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Defence minister, top officials to testify on Vance allegations at committee

Click to play video 'Military police investigated Vance allegation in 2015 but laid no charges' Military police investigated Vance allegation in 2015 but laid no charges
WATCH ABOVE: Military police investigated Vance allegation in 2015 but laid no charges – Feb 11, 2021

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan will be among several top officials before a House of Commons committee Friday who will face questions about what they may have known regarding allegations of improper behaviour by Gen. Jonathan Vance.

Sajjan is one of five witnesses called to appear before the House of Commons defence committee after its members voted unanimously last week to hold a study into the allegations first reported by Global News on Feb. 2.

READ MORE: Former top soldier Gen. Jonathan Vance facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with female subordinates: sources

Vance, who handed over command as chief of defence staff last month, faces allegations of inappropriate behaviour with two female subordinates, one of which pertains to alleged conduct during his years as chief of defence staff.

Vance denies all allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

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Click to play video 'Gen. Jonathan Vance facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with female subordinates: sources' Gen. Jonathan Vance facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with female subordinates: sources
Gen. Jonathan Vance facing allegations of inappropriate behaviour with female subordinates: sources – Feb 2, 2021

Appearing alongside Sajjan will be Jody Thomas, deputy minister of the Department of National Defence, as well as Rear-Adm. Geneviève Bernatchez, who is the Judge Advocate General for the Canadian Armed Forces.

Two senior officials from the Privy Council Office will also appear.

Chrystine Tremblay, deputy Clerk of the Privy Council, and Janine Sherman, deputy secretary to the federal cabinet, will testify following Sajjan, Thomas and Bernatchez.

The study by the defence committee is the third probe into the allegations announced this month.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service opened an investigation into the allegations, while an independent examination announced by Chief of Defence Staff Adm. Art McDonald remains in the works.

READ MORE: Minister’s office knew of concerns about Vance in 2018: sources

The committee study is specifically focusing on who knew what and when about the allegations.

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As Global News has reported, sources say Sajjan’s office knew of concerns about Vance in 2018.

Two government sources told Global News that the Canadian Forces Ombudsman shared concerns about alleged inappropriate behaviour by Vance, and a senior government source said that Sajjan’s office referred those concerns to the Privy Council Office.

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

Sources said the information shared by the ombudsman left Sajjan “concerned.”

A spokesperson for the Privy Council Office said nothing they received prompted further review.

“Everyone deserves a safe workplace and we take these matters very seriously,” said Pierre-Alain Bujold, spokesperson for the office.

“Throughout the Government of Canada, including the Canadian Armed Forces, we ensure all processes for complaints are properly followed. With respect to your question, no information was provided to PCO which would have enabled further action to have been taken.”

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Military police also investigated Vance over a separate allegation in 2015 but laid no charges.

But sources with knowledge of the probe say there were questions about how robust the probe was, whether it interviewed any potential witnesses on the ground in Italy, and whether it looked at any electronic communications.

Military police did not disclose what the investigation involved, or whether electronic communications were reviewed. The force also did not disclose the findings of the investigation.