Former chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance has been charged under Section 139 of the Criminal Code with one count of obstruction of justice following a probe by military police into allegations of inappropriate behaviour that were first reported by Global News in February.
Vance has been at the centre of a military reckoning over sexual misconduct allegations levelled against multiple senior leaders in the Canadian Forces since Global News first reported on the allegations against him on Feb. 2, 2021.
Vance has denied any inappropriate behaviour.
The military announced an investigation just days after that initial report and have now charged Vance with obstruction of justice, according to documents filed in court on Thursday afternoon.
The court documents show Canadian Forces National Investigation Service laid the charge on Thursday.
The case has been handed over to the civilian court by military police.
Vance is due to appear in court on Sept. 17, 2021.
According to the court documents, military police allege that between Feb. 1 and Feb. 3, Vance “did willfully attempt to obstruct the course of justice in a judicial proceeding by repeatedly contacting Mrs K.B. by phone and attempting to persuade her to make false statements about their past relationship to the Canadians Forces National Investigation Service, contrary to section 139(1) of the Criminal Code.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked about the charge at a press conference on Thursday afternoon but said he would not be reacting given the matter is before the court.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the Department of National Defence issued a press release about the charge and the decision to hand it over to the civilian court system.
“On 4 Feb, 2021, the CFNIS assumed investigative responsibility into allegations of misconduct. It was during the course of this investigation that the obstruction of justice is alleged to have occurred,” the department said in the statement.
“Considering the specifics of the case and in the interest of justice with due regard to the limitations of the Military Justice System identified in the findings contained in the Third Independent Review Authority report, the CFNIS decided to pursue the relevant criminal charge in the civilian justice system.”
“As this matter is now proceeding through the civilian justice system no further details can be released at this time,” the department added.
The report cited by the department refers to the findings issued by former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish in his June report into the military justice system. In it, Fish warned that sexual misconduct remains as “rampant” and “destructive” in 2021 as it was in 2015 when former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps published her landmark report documenting the “endemic” extent of the problem.
Fish cited the reporting by Global News as among the three distinct periods over the last three decades where investigative journalism has forced the issue into the spotlight.
In doing so, he said there has been “fresh pressure on the CAF and on the government to respond with urgency to the problem of sexual misconduct in the CAF.”
“They have revived concern whether the CAF itself, and its military justice system in particular, are capable of dealing appropriately with conduct of this sort,” Fish said in his report.
Fish said that until C-77 — federal legislation creating a Declaration of Victims Rights for the military justice system — comes into force, it should be civilian authorities that investigate and prosecute alleged sexual assaults and that military police should be trained on the legislation as soon as possible in order to prevent doing harm to victims in sexual misconduct investigations.
The federal government in April also appointed former Supreme Court of Canada justice Louise Arbour to lead an independent, external review into how best to create an independent reporting system for sexual misconduct in the military.
As it stands now, allegations of sexual misconduct are submitted through the military chain of command – a key barrier identified by Deschamps in her 2015 report.
Report: Sexual misconduct in CAF remains “rampant”
More to come.
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