Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s former national security advisor says he was never made aware of a 2018 sexual misconduct allegation against Gen. Jonathan Vance that his colleagues were asked to probe.
That comes after testimony from the former chief of staff to Stephen Harper on Monday in which the role of the national security advisor was cited as central to the previous government’s probe of related allegations in 2015, and to the decision to appoint him in the first place.
Global News obtained a copy of an email that appears to have been sent by Daniel Jean to the defence committee on Tuesday after they appear to have contacted him about appearing in relation to that Novak testimony. In it, Jean says he was never made aware of the 2018 allegation against Vance.
“I will be happy to appear, if the committee extends the invitation,” Jean wrote.
“In terms of expectations and to assist the committee in planning this session … I wish to be clear that these 2018 allegations were never brought to my attention. This is not necessarily unusual, particularly if PCO Senior Personnel was not able to obtain information that would have allowed and warranted the pursuit of an investigation.
“In this context and to be clear, I have never heard about any of the allegations, both the 2015 and subsequent 2018 ones until the issue recently surfaced in the media.”
Jean served as national security advisor to Trudeau from May 2016 to May 2018.
Ex-military ombudsman Gary Walbourne has testified he brought an allegation against Vance to Sajjan on March 1, 2018, but that Sajjan refused to hear it.
Sajjan says he did so in order to avoid “political interference” in an investigation, and has cited the same concerns when pressed repeatedly in recent weeks why he appears to have never followed up after Privy Council Office decided not to probe the matter further.
Officials from the Privy Council Office have said they did not have enough information to do so.
Walbourne has said repeatedly the complainant would not give him permission to share the details of the complaint with other authorities, citing a desire for confidentiality.
Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole described such an email during question period on Wednesday.
O’Toole referenced an email from Jean saying he had never been made aware of any allegations in 2018, and asked Trudeau why no one from his government appears to have told Jean when the allegation was brought forward.
Trudeau did not answer directly.
“When the ombudsperson came forward with allegations, the minister quite rightly directed him to the Privy Council Office to follow up on those allegations,” Trudeau said.
“We know allegations of sexual misconduct need to be taken extremely seriously.”
The government is facing intense scrutiny over its handling of the allegations, with critics accusing Trudeau and Sajjan of a “cover-up” and “abuse of power” for not acting on the information sooner.
Officials with Trudeau’s office repeatedly told Global News throughout last month that no one from the office or Trudeau himself had heard any allegations against Vance prior to Global News reporting.
Global News first brought two allegations against Vance to light on Feb. 2.
Vance denies any inappropriate behaviour.
But Trudeau admitted during question period earlier this month that his office knew in 2018 that Sajjan’s office had passed on an allegation against Vance to the Privy Council Office.
He says he only learned the details of the allegations from Global News reporting in February.
The Canadian military is facing what experts call an institutional crisis amid twin military police probes into allegations against both the current and former chiefs of the defence staff.
Two House of Commons committees are also probing the matter.
The defence committee heard from Novak on Monday, who shed extensive new light on the process used by the previous government to appoint Vance as chief of defence staff and on the process used to probe two separate allegations raised regarding Vance’s conduct during that assessment.
Novak described the former national security advisor, Richard Fadden, as playing a central role in both the selection of Vance and the vetting of the allegations against him at the time.
Novak said the previous government had been prepared to delay Vance’s swearing in as it probed two allegations brought forward just weeks before the change of command ceremony, but suggested no further information could be found on the matter.
He also said that Vance “was not truthful” with Harper when asked about one of the allegations.
Novak testified that Harper met directly with Vance in March 2015 to ask him about an allegation of inappropriate conduct regarding Vance’s time as deputy commander of Allied Joint Force Command Naples, but Novak said Harper also asked Vance if there was anything else he should know about.
Novak said Vance told Harper there was nothing further that he should know.
However, Maj. Kellie Brennan described an alleged longstanding sexual relationship with Vance in an interview with Global News last month, alleging that this began while the two were stationed at CFB Gagetown and resumed while Vance was superior to her within the chain of command in Toronto in 2006.
Vance denies any sexual relationship while Brennan was under his command.
“I watched the interview that Maj. Brennan gave some weeks ago which is obviously deeply, deeply disturbing,” Novak said.
“I think it’s clear she made extremely serious allegations, and if they are true – and I have no reason to doubt her – that means the general was not truthful with the prime minister in their meeting of March of 2015.”
The allegations against Vance are currently being probed by military police.
No result has yet been announced.