Politics

A military in crisis: Here are the senior leaders embroiled in sexual misconduct cases

It's a leadership crisis without precedent in the Canadian Armed Forces — a fact that only becomes crystal clear when you take a step back and look at the full depth and scope of the sexual misconduct crisis and survey the wreckage among the top ranks.

Observers say they've never seen so many military leaders swept up in scandal at the same time

Former chief of the defence staff and retired general Jonathan Vance (left), his successor as chief of the defence staff Admiral Art McDonald (middle), and Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin (right) face allegations of sexual misconduct that they deny. (CBC)

It's a leadership crisis without precedent in the Canadian Armed Forces — a fact that only becomes clear when you take a step back and look at the full depth and scope of the sexual misconduct crisis and survey the wreckage in the top ranks.

Since early February 2021, 13 senior Canadian military officers — current and former — have been sidelined, investigated or forced into retirement from some of the most powerful and prestigious posts in the defence establishment.

Experts say they can't think of another military anywhere else in the world that has seen so many senior leaders swept up in scandal at the same time.

Some senior leaders are facing allegations of sexual misconduct and are under military police investigation. Two people have been charged criminally in connection to the claims. Some have launched public campaigns to fight for their jobs back. 

In other cases, military leaders have been placed on leave over their own handling of sexual misconduct files that triggered public backlash and division in the ranks.

The investigations often came to light publicly only after journalists started asking questions of the Department of National Defence (DND).

DND says military police do not "proactively disclose the existence of ongoing investigations" because it could jeopardize the integrity of those investigations. Investigations are confirmed publicly on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the investigation, privacy rights and the public's right to know, the department said.

What follows is a CBC News summary of all the senior leaders' cases and what has been reported to date. The list will be updated with new developments as they emerge. The cases are listed in chronological order. 

Retired general Jonathan Vance

Retired general Jonathan Vance — Canada's former top military commander — pleaded guilty to a single charge of obstruction of justice in March 2022 in relation to an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct. 

Global News first reported in February 2021 that Vance, was facing separate allegations of misconduct involving Maj. Kellie Brennan and another unidentified woman.

Vance was charged with one count of obstruction of justice under the Criminal Code in July 2021 for "repeatedly contacting"  Brennan "by phone and attempting to persuade her to make false statements about their past relationship" to investigators, according to court documents.

In an agreed statement of facts filed in a court as part of Vance's guilty plea, Vance acknowledged his relationship with Brennan started in 2001 while they were posted to Gagetown, N.B. and lasted until "early 2021, around the time of his retirement."

Vance denied the initial allegations when confronted by Global News, but later conceded as part of the guilty plea that he did have a longtime sexual relationship with Brennan which continued while he was chief of defence staff. Vance also conceded that he has one child with Brennan.

(CBC News)

The judge granted Vance a conditional discharge for pleading guilty to obstruction of justice and sentenced him to 12 months probation and 80 hours of community service. That means Vance will not have a criminal record if he follows his conditions.

Admiral Art McDonald

Vance's successor as chief of the defence staff, Admiral Art McDonald, was terminated from his position in Nov. 2021, after almost nine months on leave with pay in connection with sexual misconduct allegations.

McDonald abruptly stepped aside from the top job in Feb. 2021, after CBC News and the Ottawa Citizen received tips that he was being investigated by military police over an allegation of sexual misconduct.

The allegation involved a junior female crew member and an incident aboard the warship HMCS Montreal in 2010 during the military's annual Arctic exercise known as Operation Nanook. 

(CBC News)

Global News later interviewed the complainant, Navy Lt. Heather McDonald, who said McDonald "shoved the face of the ship captain into her breasts after a button on her shirt popped open."

McDonald denies any wrongdoing. Military police did not lay charges.

McDonald publicly campaigned for his old job back and circulated a letter to senior military officers arguing he should take command. The defence minister at the time, Harjit Sajjan, publicly pushed back, calling the letter inappropriate. 

The Liberal government later moved to permanently replace McDonald with Gen. Wayne Eyre. McDonald's lawyer argues McDonald wasn't treated fairly and given due process.

Retired lieutenant-general Christopher Coates 

Former lieutenant-general (now retired) Christopher Coates — Canada's former top commander at NORAD — was investigated by military police for several months over an alleged extramarital affair.

It was alleged that Coates had an affair with an American civilian while he was second-in-command at NORAD headquarters in Colorado. The Canadian Armed Forces considers relationships within the chain of the command to be off-limits. 

(CBC News)

Coates announced he planned to leave the military in March 2021, weeks after the alleged affair became public. In a message to service members, he said the decision to depart was his alone and was made for personal reasons and in the best interests of the military.

