Dany Fortin sudden departure, investigation shows military taking action on alleged misconduct, says expert

The swift departure of the military officer in charge of Canada’s vaccine rollout pending an investigation shows a shift in how the military is handling allegations of sexual misconduct, one expert says. Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin suddenly stepped down Friday from his role leading the rollout, “pending the results of a military investigation,” according to a brief department of national defence news release. The release did not specify that Fortin was stepping down voluntarily. It indicated that acting chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre would be reviewing next steps with him. Fortin declined the Star’s request for comment Friday and referred questions to the department’s media relations office. While the department and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan have refused to confirm the nature of the investigation, several media outlets have reported it is linked to an allegation of sexual misconduct that is at least a few years old. A source told The Globe and Mail that Eyre and deputy defence minister Jody Thomas have decided all credible allegations should be handled by a military investigation, regardless of their age. “It’s a sign that the deputy minister and the acting chief of the defence staff are taking action, that they are no longer willing to give the benefit of the doubt without confirmation from an investigation,” said Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, who studies gender integration and leadership in the Canadian armed forces during the 1990s, of Fortin’s sudden departure and the investigation. “So I think that in that sense, it’s quite positive, despite it happening to the person that was responsible for vaccine distribution at the federal level.”The Canadian armed forces has been rocked this year by allegations of sexual misconduct going all the way to the top. Two chiefs of the defence staff — Gen. Jonathan Vance and Adm. Art McDonald — are under military police investigation for alleged inappropriate behaviour, and other senior officers are also being probed. Retired Lt.-Gen. Guy Thibault, a former vice-chief of the defence staff, told the Star on Saturday that he was “surprised, disappointed and disheartened” by the Fortin news, and said any allegations in the current climate will be “doubly scrutinized.”Thibault is the chair of defence think-tank the CDA Institute and president of the Conference of Defence Associations, which put out a letter last week in which former senior military leaders acknowledged they had failed to tackle sexual misconduct within the ranks. “It’s a big step to move somebody out, especially in a high-profile position, because it basically says that they’re not coming back,” Thibault said. “I’m hoping they had very good reasons to take the steps they did other than an abundance of caution.”The Public Health Agency of Canada did not return a Star request for comment on Saturday confirming who will now be heading the rollout. “I would hope that by Monday at the latest the federal government would be communicating to the public what’s going to happen in light of his departure,” said Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner. “Every day that goes by without an answer on this is critical.”Fortin — who served in the military for almost 30 years with deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan before being tapped by Ottawa last November to lead the rollout — had become the face of Canada’s vaccine distribution logistics, providing weekly updates to media on the arrival and delivery delays of vaccines. Duval-Lantoine said the public deserves more information about the nature of the investigation against him. “It’s understandable that they’re being secretive about this, but that being said, I actually believe it would not interfere with the investigation for people to know what it is about,” she said. “I think it is an urgent question because Canadians who don’t follow what’s going on in defence right now must be feeling very anxious about the situation,” said Duval-Lantoine. “I think that this goes beyond just the sexual misconduct crisis we have today, now it dives into the question of how much do we need to let the military be involved in emergency response.” It’s a question echoed by infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness.“I still don’t understand why we think generals are a good idea in public health. I realize logistics are daunting, but I think it would be better to have people who understand public health in these roles,” said Furness, who has been critical of the vaccine rollout in Ontario previously headed up by retired general Rick Hillier. “If the vaccine rollout is going badly, people are going to be angry and look for a scapegoat. If it’s going well — and it feels like it is going well — I don’t think (Fortin’s) departure is really going to mater as long as the people doing the real work are still there.”Reached for comment Saturday, the Prime Minister’s Office referred the Star to Sajjan’s office, which pointed

Dany Fortin sudden departure, investigation shows military taking action on alleged misconduct, says expert

The swift departure of the military officer in charge of Canada’s vaccine rollout pending an investigation shows a shift in how the military is handling allegations of sexual misconduct, one expert says.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin suddenly stepped down Friday from his role leading the rollout, “pending the results of a military investigation,” according to a brief department of national defence news release.

The release did not specify that Fortin was stepping down voluntarily. It indicated that acting chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre would be reviewing next steps with him. Fortin declined the Star’s request for comment Friday and referred questions to the department’s media relations office.

While the department and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan have refused to confirm the nature of the investigation, several media outlets have reported it is linked to an allegation of sexual misconduct that is at least a few years old.

A source told The Globe and Mail that Eyre and deputy defence minister Jody Thomas have decided all credible allegations should be handled by a military investigation, regardless of their age.

“It’s a sign that the deputy minister and the acting chief of the defence staff are taking action, that they are no longer willing to give the benefit of the doubt without confirmation from an investigation,” said Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, who studies gender integration and leadership in the Canadian armed forces during the 1990s, of Fortin’s sudden departure and the investigation.

“So I think that in that sense, it’s quite positive, despite it happening to the person that was responsible for vaccine distribution at the federal level.”

The Canadian armed forces has been rocked this year by allegations of sexual misconduct going all the way to the top. Two chiefs of the defence staff — Gen. Jonathan Vance and Adm. Art McDonald — are under military police investigation for alleged inappropriate behaviour, and other senior officers are also being probed.

