Trudeau not commenting on whether Vance should keep Order of Military Merit after guilty plea

Click to play video: 'Trudeau mum on whether Vance should keep military honour after guilty plea'
Trudeau mum on whether Vance should keep military honour after guilty plea
Following an investigation into allegations involving sexual misconduct, retired Gen. Jonathan Vance, Canada's former chief of the defence staff, has pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Mercedes Stephenson explains what Vance's sentence will be, and why he won't have a criminal record. – Mar 31, 2022

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau isn’t saying whether he thinks retired Gen. Jonathan Vance should get to keep the prestigious Order of Military Merit after pleading guilty to obstruction of justice.

“Obviously I’m not going to comment on an ongoing court case. We’ve been very, very clear that at the centre of what we need to do is support the men and women of the Canadian military,” Trudeau said when asked whether he believes Vance should keep the honour.

When pressed again, Trudeau chose not to offer a response.

“I’m not going to comment on a court case,” he said.

Membership in the order is overseen by Canadian military leaders and the award carries material benefits for those deemed to have made “outstanding meritorious service and demonstrated leadership in duties of great responsibility.”

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For example, members in the Order get “private VIP consultations with medical specialists” working at l’Hôpital de la Pitié Salpetrière in Paris, France, described as a “renowned university teaching hospital with specialists in many fields” and “one of Europe’s largest hospitals.”

Membership also allows members to rent vacation residences in France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Croatia, Malta and “several island nations, including in the Caribbean” at 50 per cent off.

They can also get “respite stays” at a retirement home called the Résidence de la Médaille Militaire, which is for recipients of a prestigious French military medal and is located in southern France near the Mediterranean coast.

France extends the same benefits it offers to members of a similar military honour society to members of the Order of Military Merit in gratitude for Canadian service during World War One and World War Two.

Vance pleaded guilty on Wednesday morning to one count of obstruction of justice laid against him.

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The charge came after military police launched an investigation following allegations of inappropriate behaviour first published by Global News last year.

According to a spokesperson for Rideau Hall, Gov. Gen. Mary Simon could consider terminating an appointment to the order on the advice of the Order of Military Merit Advisory Council.

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That council is the body that can weigh requests from the public to revoke the honour.

“The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General cannot comment on any specific revocation request,” said spokesperson Ciara Trudeau in an email to Global News.

“What remains the priority is supporting victims of sexual misconduct and listening when they share their painful experiences. We acknowledge and thank all those, within and outside of the Canadian Armed Forces, who are working to address these challenges and affect change.”

Click to play video: 'Gen. Jonathan Vance pleads guilty to obstruction of justice'
Gen. Jonathan Vance pleads guilty to obstruction of justice

According to the Canadian Forces policy manual, the membership of that advisory council includes the most senior brass of the military — including one who went golfing with Vance while he was under military police investigation.

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre is the chair of the council.

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The other members are Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen, Royal Canadian Navy Commander Vice-Adm. Craig Baines, Acting Commander of the Canadian Army Maj.-Gen. M.H. St-Louis, and Royal Canadian Air Force Commander Lt.-Gen. Al Meinzinger.

Baines initially described his decision to go golfing with Vance when the latter was under military police investigation as a “public display of support” — a description that was quickly condemned in the midst of a fierce backlash.

“To be clear, it was not a show of support for Jonathan Vance as it pertains to the ongoing investigation,” Baines said following the backlash. “My focus should have been on the victims of sexual misconduct and on the impacts on their lives. For this, I am sorry.”

One of Baines’ subordinates at the time of the golf round had made public allegations of sexual misconduct against Vance’s successor, former chief of the defence staff, Adm. Art McDonald, who has since been permanently removed from the role.

The allegations against McDonald were not deemed to be unfounded, but a charge was not laid due to a lack of evidence, said the Canadian Forces Provost Marshall last year.

The governor general also has a representative on the council, though who that is is not clear.

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A military spokesperson would not say whether the council is considering a revocation of the honour.

“The Canadian Armed Forces does not comment whether or not a recipient’s honour is under review for termination as the administration of this procedure is confidential,” said Maj. Christopher Daniel.

Daniel said if a recipient’s honour is terminated, that will be published in the Canada Gazette.

“The termination of an honour is an extraordinary measure which serves to protect the credibility of the Canadian honours system,” he said.

“Grounds for termination of an order are based on evidence demonstrating that the person behaved in a way that is incompatible with the standard of behaviour expected from members of this society. This can include, but is not limited to, criminal conviction or sanction by a professional body,” he continued.

“It is important to note that the recommendation of the Advisory Council to terminate membership in an order must be based on evidence and guided by the principle of fairness and shall only be made after the Council has ascertained the facts it considers relevant.”

A petition seeking Vance’s removal from the Order of Military Merit was launched on Wednesday following Vance’s guilty plea, stating that he should be removed because his plea has “brought dishonour” on the prestigious military award.

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With files from Global’s Mercedes Stephenson and Marc-Andre Cossette.

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