Retired general Jonathan Vance thought he was 'untouchable,'

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
29,527
1,446
113
Liberal government urged not to reinstate top military commander Art McDonald
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Lee Berthiaume
Publishing date:Aug 09, 2021 • 10 hours ago • 4 minute read • Join the conversation
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
Article content
OTTAWA — The federal Liberal government is being urged not to reinstate Admiral Art McDonald as Canada’s top military commander even though police did not lay any charges after a six-month investigation into an allegation about his conduct.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan have not commented since the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service announced late Friday that they had decided there was not enough evidence to charge McDonald.


The government has not said whether McDonald will resume his duties as chief of the defence staff, a position he temporarily vacated in February as a result of the CFNIS investigation into an allegation of misconduct. At that time, he had been defence chief for only five weeks.

The nature of the allegation against McDonald has not been publicly confirmed, but CBC has reported that it related to an allegation of sexual misconduct dating back to his time commanding a Canadian warship in 2010.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Retired colonel Michel Drapeau, who is now a lawyer specializing in military cases, says the government must now decide whether to have McDonald return as commander of the Canadian Armed Forces, or have someone else fill the role.

Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre has been filling in as acting defence chief since February.

McDonald did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.


Drapeau noted chiefs of the defence staff are appointed by — and serve at the pleasure of — the government, meaning a decision not to reinstate McDonald will be unlikely to spark a successful lawsuit or other court action.

“Consideration will certainly be given whether Admiral McDonald will have the required high ‘moral authority’ to resume his duties and be trusted both by the general public as well as the military rank and file to carry the torch for the eradication of sexual harassment and violence,” he added.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“I can only assume that the bar will be set high.”

Yet some experts believe no matter where that bar is set, the fact it was military rather than civilian authorities who investigated McDonald and decided not to charge him means doubts will continue to persist about whether the case was properly handled.

“The CFNIS has been diagnosed with many flaws when it comes to sexual assault investigations, thus the legitimacy of their conclusions will always be questioned,” said Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, an expert on women in the military at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“If McDonald is reinstated, it would not be surprising if service members who experienced sexual misconduct lose all faith and trust in their leadership. It will contribute to the perception that flag officers enjoy a certain level of impunity. The CAF cannot afford such large of a divide.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content

The military’s top police officer, Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau, defended the independence and professionalism of his officers in a statement Friday announcing the end of the investigation into McDonald’s conduct.

Global News has reported that navy Lt. Heather Macdonald, a navy combat systems engineer, came forward with the allegation against McDonald. Macdonald was quoted by Global on Friday as saying she was upset by the military police decision.

Drapeau agreed with the view that the entire case ultimately underscores why the military should not be allowed to investigate itself.

“For sake of transparency and the perception of independence, this complaint should, from the get go, have been investigated by an outside police force,” he said, citing the RCMP as an example.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“In the absence of an independent police investigation, in all probability a doubt will persist in the minds of the alleged victim, a portion of the public and probably many CAF members as to the propriety of the CFNIS investigation.”

Carleton University defence expert Stephen Saideman noted that the prime minister in June criticized Eyre’s decision to keep Vice-Admiral Craig Baines as commander of the Royal Canadian Navy after the latter golfed with former chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance.

Vance at the time was being investigated by the CFNIS on allegations of sexual misconduct. He was charged last month with one count of obstruction of justice, with the case referred to civilian court.

“The (chief of the defence staff) in normal times has to be beyond reproach,” Saideman said. “In these times, much more so. Also, if Trudeau had problems with Baines returning to be head of the Navy after playing golf with Vance, how could he accept (McDonald)?”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Maya Eichler, an expert on military sexual misconduct at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, suggested that the right thing for McDonald himself to do would be to permanently step aside.

“While no legal action is being taken, the situation is not resolved,” she said.

“Until there is some resolution, McDonald has no credibility to stand as CDS and lead the military culture-change agenda that is needed. I think the real question to ask is: Does anyone, including McDonald himself, think he has the moral authority to lead the CAF?”

NDP defence critic Randall Garrison declined to weigh in on whether McDonald should be reinstated, and instead focused on the continued need to fight inappropriate behaviour in the ranks.

