Former head of national vaccine task force pleads not guilty to sexual assault charge
Government lawyers say investigation would have harmed integrity of vaccine campaign
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the military commander who was dismissed from his job as head of Canada's COVID-19 vaccine rollout, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of sexual assault.
The alleged incident dates to 1988, when Fortin was a student at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean.
Military police referred the investigation to the Quebec prosecution service in May 2021, just days after Fortin was removed from his assignment as head of Canada's vaccine task force.
Fortin's lawyer, Phillippe Morneau, submitted the not guilty plea at a courthouse in Gatineau, Que. on Monday morning.
A trial date has not yet been set.
Fortin is involved in two separate legal proceedings — one over the sexual assault allegation and another concerning his attempt to be reinstated as head of Canada's vaccine campaign.
Fortin is appealing his removal from the vaccine task force. It's not clear how that challenge could proceed since the temporary job he was fired from no longer exists.
Government lawyers have said that learning the head of the vaccine effort was being investigated for sexual assault could have undermined Canadians' confidence in the national vaccine campaign.
Fortin's legal team has argued that his removal was the result of political meddling. He has not been reassigned to a new position since his removal, Fortin's legal team says.
Fortin is one of 11 current and former military leaders who have been sidelined, investigated or forced into retirement over allegations of sexual misconduct over the last year.
With files from Murray Brewster