Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, will appear as a witness on Friday before the House of Commons defence committee probing military sexual misconduct, Global News has learned.
Conservative members of the committee had put forward a motion last Friday to invite Telford to testify but Liberal MPs on the committee filibustered that motion. The meeting had been set to resume debate on that motion on Monday but was abruptly cancelled just minutes before the start.
The committee heard last month from Elder Marques, a former senior adviser to Trudeau, that he had been asked by either Telford or her assistant to pass an allegation against Gen. Jonathan Vance to bureaucrats in March 2018, one day after the allegation was shared with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.
Bureaucrats promptly opened and then abandoned that probe.
But Telford appears to have never informed Trudeau of the allegation, which has led to intense scrutiny over what she knew and why she did not tell the prime minister.
In a statement to Global News, Conservative defence critic James Bezan questioned the news of Telford’s expected appearance on Friday.
“For a week, the Trudeau Liberals have blocked Katie Telford from testifying on her role in this cover-up. Now she’s suddenly available. What’s changed?” Bezan said.
“Tomorrow, Canada’s Conservatives will continue to push for answers on the cover-up of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.”
Trudeau has said he did not “personally” know of allegations against Vance prior to Global News reporting on Feb. 2, 2021.
Vance denies all allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
The Canadian military is facing what experts have described as an institutional crisis amid allegations of high-level sexual misconduct in its ranks.
O’Toole calls for Trudeau’s chief of staff to be fired over Vance allegations
Telford is the most senior political staffer and a key confidante to Trudeau.
The prime minister defended her last week amid calls for her to be fired, saying that she is the reason the current government calls itself a “feminist” one.
“It’s because of Katie that I have sat down with multiple women leaders within the Armed Forces and elsewhere to have conversations about this over the years to look at what more can and should be done,” Trudeau said.
The Conservatives also led a push to have Telford fired, which ultimately failed when most MPs voted against the motion in the House of Commons.
During the debate on the motion, the Conservatives repeatedly implied that Telford may have been taking the fall for the prime minister.
“If she covered it up, she deserves to be fired. But if she didn’t cover it up and he’s not telling the truth, he needs to stand up, tell the truth, own up to what he’s done and … take responsibility for his mistruths, for his conduct and for his cover-up,” said Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen.
She added that “something about this whole story that’s being told just doesn’t ring true.”
“But it’s indeed what the prime minister is saying. So we’re going to call him to act on it,” Bergen said.
Trudeau says the Conservatives are playing “extremely aggressive partisan games with this issue.”
— With files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson and Rachel Gilmore.
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