Retired Lt.-Gen. Guy Thibault, a former vice-chief of the defence staff, told the Star on Saturday that he was “surprised, disappointed and disheartened” by the Fortin news, and said any allegations in the current climate will be “doubly scrutinized.”

Thibault is the chair of defence think-tank the CDA Institute and president of the Conference of Defence Associations, which put out a letter last week in which former senior military leaders acknowledged they had failed to tackle sexual misconduct within the ranks.

“It’s a big step to move somebody out, especially in a high-profile position, because it basically says that they’re not coming back,” Thibault said. “I’m hoping they had very good reasons to take the steps they did other than an abundance of caution.”

The Public Health Agency of Canada did not return a Star request for comment on Saturday confirming who will now be heading the rollout.

“I would hope that by Monday at the latest the federal government would be communicating to the public what’s going to happen in light of his departure,” said Conservative health critic Michelle Rempel Garner. “Every day that goes by without an answer on this is critical.”

Fortin — who served in the military for almost 30 years with deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan before being tapped by Ottawa last November to lead the rollout — had become the face of Canada’s vaccine distribution logistics, providing weekly updates to media on the arrival and delivery delays of vaccines.

Duval-Lantoine said the public deserves more information about the nature of the investigation against him.

“It’s understandable that they’re being secretive about this, but that being said, I actually believe it would not interfere with the investigation for people to know what it is about,” she said.

“I think it is an urgent question because Canadians who don’t follow what’s going on in defence right now must be feeling very anxious about the situation,” said Duval-Lantoine.

“I think that this goes beyond just the sexual misconduct crisis we have today, now it dives into the question of how much do we need to let the military be involved in emergency response.”

It’s a question echoed by infection control epidemiologist Colin Furness.

“I still don’t understand why we think generals are a good idea in public health. I realize logistics are daunting, but I think it would be better to have people who understand public health in these roles,” said Furness, who has been critical of the vaccine rollout in Ontario previously headed up by retired general Rick Hillier.

“If the vaccine rollout is going badly, people are going to be angry and look for a scapegoat. If it’s going well — and it feels like it is going well — I don’t think (Fortin’s) departure is really going to mater as long as the people doing the real work are still there.”

Reached for comment Saturday, the Prime Minister’s Office referred the Star to Sajjan’s office, which pointed to Sajjan’s previous statement from Friday evening in which he indicated that:

“We remain focused on the vaccine rollout, with millions more vaccines arriving every week. The women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to fully support the vaccine rollout.”

With files from Tonda MacCharles

Source : Toronto Star More   

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‘We need to be flexible,’ warns top Ontario science table doctor as hot spot vaccine ramp-up comes to an end

A top doctor with Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table says public health units will have to be nimble to meet continued high demand for vaccines in hot spots as the province’s program to allocate 50 per cent of all shots to these areas comes to an end.Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the science table, is stressing the need for flexibility in the coming weeks as vaccine allocation in Ontario’s 114 hot spots and the rest of the province reverts to per-capita based distribution this week. “A fixed allocation of vaccines is not really reflecting the changing challenges of vaccine distribution over time. What you need in each hot spot is to understand what the demand is for the current week and be able to increase over and above current allocations if necessary,” Juni said. “In the highest-risk neighbourhoods, we haven’t yet reached a high enough percentage of adults who have been vaccinated. So we need to keep trying and this will require us to be more flexible with the allocation during the next few weeks.”At the beginning of May, the province bumped up vaccine allocation in Ontario’s highest-risk neighbourhoods to 50 per cent of all new doses for two weeks in an effort to reduce transmission, hospitalization rates and deaths. The plan, which comes to an end this weekend, was criticized for not following a recommendation by the science table to divert half of all doses to the 74 hardest-hit neighbourhoods for a month. The science table calculated that the province’s two-week plan could result in 75 per cent of eligible adults living in hot spots getting vaccinated, depending on supply and logistics.According to Juni’s projections, based on data from ICES (formerly the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences), close to 60 per cent of people 18 years old and over will have been vaccinated in Ontario’s 114 hot spots by Monday, while the rate in the remaining low-risk areas will be about 50 per cent.With the end of the program, public health units containing many of the hardest-hit areas will see their vaccine allocation dramatically reduced. As the Star’s David Rider reported on Friday, Toronto Public Health will see its allocation drop to 179,020 doses on May 17, down from 337,170 the week prior, while Peel Region will receive 87,790 doses next week, down from 149,760 for the week of May 10. Both regions have positivity rates higher than the provincial average. “There are certain areas of the province, especially Peel Region and certain parts of Toronto, where the protections that have been put in place by the government — whether it be rapid tests in factories or three days of nominal-paid sick leave — are not going to be enough to keep people safe,” said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, who argues that the pandemic will last longer in Ontario by reverting back to per-capita distribution now. “The most durable and significant defence that people who live in these areas have will be timely access to vaccination.”He stressed that non-hot-spot areas would continue to receive their proportional allocations of vaccine if the province continued to allocate 50 per cent of all doses to hot spots, a strategy that would allow for the protection of the most vulnerable populations, such as essential workers and their families. Warner added that hospitals in Scarborough, Peel and north Etobicoke admitted 17 COVID-19 patients on Friday night.“If we’re going to say that it’s time to make sure that everybody gets their proportional allocation of vaccines based on population, then I would say, why are helicopters flying to Kingston with patients from the GTA? When that ends, then we can talk about it’s time to be fair,” Warner said. In the last four days in Ontario, ICU admissions due to COVID-19 have slowly been creeping up, from 773 on Wednesday to 784 on Saturday. Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of the province’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force an infectious diseases physician at UHN, said the switch back to per-capita distribution “doesn’t mean there isn’t a focus on equity anymore.”He stressed that Canada is scheduled to receive over a million more doses than expected this week and that public health units can choose to allocate more vaccines to certain areas if they wish.“Even though the proportion has now changed, the absolute number of vaccines, while it will go down for sure a little bit, it will also rise back up as more vaccines come into the country,” he said. “Which means the number of vaccines administered, hot spot or not, is going to continue to grow with time as well.”Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca

