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For Gen. Jonathan Vance it seems that the hits just keep on coming these days.
On Jan. 14 Vance stepped down from his post as chief of defence staff after more than five years of service as Canada’s top soldier. After ceremoniously handing the reins of command to Admiral Art Mcdonald, Vance went into what is termed retirement leave to serve out his remaining days in uniform.
But less than two weeks after his change of command parade, Mercedes Stephenson at Global National news dropped a bombshell on Vance.
Two bombshells to be precise, both alleging impropriety by the former CDS. The first allegation related to a female subordinate who claims to have had a relationship with Vance dating back to 2001, but which continued even during his tenure as CDS.
The second stemmed from a 2012 incident wherein Vance was alleged to have sent an email to a corporal inviting her to join him on a clothing optional beach vacation.
When the story broke, Vance admitted to dating the subordinate 20 years ago, noting that they were not in the same chain of command. He said while he maintained contact with this individual, their relationship was not sexual.
As for the contentious email Vance has said he has no recollection of sending it, but if he did it would have been intended as a joke for which he would now be willing to apologize.
Given a different set of circumstances that may have been the end of the saga: Allegations and denials in a ‘ he said, she said’ situation.
However, Stephenson also reported that the email invitation to the clothing optional vacation had been brought to the attention of the Canadian Armed Forces Ombudsman Gary Walbourne back in 2018. In turn, Walbourne reportedly advised Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan. For his part Sajjan claims that he dutifully notified the proper authorities.
Stephenson’s reports also set in motion a flurry of activity among the senior military brass. Freshly minted CDS Admiral Mcdonald announced that the military will launch an independent investigation into the alleged actions of his predecessor.
A separate probe is to be conducted by the military police’s National Investigation Service (NIS).
Smelling blood in the water, the Conservatives requested a House of Commons committee investigation into how Sajjan handled Walbourne’s information on Vance back in 2018.
As if things were not already messy enough for Vance, it was at this juncture that this rapidly unfolding news story took yet another turn.
It turns out that prior to being appointed defence staff chief by the Harper Conservatives in 2015, Vance had already been investigated by the National Investigation Service. That case stemmed from an alleged affair with a U.S. service member who was Vance’s subordinate at the NATO Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, according to multiple media reports.
Although the CFNIS investigation concluded that neither service charges nor criminal charges were warranted in this case, alarm bells should have been going off somewhere.
Back in 2015, just prior to Vance being named CDS, the Canadian military was reeling under a public relations crap-storm surrounding a recently released independent report on widespread sexual misconduct in the ranks.
The report was tabled by former Supreme Court Justice Marie Deschamps who, after a two-year nationwide investigation, concluded the Canadian military was steeped in a highly masculine sexualized culture, wherein military leaders turned a blind eye to misconduct.
To correct this fault, the military planned to launch something called Operation Honour — an all out campaign to eliminate sexual misconduct. The face of this new broom-sweeping cleanup was to be the incoming chief of defence staff.
While Vance had not been charged with any crime, the fact his alleged actions in Naples had been investigated by the NIS should have given the Harper Conservatives some cause for concern. Perception may not be everything but it counts for a lot when you are talking about trust in military leadership.
Heading into the commons committee investigation you have the Conservatives asking why the hell the Liberals didn’t act on Vance in 2018 and the Liberals saying if Conservatives knew he had faults, why didn’t they vet him out of the CDS post in the first place?
For his part, Vance is probably asking himself those same questions.
While Vance had not been charged with any crime, the fact his alleged actions in Naples had been investigated by the NIS should have given the Harper Conservatives some cause for concern.