Admiral Art McDonald, who at that time was commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Admiral Art McDonald, who at that time was commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Defence chief’s leave shows how seriously misconduct allegations are taken, PM says

Trudeau says more must be done to ensure workplaces are free of harassment and intimidation

The fact Admiral Art McDonald stepped aside as Canada’s defence chief while misconduct allegations are investigated demonstrates how seriously such cases are taken, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says.

But Trudeau said Friday that more must be done to ensure workplaces are free of harassment and intimidation.

“This is something that is extremely important. And it’s something we’ve taken strides on, both in our government and in the military. But there’s always more to do,” Trudeau said during a news briefing.

“Because there is an ongoing review into this situation, and we’re ensuring that all the steps are properly taken, I won’t be commenting specifically on this process at this time.”

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said late Wednesday that McDonald had “voluntarily stepped aside” as chief of the defence staff while military police investigate unspecified allegations. He is on paid leave.

McDonald took over as chief last month from Gen. Jonathan Vance, who is being investigated over allegations of inappropriate behaviour that became public following his retirement.

Vance has denied any wrongdoing and McDonald has not commented.

Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre has been appointed acting chief of the defence staff.

In a message to members Friday, Eyre said that in the face of uncertainty the Canadian Armed Forces must remain resilient and ready to answer the call of duty.

“At the same time, we must strive to ensure we look after our people — all of them — and ensure we are an institution in which Canadians can see themselves. How we do things is as important as what we do.”

READ MORE: Military police launch investigation after former Canadian defence chief accused of misconduct

Trudeau said he wants anyone who has experienced sexual assault or other such abuse to know that “we will be there, to listen, to hear them, to work with them and to move forward through processes that will get to the right answers.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Friday that a Tory government would launch a service-wide independent investigation of sexual misconduct in the military.

General officer promotions would be suspended during the probe, along with salary increases, O’Toole said.

He also pledged that future complaints would be made to an independent body outside of the chain of command.

Sexual harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces is an “ongoing and serious problem that must be addressed,” O’Toole added.

“This unsafe culture must change.”

Political studies professor Stefanie von Hlatky told MPs on the House of Commons defence committee Friday that if a Forces member does not engage in sexual misconduct, it does not mean they perform their duty with honour.

“The standard of performance is much higher than that if you want to get to zero tolerance,” said Von Hlatky, Canada Research Chair on gender security in the Armed Forces at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont.

“The challenge moving forward is not simply about how to eradicate sexual misconduct within the military, but entails identifying positive steps to create a culture of equality for women in the CAF and a culture centred around respect for all.”

READ MORE: Military IDs B.C. reservist as soldier killed in Alberta training accident

defence intelligence

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s manager of fire and bylaw services, says the municipality’s fire halls have responded to more fires than usual this spring. (File photo)
Dry weather, wind leads to more brushfires this spring in North Cowichan

‘Be safe. Be fire smart. Be situationally aware.’

This Earth Day, Cowichan Valley residents are being asked to clean up where they are. (File photo)
Cowichan ‘Clean Where You Are’ campaign starts on Earth Day

Take a bag, one glove, long tongs, and go pick up!

City of Duncan considering an average 3.51 per cent tax increase for 2021. (File photo)
Duncan considers average 3.51% tax increase for 2021

Homeowners would see a $43 increase over last year

North Cowichan councillor Kate Marsh. (File photo)
North Cowichan postpones decision on cell tower placement

But cell tower policy may be developed soon

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read