‘We need to be flexible,’ warns top Ontario science table doctor as hot spot vaccine ramp-up comes to an end

A top doctor with Ontario’s COVID-19 science advisory table says public health units will have to be nimble to meet continued high demand for vaccines in hot spots as the province’s program to allocate 50 per cent of all shots to these areas comes to an end.

Dr. Peter Juni, scientific director of the science table, is stressing the need for flexibility in the coming weeks as vaccine allocation in Ontario’s 114 hot spots and the rest of the province reverts to per-capita based distribution this week.

“A fixed allocation of vaccines is not really reflecting the changing challenges of vaccine distribution over time. What you need in each hot spot is to understand what the demand is for the current week and be able to increase over and above current allocations if necessary,” Juni said.

“In the highest-risk neighbourhoods, we haven’t yet reached a high enough percentage of adults who have been vaccinated. So we need to keep trying and this will require us to be more flexible with the allocation during the next few weeks.”

At the beginning of May, the province bumped up vaccine allocation in Ontario’s highest-risk neighbourhoods to 50 per cent of all new doses for two weeks in an effort to reduce transmission, hospitalization rates and deaths. The plan, which comes to an end this weekend, was criticized for not following a recommendation by the science table to divert half of all doses to the 74 hardest-hit neighbourhoods for a month.

The science table calculated that the province’s two-week plan could result in 75 per cent of eligible adults living in hot spots getting vaccinated, depending on supply and logistics.

According to Juni’s projections, based on data from ICES (formerly the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences), close to 60 per cent of people 18 years old and over will have been vaccinated in Ontario’s 114 hot spots by Monday, while the rate in the remaining low-risk areas will be about 50 per cent.

With the end of the program, public health units containing many of the hardest-hit areas will see their vaccine allocation dramatically reduced. As the Star’s David Rider reported on Friday, Toronto Public Health will see its allocation drop to 179,020 doses on May 17, down from 337,170 the week prior, while Peel Region will receive 87,790 doses next week, down from 149,760 for the week of May 10.

Both regions have positivity rates higher than the provincial average.

“There are certain areas of the province, especially Peel Region and certain parts of Toronto, where the protections that have been put in place by the government — whether it be rapid tests in factories or three days of nominal-paid sick leave — are not going to be enough to keep people safe,” said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Toronto’s Michael Garron Hospital, who argues that the pandemic will last longer in Ontario by reverting back to per-capita distribution now. “The most durable and significant defence that people who live in these areas have will be timely access to vaccination.”

He stressed that non-hot-spot areas would continue to receive their proportional allocations of vaccine if the province continued to allocate 50 per cent of all doses to hot spots, a strategy that would allow for the protection of the most vulnerable populations, such as essential workers and their families. Warner added that hospitals in Scarborough, Peel and north Etobicoke admitted 17 COVID-19 patients on Friday night.

“If we’re going to say that it’s time to make sure that everybody gets their proportional allocation of vaccines based on population, then I would say, why are helicopters flying to Kingston with patients from the GTA? When that ends, then we can talk about it’s time to be fair,” Warner said.

In the last four days in Ontario, ICU admissions due to COVID-19 have slowly been creeping up, from 773 on Wednesday to 784 on Saturday.

Dr. Isaac Bogoch, a member of the province’s COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force an infectious diseases physician at UHN, said the switch back to per-capita distribution “doesn’t mean there isn’t a focus on equity anymore.”

He stressed that Canada is scheduled to receive over a million more doses than expected this week and that public health units can choose to allocate more vaccines to certain areas if they wish.

“Even though the proportion has now changed, the absolute number of vaccines, while it will go down for sure a little bit, it will also rise back up as more vaccines come into the country,” he said. “Which means the number of vaccines administered, hot spot or not, is going to continue to grow with time as well.”

Kenyon Wallace is a Toronto-based investigative reporter for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @KenyonWallace or reach him via email: kwallace@thestar.ca

Source : Toronto Star More   

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