Ex-commander's trial for alleged affair starts next week

The former top Canadian soldier in Afghanistan who is accused of breaking the rules by allegedly having an affair in the field will face charges against him in military court next week.
Retired Brig-Gen. Daniel Menard's military trial for charges related to allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a fellow soldier while in Afghanistan begins next week. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press)

The military trial for a former Canadian commander accused of breaking the rules by having an intimate relationship with a fellow soldier while serving in Afghanistan is set to begin next week.

Court martial proceedings for retired Brig.-Gen. Daniel Ménard will get underway July 21 in Montreal. He is charged with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline contrary to section 129 of the National Defence Act.

The trial will be presided over by one military judge, Lt-Col. Louis-Vincent d'Auteuil. If convicted, Ménard could be sent to jail for a maximum of two years. He will enter a plea when the trial gets underway.

Ménard, who quit the military last year, was relieved of command of Joint Task Force Kandahar in May 2010 when allegations surfaced that the married father had an affair with a female soldier, Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois, under his command.

The military has strict rules forbidding its personnel from engaging in personal relationships while in theatre. They include relationships of an emotional, romantic, or sexual nature.

The Department of National Defence ordered Ménard's return to Canada, launched an investigation and laid charges against him in July 2010. Some of those charges were reduced or withdrawn and now he faces two charges.

In a statement released Thursday, DND said the first charge is in relation to Ménard's "alleged inappropriate conduct by engaging in an intimate personal relationship with another member" of the Canadian military in Kandahar. The second relates to "alleged attempts by the accused to hinder efforts to find out the facts about that relationship," the statement said.

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

If Ménard is found guilty, the judge can choose from a range of penalties including jail, a fine, reprimands, or "dismissal with disgrace." Ménard has already left the military but if the judge chose the latter penalty, it would be added to Ménard's record.

This won't be Ménard's first experience with a court martial. Shortly before the allegations about an affair arose, Ménard had pleaded guilty to accidentally firing his weapon at the Kandahar airfield in March 2010. He was fined $3,500 for the offence.