Ex-Canadian Forces commander Daniel Ménard loses rank

Retired brigadier-general Daniel Ménard, a former commander of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan, was symbolically stripped of his rank and fined after pleading guilty to charges of violating military conduct laws and impeding an investigation.

Former Afganistan commander pleaded guilty to violating military conduct laws and impeding an investigation

Retired Brig-Gen Daniel Menard arrives at a military court to face his court martial in Montreal, Que., on July 21. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

Retired brigadier-general Daniel Ménard was symbolically stripped of his rank and fined after pleading guilty to charges of violating military conduct laws and impeding an investigation.

The former commander of the Canadian Forces in Afghanistan admitted Thursday to a sexual liaison that wrecked his career and resulted in him being sent back to Canada in disgrace.

A serious offence

Ménard violated article 129 of the National Defence Act, which states, "Any act, conduct, disorder or neglect to the prejudice of good order and discipline is an offence and every person convicted thereof is liable to dismissal with disgrace from Her Majesty's service or to less punishment."

To the Canadian Forces, having intimate relationships with subordinates in a theatre of war can create serious ethical dilemmas, as retired Lt.-Col. Gilles Paradis explains:

"It's a matter of discipline and cohesiveness between the troops. Imagine, for instance, you send 10 soldiers in the field on patrol, and it's a very dangerous mission. The [commanding officer] is a a sergeant and he has a relationship with one his female soldiers, and he has to send someone ahead on a dangerous path where you could find some explosive device, and he never chooses that person. He always sends someone else. What would be the impact amongst his 10 soldiers, knowing that there's a personal relationship which has developed between those two. The other soldiers will lose confidence and will come to think that he is protecting his girlfriend."

Ménard was charged with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, in violation of the National Defence Act.

One charge related to an alleged "intimate personal relationship" with a corporal under his command; the second charge was for allegedly trying to impede a military police investigation into the affair.

Lawyers for Ménard and the military jointly recommended a reduction in rank to colonel, which is symbolic as he is retired, and a fine of $7,000. On Thursday afternoon, a judge agreed to those penalties. 

Ménard was initially also charged with four counts of obstructing justice, which were withdrawn before Thursday's hearing.

Ménard apologized to his wife and children when he pleaded guilty at a court martial in Montreal.

"I was humiliated and lost my reputation in my community," he said. "I deeply regret my conduct."

Ménard served as top officer for Task Force Kandahar beginning in November 2009 but was relieved of duty following allegations that he had a sexual relationship with a subordinate, Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois. His guilty plea came at the start of his military trial.

A former senior military official told CBC News earlier that if Ménard behaved as alleged, and did so during a mission, he should be punished.

Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois was charged with violating military fraternization regulations. (Courtesy of Global TV)
"I can probably name a half-dozen generals who have married, divorced and married, junior ranks people and such, so the question of fraternization is a very broad one," said Pat Stogran, the former Veterans Ombudsman and a retired Canadian colonel who went on several missions.

"But in an operational theatre, absolutely no question, it's reprehensible conduct of the highest order and you know he's got no business being in command."

Ménard, who had been based at CFB Valcartier near Quebec City, resigned on Dec. 17, 2010.

Langlois was convicted of one count of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline. She was reprimanded and fined $700.

In May 2010, Ménard was fined $3,500 for mishandling a weapon.

He was handed the fine — the stiffest fine ever levied on a soldier for this offence — after pleading guilty to an offence under the National Defence Act in a court in Gatineau, Que.

The incident occurred as Ménard and his boss, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, were about to board a Blackhawk helicopter at Kandahar Airfield.

Ménard said he was loading his C8 carbine, 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.

With files from The Canadian Press