“It’s very difficult for survivors to come forward when they face harassment and it’s important to note that just because an incident of harassment doesn’t meet the high threshold for a criminal charge does not mean that all is well,” Garrison said in a statement.

“Service women and men deserve a government who takes their concerns seriously and takes action to improve conditions at all levels of leadership.”
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
29,527
1,446
113
Admiral McDonald plans to return as defence chief after misconduct probe: Lawyers
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Lee Berthiaume
Publishing date:Aug 11, 2021 • 12 hours ago • 3 minute read • Join the conversation
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
Article content
OTTAWA — Admiral Art McDonald is planning to return to his position as commander of the Canadian Armed Forces after military police opted not to charge him last week following an investigation into his conduct.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
McDonald stepped down in February as chief of the defence staff as a result of a Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigation into an allegation of misconduct.


But in a statement released Wednesday, McDonald’s legal team said the naval officer would be returning to the position after the nearly six-month investigation “exonerated” him.


“Given that it was his decision to step aside, it is now his decision — indeed obligation — to return to his duties,” reads the statement issued by lawyers Michael Edelson and Rory Fowler.

“Admiral McDonald, who has long been recognized as a proven leader of culture change in the Canadian Armed Forces, will now return to his duties as chief of defence staff.”

It was not immediately clear whether Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan were aware of McDonald’s plan to take back command of the military from acting defence chief Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The CFNIS announced the end of the investigation into McDonald’s conduct late Friday, saying they had decided there was not enough evidence to charge McDonald under either the Criminal Code or the military’s disciplinary code.

McDonald’s lawyers in their statement that the fact military police couldn’t find enough evidence to charge him even under the disciplinary code was evidence the allegation against their client was unfounded.


“The investigators, and the prosecutors who advise them, would have been conscious of the criticism that would arise if no charges were laid,” Edelson and Fowler said.

“They had a compelling motivation to pursue charges, even on weak evidence, in order to avoid the very criticism that has now been levelled against them. The absence of any charges — even under the Code of Service Discipline — is indicative of the absence of blameworthy conduct. As the investigation revealed, the complaint was groundless.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The nature of the allegation against McDonald has not been publicly confirmed, but CBC has reported that it related to an allegation of sexual misconduct dating back to his time commanding a Canadian warship in 2010.

Global News has reported that navy Lt. Heather Macdonald, a navy combat systems engineer, came forward with the allegation against McDonald. Macdonald was quoted by Global on Friday as saying she was upset by the military police decision.

While neither Trudeau nor Sajjan have commented publicly, the Privy Council Office earlier this week said no decision had been made on whether to reinstate McDonald, and that Eyre was continuing as acting defence chief.

“PCO was informed of the results of the CFNIS investigation on Friday,” spokesman Pierre-Alain Bujold said in a statement on Tuesday. “A determination on next steps will be made in due course.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The Liberal government has faced calls not to reinstate McDonald, with some experts and victim’s advocates questioning the decision to have military police investigate the allegation rather than civilian authorities.

These experts and advocates have suggested this casts doubt on the veracity of the investigation, and that McDonald does not now have the moral authority to lead the military in changing its culture.

Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau defended the independence and professionalism of his military police officers in a statement announcing the end of the investigation into McDonald’s conduct.

McDonald’s legal team said the former Royal Canadian Navy commander, who took over as defence chief only five weeks before stepping down and has not previously commented publicly on the case, maintains his complete innocence.


They added that he co-operated fully during the investigation, and cited the need to respect due process in Canada.

“As has been cited during this investigation, ‘If we don’t have due process, then all we have are witchhunts ⦠That doesn’t change the culture. It just makes it unfriendly for everyone,” the statement reads.

“If there is a failure to respect ‘due process,’ it imperils the very basis of the rule of law in either military or civilian domain.”
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
29,527
1,446
113
General who once ran vaccine campaign expects to face sex assault charge
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Aug 17, 2021 • 8 hours ago • 1 minute read • Join the conversation
Vice President of Logistics and Operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada Major General Dany Fortin attends a news conference, in Ottawa, Dec. 7, 2020.
Vice President of Logistics and Operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada Major General Dany Fortin attends a news conference, in Ottawa, Dec. 7, 2020. PHOTO BY BLAIR GABLE /REUTERS / FILES
Article content
A lawyer for Maj.-Gen Dany Fortin, who previously oversaw Canada’s vaccine rollout campaign, says the military officer expects to be charged with one count of sexual assault.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The lawyer, who did not want to be named as they were not authorized to speak on behalf of Fortin’s legal team, says the officer was told a warrant has been issued for his arrest and he is expected to present himself to police in Gatineau, Que., on Wednesday morning.