DND told CBC News at that time that Coates did not violate any rules because he reported the affair to American and Canadian officials and the civilian was not under his command. The department said Coates was separated at the time he entered into the relationship.

But CBC News later learned through an access to information request that an active investigation continued months after DND claimed Coates had broken no rules.

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson

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

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) laid the Criminal Code charges in Dec. 2021 and the case is proceeding through Ontario provincial court.

The charges came after CBC News reported on former military member Stéphanie Viau's allegations in March. Viau said she was a 19-year-old steward in the navy in 1991 when Edmundson, a superior and lieutenant commander at the time, started exposing his genitals to her aboard a navy ship deployed to the Pacific Ocean for an exercise.

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 "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."

The military put Edmundson on indefinite paid leave from his job as the head of human resources in March 2021.

CBC News also reported earlier that month on other unrelated allegations against Edmundson. He was investigated over allegations of inappropriate behaviour with female subordinates in the late 1990s. 

(CBC News)

Multiple sources said Edmundson's behaviour wasn't taken seriously back then and his track record of avoiding consequences earned him a nickname — "Mulligan man" — suggesting he got a do-over.

Edmundson has been posted as a supported member at the Transition Centre Ottawa. 

Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe

CBC News revealed on April 28, 2021, that Maj. Gen. Peter Dawe, commander of Canada's Special Forces, gave a positive character reference to a criminal court for a soldier found guilty of sexual assault, prior to his sentencing.
(CBC News)

Dawe later apologized for failing a member of his command, said it's clear his actions were profoundly harmful to the victim and her spouse and vowed to "do better."

Acting Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre said he had confidence in Dawe's ability to serve and that Dawe would be moving into the job he was set to take after leaving his current command: director general of international security policy.

The move triggered anger and division in the ranks and Eyre was accused of protecting Dawe. Eyre later apologized in May 2021 for how he handled Dawe's case and placed him on paid leave.

Dawe quietly returned to work in Sept. 2021 — reviewing external reviews of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. Responding to a growing backlash, the military then pulled Dawe from his new role. Vice Chief of the Defence Staff Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen apologized for not being more transparent about his return to work.

The Canadian Armed Forces conducted almost a year-long review, prompted by CBC News reporting, that led to changes — including a ban on military members using official military letterhead for character references. 

As of April, Dawe continues to report to the vice chief of defence staff and is "engaging the affected community to better understand how he can contribute to meaningful culture change when he returns to work," according to DND.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin

Maj.-Gen Dany Fortin stepped down from his role as head of vaccine logistics at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) on May 14, 2021, amid a military investigation into a sexual misconduct allegation.

Quebec prosecutors charged Fortin on Aug. 17, 2021, with one count of sexual assault stemming from an alleged incident that took place sometime between Jan. 1 and April 30, 1988, when he was a student at the Royal Military College Saint-Jean.

(CBC News)

Fortin denies the allegation and said he and his family have been living through a "nightmare."

Ahead of the criminal charge, Fortin publicly launched a legal battle in federal court in June to demand his job back, arguing politicians improperly meddled in his case. Gen. Eyre's notebook described weeks of intense discussions over how to handle Fortin's case.

The Federal Court of Canada told Fortin on Oct. 12, 2021, that the military grievance process is the appropriate avenue to address his claim and that he had not fully taken advantage of that mechanism. Fortin has since appealed the decision and the appeal is going ahead.

Fortin was temporarily assigned to a position as senior adviser for Commander Canadian Joint Operations Command at headquarters in Ottawa. But Fortin's lawyers argued in federal court that he is sitting at home and is not being assigned any work, which they say constitutes relief of performance of military duty.

Two days have also been set aside for Fortin's criminal trial on Sept. 19 and 20, 2022, at the Gatineau courthouse.

Commander Danny Croucher 

The navy temporarily removed Commander Danny Croucher as head of the training school at CFB Halifax in June 2020 during an investigation into allegations of inappropriate and hurtful comments said to be sexual in nature, according to multiple sources.

Sources said a subsequent investigation found wrongdoing on Croucher's part. Sources said he was expected to receive a so-called "5-F" — an involuntary release from the military as unsuitable for further service. The defence department confirmed Croucher's request for a voluntary release was granted in June 2021, permitting him to land a civilian job at the very same base that same month.

(CBC News)

The defence minister at the time, Harjit Sajjan, ordered a military review in Oct. 2021 of the rapid release of Croucher from the forces last year following CBC's reporting. The review was to determine if the military broke its own rules by signing off on Croucher's request to voluntarily leave the navy before his case reached the discipline stage.

The military's review found Croucher's release "was not done in keeping with the policies." But the defence department said that federal legislation gave Croucher the legal right to retire because of his time served.

