Politics

Military's former head of HR charged with sexual assault, indecent acts

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, the military's former commander in charge of military human resources, has been charged with sexual assault and committing indecent acts. 

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson denied the allegations

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson has been charged under the Criminal Code. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, the military's former commander in charge of military human resources, has been charged with sexual assault and committing indecent acts.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) laid the Criminal Code charges today. 

"As the matter is now proceeding through the civilian justice system, no further information can be released at this time," Department of National Defence spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier said in a media statement. 

The allegations against Edmundson date back more than two decades, to when he was a lieutenant-commander overseeing training at the naval officer training centre in Esquimalt, B.C.

Retired Canadian Forces member Stéphanie Viau went public with her allegations in March in a CBC News story.

Viau alleged that she was a 19-year-old steward in the navy when Edmundson, a superior and lieutenant commander in 1991, started exposing his genitals to her onboard a navy ship deployed to the Pacific Ocean for an exercise.

Viau said she yelled at Edmundson and told him it was unacceptable behaviour. Days later, she said, the misconduct escalated and Edmundson raped her onboard HMCS Provider in early November, 1991, while the ship was docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Edmundson's lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said his client denies the allegations. 

"Vice-Admiral Edmundson continues to deny any suggestion of criminal misconduct and looks forward to the opportunity to restore his distinguished reputation for service to our country," Greenspan wrote in a statement to CBC News. 

In response to the charges laid Tuesday, Viau's lawyer, Paul Champ, told CBC News his client "will make no comment on this matter other than to say we will wait for justice to take its course."

WATCH | Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson charged with sexual assault, indecent acts: 

Former head of military HR charged with sexual assault

12 months ago
Duration 2:32
The military's former commander in charge of military human resources, Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, has been charged with sexual assault and indecent acts for allegations that date back more than 20 years, which he denies.

Champ said last month that CFNIS was consulting with civilian prosecutors in Ontario to determine if criminal charges should be laid. The defence department said the case would be handed over to civilian prosecutors.

Defence Minister Anita Anand announced last month that she had accepted former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour's recommendation to transfer sexual misconduct investigations to civilian police except in cases where an investigation is close to completion.

"In this particular case, the investigation was near completion," Le Bouthillier said regarding why CFNIS laid the charges.

This case is not part of the transfer of cases from the military to the civilian justice system.

Stéphanie Viau accused Hayden Edmundson of sexual assault. (Andrew Lee/CBC News)

The military placed Edmundson on paid leave when CBC's story first aired in March and later replaced him as the commander in charge of military human resources when the allegations were made public.

At the time, Greenspan called it regrettable that Edmundson was "replaced in his role without an opportunity to appropriately respond and defend against untested allegations which he categorically and unequivocally denies."

The Canadian military is engaged in a public struggle with sexual misconduct in the ranks. Since February 2021, multiple current and former senior Canadian military leaders have been sidelined, investigated or forced into retirement from some of the highest ranking posts in the Armed Forces.

The allegations against Edmundson are the most serious to be levelled recently against a senior leader in the Forces.

DND said that since May 12, Edmundson has been posted as a supported member at the Transition Centre Ottawa. While many military members who go to the transition group end up leaving the military, some transition back in.

Edmundson's first court appearance is set for Jan. 25 in Ottawa. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Burke

Senior reporter

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with the CBC's Parliamentary Bureau in Ottawa who focuses on enterprise journalism for television, radio and digital platforms. She earned the Charles Lynch Award and was a finalist for the Michener Award for her exclusive reporting on the past toxic workplace at Rideau Hall. She has also uncovered rampant allegations of sexual misconduct in the military. Her beats include transport, defence and federal government accountability. You can reach her confidentially by email: ashley.burke@cbc.ca or https://www.cbc.ca/securedrop/

With files from Kristen Everson

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