The charge is in relation to an incident that dates back to early 1988.

Fortin is expected to address reporters after he appears to police.

Fortin was removed from the vaccine rollout on May 14, five days before the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service referred a sexual misconduct investigation to the Quebec prosecution service to determine whether criminal charges should be laid.

Through his lawyers, Fortin has denied any wrongdoing and says his reputation has been badly damaged.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Fortin’s lawyers filed an application last month with the Federal Court seeking an expedited judicial review of the decision to fire him from his posting at the Public Health Agency of Canada, and asking for the decision be quashed and for his reinstatement at the agency or another position.


In an affidavit sworn on July 13, Fortin says the impact on his “reputation and career” of the decision to remove him and reveal the misconduct investigation “has been devastating.”

Fortin says he received an exemplary performance review three days before he was removed from the vaccine campaign and was “at the peak” of his career, with expectations of a promotion or other opportunity upon finishing his job with the health agency.
 
  • Like
Reactions: taxslave

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
29,527
1,446
113
Military officer who led vaccine campaign charged with sexual assault
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Publishing date:Aug 18, 2021 • 8 hours ago • 4 minute read • 24 Comments
Major General Dany Fortin, formerly in charge of the logistics of Canada's COVID vaccine response, gives a statement outside the Gatineau Quebec police station, after being charged with one count of sexual assault in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada August 18, 2021.
Major General Dany Fortin, formerly in charge of the logistics of Canada's COVID vaccine response, gives a statement outside the Gatineau Quebec police station, after being charged with one count of sexual assault in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada August 18, 2021. PHOTO BY PATRICK DOYLE /REUTERS
Article content
OTTAWA — The military officer who led Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution campaign has been charged with one count of sexual assault.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin presented himself to police in Gatineau, Que., Wednesday after a warrant for his arrest was issued Monday.


He later told reporters that he does not know the details of the allegation against him, despite repeated requests from his legal team.

“For the past three months, my family and I have been living this nightmare of not knowing the nature of the allegation, not knowing the status of the investigation, not knowing whether or not I’d be charged,” Fortin said.

“My legal team has repeatedly — repeatedly — contacted prosecutors to seek any information with no success. So I’ve been forced to read much about me in media, with no ability to defend my name.”


Fortin’s lawyers have said the only information provided to them is that the charge relates to an alleged incident from 1988.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The senior military officer, who has previously served in Afghanistan and Iraq, described the past three months as the most challenging period of his 36 years in uniform.

“This fight against an invisible foe has been the hardest of my career,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to serve Canadians, to serve my country, as soon as this legal issue is resolved.”

Fortin was abruptly removed from his post at the Public Health Agency of Canada on May 14 after leading the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines across the country.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service later referred an allegation of sexual misconduct against him to the Quebec prosecution service to determine whether charges should be laid.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Fortin has asked the Federal Court to review his removal, alleging in a sworn affidavit political interference by the Liberal government. He is asking for reinstatement to his position at PHAC, or a similar post.

Defence Department spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said Wednesday that Fortin was given to a temporary position on Aug. 12.

“Maj.-Gen. Fortin was assigned temporarily to a supernumerary position as senior adviser to commander of Canadian Joint Operations Command in Ottawa,” Lamirande said in an email.

“A determination on next steps will be made in due course. We will not provide further details at this time due to privacy considerations and that the matter is currently before the courts.”

Fortin said he is paying his own legal costs for the criminal and Federal Court actions. His next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 20, the same day that voters go to the polls.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau declined to comment on Fortin’s case during a campaign stop in Vancouver on Wednesday.

“But I will repeat how incredibly important it is that everyone who serves in the Canadian Armed Forces has an environment that is safe and supportive,” the prime minister said.

“We need to make sure that anyone who comes forward with allegations or with concerns is receiving the proper support, the proper resources. But at the same time that we work to transform the culture of our Canadian Armed Forces.”

