Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard speaks to reporters in Kandahar on Nov. 19, 2009. ((Jonathan Montpetit/Canadian Press))

The commander of Canadian troops in Afghanistan has been fined $3,500 — the stiffest fine ever levied on a soldier for mishandling a weapon.

Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard, head of Joint Task Force Kandahar, was handed the fine after pleading guilty to an offence under the National Defence Act in a court in Gatineau, Que., on Tuesday.

The military judge who presided over the court martial said the case sends a clear message that the Canadian Forces takes weapons offences seriously.

The March 25 incident occurred as Ménard and his boss, chief of defence staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk, were about to board a Blackhawk helicopter at Kandahar Airfield.

Ménard said he was loading his C8 carbine, something he has done thousands of times, when it went off. No one was injured and nothing was damaged, but the National Defence Act makes it an offence to accidentally discharge a weapon.

Ménard presides over similar cases in Afghanistan and said the most he has ever fined someone is $1,200.

With files from The Canadian Press