Maj. Kellie Brennan says former chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance told her he was “untouchable” and that he “owned” the military police. She also said “he fathered two children with me.”
Global News reached out to Vance in February about the allegations. When asked if he was the father of one specific child by name, Vance said: “I am not.” When asked whether he was the father of another specific child by name, he said, “I don’t even know who these people are.”
Global News did not previously report on the allegations for legal reasons. Witnesses testifying before parliamentary committees are protected from being sued for defamation.
“On a personal note, he fathered two children with me. He’s not responsible to pay or to have those children under his responsibility. It’s all up to me,” Brennan said in testimony before the House of Commons status of women committee on Thursday night.
She also recounted comments she said took place when she asked military police investigating her allegations whether they had the authority to do so when the individual facing the allegations was the former chief of the defence staff — the “CDS,” as the role is colloquially known.
“The answer was no because as the CDS told me, he was untouchable. He owned the CFNIS.”
Brennan is one of the women at the heart of allegations first reported by Global News in February about Vance. Vance denies the allegations.
Military police have since opened an investigation into the allegations, and are also investigating a separate allegation against Vance’s successor, Adm. Art McDonald.
Brennan was the first woman to come forward publicly to share her story but since she did so, multiple other women, including both current and former serving members in the military, have broken their silence to sound the alarm over the extent to which sexual misconduct permeates its ranks.
She was asked by one member of the committee whether Vance ever threatened her about speaking out.
“A threat? Meaning bodily harm, no,” she said, before being asked whether he ever said anything she perceived as a threat, such as reprisals or consequences.
“Definitely, he gave me very many consequences if I was not following his orders.”
Brennan said that he told her she would be questioned “over and over again” by his spouse — a lawyer — “if I didn’t say the right thing — that somehow she was going to come and see me, and question me.”
“I was not to mention certain things about our relationship, our personal lives. The consequences were always the same – that I had to stay silent,” she said.
She was asked whether she feels the military police investigation into Vance is being taken seriously.
“I definitely feel that there will not be justice for me,” she said.
“In all honesty, that’s okay. Because if my speaking out can change everything for other women to come forward and change our policies, that’s okay with me. I was first in, in the infantry when we were allowed to join, and I knew I was taking on a hard road.”
Brennan’s testimony before the House of Commons status of women committee comes as part of its probe on what measures are needed to change the military culture.
Former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps described that culture as “sexualized,” “hostile” and “endemic” throughout the ranks of the Canadian Forces in her landmark 2015 report into military misconduct.
That report focused as well on the crucial question of what it means to consent within the rigid power imbalances of the military’s hierarchical chain of command structure.
Brennan told Global News in February that challenge is one she has personally experienced throughout what she has described as a longstanding sexual relationship with Vance that she says continued while he was her superior and while he was chief of the defence staff.
“On a personal level, ‘consensual’ meaning was I participating in it? Yes. Could I say no to him? No,” Brennan said in February. “The reason why I say that is because if he rang me on the phone or if he texted me, I was obliged to get back to him.”
Vance has said there was no sexual relationship with Brennan after 2001, when the pair briefly dated.
He says he has served as a “supporter” for Brennan, and that the two are “colleagues and friends.”
IN HER WORDS: The woman behind 2018 Vance allegation tells her story
Brennan has emphasized that she does not believe the military can solve the problem of sexual misconduct on its own, and that women must be able to speak openly about their experiences.
She is accompanied before the committee by retired lieutenant-general Christine Whitecross, who was Canada’s top female military officer until her retirement in December 2020. Whitecross served as the first female head of the NATO Defense College in Rome and has played a central role in the military’s efforts to roll out Operation Honour and initiatives to tackle sexual misconduct.
Their testimony comes as the government remains under heavy criticism for its handling of military misconduct and its lack of details on any plans for how to address the problem.
It has now been nearly three months since officials promised an independent review of the matter following Global News reporting on Feb. 2, and despite repeated promises from cabinet ministers that details are coming shortly on plans for change, none have emerged.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau provided no further clarity when pressed on his government’s response by Global News on Wednesday night, saying the government has handled all allegations appropriately.
“We need to make sure we’re changing the culture of the military but we also need to make sure we’re providing resources,” he said, adding that those coming forward must receive support.
“This is something we’ve seen the military just not do well enough in the past.”
MPs from his party voted last week to shut down the defence committee probe into the allegations, which has heard damning testimony about the government’s failure to fully probe an allegation shared by the then-military ombudsman with the defence minister in 2018.
Harjit Sajjan has said he referred the allegation to the Privy Council Office, which promptly abandoned the probe when the ombudsman refused to share information requested by bureaucrats and which the complainant had asked be kept confidential.
In an interview with Global News, the woman behind the 2018 complaint said she went to the ombudsman specifically because she wanted to remain anonymous — and because she knew the complaint would be shared with Sajjan directly.
“My intent was never to make this public or widely known. It was for the minister to deal with at an appropriate time and perhaps reconsider how Operation Honour was commanded,” she said, describing the initiative as valuable and important.
“And when the time for decisions about, you know, extension of mandate for the chief of defence staff or future roles, that this could be factored into that decision making.
“I wanted it to be brought forward to an individual who reported direct to the minister, so the minister’s accountability could be reflected in that.”