One of Fortin’s lawyers has raised questions about the timing of the decision to charge her client, which comes days after Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau launched an election.

The Liberals have been criticized for months for not doing more to address sexual misconduct in the Canadian military.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Fortin’s lawyers have argued in Federal Court that the decision to remove their client was unreasonable, lacked procedural fairness and involved improper political interference in the military chain of command by Trudeau, Health Minister Patty Hajdu, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and clerk of the Privy Council.

The government is required to respond to those allegations on Sept. 17, three days before election day.

“The timing of the charge raises questions,” Fortin’s lawyer, Natalia Rodriguez, told The Canadian Press on Tuesday.

“We’ll be looking at answering those questions and making sure this is not politically motivated and that it is above board. As Maj.-Gen. Fortin’s lawyers, we have a duty to ensure that there’s been no improper political interference in this case.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
In response, Sajjan’s spokesman Daniel Minden on Wednesday said: “In Canada, decisions to lay criminal charges are made by independent prosecutors. We have no further comment as this matter is before the courts.”

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole also declined to comment on the charge against Fortin because the issue is before the courts, but used the opportunity to once again criticize the Liberals’ handling of sexual misconduct allegations in the military.

Fortin is the second senior military officer to be charged with a criminal offence in recent weeks after the CFNIS charged former defence chief Jonathan Vance with one count of obstruction of justice last month.

That followed an investigation into allegations Vance engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour before and after he became chief of the defence staff in July 2015. He has denied any wrongdoing and not been charged in connection with those allegations.

The Liberal government is also in a standoff with Vance’s successor as defence chief, Admiral Art McDonald, who last week declared his intention to return to his position after a military police investigation into his conduct resulted in no charges.

The government responded by ordering McDonald to remain on administrative leave and promoting acting defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre in a sign that it plans to keep the latter as commander of Canada’s military.
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
29,527
1,446
113
Fortin's lawyers cite Hajdu interview comment in court fight over his firing
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Lee Berthiaume
Publishing date:Aug 31, 2021 • 7 hours ago • 4 minute read • Join the conversation
Major General Dany Fortin, formerly in charge of the logistics of Canada's COVID vaccine response, gives a statement outside the Gatineau police station, after being charged with one count of sexual assault in Gatineau, Que., Aug. 18, 2021.
Major General Dany Fortin, formerly in charge of the logistics of Canada's COVID vaccine response, gives a statement outside the Gatineau police station, after being charged with one count of sexual assault in Gatineau, Que., Aug. 18, 2021. PHOTO BY PATRICK DOYLE /REUTERS
Article content
OTTAWA — Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin’s lawyers are citing Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s statements during a television interview in May in their fight to prove their client’s removal as head of Canada’s vaccine distribution campaign constituted improper political interference.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The interview on CTV’s “Question Period” aired on May 30, two weeks after Fortin was abruptly removed from his high-profile but temporary position at the Public Health Agency of Canada because of a military police investigation.


According to a transcript filed in Federal Court, Hajdu told interviewer Evan Solomon that she first learned of an investigation involving Fortin in March and agreed with PHAC president Iain Stewart’s decision to remove him in May.

“I was alerted to a further development in May and at that time agreed with the president that Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin should be relieved of his duties with the Public Health Agency,” Hajdu said.

She later added: “As I found out more about the next steps, that’s when I asked president Stewart to look into it more closely. And president Stewart advised me that he was asking Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to step aside, and I agreed with that decision.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Fortin’s lawyers have been arguing that only acting defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre had the power under the National Defence Act to remove their client from his position given that he was still a serving member of the Canadian military while working at PHAC.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC

Major General Dany Fortin, formerly in charge of the logistics of Canada's COVID vaccine response, gives a statement outside the Gatineau Quebec police station, after being charged with one count of sexual assault in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada August 18, 2021.
Military officer who led vaccine campaign charged with sexual assault
Vice President of Logistics and Operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada Major General Dany Fortin attends a news conference, in Ottawa, Dec. 7, 2020.
Fortin says ‘career appears to be over’ after misconduct investigation revealed

They allege the decision to remove Fortin was unreasonable, lacked procedural fairness and involved Liberal government interference in the military chain of command, and are asking the court to reinstate him into his old role or an equivalent position.

