HMCS Whitehorse allegations include sexual misconduct, shoplifting
Navy launches review of policies and procedures following 'recent incidents'
The Royal Canadian Navy recalled one of its ships, HMCS Whitehorse, following incidents involving three crew members that include allegations of drunkenness, shoplifting and sexual misconduct, CBC News has learned.
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman ordered the ship to withdraw from a joint training exercise known as the Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, off the U.S. coast. The ship arrived at its home port of Esquimalt, B.C., on Monday.
The navy will not confirm details of the alleged misconduct, saying only there was a "series of incidents" involving the crew that took place while the ship was in port in San Diego, Calif., over a two-day period. The incidents are still under investigation.
But sources told the CBC's Evan Solomon the incidents all appear to involve alcohol and they point to a concern about off-duty conduct undermining the navy's operational reputation.
The sources told Solomon, host of CBC News Network's Power & Politics, the incidents included one that is now being assessed as possible sexual misconduct, an arrest for shoplifting and a senior sailor spending the night in a drunk tank while AWOL.
Cmdr. Hubert Genest, a navy spokesman, told CBC News earlier Tuesday that two of the incidents occurred on the ship between crew members and a third incident happened in downtown San Diego, involving a crew member and another person. Genest said that crew member was arrested and subsequently released.
Genest suggested the fact the two on-ship incidents were reported internally signal that navy personnel know their rights and feel they can come forward with allegations.
In a statement, Norman said, "The men and women in our Royal Canadian Navy set a high standard of conduct when representing our country at home and abroad. While instances have arisen that have fallen short of these standards, the vast majority of our personnel serve with distinction and professionalism."
Norman said in his statement that an internal review of the navy’s policies and procedures will be conducted by Commodore Craig Baines, newly appointed commander of the Canadian Fleet Atlantic, in light of the "recent incidents." The review includes expectations of navy personnel when ashore.
Genest said the incidents are being considered a "tipping point" inside the navy and a sign that something needs to change to protect the reputation of Canada's navy around the world. Genest also suggested Norman believes the answer to these problems requires a "bold decision."
The findings of the navy's review are expected in the fall.
RIMPAC involves forces from 22 countries and is considered the world's largest international maritime exercise and is being conducted near Hawaii and off the coast of Southern California.
Canada's participation in RIMPAC 2014 was expected to include 1,000 sailors, soldiers and airmen and also include the ships HMCS Calgary, Victoria and Nanaimo, according to a release from the Royal Canadian Navy.
With files from the CBC's Evan Solomon and The Canadian Press