Conservative members of the House of Commons committee probing allegations of inappropriate behaviour against Gen. Jonathan Vance are calling to expand the scope of the study after “troubling” testimony from the ex-military watchdog.
In a letter sent Thursday to the clerk of the defence committee, the four Conservative members asked for an emergency meeting to take place on Monday about calling additional witnesses to testify as part of the probe, launched in the wake of exclusive reporting by Global News of the allegations against Vance.
A source with knowledge of the request told Global News the members want the committee to invite Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan back, following testimony by ex-military ombudsman Gary Walbourne.
“The troubling testimony the Committee received from former Ombudsman Gary Walbourne contradicts that of previous witnesses, including the Minister of National Defence,” said the letter, a copy of which was shared with Global News.
“We also believe there is an urgent need to discuss expanding the scope of this study to examine the actions of the Minister of National Defence and his department in the handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against Admiral Art McDonald.”
Adm. Art McDonald stepped back from his post as chief of defence staff last month after military police opened an investigation on unspecified allegations. Vance is also facing a military police probe.
Walbourne testified on Wednesday that he brought an allegation of inappropriate behaviour by Vance to Sajjan during a March 2018 meeting, along with evidence he said proved that allegation had merit.
“I did tell the minister what the allegation was. I reached into my pocket to show him the evidence I was holding. He pushed back from the table and said, ‘No,'” Walbourne told the committee.
“The minister didn’t want to see the evidence.”
Sajjan has refused to disclose what Walbourne told him during that meeting on March 1, 2018, citing confidentiality, and said he always follows proper procedures when any concerns are brought to him.
The minister told the committee during his own testimony almost two weeks ago he was surprised when allegations against Vance were reported by Global News in early February, and insisted he has followed all proper procedures when reports of military sexual misconduct are brought to him.
Sajjan has refused to provide specifics on what those procedures were, including whether he asked Vance about the allegations or notified Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and cabinet.
Walbourne’s testimony quickly prompted calls on social media for Sajjan to resign or be removed.
Sajjan said he disagreed with Walbourne’s characterization of events but provided no evidence to disprove the testimony, nor did he specify which parts of the testimony he felt were inaccurate.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said the prime minister remains confident in Sajjan.