Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his office knew nothing about allegations regarding the conduct of Gen. Jonathan Vance until Global News reported them on Tuesday, according to a senior government official.
But Trudeau won’t say whether he considers it a failure that, as sources told Global News, his defence minister’s office passed on concerns brought to them in 2018 about the then-chief of defence staff to the Privy Council Office, and no one seems to have told Trudeau.
“Do you consider it a failure that you were not informed of these allegations given they involved someone so senior?” Trudeau was asked by a journalist at a Friday press conference at Rideau Cottage.
“Obviously, we take all of these allegations or any allegations around misconduct or harassment extremely seriously, which is why we strengthened the processes in place in government, and every step of the way we follow those processes to the letter,” Trudeau said.
“It is extremely important to move forward on ensuring a safe work environment for everyone in this country, and the government will continue to do everything we need.”
Global News reported on Tuesday that Vance is facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with two female subordinates. Military police announced on Thursday that they would launch an investigation.
Vance denies all allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
Sources told Global News that the Canadian Forces Ombudsman brought concerns about alleged behaviour by Vance to the office of Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in 2018.
Sajjan’s office then sent those concerns to the Privy Council Office, sources said.
The Privy Council Office said that nothing it received prompted any further action.
“Everyone deserves a safe workplace and we take these matters very seriously. Throughout the Government of Canada, including the Canadian Armed Forces, we ensure all processes for complaints are properly followed,” said a spokesperson for the Privy Council Office.
“With respect to your question, no information was provided to PCO which would have enabled further action to have been taken.”
The fact that any allegations at all were raised about the military’s most senior soldier has led to questions for Trudeau about why the concerns were apparently not shared with him, and why it appears no investigation or further review of the matter was done by the Privy Council Office.
The office most recently made headlines for commissioning a third-party review into reports of bullying and a negative workplace at Rideau Hall under former governor general Julie Payette.
The office, which is made up of bureaucrats and not political staffers, is responsible for providing non-partisan advice to the prime minister and cabinet ministers, making sure the bureaucracy carries out the government’s agenda, and fostering “a high-performing and accountable public service.”
Conservative members of the House of Commons defence committee issued a call on Thursday for an emergency meeting to discuss their request for two meetings to be held on the report that Sajjan’s office was aware of concerns raised about Vance’s conduct.
The committee is currently meeting behind closed doors.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service is beginning a probe into the allegations.