The Department of National Defence announced in a terse statement on May 14 that Fortin was stepping down from his position at PHAC, which he had held since November. Military police referred his case to the Quebec prosecutor’s office five days later.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The government did not say at that time who decided to remove him. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan would only say at the time that Eyre “has advised me that Maj.-Gen. Fortin has stepped aside.”

Fortin, a veteran of Afghanistan who more recently commanded a NATO training mission in Iraq, was formally charged in Gatineau, Que., on Aug. 18 with one count of sexual assault dating back to 1988. He has denied any wrongdoing.

His lawyers are now asking the court for permission to file Hajdu’s comments as evidence to back up their case and force the government to produce more documents on who made the decision to remove Fortin.

“The comments of the minister of health confirm her involvement in the decision to remove Maj.-Gen. Fortin from his secondment at PHAC. They confirm Mr. Stewart’s involvement,” lawyer Thomas Conway wrote to the court on Aug. 25.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Conway added that Hajdu’s comments support Fortin’s sworn affidavit stating the decision was not made by Eyre, and contradict previous assertions by government lawyers that the acting defence chief was “the sole decision-maker.”

Hajdu’s office did not dispute the minister’s involvement and instead indicated in a statement on Tuesday that she and Stewart were solely responsible for Fortin’s removal from his position overseeing the vaccine distribution campaign.

“In May, in discussion with the president of the Public Health Agency of Canada, it was agreed that Maj.-Gen. Fortin would be relieved of his duty as the vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada as the matter was going to be referred to the director of public and criminal prosecution,” spokesman Andrew MacKendrick said in an email.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“At no time did Minister Hajdu speak with the acting chief of defence about this matter. ⦠Additionally, to confirm for clarity, decisions regarding personnel at the Public Health Agency of Canada are under the responsibility of the agency’s president.”

An affidavit filed with the court from a senior military officer indicated Fortin remained under the military’s authority while seconded to the health agency to lead the vaccine rollout.

“At all times, Maj.-Gen. Fortin remained a member of the CAF under military command, as is customary when CAF members are assigned to organizations outside of the CAF either in Canada or abroad,” reads Brig.-Gen. Paul Prevost’s affidavit dated Aug. 12.

“As a CAF member, Maj.-Gen. Fortin’s service continued at all times to be administered by the CAF,” Prevost added, noting Fortin’s most recent performance report, which included his time with PHAC, was completed by a senior officer and signed by Eyre.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
A separate affidavit from the director general of human resources at PHAC, Daryl Gauthier, dated the same day indicated Fortin never formally worked for the health agency.

“I have reviewed staffing records and confirm that at no time was Maj.-Gen. Fortin an employee of PHAC nor was he seconded to PHAC pursuant to a formal secondment agreement,” reads Gauthier’s affidavit.

“Although he was publicly referred to as the vice-president operations and logistics (announced by the prime minister in late November 2020) he never formally occupied that position within PHAC.”

Hajdu’s spokesman declined further comment when asked about the affidavits, noting the matter is before the courts.

“I would again indicate that personnel matters with PHAC would fall under the responsibility of the agency’s president, as would CAF personnel matters fall under the responsibility of the (acting) chief of defence staff,” MacKendrick said.

The government has until Sept. 17 to respond to Fortin’s lawyers, with a court date scheduled for Sept. 28.
 

spaminator

Hall of Fame Member
Oct 26, 2009
29,527
1,446
113
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin's request for reinstatement in vaccine campaign now with judge
Author of the article:Canadian Press
Canadian Press
Lee Berthiaume
Publishing date:Sep 29, 2021 • 9 hours ago • 4 minute read • 6 Comments
Major General Dany Fortin made a statement to the media in Ottawa on Aug. 18.
Major General Dany Fortin made a statement to the media in Ottawa on Aug. 18. PHOTO BY ERROL MCGIHON /Postmedia Network
Article content
OTTAWA — A Federal Court judge is now considering whether to reinstate Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin as the head of Canada’s vaccine distribution campaign following two days of arguments between his lawyers and the government around who ultimately decided to remove the senior military officer from his high-profile post in May — and why.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Fortin’s legal team spent much of the two-day hearing before Justice Ann Marie McDonald alleging Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and members of his government secretly decided to have the senior military officer turfed from his temporary position at the Public Health Agency of Canada for purely political reasons.


