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Senior military leaders went golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance amid military police probe

Click to play video: 'Senior military leaders went golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance while under investigation' Senior military leaders went golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance while under investigation
WATCH: Senior military leaders went golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance while under investigation – Jun 12, 2021

The second-in-command of the Canadian Forces and the head of the Royal Canadian Navy went golfing this week with Gen. Jonathan Vance, Global News has learned.

That’s despite Vance remaining under military police investigation following allegations of inappropriate behaviour first reported by Global News on Feb. 2, 2021.

Vance denies any allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau and Vice-Adm. C.A. Baines met with Vance at the Hylands Golf Course in Ottawa’s east end this past week. Their decisions come after witnesses before two parliamentary committees probing military sexual misconduct repeatedly highlighted a “double standard” for how the military treats allegations against senior leaders compared to how it treats those against junior members.

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says senior military leaders who golfed with Vance need to ‘answer for themselves’' Trudeau says senior military leaders who golfed with Vance need to ‘answer for themselves’
Trudeau says senior military leaders who golfed with Vance need to ‘answer for themselves’ – Jun 13, 2021

Rouleau, as vice chief of the defence staff, holds oversight authority for the military police. He is set to be replaced shortly by Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen, who will be the first female vice chief of the defence staff.

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“The Minister was made aware of this situation this afternoon, following media inquiries,” said a spokesperson for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan on Saturday evening.

“The decision by the LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines to go golfing with Gen Vance is troubling and unacceptable. The Minister will discuss next steps with Acting Chief of the Defence Staff.”

Click to play video: 'Trudeau says government taking ‘concrete action’ to address failings in military justice system' Trudeau says government taking ‘concrete action’ to address failings in military justice system
Trudeau says government taking ‘concrete action’ to address failings in military justice system – May 25, 2021

Sources who spoke to Global News cited deep concern about whether the military’s senior leaders are truly committed to rooting out sexual misconduct. They also voiced concerns that the decision to go golfing with Vance contradicts messages made in recent months by senior leaders encouraging members experiencing sexual misconduct to come forward.

A spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said officials were assessing what to do next.

“We have been made aware that LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines went golfing with Gen (Retired) Jonathan Vance,” said Jessica Lamirande to Global News.

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“We recognize the seriousness of the matter and, as such, we will gather facts and advice in order to determine next steps.”

READ MORE: Sexual misconduct review of military an ‘opportunity’ for change: Canada’s top soldier

Asked during a press conference on Sunday whether he thinks Baines and Rouleau should keep their jobs, and what kind of message this sends to victims of military misconduct, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “obviously, the two men in question need to answer those questions for themselves.”

“But I know that the Minister of Defence is following up with the acting chief of staff on this issue,” he told reporters.

Multiple senior leaders are under military police investigation for allegations of sexual misconduct brought forward over recent months as the military faces what experts call an “institutional crisis.”

Among them is Adm. Art McDonald, the former head of the navy and current chief of the defence staff, who stepped aside in late February as military police opened an investigation into an allegation against him. McDonald has declined to comment on the allegations.

The woman behind that allegation, navy Lt. Heather Macdonald, has come forward publicly to share her experience. The senior naval officer who reported the allegation against McDonald has said he faced anonymous threats after doing so.

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Baines, as head of the navy, is at the top of both their chains of command.

READ MORE: Senior naval officer was threatened after reporting McDonald allegation: sources

Rouleau is set to be replaced as vice chief of the defence staff shortly.

He’ll be replaced by Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen, who will be the first woman to serve in the role.

Rouleau’s meeting with Vance comes as the military police face questions on whether it can be impartial in investigating the former top officer of the Canadian Forces.

Maj. Kellie Brennan, one of the women at the heart of the allegations against Vance, testified in April that Vance had told her he was “untouchable” and that he “owned” the military police.

“I asked bluntly the [Canadian Forces National Investigation Service] if they had the mandate to investigate and did they have the powers to lay charges, and they would not answer me,” she said during testimony recounting how military police questioned her over the allegations.
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“The answer was no because as the CDS told me, he was untouchable. He owned the CFNIS.”

Click to play video: 'Maj. Brennan says Vance told her he was ‘untouchable’' Maj. Brennan says Vance told her he was ‘untouchable’
Maj. Brennan says Vance told her he was ‘untouchable’ – Apr 22, 2021

A Global News investigation revealed that less than a quarter of the military police investigators who probe sexual misconduct cases are women — just 29 out of 129 investigators.

Earlier this month, former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish released a report into the military justice system which described sexual misconduct as as “rampant” in the Canadian Forces in 2021 as it was when former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps released her landmark 2015 report on the issue.

The Deschamps report documented the extent to which sexual misconduct is “endemic” throughout the military and put the focus on the power dynamics within the institution: in particular, the chain of command reporting structure that she said routinely saw allegations brushed aside.

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She noted that culture of the Canadian Forces is “toxic” to women and LGBTQ members.

Fish said his report “confirmed the factual findings” of her work.

“The nature, extent and human cost of sexual misconduct in the CAF remain as debilitating, as rampant and as destructive in 2021 as they were in 2015,” Fish wrote in his report.

He urged immediate changes to remove the need for military members to report sexual misconduct allegations through their chain of command, which he said “impacts on their autonomy and, I have been told, risks their exposure to reprisals, ostracization and pressures to withdraw their complaint.”

Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, acting chief of the defence staff, told Global News in an interview in May that the military needs to “view this current crisis as an opportunity.”

“We cannot be defensive. We cannot rest on tradition and ‘this is the way we have done things forever,'” he said. “We have to be open to new ways of doing business and we absolutely have to change.”

Former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour was named by Sajjan in April to lead an independent, external review into how best to create an independent reporting system for military sexual misconduct.

She is tasked with completing that report within 12 months, but that can be extended if needed.

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