed deep concerns the decision contradicts messages by senior leaders encouraging members experiencing sexual misconduct to come forward. Rouleau has issued no public statement in the days since.Baines, however, issued a statement on Sunday night in which he apologized for not understanding how the actions would be viewed, but also described his actions as a "public display of support."Read more: Senior military leaders went golfing with Gen.
West tweeted on Sunday the senior leaders who went golfing with Vance should have understood what message it sends to the rank and file during an institutional crisis.
"To be clear, the message carefully chosen here is that the VAdm is publicly supporting Vance."
As vice-chief of defence staff, Rouleau has authority over the military's provost marshal, which is in charge of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, which is investigating Vance.
Rouleau has the power to direct and issue orders to the Canadian Armed Forces top police officer — the provost marshal.
A landmark review by former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish into the military's judicial system recently identified this power as a threat to the independence of military police investigations.
Fish recommended sexual assault and misconduct cases should be turned over to civilians in the interim until the military puts in place more protections for victims.
Vance denies allegations
Vance has previously told Global News he denies the allegations against him.
Canadian military’s second-in-command resigns role after golfing with Vance
Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau said in a statement he is stepping aside effective immediately following widespread condemnation of a golf outing with Gen. Jonathan Vance.Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau was set to hand over command as vice chief of the defence staff to Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen shortly, who will be replacing him and who will be the first woman to hold the role.
The woman at the centre of Vance's sexual misconduct case, Maj. Kellie Brennan, deliveredin April. In it, she said Vance considered himself "untouchable" and that he fathered but does not support two of her children.
In the second case, Vance allegedly sent a racy email almost nine years ago to another woman, who was a junior non-commissioned officer at the time.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday was questioned about what this case meant for the victims involved and what confidence they could have that they will get due process in their cases.
"I know that the minister of defence is following up with the acting chief of staff on this issue," Trudeau told reporters at the G7 summit in Cornwall, U.K.
The defence minister's office said Harjit Sajjan was not aware the three individuals went golfing until media inquiries came in. His office called the meet up "troubling and unacceptable" and said it's assessing what the next steps will be.
Several military leaders under investigation
More than half a dozen military leaders have been swept up in the crisis and a number are under military police investigations for claims of their own behaviour.
In another case, Maj.-General Peter Dawe, the commander of Canada's special forces apologized and was put on leave with pay after a CBC News report in April revealed he wrote a letter in support of a soldier convicted of sexual assault.
The acting chief of defence staff, Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, apologized for Dawe's handling of the case that created division in the ranks.
The government has tasked former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour with leading an external review of sexual harassment and misconduct in the military. The Department of National Defence also created a new position of "chief of conduct and professionalism", now held by Lt.-Gen. Jennie Carignan.
Urgent reforms needed to military justice system to protect misconduct victims: Fish .
A retired Supreme Court judge is calling for urgent reforms to Canada's military justice system to prevent victims of misconduct, sexual and otherwise, from continuing to suffer. Morris Fish says the current system is rife with areas where the potential for interference in police investigations and courts martial from the chain of command exists, which is why action is needed now.