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Canada New Defence Minister Anita Anand will quickly need to name top soldier to deal with sexual misconduct crisis: experts

18:20  27 october  2021
18:20  27 october  2021 Source:   nationalpost.com

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OTTAWA – The first crucial decision that awaits new Defence Minister Anita Anand is to finally sort out who will be the next permanent Chief of the Defence Staff as she takes on the “difficult” task of handling the military’s sexual misconduct crisis and restoring the public’s confidence, experts say.

New Defence Minister Anita Anand © Provided by National Post New Defence Minister Anita Anand

“I think job one for the new minister is that she has to assess the position of the chief of defence staff and we need to make a decision, starting with Admiral McDonald, which is a really unusual situation,” said retired Lt.-Gen. Guy Thibault, chair of the CDA Institute and a former vice chief of the defence staff

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“So I think minister Anand has to have to fix this issue and have a substantive chief that she believes is the right choice,” he added.

Currently, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are led by acting Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) Gen. Wayne Eyre, who took over the job in the interim after his predecessor Admiral Art McDonald was under investigation for an alleged sexual misconduct.

That investigation was closed during the summer without charges being laid, and McDonald has since repeatedly told media that he wants his job as CDS back. But to date, the Trudeau government has not decided who will take over the job as Canada’s top soldier permanently.

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Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that decision was still underway.

According to renown military lawyer Michel Drapeau, Anand should look beyond Eyre and McDonald and choose someone who will be able to work with her for many years and is willing to institute profound changes to CAF.

“She has to go to a new generation, somebody she feels comfortable with,” Drapeau said, noting he was “overjoyed” that a woman was selected as defence minister.

Anand takes over the job from Harjit Sajjan, a former military member who held the role for six years. She is only the second woman in Canadian history to hold the position.

Sajjan’s final years in charge of the file were marked with controversies, with critics lambasting him for his “inaction” when it came to dealing with the sexual misconduct crisis that has been unravelling for years within CAF.

Several top generals and military leaders are facing accusations of sexual misconduct lately, including former head of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine logistics Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson and his successor as chief of military personnel Lt.-Gen. Steven Whelan, and Lt-.Gen. Trevor Cadieu, the army’s newest commander.

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The two last Chiefs of Defence Staff, Gen. Jonathan Vance and his successor Adm. McDonald, were also investigated for sexual misconducts, though both investigations ended without charges being laid against either.

 Admiral Art McDonald © CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld Admiral Art McDonald

Drapeau says Anand needs to make sure she acts to remove the “logjam” preventing or slowing military policy from investigation allegations against any ranking officers.

“Many of the allegations were made in January, February and March. It doesn’t take six months to do an investigation and to decide whether or not this guy’s going to go to jail or this guy gets a free pass,” he said.

During a press conference Tuesday, Trudeau said not enough had been done to date by CAF and (without mentioning him explicitly) Sajjan to address sexual misconduct.

“There have been a number of changes made over the years. None of it has been sufficient. None of it has been worthy of the extraordinary men and women who served in our armed forces,” he said.

Liberal insiders have said that Anand has impressed with her handling of both emergency medical equipment and then vaccine procurement during the pandemic.

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As defence minister, she will also have to deal with difficult military procurement files, such as Canada’s plan to renew its fleet of fighter jets, as well as balance the country’s various commitments to international military alliances such as NATO.

Facing reporters for the first time just hours after her nomination as defence minister, Anand said she was “honoured” to take on the job all the while acknowledging that it will be intense and there is much work for her to do, namely to address the sexual misconduct crisis.

“My top priority is to make sure that everyone in the armed forces feels safe and protected, and that they have the support that they need when they need them and the structures in place to ensure that justice is served,” Anand told reporters.

She also promised that she would be “reviewing everything” regarding misconduct in the forces as soon as possible, and then asking the department to conduct a full review of which recommendations from previous independent reviews have been implemented and which are still pending.

But she seemed to want to temper expectations early, promising that though change will come, it will not happen immediately.

“There is no one magic solution for this issue. There is no one switch that we can turn on to change everything overnight. This is going to take time,” Anand said.

“And while that may frustrate some, I want to assure everyone that I will put in the necessary work for as long as it takes to get this done,” she added. “I am thorough. I am determined, I am dogged, I am results oriented and I will be dedicating all of my energies towards this task.”

10/3 podcast: What can we expect from Canada's new cabinet? .
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled his newest cabinet last week, and there were some new faces in prominent positions, and some surprise demotions. Melanie Joly and Anita Anand were among a number of women promoted to senior positions, while embattled Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Mark Garneau were among key demotions as the Liberals get set to return to the House of Commons in a few weeks. Tasha Kheiriddin, National Post columnist and principal with Navigator LTD, joins Dave Breakenridge to discuss what we can expect from this cabinet in terms of priorities, how this sets the Liberals up for the next election, and how the cabinet signals who could be in the ru

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