Trudeau’s chief of staff was aware of misconduct allegation against Vance, MPs told
|Toronto Star 23 Apr 2021 at 14:33|
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford was aware in 2018 that there was an allegation of misconduct against former chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, a former senior adviser said Friday.
Ex-senior Prime Minister’s Office senior adviser Elder Marques was testifying before the House of Commons standing committee on national defence Friday, which is probing sexual misconduct in the Canadian armed forces.
Marques said he was asked by Telford or her assistant in early March 2018 to get back to the chief of staff to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan “on an issue relating to the (chief of defence staff),” Marques testified Friday.
It’s emerged that ex-military ombudsman Gary Walbourne raised an allegation of misconduct against Vance in a private meeting with Sajjan on March 1, 2018. Sajjan refused to look at the evidence, saying as a politician, he could not get involved in an investigation.
Sajjan’s then-chief of staff Zita Astravas reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office on the matter. Marques said after being tasked by Telford or her assistant, he reached out to the Privy Council Office to look into the allegation further.
“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,” Marques said Friday.
He said at no time did he brief Trudeau, nor was he aware of any such briefing with the prime minister.
Conservative defence critic and defence committee member James Bezan pointed to the revelation as proof that Trudeau himself must have known about the allegation in 2018.
“Justin Trudeau’s claim that he was not aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by Gen. Vance is clearly false,” he said in a statement. “It is outrageous to believe that everyone around Justin Trudeau was aware of these allegations but the prime minister didn’t know.”
Trudeau has publicly confirmed that his staff was aware in 2018 that there was an allegation against Vance, though they didn’t find out the details until media reports this year. Trudeau has said he himself did not find out until this year.
Until now, it wasn’t known who else in the Prime Minister’s Office beyond Marques knew about the existence of an allegation against Vance.
“We take all allegations seriously and ensure they are followed up on by the appropriate independent authorities. That is exactly what happened in this situation,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement Friday when asked to comment on the Telford revelation.
“The prime minister confirmed on March 10, in the House of Commons, that his office was aware of the concern raised by the defence ombudsman in 2018.”
The Privy Council Office was unable to take any action as Walbourne refused to provide any information regarding the allegation, as the complainant had not given him permission to do so.