Walbourne testified that his request for independence prompted what the former ombudsman described as a vindictive campaign to get rid of him.
DND had kept the ombudsman on a short leash, with Walbourne even having to seek permission from the department’s deputy minister to travel to a base to hear concerns of military personnel and their families.
Several months after Walbourne tabled a report in March 2017 recommending the ombudsman’s office be made independent, DND officials told him a complaint had been made against him. They refused to provide details other than to suggest it had to do with inappropriate contracting.
Walbourne testified he heard nothing more until Oct. 27, 2017 when deputy minister Jody Thomas told him the allegation against him would proceed to a formal investigation. Walbourne still wasn’t told of the specifics.
The notification came the day before Walbourne was to testify in front of a Commons committee about DND’s failure to act on his recommendations to help military personnel. “It was obvious this process was being used as a means of intimidation prior to my testimony before the committee,” Walbourne testified.
Sajjan released a statement after Walbourne’s testimony noting, “I disagree with parts of the testimony.”
Sajjan also repeated his previous statement that any allegations that were brought forward were sent to the proper authorities.
Vance has denied doing anything improper.
The Liberal MPs on the defence committee tried to put the blame on Walbourne, suggesting he should have gone immediately to military police or conducted his own investigation.
Because the complaint from the victim was informal, Walbourne said he was in a difficult position. He did not have permission from the victim to investigate, so he went to Sajjan for advice to determine how to proceed. “The only thing I ever wanted the minister to do was his job,” he said. “Doing nothing was not the response I was looking for.
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