Canada's defence minister — absurdly — plays the race card

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GOLDSTEIN: Canada's defence minister — absurdly — plays the race card
Author of the article:Lorrie Goldstein
Publishing date:Mar 13, 2021 • 46 minutes ago • 3 minute read • comment bubble7 Comments
National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance listen to a question during a news conference Friday, June 26, 2020 in Ottawa.
National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance listen to a question during a news conference Friday, June 26, 2020 in Ottawa. PHOTO BY ADRIAN WYLD /THE CANADIAN PRESS
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The Trudeau government is masterful at playing the race card in controversies where race is irrelevant.

Even so, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan deserves the Academy Award for playing the race card in his testimony before the Commons defence committee Friday.


I’m going to quote the exchange between Sajjan and NDP MP Randall Garrison below, but by brief way of explanation, Garrison is questioning Sajjan’s controversial handling of a 2018 complaint of sexual misconduct against then chief of defence staff John Vance (which Vance denies) after he was informed of it by then military ombudsman Gary Walbourne.

Walbourne testified Sajjan refused to accept any information about the complaint from the woman who came to him with it.

The opposition allege Sajjan did that because he wanted to bury the complaint.


Sajjan testified he couldn’t become involved because it would have been political interference, so he referred the matter to the Privy Council Office — the Prime Minister’s top civil servant.

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The Trudeau government says the PCO followed up with Walbourne, but because he wouldn’t provide the name of the woman, who was fearful of repercussions and didn’t want to register a formal complaint, the investigation was stymied.

All of this is in the context of years of complaints, inquiries and failed promises of reform — predating the Trudeau government — of what is obviously a broken process for the handling of sexual misconduct complaints inside the military, in which the military investigates itself, and where complainants and whistleblowers say they live in fear of reprisals if they complain.

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Given that, here’s the exchange between Garrison and Sajjan, reported by CBC News.

Note how Sajjan — out of nowhere — plays the race card, by complaining Garrison, who is white, has wrongly characterized his military experience.

Garrison:

“I guess I want to turn to the part of Mr. Walbourne’s testimony that you have actually confirmed today and that is that you refused to look at the evidence that he was presenting on the accusations of a serious sexual misconduct against the Chief of Defence Staff … I’ve tried for the life of me to figure out why you would not look at that. There was no investigation taking place at that time. So what could the possible reasons be? And I’m going to suggest there are two possible reasons. One is that you didn’t want to see the evidence of misconduct against General Vance because you have a long, personal and professional and career relationship with the general. The second possibility is that you did not want to see the evidence because as Major (Kellie) Brennan (another complainant) has told the media, knowledge of General Vance’s sexual misconduct allegations were widespread among senior leadership. So did you not want to see this evidence because you were afraid you knew what was there?”

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Sajjan:

“Madam Chair, let me answer this very directly. Please do not allow any other member to define my experience from my service in the Canadian Armed Forces. And I don’t like other men telling me what my experience was like. And I can assure you, and I’m sorry to get angry about this, that I would go after anybody, regardless of rank or position, if allegations were brought forward. The reason, and you said the investigation not started, I disagree. When the Ombudsman receives a complaint the process has started. For me to accept any information at that time is interference in the investigation. I’m sorry, Madam Chair, please don’t have this member to define my experience in the Canadian Armed Forces or what it was like. Because I would not do it for what happened in your life, either, OK? I’m sorry. I’ve had many people, many white men, trying to tell me what my experience is. And right now I want to talk about the women, and what better we can do for them. So please don’t do that, Mr. Garrison, to me …You said, you said, I was hiding something because of service. Please don’t do that. Because don’t define my experience in the Canadian Armed Forces. You have no idea what my life was in the Canadian Armed Forces, thank you.”

Simple question: What did Garrison’s race have to do with his question to Sajjan?

lgoldstein@postmedia.com
 
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Sajjan says trust ‘broken’ as allegations cast spotlight on top brass
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Mar 12, 2021 • 1 day ago • 2 minute read • comment bubble12 Comments
Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Dec. 11, 2019.
Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy Vice-Admiral Art McDonald is seen during an interview with The Canadian Press in Ottawa, Dec. 11, 2019. PHOTO BY ADRIAN WYLD /THE CANADIAN PRESS / FILES
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OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says that “trust has been broken” in the Canadian military following accusations of misconduct against top-ranking leaders.

Consequently, the Canadian Armed Forces will be creating an independent complaint process for misconduct allegations, where “all options are on the table” as to its structure, he told a virtual gathering of the Conference of Defence Associations Institute.


“We will do everything possible to rebuild the confidence that we have lost for those who have experienced misconduct,” Sajjan said Friday, pledging to eliminate sexual misconduct from the Armed Forces.

His remarks come the same day as a House of Commons defence committee appearance by Lt.-Cmdr. Raymond Trotter, who was summoned following a Global News report that he received two anonymous threats after bringing forward an allegation of misconduct by Admiral Art McDonald last month.

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McDonald has since temporarily stepped aside as defence chief, after six weeks on the job, while military police investigate the allegation, which hasn’t been detailed publicly.

The opposition Conservatives have accused the Liberal government of being behind the alleged threats, a charge the defence minister’s office has strongly rejected.

The committee will also hear for a second time from Sajjan later Friday, who is expected to offer more details about his handling of an allegation of sexual misconduct against then-defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance in March 2018.

Sajjan previously refused to confirm that military ombudsman Gary Walbourne raised the allegation with him at that time, but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has since confirmed it.

Trudeau has insisted, however, that the government did everything by the book by referring the matter to the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic operation that supports the Prime Minister’s Office and the cabinet. Trudeau said it was unable to do anything more because Walbourne refused to provide information about the allegation.


The prime minister also says the government did not know the specifics of the allegation until a Global report last month.

“Three years ago, when the ombudsperson came forward to the minister and said, ‘I have received allegations against the chief of defence staff,’ the minister quite rightly directed the ombudsperson to the independent authorities who could follow up and create that investigation,” Trudeau told reporters Friday in Ottawa.

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“My office was aware that there had been allegations that were directed to the independent authorities. The substance of those allegations, the details of those allegations, were not known by my office.”

The Global report alleges Vance engaged in an ongoing relationship with a subordinate that started more than a decade ago and continued after he became chief of the defence staff in 2015.

Global has also reported that Vance allegedly sent a lewd email to a much more junior soldier in 2012.

Vance has declined to respond to repeated requests by The Canadian Press for comment, and the allegations have not been independently verified. However, Global has reported that Vance has denied any wrongdoing.

Sajjan said Friday the work of rebuilding crumbled confidence and morale over “deeply troubling” allegations demands fair investigations and “supporting those who have been harmed.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said last week a Tory government would establish an independent body to handle complaints outside of the chain of command, among other measures.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has said the military ombudsman should report directly to Parliament rather than to the defence minister.