No charges against top military officers after investigations into wrongdoing
OTTAWA – An investigation into the conduct of Canada’s Chief Military Officer Admiral Art McDonald has ended with police statements saying that there is insufficient evidence to bring charges.
Provost Marshal Brig. Gen. Simon Trudeau announced the end of the investigation on Friday evening, almost six months after the Canadian Forces National Inquiry first revealed it was investigating the Chief of Defense.
“The CFNIS was able to identify and interview large numbers of potential witnesses,” Trudeau said. “The evidence gathered from these witnesses was taken into account in the final decision that the evidence does not support the bringing of charges.”
The decision paves the way for McDonald to return to his position as the Canadian Armed Forces commander after voluntarily resigning in February following revelations about the military police investigation.
But it is also likely to raise new questions about the military’s ability to adequately handle allegations of misconduct by top officials.
The nature of the allegation against McDonald has not been publicly confirmed, but CBC reported in February that it relates to an allegation of sexual misconduct dating back to his time as captain of a Canadian warship in 2010.
Global News reported that Navy Lt. Heather Macdonald, a Navy combat systems engineer who made allegations against McDonald. Macdonald was quoted by Global on Friday as saying she was angry with the military police’s decision.
“I’m not surprised, because this is exactly why I was hesitant to get in touch and why most of the survivors don’t come forward. It’s not worth it. I feel a bit like I’ve gone through hell for nothing,” Macdonald was quoted as saying Saying.
“Feel a bit like I’ve been punched in the stomach.”
Trudeau stressed the independence of its military police investigators in his statement, saying: “CFNIS conducts its investigations thoroughly and professionally regardless of the chain of command.”
He added that no further information would be provided.
Defense Secretary Harjit Sajjanâs spokesman Todd Lane refused to comment on Friday, including whether or not McDonald would be reinstated as chief of defense.
McDonald did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
McDonald temporarily resigned on the investigation on February 24, just five weeks after taking over as Canada’s top military commander from Jonathan Vance, who was accused of sexual misconduct.
Vance, who has denied any wrongdoing, was charged with obstruction of justice last month following a separate military police investigation. His case has been referred to civil justice.
The allegations against Vance, McDonald and other senior officers led to the Canadian Forces recent sexual misconduct settlements, which included months of parliamentary hearings and pledges of action by the government and military.
At the heart of much of the crisis has been issues of fairness and accountability in the military’s handling of such allegations, with concerns that the higher ranks will be treated less severely than the lower ranks.
These concerns coincided with a report by retired Supreme Court Justice Morris Fish, in June, which found that it was legally impossible to bring Canada’s top military commanders to justice, even though criminal cases can be handled by the civilian system.
The government has also hired retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor to review and develop specific recommendations on how to better deal with sexual assault, harassment and other misconduct within the ranks.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on August 6, 2021.