That, they argued, constituted inappropriate political interference in the military’s internal affairs, violated Fortin’s own rights to due process, presumption of innocence and privacy — and is why he should be reinstated as head of the vaccine rollout campaign, or a similar post.

Government lawyers in turn have asked McDonald to throw out the lawsuit. They maintain acting defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre made the decision in the interests of the vaccine rollout effort and a police investigation into Fortin’s conduct — and that if he wasn’t happy with the move, he should have taken it up with the military.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
The Federal Court hearing came as Fortin is also fighting in criminal court after Quebec police charged him last month with one count of sexual assault in relation to an alleged incident dating back to 1988 that was initially investigated by military police. That case is due back in a Quebec court on Nov. 5.

Fortin’s lawyers on Wednesday described to McDonald the difficulties they and their client had faced in trying to get information from the government about his abrupt removal from the vaccine campaign on May 14.

That included an absence of written reasons for the move and what they alleged was the government’s refusal to say categorically who made the decision.


“It is indeed telling that not one of them wanted to put their name to the decision when it was made,” lawyer Natalia Rodriguez said. “And still nobody has come forward to unambiguously say they made the decision. One has to wonder why not.”

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Fortin’s legal team have argued the power to remove the senior officer rested with Eyre as the law empowers the chief of defence staff alone with managing the military’s internal affairs, not politicians or other federal public servants.

They have previously pointed to Fortin’s sworn affidavit about the weeks leading up to his removal — whose accuracy was not challenged by the government — as well as comments that Health Minister Patty Hajdu made during an interview on May 30 as proof Eyre did not make the decision.

Rodriguez on Wednesday also pointed to handwritten notes that Eyre took during multiple meetings leading up to Fortin’s removal that had been tabled as evidence and include several references to political risks and calculations as evidence of the political motivations for his removal.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“It appears to be that the political concern or the political calculus was this: if (Fortin) remained in his position, and the fact of the investigation became public, it would damage the public’s perception of the institution and could expose the decision-makers to political risks,” Rodriguez told the court.

“This was a politically motivated decision. … The fact is the decision makers deliberately did not make themselves known to (Fortin), and instead used the acting chief of defence staff as their mouthpiece.”

Justice Department lawyer Elizabeth Richards during her submissions acknowledged Eyre “had various discussions with other government officials, including the Public Health Agency of Canada and Privy Council Office, about this investigation and the potential impact.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
“And we say that’s exactly what you would expect … It would be strange indeed if the (Canadian Armed Forces), working side by side in response to a request for assistance, did not discuss the impact on the agency that had requested this assistance.”

Nevertheless, Richards said, “somebody has stepped up and taken responsibility for the decision: It’s the acting chief of defence staff,” later adding: “This issue about who is the decision-maker is a complete red herring.”

Fortin’s lawyer Thomas Conway railed against that assertion in his closing arguments, saying the government’s refusal to provide him and his client substantive written documentation — and other efforts at obfuscation — had hamstrung his ability to determine whether that was really true.

Advertisement
STORY CONTINUES BELOW

Article content
Government lawyers also referred to Eyre’s handwritten notes, pointing to certain sections as proof Canada’s top military commander ultimately made the decision to remove Fortin to protect the integrity of the military police investigation into his conduct and public confidence in the vaccine campaign.

“There was legitimate concern for the integrity and confidentiality of the investigation,” said Justice Department lawyer Helen Gray, and “the integrity of the vaccine rollout … were it to become public that (Fortin) was performing his duties under the cloud of a sexual assault investigation.”

Government lawyers also told the court Fortin was not relieved of his military duties but returned to his previous position as chief of staff to the commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command. They added that he should have brought a grievance to the military rather than filing a lawsuit in court, and that besides, the vaccine campaign position no longer exists.

But Conway noted Fortin swore in his affidavit that he no longer had any military duties.

“The only evidence that we have is from Maj.-Gen. Fortin, who says he doesn’t have an assignment,” Conway said. “And this is why he’s come to court, because he doesn’t have one. He’s been removed from his assignment, and he doesn’t have one.”

McDonald said she would deliver a written ruling in short order.
 
  • Wow
Reactions: Twin_Moose