Politics

Defence department dismisses former navy commander from civilian role after review

The Department of National Defence (DND) has dismissed retired navy commander Danny Croucher following a probe into how he was hired back as a civilian at his old navy base after a sexual misconduct investigation.

Two reviews found problems with release and hiring of former senior navy leader

The military completed a review into the rapid release of now retired 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. The review found the conditions that led to his release were a violation of a policy. (Danny Croucher/LinkedIn)

The Department of National Defence (DND) has dismissed retired navy commander Danny Croucher following a probe into how he was hired back as a civilian at his old navy base after a sexual misconduct investigation.

A second review conducted by the military of Croucher's rapid release from service also found that Crouchers release "was not done in keeping" with military policy in cases where misconduct is alleged. The navy signed off on Croucher's request last year to voluntarily leave the forces before his case reached the disciplinary stage.

Croucher then landed a job at CFB Halifax in June 2021 — the same month he left his military job at that base.

DND says that federal legislation guaranteed Croucher the legal right to retire because of his time served.

The Office of the Chief of Military Personnel is now looking into whether "additional steps are necessary to address situations where members may have violated professional standards, but have a right to release," DND said in a media statement.

Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said this case exposes an "egregious" loophole — that some military members accused of wrongdoing can leave the forces without consequences because they are eligible to retire.

"This loophole means officers can evade disciplinary action," said Duval-Lantoine, who studies toxic culture and leadership in the Canadian Armed Forces. 

She said she believes Croucher "clearly evaded" disciplinary action and that allowing him to serve at the same base on the civilian side "might have led to a morale issue" at the base.

The two reviews were triggered by CBC News' reporting last year on Croucher's case. Military regulations state that commanding officers must certify that members are not released to avoid consequences for misconduct.

Watch | Defence minister responds to release of retired Cmdr. Danny Croucher: 

Defence minister responds to release of retired commander Danny Croucher

4 months ago
Duration 1:21
Anita Anand says she is working on making sure the military is a place where everyone feels 'safe, protected and respected.'

Croucher placed under unit investigation by navy

The navy removed Croucher from his job as the head of the Naval Fleet School Atlantic in June 2020, DND confirmed. Croucher was placed under unit investigation by the navy after a complaint emerged alleging he made inappropriate comments and harmful comments said to be sexual in nature, multiple sources with knowledge of the case told CBC News.

Sources said a subsequent investigation found wrongdoing on Croucher's part. Sources said he was expected to receive an involuntary release as unsuitable for service from the military as part of the disciplinary stage. But Croucher requested a voluntary release before that happened.

The navy granted Croucher's request and he left the navy in June 2021. He rejoined the base as a civilian later that month, DND confirms. 

Croucher has not yet responded to CBC's request for comment, submitted Wednesday morning on Facebook and through DND. Croucher has declined to comment in the past.

Two reviews found problems with hiring, release

DND said that following CBC's story in October 2021, it launched a review to "determine the circumstances under which Mr. Croucher was hired as a civilian employee — specifically whether the individual's references were verified and whether the hiring team had knowledge of Mr. Croucher's employment history with the Royal Canadian Navy."

"With regard to the administrative investigation into his hiring as a civilian, while we are unable to provide details at this time due to Privacy Act considerations, we can confirm that he is no longer employed by the Department of National Defence," wrote DND spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier in a statement to CBC News. 

Croucher was dismissed from his job this year following the completion of the review. DND has not given an exact date for his departure.

WATCH | Former navy commander dismissed: 

Former navy commander dismissed from civilian role following military probe

4 months ago
Duration 2:11
The Department of National Defence has dismissed retired navy commander Danny Croucher after a review into how he landed a civilian role at CFB Halifax last year when he was accused of wrongdoing in an investigation over claims of inappropriate sexual comments.

The former defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, also ordered the military review of the rapid release of Croucher from the forces last year following CBC's report. Sajjan said he was "dismayed by the apparent lack of judgment" in this case.

The military's review concluded that Croucher's release "was not done in keeping with the policies supporting the release of CAF members in situations where misconduct is alleged," said LeBouthillier.

But the department also said that in this case, Croucher "had a right to release" under the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act because he had "completed a fixed period of service."

'Quite the admission'

Retired colonel and military law expert Michel Drapeau said the outcome of the review is "quite an admission" by DND and they must "feel the embarrassment."

"They would know that a number of their personnel (military and civilian) played a role in facilitating his early exit from the CAF and simultaneous entry in the public service," said Drapeau.

"This did not happen by accident or by routine procedures. It required the participation of a number of senior Royal Canadian Navy staff to facilitate his early release."

Drapeau also says Croucher's case questions the reliability of the public service's hiring process since it appears to have been "successfully short-circuited." The Public Service Commission should now be independently investigating the matter, said Drapeau.

The former Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, said he was "dismayed by the apparent lack of judgement shown" in connection to former navy commander Danny Croucher's rapid release from the military. Croucher is pictured here. (Naval Fleet School Atlantic/Facebook)

Defence minister says processes 'need to be better aligned'

When asked about the case Thursday, Defence Minister Anita Anand said she is aware "there is a situation, in terms of our policy, where members are alleged to have violated professional standards but are legally entitled to a release."

"Our processes need to be better aligned, so that victims and survivors do feel safe, respected and protected at work," said Anand.

Anand said she is continuing to work with Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and leaders across the military to "build a military where everyone feels safe, protected and respected." She said she is awaiting the latest report by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour into sexual harassment and misconduct in the military.

CBC News asked Eyre about the case Thursday morning. He said he hadn't yet been briefed on it and declined further comment.

He later issued a statement with an update.

"I am aware of this situation and have directed my team to address any potential policy gaps as part of our ongoing commitment to protect and support victims and survivors of inappropriate and harmful behaviours," wrote Eyre in a written statement to CBC News.

WATCH | "I have not been briefed on all this yet,' chief of defence staff reacts to military's release of Danny Croucher 

"I have not been briefed on all this yet,' chief of defence staff reacts to military's release of Danny Croucher

4 months ago
Duration 0:22
The CBC's Ashley Burke asks Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre about the rapid release of Cmdr. Danny Croucher.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Burke

Senior reporter

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

With files from Kristen Everson and Chris Rands

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