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Top general asked to replace Adm. Mark Norman, then told to step aside leaves military

Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk, shown in 2016, was asked to stay on beyond his retirement by Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, only to have Vance change that decision in May and then reverse it in June.
Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk, shown in 2016, was asked to stay on beyond his retirement by Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance, only to have Vance change that decision in May and then reverse it in June.

Documents detail the chaos at National Defence headquarters, where seven lieutenant generals or vice admirals have retired since last year

The Canadian Forces senior leadership is facing more turmoil after the second-highest officer resigned Tuesday.

Lt. Gen. Paul Wynnyk, the vice chief of the defence staff, gave notice to Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jon Vance that he was leaving the military.

Wynnyk, 55, was asked to stay on beyond his retirement to replace Vice Adm. Mark Norman, only to have Vance change that decision in May, and then reverse it in June.

A series of documents provided to Postmedia News details the chaos at National Defence headquarters, which has seen the retirement of seven lieutenant generals or vice admirals since last year.

After Norman was charged with breach of trust, Vance asked Wynnyk to postpone his summer 2019 retirement and serve as vice chief of the defence staff until the summer of 2020.

But after the court case against Norman collapsed this spring, Vance told Wynnyk on May 13 that he was putting the vice admiral back into his old job and Wynnyk’s “continued service as the VCDS was no longer in the best interests of the CAF,” according to Wynnyk’s resignation letter provided to Postmedia.

But when Norman, who determined he couldn’t work in what was essentially a poisoned work environment, decided not to return to his old job, Vance then turned again to Wynnyk on June 26 and told him that he could continue to serve as vice chief for another year.

“While I appreciate the change of heart, I respectfully decline and intend to take my release from the Canadian Armed Forces as expeditiously as possible,” Wynnyk wrote to Vance.

The correspondence and other documents were provided to Postmedia by officers supportive of Wynnyk and who are frustrated about Vance’s leadership and the turmoil caused by his removal of Norman based on unsubstantiated allegations from the RCMP.

Wynnyk, in a statement issued by the Canadian Forces Wednesday night after his resignation letter leaked out to journalists, thanked Vance “for the confidence he showed in me when he appointed me as the Vice Chief and for his leadership of the CAF during what have been challenging times recently.”

Vance in a statement thanked Wynnyk for his contribution. “He has been an exceptional leader and an even better friend,” Vance said. “He will be deeply missed.”

Since Vance suspended Norman in January 2017, three officers have filled the position as vice chief.

Rear Admiral Jeff Zwick will take on the duties of vice chief of the defence until deputy vice chief, Maj.-Gen. Frances Allen, returns from leave on July 29, according to the correspondence from Wynnyk.

Norman was charged with one count of breach of trust for allegedly leaking information about a Liberal government plan to delay a project to convert a commercial vessel into a supply ship for the Royal Canadian Navy. He denied he did anything wrong and on May 8 the case against him collapsed. Crown attorneys stayed the charge, citing new evidence that led them to conclude they had no prospect of a conviction. They refused to say what that evidence was.

Vance and Norman had been in discussions for his return to the vice chief job. But on June 26 Norman and the Department of National Defence announced that a financial settlement had been reached and Norman would retire. Neither Norman nor the department will discuss the details of the settlement or the reasons for it.

Some of Norman’s supporters have pointed out the senior naval officer would have been returning to what could be described as a less-than-welcoming environment.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had predicted on two occasions that Norman would end up in court, even though at the time no charges had been brought against the officer. A letter from Vance about Norman’s removal — sent only to the most senior staff — was leaked to the news media by someone inside National Defence headquarters within 20 minutes of being distributed. During Norman’s pre-trial hearing, a military witness recounted how a brigadier-general had boasted about attempts within the Canadian Forces to stop Norman from receiving the documents he needed for his legal defence.

Wynnyk did not move his home from Edmonton to Ottawa in 2012 when he was appointed as deputy commander of the army. Instead he has been on what is known as imposed restriction and has been receiving separation expenses that cover his apartment rental and parking for the past seven years.

A member of the military can be on imposed restriction for a consecutive period of up to five years. But Vance authorized the additional two years for Wynnyk.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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