Williams to lose rank but not pension: military

The Canadian Forces is working to strip Col. Russell Williams of his rank, military decorations and honours as quickly as possible but admitted it can do nothing about taking away his pension.

The Canadian Forces is working to strip Col. Russell Williams of his rank, military decorations and honours as quickly as possible but admitted it can do nothing about taking away his pension.

After the process is completed, which the military hopes will be within 30 days, Williams will not be permitted to call himself a retired colonel and will simply be a civilian, officials said during a teleconference Monday afternoon.

Military officers who leave the military in a regular way, for example, are entitled to use their rank as a retired officer.

The military acknowledged it cannot do anything about Williams's pension and he is entitled to it unless the government takes steps to strip him of it.

It would be up to the federal government to enact legislation, for example, said Brig.-Gen. Neville Russell, director general of air personnel. The military would not play a role in the pension issue and has no way of removing it, he said.

When asked about future screening of officers in the Canadian military, Russell said there is a review of the process and the military is looking at the issue. Beyond the initial screening of military recruits and annual performance evaluations, there will be additional tests implemented within the next year, officials said.

Williams was relieved of his command at Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in eastern Ontario, after the charges were laid in February, but he kept his rank.

Williams pleaded guilty Monday in Belleville, Ont., to all 88 charges against him — including two counts of first-degree murder, two counts each of sexual assault and forcible confinement and 82 breaking-and-entering and attempted breaking and entering charges.

Russell said the acts by Williams were a "terrible betrayal of the trust" of the military and of the people of Canada.

Military police were involved in the investigation of Williams, a military spokesman confirmed, but there will not be a court martial.

Will be 'released'

Service members convicted in civilian court may be "administratively released" as a result of [their] conviction, said Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel and law professor at the University of Ottawa. Gen. Walt Natynczyk, chief of the defence staff, said Williams will be released from the Canadian Forces.

To reduce his rank, the military would have to change the rules, Drapeau said.

This would allow the military to also reduce his pension to that of private and result in a significantly smaller pension than he will currently bring in, he added.

"Today's guilty plea is the first step in a healing process that will no doubt take many years. Upon formal conviction we will be in a position to officially begin the administrative process that will lead to Col. Williams's release from the Canadian Forces. This will be completed as quickly as possible," said Natynczyk in a statement.

Drapeau said Williams would likely be released from the military for "unsatisfactory service," one of several reasons for release, including misconduct, completion of service, medical grounds and retirement.

Drapeau stresses that release is not the same as dismissal, a sentence that can be handed down by a court martial.

There are two levels of dismissal in the National Defence Act: "dismissal from Her Majesty's service" and "dismissal with disgrace from Her Majesty's service."

Robert Semrau, a second lieutenant, was dismissed from the military and reduced two levels of rank after a court martial found him guilty of disgraceful conduct Oct. 5 in the shooting death of a wounded Afghan insurgent.

Pte. Kyle Brown was dismissed with disgrace and sentenced to five years in prison in 1994 for his role in the torture and killing of Somali teenager Shidane Arone. He was the only service member to receive a dismissal with disgrace in what became known as the "Somali affair."

The other soldier to face murder and torture charges, Master Cpl. Clayton Matchee, tried to hang himself and suffered brain damage. He was deemed unfit to stand trial and released from the military.

With files from the CBC's John Bowman