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In unanimous vote, defence committee agrees to hold study on Vance allegations

Click to play video: 'Investigation begins into Gen. Jonathan Vance allegations' Investigation begins into Gen. Jonathan Vance allegations
Two investigations are underway into allegations of inappropriate behaviour against former chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance. Mike Le Couteur looks at how the case could proceed – Feb 8, 2021

The House of Commons defence committee has unanimously agreed to conduct a study into allegations of inappropriate behaviour by Gen. Jonathan Vance.

While the motion proposing the meetings was put forward by the four Conservative MPs on the committee, the Liberal members, as well as those from the NDP and Bloc Québécois, supported an amended version and meetings will begin before Feb. 26.

The vote means the committee will call Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan as well as any other witnesses it deems necessary to testify on the allegations in three meetings, each at least two hours long.

Global News reported last week that Vance, who handed over command as chief of defence staff last month, is facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with two female subordinates, including a relationship that one woman alleges occurred while he was in the top post.

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Vance denies all allegations.

Read more: Former top soldier Gen. Jonathan Vance facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with female subordinates, sources say

Military police launched an investigation last week following the report and after Global News learned the woman alleging to have had a relationship with Vance while he was chief of defence staff had sought a meeting with those authorities.

Chief of Defence Staff Adm. Art McDonald also announced another examination earlier last week.

The parameters of that probe are not yet clear.

Click to play video: 'Defence Minister Sajjan won’t say if he told PM about 2018 Vance allegations' Defence Minister Sajjan won’t say if he told PM about 2018 Vance allegations
Defence Minister Sajjan won’t say if he told PM about 2018 Vance allegations – Feb 7, 2021

A key focus for the proposed committee probe is who knew what when about the allegations.

Sources tell Global News that the Canadian Forces Ombudsman brought concerns about alleged conduct by Vance to Sajjan in 2018.

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While a source told Global News that Sajjan’s office passed those concerns to the Privy Council Office, the Privy Council Office says it received no information that would have let its officials review further.

A senior government official also told Global News that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his office knew nothing about any allegations regarding Vance until they were reported by Global News.

The motion put before the committee by the four Conservative MPs on it requested that the committee hear from Sajjan as well as several other senior government and public service officials.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan had requested testimony from Michael Wernick, the former clerk of the Privy Council; Jody Thomas, deputy minister of the Department of National Defence; Christyne Tremblay, Deputy Clerk of the Privy Council; and Zita Astravas, who was the chief of staff in Sajjan’s office in 2018.

The motion had originally asked that Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council, also appear.

Shugart announced Monday night that he is taking time away from work to seek treatment for cancer.

Read more: Trudeau won’t say whether there was failure to inform him of Vance allegations

Liberal MP Anita Vandenbeld, parliamentary secretary to the minister of national defence, said she supported the goal of the motion but proposed an amendment to limit the proposed scope of the study from five meetings to three, and asked to name only Sajjan as a witness in the wording. She noted she wanted committee members to have discussions about who else should be called to give testimony.

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The Liberal amendment passed with support from the Bloc Québécois.

Vandenbeld said she believes that while the committee needs to be “very careful” that its questioning doesn’t prejudice any ongoing investigations into the allegations, she believes the study could provide an opportunity to look more closely at the vetting process for Vance and whether the military’s efforts to root out harmful sexual behaviour are working.

“I actually believe that our committee could have a really important role to play,” she said.

Vance was appointed by the former Conservative government in 2015.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau avoids question on what he knew about Gen. Vance allegations' Trudeau avoids question on what he knew about Gen. Vance allegations
Trudeau avoids question on what he knew about Gen. Vance allegations – Feb 9, 2021

 

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