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.

Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre later issued a statement saying he's directed his team to address any policy gaps.

DND also launched a review of its hiring process following CBC's reporting. As a result of that probe, DND dismissed Croucher from his civilian job in 2022, the defence department said. 

Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau 

The military's second-in-command, Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, resigned from his post on June 14, 2021, after Global News reported that he had played golf with Vance, who was under military police investigation for sexual misconduct. The public show of support took place before the former general was charged.

As vice-chief of the defence staff, Rouleau had authority over the military's provost marshal. The provost marshal is in charge of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS), which is investigating allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Vance with female subordinates.

(CBC News)

After media reported the case and there was a public backlash, Rouleau issued a statement and said he invited Vance to play golf "to ensure his wellness" and did not discuss anything related to ongoing investigations during their outing.

Rouleau left his job and transferred to the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Group, a department that helps soldiers prepare for post-military life. 

Vice-Admiral Craig Baines

Baines publicly apologized earlier in June 2021 and took personal leave after media outlets reported he also played golf with Vance while he was under investigation.

Baines' initial apology upset some military sexual trauma survivors, who said it was a public show of support for Vance rather than for victims. 

(CBC News)

After two weeks of deliberations, Eyre decided Baines would continue to serve as the commander of the navy and was given the chance to "redeem himself." Baines issued a second apology later, saying he "failed to recognize how this choice would affect victims, result in further erosion of trust, and affect the credibility of our institution."

Military experts said keeping Baines in that role sent the wrong message to sexual assault survivors.

Retired Lt.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu 

Now retired lieutenant-general Trevor Cadieu, once poised to take command of the Canadian Army, retired from the military on April 5, 2022 as an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against him continued. Cadieu has denied any wrongdoing.

The Ottawa Citizen, the first to report on the CFNIS probe, said Cadieu was being investigated in relation to allegations of sexual misconduct.

(CBC News)

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) is investigating "historical allegations" made against Cadieu, DND said.

Cadieu asked acting Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre in Oct. 2021 to consider someone else for the post. Cadieu wrote in a statement that soldiers "deserve a leader who is unencumbered by allegations."

DND says if wrongdoing is found, Cadieu could face charges even if he's retired.

Lt.-Gen. Steven Whelan

Lt. Gen. Steven Whelan stepped aside from his role as commander of military personnel on Oct. 15, 2021, in connection to an investigation of alleged sexual misconduct.

Whelan remained in his senior role for more than four months after Gen. Eyre and Sajjan learned of the investigation.

(CBC News)

The CAF said that Whelan "was not to be made aware of it due to possible impacts on the investigation," which is ongoing.

Whelan replaced Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, who was placed on indefinite leave with pay in March 2021 after CBC News reported on allegations of rape made against him by a former military member. Edmundson denies the allegations.

Retired commander Ian Bye

The navy involuntarily released Cmdr. Ian Bye as "unsuitable for further service" in July 2021 after an administrative review following claims he sexually harassed a subordinate and abused his position of power as president of the mess.

Lt.-Cmdr. Nicole Dugas reported Bye was frequently seen drinking in the mess at lunch in the early fall of 2020, using a bar tab paid for by the membership.

(CBC News )

Dugas alleged that Bye made a comment with sexual overtones in late September 2020 in private — that she'd be surprised to learn what activities he'd accept in return for a better performance review — and that in the following month he talked about a suite he had on the base that he referred to as his "sex room."

In a statement issued to CBC News, Bye acknowledged making one "inappropriate" comment in the mess but insisted that the other allegations against him are "either misconstrued, taken out of context, or false." He also said his use of his bar tab at the mess was "in accordance with the procedures and precedent in effect at the time."

Lt.-Cmdr. Robert Waller

Military police charged Lt.-Cmdr. Robert Waller with five counts of sexual assault on Dec.23, 2021 under the Criminal Code, the defence department confirmed.

The Globe and Mail first reported on Waller's case in Feb. 2022 and said it involved at least four victims, according to court documents. Two alleged incidents are said to have occurred in Virginia while Waller attended the Virginia International Tattoo as a piper for the Royal Canadian Air Force, the newspaper reported. 

Michael Johnston, Waller's lawyer, told the Globe he is not guilty and his client understands the charges are not related to his workplace. 

Waller wrote on LinkedIn that he was a naval combat systems engineer with the military until August 2020. 

DND said Waller is now working as a staff officer within the vice chief of defence staff's group. Waller works from home and does not have contact with direct subordinates, according to DND.

Waller's case is being heard at the Superior Court of Justice in Ottawa and his next appearance is set for May 13, 2022.

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 Nick Boisvert

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