Politics

Senior officer faced with sexual misconduct allegations retiring from Canadian Forces

The Canadian Armed Forces' former head of human resources is retiring before his sexual assault case goes to trial next year.

Head of military police's term extended amid criticism

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson is retiring from the military before his 13-day criminal trial scheduled for August 2023. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

The Canadian Armed Forces' former head of human resources is retiring before his sexual assault case goes to trial next year.

A new message from the Forces' senior leadership to members confirms Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson is retiring after more than 30 years. 

Edmundson was charged with sexual assault and indecent acts last year. He's been on indefinite paid leave for more than a year following reporting on his case by CBC News. His lawyer, Brian Greenspan, has said he looks forward to restoring his client's "distinguished reputation for service to our country."

Tuesday's message from the vice-chief of the defence staff, Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen, lists more than 50 promotions this year and almost 30 retirements. Two former senior leaders criticized for taking part in a controversial golf game will retire. A third person still under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct has already left.

The Forces is in the midst of a major shakeup of its senior ranks, with its army, air force and navy all getting new commanders. 

The list of staffing changes is dated May 22 but was made public days later after former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour released her report on the Forces' sexual misconduct crisis. The highly anticipated report addressed how the military should best respond to the crisis, which has pummeled the Forces' public image for more than a year.

Lt.-Gen. Allen's message said the military has, in response to the report, started implementing changes to its promotion and selection processes, including a new character assessment process.

The message said this new vetting process has caused delays in releasing the list of promotions.

"The Canadian Armed Forces continues to add new rigour and science to its promotion-selection process, beginning first with general officers and flag officers," the message to military staff said. "This evolved process is taking longer than has traditionally been the case, and thus the delay in promotion announcements."

Three other retirements

The message names retired lieutenant-general Trevor Cadieu among those who have left the military recently. Cadieu had been poised to take over command of the army, but the change of command was delayed during a military police investigation into sexual misconduct. Cadieu denies the claims.

Cadieu told CBC News in April he continues to co-operate with the investigation but — instead of collecting "a salary for an indeterminate period of time" while the military couldn't employ him — he opted to retire and is "exploring other opportunities to contribute to a greater good."

Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, who faced intense public criticism after a controversial golf game, plans to retire this summer. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Lt.-Gen. Allen reported that Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, the former commander of the navy, and the military's former second-in-command Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau also plan to retire this summer.

The pair faced intense public criticism after a controversial golf game last year amid the height of the Forces' sexual misconduct crisis. 

Baines and Rouleau teed off with Jonathan Vance, the former chief of defence staff who was facing a military police investigation at the time. Vance has since acknowledged he was in a sexual relationship with a subordinate, Maj. Kellie Brennan, while he was the chief of defence staff, after having denied the allegations.

In April, Vance pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice for repeatedly contacting Brennan and attempting to persuade her to make false statements to investigators about their relationship, according to court documents.

Trevor Cadieu, the senior military leader who had been poised to take command of the Canadian Army, retired from the military earlier this month. (Phil LaPlante/CBC)

Head of military police to stay on for 2 more years

Along with the retirements, the military appointed Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau to stay on for another two years as the Canadian Forces provost marshal. In that role, Trudeau is the commander of the military police and adviser to the chief of defence staff on policing matters.

That announcement came on the same day the Forces acknowledged that Trudeau recently apologized to two Royal Military College officer cadets over the handling of their case. A review by a military police watchdog found several problems with how military police investigated a case at Canada's officer academy. 

Last month, Brig.-Gen. Trudeau also rescinded the appointment of another high-ranking police officer after the officer faced sanctions three years ago for making sexual comments.

Arbour announced this week that she recommended that the military be stripped of its authority, granted in 1998, to investigate and prosecute sexual offences. 

"The handling of sexual offences by military courts over the past 20 years has done very little to improve efficiency, discipline and morale. If anything, it has served to erode it," Arbour said Monday as she presented her report.

Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute who studies culture change in the military, questions the decision to allow Trudeau to continue in his current role in light of the botched RMC case and the "sheer incompetence" demonstrated by the military police's handling of some sexual misconduct investigations.

"There need to be questions asked about why he should stay in the job," said Duval-Lantoine. 

Defence Minister Anita Anand was asked Tuesday if she still has confidence in Trudeau. 

"I have confidence in Gen. Eyre and his appointments and we continue to work very hard to ensure high standards of integrity in the Canadian Armed Forces," said Anand after her speech at CANSEC, a global defence and security trade show.

In a statement issued to CBC, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said Trudeau was reappointed to oversee changes to the military's justice system recommended by Arbour's report and by the report of another retired Supreme Court justice, Morris Fish.

"As an independent actor in the military justice system, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal has an important part to play in the efforts to reform our institution," the statement reads, adding that Trudeau's tenure was extended "to ensure that there remains continuity of police leadership in the efforts to implement the recommendations."

The statement says Trudeau didn't investigate the controversial golf game because "Military Police determined that the matter did not amount to the level of service/criminal offense(s) and therefore did not meet the threshold for Military Police to investigate."

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

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