Retired Shilo soldier demoted in rank for 'disgraceful' incident at base party

A retired master corporal with the Canadian Forces has been demoted in rank after admitting to touching a woman inappropriately at a holiday party on Manitoba's CFB Shilo in December 2016.

Soldier quit the military after being charged in 2016 incident

Evan Paul, a retired master corporal, pleaded guilty to behaving in a disgraceful manner at a court martial at CFB Shilo on Tuesday morning. (CBC)

A retired master corporal with the Canadian Forces has been demoted in rank after admitting to touching a woman inappropriately at a holiday party on Manitoba's CFB Shilo in December 2016.

Evan Paul was charged in September 2017 with sexual assault and two counts of behaving in a disgraceful manner. He was accused of touching the breasts of two women.

He pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of behaving in a disgraceful manner, while the second count and the charge of sexual assault were withdrawn by the prosecution.

Paul, a decorated soldier who had been employed as a matériel technician on the base, left work on the day in question and became "blackout drunk" at a colleague's house before heading to the holiday potluck,  Maj. Greg Moorehead , the military prosecutor in the case, told the court martial.

Moorehead said Paul continued drinking at the party, downing more hard liquor to the point of "significant" intoxication. He then joined a group of corporals, subordinates to him in rank, and their spouses who were chatting, he said.

The commander … characterized this conduct as corrosive and harmful.- Maj. Greg Moorehead

"Without warning or context of the conversation, Master Cpl. Paul moved toward [the victim] and with his right hand, squeezed her left breast," Moorehead said. Someone else in the group spoke up, denouncing the behaviour, he said, adding that Paul then poked another woman in the breast

On the morning of the holiday potluck, Moorehead said, Paul's platoon had attended a briefing on Operation Honour, a Canadian Forces mission to educate and address harmful and inappropriate sexual behaviour.

CBC News is not naming the victim due to a publication ban imposed in the case.

The victim, who was at the event with her spouse, reported the touching to officials at the event as well as to military police.

"The commander [of 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry] … characterized this conduct as corrosive and harmful," Moorehead said, characterizing the incident as serious. "It fractured the trust of a military spouse [who] no longer wishes to participate in military events."

Victim impact statement 

Moorehead also summarized a victim impact statement that was submitted to the court on Tuesday. He said the victim in the case was shocked, confused and embarrassed by the incident, and that it had a significant impact on her. She is now living in Ontario, after her spouse was transferred to a base in that province.

The prosecution and defence jointly recommended Paul's punishment be a reduction in rank to private from master corporal.

"While it may not be the worst case of disgraceful conduct one may find, it involves aspects of personal conduct that affects other individuals on a personal level," Moorehead said, adding the sentence must deter similar behaviour

"This was suppose to be a relaxed, safe place for everyone to socialize and enjoy themselves in the holiday season … that was quickly ruined," he said. 

Couldn't remember actions

Paul's defence counsel, Lt. Col. Denis Berntsen, told the court martial that Paul was dismayed and devastated to hear of his action and quit his post with the military as a result. Court had heard Paul didn't remember his actions from the event afterwards.

"He got out because of what he had done on this occasion," said Berntsen, who added Paul has taken action to deal with issues related to alcohol.

Paul, who served two tours in Afghanistan, left the forces in April 2018. A retirement notice posted online stated he would be "leaving sunny Shilo in pursuit of better things in Vancouver, B.C.," with plans to study business management. 

Berntsen said Paul's behaviour was out of character for him, describing him as a solider devoted to his community and as someone who enjoyed volunteering.

The judge, Cmdr. Martin Pelletier, agreed with the joint recommendation on the sentence, calling the incident "unacceptable" and "of a perverted nature." Pelletier said Paul has expressed remorse and will be paying for his mistake for some time to come after leaving the military. 

Paul has no prior criminal or disciplinary records. Court heard he has remained sober since seeking treatment.

A retired master corporal with the Canadian Forces has been demoted in rank after admitting to touching a woman inappropriately at a holiday party on Manitoba's CFB Shilo in December 2016. 1:45

Both Berntsen and Moorehead said even though Paul has left the military, a reduction in rank will still send the message that the behaviour isn't acceptable. For example, Berntsen said, if Paul were to join a legion or another veteran's group, he would have to refer to himself as a private instead of a master corporal, a junior leadership position.

"It certainly sends out the message that if you do this kind of conduct in a drinking, party environment … you run the risk of losing your position," he said.  "[Paul] had planned to make a life of this and was moving well in that direction when this happened."

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Riley Laychuk

CBC Manitoba reporter

Riley Laychuk is CBC's reporter based in Brandon, covering rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback: