The Trudeau authorities and Opposition Conservatives marked International Women’s Day immediately by buying and selling barbs and accusations over reported threats towards a senior naval officer who introduced ahead an allegation of misconduct towards Canada’s defence chief.
The bitter back-and-forth got here as members of the House of Commons defence committee agreed to ask new witnesses to testify in an expanded probe of the Liberals’ dealing with of allegations towards the army’s prime brass.
The record of recent witnesses consists of prime Liberal officers in addition to two former aides within the earlier Conservative authorities. It additionally consists of Lt.-Cmdr. Raymond Trotter, who reportedly flagged an allegation of misconduct by chief of the defence employees Admiral Art McDonald final month.
Global News has reported Trotter subsequently obtained two threatening telephone calls from blocked numbers, one from an individual claiming to be a army officer and the opposite from somebody who recognized themselves as “a senior member of the Canadian government.”
The callers allegedly warned Trotter towards co-operating with the Commons defence committee’s investigation and mentioned that his army profession can be over if he did. In response, Conservative defence critic James Bezan and fellow Tories Pierre Paul-Hus and Leona Alleslev launched an announcement Monday accusing the federal government of getting “undertaken a co-ordinated campaign to threaten and silence a sexual misconduct whistleblower.”
“This is more evidence that Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government have gone to great lengths to cover up allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces,” added the assertion. “Threatening a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to secure their silence is a clear and concerning abuse of power. The lengths that the Liberal government will go to in order to hide the truth from Canadians is appalling.”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s workplace fired again a couple of hours later.
“Not only was the minister’s office not aware of the identity of the caller prior to media reports, any insinuation that our government made threatening comments is utterly false,” Sajjan’s spokesman, Todd Lane, mentioned in an announcement.
Sajjan’s workplace decries ‘reckless insinuation’
“This baseless accusation from the Conservative party harms confidence in the processes that exist to help those who come forward with complaints of misconduct. This reckless insinuation only serves to create doubt for those who step forward and those considering it.”
Both Lane and the Department of National Defence additionally launched a short timeline overlaying when the allegation towards McDonald was obtained and the way it was dealt with, saying the primary name from a “third party” got here in Feb. 4.
That name went to a switchboard operator and was quickly referred to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, in accordance with the Defence Department, which launched an investigation with out McDonald’s data.
“When the switchboard received a complaint of misconduct, it was immediately relayed to an official in the Department of National Defence,” Lane mentioned. “At no time did any staff in the office of the minister speak with the caller.”
The Defence Department added that McDonald solely grew to become conscious of the investigation Feb. 24, “when case-specific information was disclosed.”
Eyre performing defence chief
McDonald briefly stepped apart that very same day, with Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre taking up as performing defence chief.
The CFNIS wouldn’t say Monday whether or not it’s investigating the alleged threats towards Trotter.
Following the report about Trotter, members of the Commons defence committee voted Monday to summon him for questions.
“The reason it needs to be a summons is he’s a person that is still in the chain of command,” Bezan mentioned.
“According to reports he’s already faced intimidation and threats that his career is over. So we want to make sure that he feels free to appear without fear of reprimand. And the only way we can ensure that he can appear is to summon him through a subpoena.”
Committee members additionally agreed to ask Sajjan again to make clear what opposition members say are contradictions between his testimony and that of former army ombudsman Gary Walbourne.
Walbourne advised the committee final week he first raised an allegation of sexual misconduct towards then-chief of the defence employees Gen. Jonathan Vance to the minister in March 2018.
Senior Liberal staffers invited to committee
The committee can also be inviting Zita Astravas, who was Sajjan’s chief of employees on the time, and Elder Marques, who was a senior adviser to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, to clarify once they grew to become conscious of the allegations towards Vance and what they did about them.
Committee members can even look into how Vance was chosen to function chief of the defence employees in 2015, with invites to be prolonged to Harper’s former chief of employees Ray Novak and then-defence minister Jason Kenney’s prime aide on the time.
Global News has reported allegations Vance had an ongoing relationship with a subordinate that began greater than a decade in the past and continued after he was named chief of the defence employees, at which era he promised to root sexual misconduct from the Armed Forces.
Global has additionally reported on allegations about Vance sending an electronic mail to a a lot youthful feminine officer in 2012, suggesting they go to a clothing-optional resort.
Vance has not responded to repeated requests for remark from The Canadian Press and the allegations towards him haven’t been independently verified. Global News has reported that Vance has denied any wrongdoing.
The CFNIS has confirmed that it opened an investigation in 2015 into Vance’s conduct whereas he was serving in Italy the earlier yr, however that it “did not meet the elements of the offence to lay charges.”
Military police have since opened an investigation into the allegations reported by Global. Sajjan has additionally promised a separate investigation, however it has but to be launched.