Liberals and Bloc shut down probe of sexual misconduct allegations in Canada’s military

A parliamentary committee’s probe of the handling of allegations against Canada’s former top soldier will end Friday, after a Liberal motion shutting down the study passed with support from the Bloc Québécois on Monday. Other opposition parties on the House of Commons’ standing committee on national defence called out the motion as an attempt by the Liberal government to “cover up” the handling of allegations of misconduct against then-Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance in 2018. The committee has been probing the handling of those allegations as well as sexual misconduct in the Canadian armed forces. The motion, put forward by Anita Vandenbeld, parliamentary secretary to the minister national defence, passed with the support of all of the Liberal and Bloc MPs, with Conservatives and the NDP voting against. Vandenbeld argued it’s necessary to put an end to the hearings Friday to give staff enough time to put together a report with recommendations that can be tabled in the House before the summer recess in June. “I believe it is very important for the witnesses who have come forward, to ensure that those recommendations get reported to the House and are brought to the government,” Vandenbeld said at Monday’s committee hearing. The motion sparked more than an hour of debate. Its passage means members will have until Friday to submit draft recommendations for the committee’s final report, expected to be passed by late May. “Until we get to the bottom of who know what when — of the minister and the prime minister — we have not concluded this study,” said NDP MP Randall Garrison ahead of the vote on the motion. “I believe it is premature to proceed in shutting down this debate and putting forward recommendations.” Conservative defence critic James Bezan, during debate on the motion, pointed out that the committee is still waiting to hear from witnesses, including Prime Minister’s Office senior official Elder Marques, and that it’s unclear at this point if they will all be able to make it by Friday’s meeting. “Here we are now with the Liberals trying to shut down a committee investigation into what happened,” Bezan said. “I’m just so disappointed that the Liberals who like to talk about being a feminist government…well guess what, that’s all phoney and hyperbole.”Now retired, Vance is the subject of a military police investigation, sparked by reporting this year by Global News that he allegedly had an ongoing relationship with a woman he significantly outranked, and that he allegedly made a sexual comment to a second, much younger, soldier in 2012, before he was appointed to the top job.He has denied any wrongdoing.The committee has heard that former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne tried to raise an allegation of misconduct against Vance to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in March 2018. Sajjan refused to look at the evidence, saying that as a politician, he could not get involved in any investigation. The matter was referred to the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office. No further action was taken as Walbourne refused to give the office any information because the complainant had not given him permission to do so. Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

Liberals and Bloc shut down probe of sexual misconduct allegations in Canada’s military

A parliamentary committee’s probe of the handling of allegations against Canada’s former top soldier will end Friday, after a Liberal motion shutting down the study passed with support from the Bloc Québécois on Monday.

Other opposition parties on the House of Commons’ standing committee on national defence called out the motion as an attempt by the Liberal government to “cover up” the handling of allegations of misconduct against then-Chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance in 2018.

The committee has been probing the handling of those allegations as well as sexual misconduct in the Canadian armed forces.

The motion, put forward by Anita Vandenbeld, parliamentary secretary to the minister national defence, passed with the support of all of the Liberal and Bloc MPs, with Conservatives and the NDP voting against.

Vandenbeld argued it’s necessary to put an end to the hearings Friday to give staff enough time to put together a report with recommendations that can be tabled in the House before the summer recess in June.

“I believe it is very important for the witnesses who have come forward, to ensure that those recommendations get reported to the House and are brought to the government,” Vandenbeld said at Monday’s committee hearing.

The motion sparked more than an hour of debate. Its passage means members will have until Friday to submit draft recommendations for the committee’s final report, expected to be passed by late May.

“Until we get to the bottom of who know what when — of the minister and the prime minister — we have not concluded this study,” said NDP MP Randall Garrison ahead of the vote on the motion. “I believe it is premature to proceed in shutting down this debate and putting forward recommendations.”

Conservative defence critic James Bezan, during debate on the motion, pointed out that the committee is still waiting to hear from witnesses, including Prime Minister’s Office senior official Elder Marques, and that it’s unclear at this point if they will all be able to make it by Friday’s meeting.

“Here we are now with the Liberals trying to shut down a committee investigation into what happened,” Bezan said.

“I’m just so disappointed that the Liberals who like to talk about being a feminist government…well guess what, that’s all phoney and hyperbole.”

Now retired, Vance is the subject of a military police investigation, sparked by reporting this year by Global News that he allegedly had an ongoing relationship with a woman he significantly outranked, and that he allegedly made a sexual comment to a second, much younger, soldier in 2012, before he was appointed to the top job.

He has denied any wrongdoing.

The committee has heard that former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne tried to raise an allegation of misconduct against Vance to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in March 2018.

Sajjan refused to look at the evidence, saying that as a politician, he could not get involved in any investigation. The matter was referred to the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister’s Office.

No further action was taken as Walbourne refused to give the office any information because the complainant had not given him permission to do so.

Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant

Source : Toronto Star More