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Canada’s chief of defence staff steps aside amid military police probe: defence minister

Click to play video: 'Canada’s chief of defence staff to step aside amid CFNIS investigation, defence minister says' Canada’s chief of defence staff to step aside amid CFNIS investigation, defence minister says
WATCH ABOVE: Canada's chief of defence staff to step aside amid CFNIS investigation, defence minister says – Feb 25, 2021

Canada’s Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Art McDonald has stepped aside from his post while an investigation is conducted by the force’s national investigation service.

In a statement released late Wednesday evening, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) is investigating McDonald.

The CFNIS is the investigative arm of the Canadian military police.

Read more: Canadian military facing ‘crisis’ amid probes into top leaders: experts

It was not immediately clear what the investigation was in regards to but the news comes amidst an investigation by military police into allegations of inappropriate behaviour against former chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, sparked by exclusive reporting by Global News.

Since then, sources have told Global News the external probe promised by McDonald in response to those allegations has been expanded to “unprecedented” levels to investigate the allegations of inappropriate behaviour from the former military chief, as well as to root out those who were complicit.

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“I was informed that Admiral Art McDonald has voluntarily stepped aside while the investigation is ongoing,” the statement read.

Sajjan said he has appointed Lieutenant-General Wayne Eyre as Acting Chief of the Defence staff.

“I will have no further comment at this time due to the ongoing investigation,” Sajjan said in the statement.

Read more: Following Vance allegations, feds urged to monitor military’s handling of sexual misconduct

In a statement Thursday, the Department of National Defence said it will not be providing information on the investigation’s “contents, processes and possible outcomes.” It did say it takes “all allegations of misconduct seriously.”

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McDonald was appointed Chief of Defence staff last month.

Before his appointment, he served as the Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau introduces Vice-Admiral Art McDonald as new chief of defence staff' Trudeau introduces Vice-Admiral Art McDonald as new chief of defence staff
Trudeau introduces Vice-Admiral Art McDonald as new chief of defence staff – Jan 14, 2021

During his swearing-in ceremony last month, McDonald apologized to his military colleagues who have “experienced racism, discriminatory behaviour and or hateful conduct.”

“I’m deeply sorry,” he said. “I want you to know that I will do all that I can to support you, to stop these unacceptable acts from happening, and to put into practice our guiding principle: respect and the dignity of all persons. Creating a respectful environment is a responsibility that we all share.”

McDonald told reporters he felt it was necessary that he apologize because he too was guilty of unintentionally perpetuating some of the issues within the force.

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Read more: ‘I am deeply sorry,’ new defence chief says to victims of military sexual misconduct, racism

McDonald replaced General Jonathan Vance, who recently retired from the Canadian Armed Forces.

Military investigators are currently probing allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Vance involving two women subordinates of his. Vance has denied the allegations.

Sources told Global News on Monday that an external probe into the allegations against Vance is being expanded to “unprecedented” levels, including to root out those who were complicit in the former top soldier’s behaviour.

According to the sources, the terms of the probe will also deal with rising concerns that the issue of sexual misconduct by the senior ranks could be a systemic issue in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and that such an investigation can now only be handled by a large, independent human resources firm or prominent Canadian, such as a former Supreme Court judge.

–With files from Global’s Sean Boynton, Mercedes Stephenson and the Canadian Press

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