Acting defence chief asked for 'playbook' for dealing with misconduct among generals, committee hears

The country's acting top military commander told a Parliamentary committee today that he's asked for written plan on how to deal with future allegations of sexual misconduct by seniors leaders. Having a roadmap, Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre said, would help the military deal with complaints more "rapidly."

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre also said it might be time to revamp the military campaign against sexual misconduct

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre listens to speakers during a change of command parade for the Canadian Army on Parliament Hill Tuesday, August 20, 2019 in Ottawa. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

The country's acting top military commander told a parliamentary committee today that he's asked for a "playbook" on how to deal with future misconduct complaints against senior leaders of the Armed Forces.

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre also told the four-party House of Commons Committee on the Status of Women that the military's high-profile campaign to stamp out sexual misconduct — Operation Honour — may have run its course and may need to be replaced.

His remarks came as part of a second parliamentary investigation into the sexual misconduct crisis that is rocking the Armed Forces. Eyre's boss, Admiral Art McDonald, stepped aside from the role of chief of the defence staff when military police launched an investigation into a decade-old allegation of inappropriate behaviour made against him.

Military police are also investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against McDonald's predecessor, Gen. Jonathan Vance.

WATCH: Acting defence chief Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre asked for 'playbook' on command misconduct

Lt.-Gen. Eyre asked for 'playbook' on dealing with senior leadership misconduct

3 years ago
Duration 3:30
Featured VideoActing Chief of Defence Staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre told a parliamentary committee he asked for a 'playbook' for dealing with misconduct among senior leaders in the Armed Forces.

"I will say, up front, the current circumstances have shaken us and I believe the Armed Forces is at inflection point, an inflection point we have to seize as an opportunity to come out better," Eyre told the committee.

One of the things Eyre said he asked for after taking up the post of acting defence chief last month was "an aide de memoire, a playbook if you will, to help me deal with any further incidents of senior leader misconduct so we could rapidly deal with those."

Time to retire Operation Honour?

Military law experts in Canada and U.S. have noted that it might be very difficult for the Canadian military to court-martial senior military leaders because the process requires a jury or panel made up of officers with rank equal to or higher than that of the accused.

As for Operation Honour, Eyre said he's heard from many that "maybe this operation has culminated and we need to harvest what has worked from there and learn from what hasn't and go forward with a deliberate change plan."

Eyre's testimony is important because it gives the first public indication of how the military plans to chart its way out of the crisis — and suggests there could be more sordid revelations to come.

The Status of Women committee hearing is the second parliamentary investigation launched into sexual misconduct in the military since allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made against Vance in early February.

WATCH: Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan defends his handling of of sexual misconduct claims

Defence minister defends handling of misconduct allegations against military commanders

3 years ago
Duration 1:53
Featured VideoThe Commons Defence Committee is investigating allegations of sexual misconduct against two senior commanders of the Canadian Armed Forces. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan denied ignoring those accusations, and said the scandal has broken trust in the military.

The Commons defence committee has held a number of public meetings. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has appeared twice before that committee to answer questions about how he handled an informal misconduct complaint involving Vance that was presented to him by the then-military ombudsman in 2018.

Sajjan appeared before the Status of Women committee today for the first time. Conservative MP Nelly Shin tried to get the minister to concede that he made a mistake when he handed off the complaint to the Privy Council Office — a mistake that ultimately led to the investigation going nowhere.

'You're not owning up to this'

'You're not owning up to the reality. You're not taking action that is showing a shift in the culture. Because as long as there is dodging of responsibility this way, or that way, it's not going to change," Shin said. "If you just keep repeating the same points, I'm just getting the sense you're not owning up to this."

As he did before the defence committee, Sajjan insisted today he handled the situation correctly and tried to shift the blame, saying then-ombudsman Gary Walbourne could have gone to military police or the provost marshal himself to report his concerns.

"When he did come to me, I did give the direct advice to go to those agencies," he said.

Then-Canadian Forces ombudsman Gary Walbourne appears at a Senate veterans affairs committee in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 4, 2016. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press )

That directly contradicts Walbourne's testimony. He told MPs earlier this month that he asked the minister for direction and received none, and was surprised when Privy Council Office officials began calling him asking for the information about Vance — information he said he had promised to keep confidential.

The Liberal government has promised — but has not yet delivered — an independent review of misconduct in the military and the persistence of what's been described as a toxic culture of masculinity and abuse within the ranks.

"Any external review that looks at our organization, we have to embrace and fully support with the realization we don't have all of the answers, and look at and embrace any recommendations that come out of that," Eyre told the committee.

That was a notable statement from Eyre, given past criticism of the military's response to outside pressure. Critics have said that the last external review, conducted in 2015 by former supreme court justice Marie Deschamps, was never fully implemented by the Department of National Defence.

Eyre also said he believes there are gaps in the training meant to eliminate misconduct — particularly around power dynamics and the use and abuse of authority.

"Training is conducted annually for all members of the Canadian Armed Forces, but in my view annual is not enough and it's got to be a constant drumbeat of reminding our members what right looks like," Eyre said. He pointed to so-called "bystander training" for those who witness misconduct or abuse as something the Armed Forces need to improve.


Murray Brewster

Senior reporter, defence and security

Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.

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