Head of military personnel on indefinite leave amid sexual assault investigation

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Another top leader of the Canadian Armed Forces has stepped aside amid allegations of sexual misconduct that have sparked a military investigation, the Department of National Defence confirmed Wednesday.

In a statement to Global News, the department said Vice-Adm. Haydn Edmundson, who serves as the military’s head of personnel, is on indefinite leave as the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) looks into the allegation.

“The Canadian Armed Forces are very troubled by these allegations and, above all else, are concerned for the well-being of the victim who has been carrying this burden for 30 years,” the statement read.

The department said the matter was referred to the CFNIS by acting chief of defence staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre.

Read more: Military facing ‘reckoning’ over misconduct but no details yet on action: Monsef

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The investigation was opened after CBC News first reported that Edmundson is being accused of raping a subordinate woman officer in 1991.

Former military member Stéphanie Viau told the CBC that she was a 19-year-old steward when she was sexually assaulted by Edmundson, who was a lieutenant commander at the time, aboard HMCS Provider while it was docked in Pearl Harbour.

Viau said the assault came days after Edmundson allegedly exposed his genitals to her.

Global News has not corroborated the allegations or spoken to either Viau or Edmundson.

The allegations are the most serious to be levelled against a senior member of the military since Global News first reported allegations in inappropriate behaviour against former chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance on Feb. 2.

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Three weeks later, Vance’s successor, Adm. Art McDonald, stepped aside from his position in response to a separate allegation of sexual misconduct against him.

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Both men are now facing twin military probes.

Vance has denied all allegations against him, while McDonald has not commented publicly since stepping aside.

The allegations against multiple senior officers — and the way such allegations are handled and investigated — have plunged the military into a crisis as more women come forward and others quit in protest.

Eyre, who preceded Edmundson as head of military personnel until Edmundson took over in 2019, announced last week that Operation Honour — the military’s campaign to end sexual harassment within its ranks — would be shut down.

“Operation Honour has culminated, and thus we will close it out, harvest what has worked, learn from what hasn’t, and develop a deliberate plan to go forward,” he said.

Women and Gender Equality Minister Maryam Monsef told Global News on Wednesday that the military is facing a “reckoning” over sexual misconduct. Yet she offered no details on the work she is doing with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan to address the issue.

Sajjan has faced calls to resign amid scrutiny over how he handled an allegation against Vance that was shared with him in 2018.

— With files from Amanda Connolly

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