Politics

Navy disciplining ex-head of training school over claims of inappropriate, sexual comments: sources

The navy is disciplining the former head of the Naval Fleet School Atlantic over allegations of inappropriate and harmful comments said to be sexual in nature, CBC News has learned.

Cmdr. Danny Croucher is the second head of a military school to be temporarily removed during an investigation

The navy is disciplining Cmdr. Danny Croucher, the former Commandant of Navy Fleet School Atlantic after an investigation into a complaint of inappropriate and harmful comments that were sexual in nature, according to sources. (Danny Croucher/LinkedIn)

The navy is disciplining the former head of the Naval Fleet School Atlantic following allegations of inappropriate and harmful comments said to be sexual in nature, CBC News has learned.

Sources said the navy temporarily removed Cmdr. Danny Croucher as head of the training school at CFB Halifax during an investigation into a complaint in 2020 and he did not subsequently return to his command post.

In a statement, the Royal Canadian Navy confirmed Croucher was investigated but did not reveal further details, citing privacy rules. Croucher currently is working as part of the COVID-19 response and management team with the Maritime Forces Atlantic, the navy said.

"Cmdr. Croucher was investigated in 2020 for an alleged breach of conduct," said Lt.-Cmdr. Jordan Holder, director of navy public affairs. "As this was an administrative action, results and subsequent actions (if any) are protected under the Privacy Act.

"Any and all forms of misconduct are completely unacceptable and have no place in the Canadian Armed Forces. These behaviours negatively impact our collective well-being, morale and operational effectiveness."

The navy said Croucher has declined to respond to CBC News' request for a comment.

Sources said the navy is taking "administrative action" against Croucher, who has served with the military for 28 years. According to the Canadian Armed Forces' website, administrative action could lead to a series of outcomes, including remedial measures, a job transfer, reversion in rank or release from the military.

Croucher is the second head of a military training school in recent months to be temporarily removed from a job during an investigation, according to sources. Global News reported in May that Lt.-Col. Raphaël Guay stepped aside from his job as commandant of the Canadian Forces School of Military Intelligence over alleged misconduct.

The Canadian Armed Forces is in the midst of a crisis over its handling of sexual misconduct and several senior leaders are under investigation. The acting chief of the defence staff, Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, has said aspects of Canada's military culture "must and will change" and has rolled out a new external review.

Allegation tied to time overseeing navy school

Sources said Croucher's case is tied to a complaint alleging he made sexual comments during his time in charge of the training school. He started in the role in June 2018, according to his LinkedIn profile.

The Naval Fleet School in Halifax is where sailors study and develop skills for naval operations in Canada and abroad. The training includes operations at sea, maintenance and repairs, along with warfare training.

Anywhere between 400 and 600 sailors typically take courses there at any given time. Instruction is provided by more than 300 staff, including some civilian employees, said the navy.

The navy would not confirm the outcome of Croucher's investigation but said it takes every allegation seriously. His case was handled by the chain of command as a human resources matter rather than by military police since the complaint was not considered a criminal matter, said the sources.

Julie Lalonde, a women's rights advocate and public educator, said she is particularly concerned about such allegations coming out of educational settings in the military.

"We're being told they're taking people off the street and forming them into these members of the forces," said Lalonde. "There's this idea in the forces you strip down as an individual and build them back up as a soldier. So I think we need to be particularly concerned about these incidents happening in these settings.

"It's teaching these people this is the appropriate way to behave and this is the norm we are establishing for you."

Women's right advocate and public educator Julie Lalonde says she's particularly concerned about allegations surfacing at military training schools. (Ashley Burke/CBC News)

Lalonde said she's disappointed but not surprised after her own experience at the Royal Military College. She went public in 2015 and said she was verbally abused by Royal Military College cadets after being invited to speak about sex assault prevention.

The government has tasked former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour with leading an external review of sexual harassment and misconduct in the military. The Department of National Defence (DND) also created a new position of "chief of conduct and professionalism", now held by Lt.-Gen. Jennie Carignan.

Multiple senior military leaders have been swept up in the Canadian Armed Forces sexual misconduct crisis. 

The Canadian Forces National Investigative Service is reviewing allegations against former chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance and his successor, Adm. Art McDonald. Vance has told Global News he denies the allegation and McDonald has not commented publicly.

Quebec's prosecutor's office is now deciding on possible charges against Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin following an investigation by a branch of military police of a historical allegation of sexual misconduct

Fortin denies the allegation. After it emerged, he left his post leading Canada's vaccine logistics rollout.

Brig.-Gen Simon Bernard also left his role at the Public Health Agency of Canada this month — just days after Fortin's departure — over a complaint he has used racist language at work. Contacted by CBC News last week, a spokesperson for DND said Bernard would not be commenting at this point.

The military's former head of personnel, Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, was permanently replaced last month and is under investigation after a three decade-old allegation of rape was levelled against him — which he denies.

Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe, the former commander of special forces, was put on paid leave after he wrote a letter of support for a soldier convicted of sexual assault.

The country's former military operations commander, Lt.-Gen. Christopher Coates, is retiring after Postmedia reported that he had an affair with a U.S. defence department civilian while serving as deputy commander of NORAD. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Burke

Reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

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