Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff will testify at probe into allegation against Canada’s former top soldier

Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff will testify at probe into allegation against Canada’s former top soldier
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Prime Minister will testify Friday before a parliamentary committee that is probing the handling of a 2018 allegation against the former chief of the defence staff, the Star has learned.

Katie Telford is set to appear before the House of Commons standing committee on national defence, which is scheduled to meet Friday at 1 p.m.

The committee has been probing the handling of an allegation against now-retired general Jonathan Vance , which was first flagged to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in March 2018 by the military ombudsman.

Gary Walbourne said he raised an allegation of “inappropriate sexual behaviour,” but Sajjan maintains he was given no specifics. He refused to look at the evidence, saying that as a politician, he could not get involved in a potential investigation.

Sajjan’s office notified the Prime Minister’s Office at the time about the issue, but it was only revealed in committee testimony a few weeks ago that Telford knew about the allegation.

Elder Marques, a former senior adviser to the PMO, told the committee last month that it was Telford or her assistant who asked him in March 2018 to get back to Sajjan’s then-Chief of staff “on an issue relating to” the chief of the defence staff.

Marques testified that he referred the matter to the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic arm of the PMO.

“I advised the chief of staff to the prime minister that I was taking this step and I then kept her apprised as the matters developed,” he said.

The to find out more about the allegation at the time, but Walbourne refused to provide any information as he did not have the complainant’s permission. No further work was done on the matter.

The Telford revelation was significant. Trudeau confirmed earlier this year that someone in his office was aware of an allegation against Vance in 2018, but has never specified who. He said he only learned of its existence this year.

The Conservatives have called on Trudeau to fire Telford for not informing him about the allegation in 2018, tabling an unsuccessful motion to that effect in the House.

Trudeau defended his chief of staff last week as an “extraordinarily strong leader” on the file of sexual misconduct in the military.

The Conservatives tabled a motion at the defence committee last Friday that called on Telford to appear there, but the Liberal members filibustered, preventing it from coming to a vote. Then on Monday, the committee’s Liberal chair cancelled the meeting minutes before it was to begin, without providing a reason.

“For a week, the Trudeau Liberals have blocked Katie Telford from testifying on her role in this coverup. Now she’s suddenly available. What’s changed?” said Conservative defence critic James Bezan in a statement Thursday.

Political staff don’t typically testify at parliamentary committees, even when they’re asked. The government has argued that ministers are ultimately responsible for their offices, pointing out that the previous Conservative government had a similar stance.

Sajjan’s former chief of staff, Zita Astravas, has not testified at the defence committee, despite being called. Sajjan appeared in her place last month.



But this will not be Telford’s first time testifying at a committee. She appeared at the finance committee last year during its examination of the WE Charity scandal .

Vance is now the subject of a military police investigation over allegations of inappropriate behaviour. He has denied any wrongdoing.
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