A high-ranking officer in the Canadian military, decorated by the Governor General for combat action in Afghanistan, is facing two charges of sexual assault and one count of committing an indecent act in alleged incidents that took place in two provinces over nearly 10 years.
Col. Jean-François Duval, who is currently assigned to the Canadian Defence Academy in Kingston, Ont., was charged Monday by the criminal investigative branch of the military.
Duval is the seventh member of the military to be charged with sex-related offences in the past 30 days as part of an intensifying crackdown on misconduct.
Duval was an artillery battery commander in Kandahar supporting the Royal 22e Regiment battle group between April and October of 2009.
He received Meritorious Service Medal in 2011. His "leadership and dedicated efforts" were praised as part of the citation.
The accusations against Duval involve five members of the forces and are alleged to have taken place at military bases in Valcartier, Que. and Gagetown, N.B.
The series of alleged incidents took place between January 2005 and December 2014.
In addition to the criminal charges, he is also accused of two counts of scandalous conduct, two counts of disgraceful conduct and three counts of prejudice to good order and discipline.
Those are separate charges under the National Defence Act.
Sending a message
The head of the military's investigative branch said the charges send an important message to all ranks about sexual misconduct.
"The rank of the accused plays no factor in investigating the facts of the matter," said Lt.-Col. Kevin Cadman, commanding officer of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, in a statement.
"We respect the judicial process and thoroughly investigate all reported sexual assaults through gathering the facts, analyzing the evidence, and, when appropriate, laying applicable charges."
Earlier this month, CBC News reported that less than one-quarter of military sexual assault charges between 2014 and 2017 that made it to courts martial resulted in a guilty verdict.
More often, the accused were convicted of the lesser charge of disgraceful conduct under the National Defence Act, which can lead to dismissal from the Forces and in some cases a criminal record and even imprisonment.
The military justice system's rate of conviction during that time period was below that of the civilian system, which registered guilty verdicts in just under half the cases.
Low conviction rates
On Thursday, Statistics Canada released a comprehensive survey of how the justice system deals with sex crimes.
It painted an even bleaker picture for sexual assault cases over a five-year period ending in 2014. During that time, civilian courts only managed a conviction rate of 12 per cent.
The director of military prosecution, Col. Bruce MacGregor, has said measuring the number of guilty and not guilty verdicts is not an appropriate measure of the effectiveness of a justice system.
He also emphasized the administrative charges, which are career-limiting, are important in holding an offender to account.
"Whether it's sexual assault, or disgraceful conduct, it's still there. That's on the record," MacGregor told CBC News last week.
He noted the lesser charge requires details of the crime be read into the public record: "There is no hiding of the action that took place."
MacGregor also said military prosecutors are getting more training on how deal with victims and bringing them into the discussions on how cases unfold.
The military also said Monday that Duval has been relieved from his duties as director of professional development at the defence academy.
He will remain on the job "with no leadership and supervisory duties until the case is disposed of in court," the military said a statement.
This story has been updated to clarify that charges of disgraceful conduct under the National Defence Act can - in some cases - lead to imprisonment and a criminal record.Oct 30, 2017 4:22 PM ET