Politics

Former reservist stripped of Order of Military Merit for wearing medals he was never awarded

A Quebec man who served with the Canadian Armed Forces reserves and cadets for three decades has been expelled from one of the military's highest honours after it was discovered he was wearing medals he was never awarded.

It's only the third time in almost 50 years someone has been expelled from the order

The Canada Order of Military Merit — bottom left — is seen among the late Prince Philip's other insignias in St George's Chapel, Windsor, England, on April 16, 2021. (AP)

He served for more than three decades with the armed forces reserves and cadets. He was an honorary colonel of an air force wing and an honorary aide-de-camp to one of Quebec's lieutenant governors.

Now, Jean-Charles Perreault has been stripped of one of the military's highest honours after it was discovered that he had been wearing civilian public service medals he had never been awarded.

It is only the third time in the nearly 50-year history of the Order of Military Merit that a member has been expelled, said Derek Abma, spokesperson for the Department of National Defence.

Lynne Santerre, manager of public affairs for the governor general's office, said medals can only be worn by those who have received them.

"Captain (Retired) Jean-Charles Perreault's appointment to the Order of Military Merit was revoked on the grounds that he publicly wore medals which he had not been awarded, while serving as Honorary Colonel of 2 Wing Bagotville," she said.

Jean-Charles Perreault (left) in an undated photo with Quebec Lt.-Gov. Michel Doyon. Perreault served as an aide-de-camp to one of Doyon's predecessors, former Quebec Lt.-Gov. Martial Asselin. (Photo provided by Stolen Valour Canada)

Abma said Perreault was not authorized to wear the Canada Centennial Medal, the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal, the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal, a second clasp on his Canadian Forces Decoration and a second bar on his Order of St. John Service Medal.

Perreault is entitled to wear other medals, including the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal he was awarded in 2002.

Unlike medals for operational military service overseas, the Centennial and Jubilee medals were awarded to civilians, as well as members of the military, for community service.

'It's finished'

Reached by CBC News, Perreault said the act of expelling him from the order back in February was "disproportionate."

"I don't want to know anything about the armed forces — it's finished," he said. "For me, the page is turned."

Perreault said he was particularly disturbed by recent revelations of sexual misconduct at the highest levels of the Canadian Armed Forces and the way Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government has handled it.

"I'm ashamed to say today that I belonged to the Canadian Armed Forces for 32 years."

The events that culminated in Perreault being tossed out of the Order of Military Merit began in 2018, when Perreault was honorary colonel of 2 Air Expeditionary Wing Headquarters in Bagotville, Quebec.

Someone noticed the medals he was wearing and alerted Stolen Valour Canada, a group that works to expose those who falsely claim to have served in the military or wear medals they were not awarded.

Stolen Valour alerted Rideau Hall and the Department of National Defence. In October 2019, the Order of Military Merit Advisory Council wrote a letter to the secretary of the Governor General asking them to review Perreault's appointment to the order.

Former Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance chaired the advisory council that recommended Perreault's membership in the Order of Military Merit be reviewed. Vance is currently under investigation following allegations of sexual misconduct. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

At the time, the advisory council was chaired by former chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, who is currently facing allegations of sexual misconduct.

Rideau Hall also notified the Order of St. John — where Perreault holds the grade of officer — that he was wearing a second bar on that organization's service medal that he was not entitled to wear. Patricia Kearney, priory secretary for the Order of St. John, said Perreault was asked to stop wearing the second bar and he has since returned it to the Order.

Perreault did not challenge his removal from the Order of Military Merit and has returned the insignia.

Perreault said he has no plans to wear medals in the future.

Asked about the Centennial medal, Perreault said that "there are things that unfortunately weren't done by [the late Sen. Cyrille Vaillancourt], because he forgot to put the name and all the rest."

Asked why there is no record of him being awarded the Silver and Diamond Jubilee medals, Perreault said "there are different registries."

In a statement issued to CBC News, Stolen Valour said that it is "hopeful that [Perreault] being struck from the Order and the resulting notoriety will have a deterrent effect on others who would choose to tarnish the dedication and devotion of those awarded the Order of Military Merit."

Perreault isn't the only person who has faced consequences recently for wearing medals they weren't awarded.

In a court martial proceeding Monday, Capt. Mark Osborne pleaded guilty, was reprimanded and fined $3,500 for wearing four medals when he served in Germany in 2019 that he had not been awarded. He also tried to get them added to his military record.

Two of the medals — the Silver and Diamond Queen's Jubilee medals — were the same as those worn by Perreault. Osborne also wore the Queen's Golden Jubilee medal and the 125th Anniversary of Confederation Medal.

Elizabeth Thompson can be reached at elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Thompson

Senior Reporter

Award-winning reporter Elizabeth Thompson covers Parliament Hill. A veteran of the Montreal Gazette, Sun Media and iPolitics, she currently works with the CBC's Ottawa bureau, specializing in investigative reporting and data journalism. She can be reached at: elizabeth.thompson@cbc.ca.

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