Military second-in-command steps down over golf outing with ex-top soldier Vance
|Toronto Star 14 Jun 2021 at 17:01|
The Canadian military’s second-in-command stepped down Monday after it emerged he recently went golfing with ex-top soldier Gen. Jonathan Vance, who remains under military police investigation.
In his statement announcing his decision to “step aside immediately,” vice chief of the defence staff. Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau — who oversees the military police — revealed he maintains communication with officers under investigation “with the full knowledge and consent” of acting chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre.
He said he does this “because I am concerned with their well-being.”
The revelations that Rouleau went golfing with Vance, and that Eyre has consented to Rouleau having contact with officers under investigation, are deeply concerning and point to a problem with leadership in the Canadian armed forces, according to one military expert.
“It shows that we need to really seriously question whether or not we can trust the military right now in the way that they conduct themselves and how they self-regulate themselves,” said Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, who studies gender integration and leadership in the Canadian military during the 1990s.
It’s clearly a conflict of interest for the senior officer overseeing the military police to be in communication with officers under investigation, she said.
“If the chief of the defence staff knew and agreed that Rouleau was in contact with people under investigation, this is a problem of conflict of interest and this is serious,” she said.
The department of national defence said Eyre did not learn of the golf outing until this past Saturday, when it was revealed in the media.
The Provost Marshal, who commands the military police, is accountable to the vice chief of the defence staff. recommended that the Provost Marshal report directly to the minister of national defence to reinforce the position’s independence.
Rouleau insisted in his statement Monday that he has never issued any orders regarding active military police investigations. He said the military police has complete independence in conducting their policing duties, closely mirroring a statement issued by the Provost Marshal, Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau .
“I have no power over any military police probe whatsoever,” Rouleau said.
The military , as Vance and his successor as chief of the defence staff, Adm. Art McDonald, are both are under military police investigation.
Vance, who served as chief of the defence staff until January of this year, is facing allegations of having had an ongoing relationship with a woman he 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.
News of Rouleau’s resignation came as politicians on both sides of the aisle said the golf outing pointed to the urgent need for massive culture change in the armed forces.
“It shows very poor judgment, and sends entirely the wrong message to the whole country, first and foremost people who serve in the Canadian armed forces,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said at a news conference Monday.
The Globe and Mail and other media outlets reported over the weekend that Rouleau and Commander of the Navy Vice-Adm. Craig Baines had gone golfing with Vance earlier this month at an exclusive military golf club in Ottawa.
Baines apologized over the outing on Sunday and is taking a few days of personal leave. Rouleau said Baines’ participation “was surely predicated on my attending therefore I would ask that only I be held accountable.”
In his statement, Rouleau said he realizes how his decision to go golfing with Vance had “contributed to further erosion of trust” in the military.
“In this particular case, I was reaching out to a retired member of the CAF to ensure his wellness. This was a private activity, and I can assure every member of the CAF that none of us discussed any matters pertaining to any ongoing (military police) investigations, or the CAF/DND at large,” Rouleau said Monday.