In an email, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he was only recently informed by Adm. Art McDonald about Coates’ affair while at NORAD. “When made aware, I directed Admiral McDonald not to post Lieutenant-General Coates to an overseas posting,” Sajjan wrote.
Conservative MPs have been quizzing Sajjan about whether the minister knew of other reports of sexual misconduct, fraternization, harassment or inappropriate behaviour by officers currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, either at home or on foreign postings. Sajjan avoided directly answering the question, noting that any allegations brought forward are relayed to appropriate authorities.
During Question Period on Thursday, Conservative leader Erin O’Toole asked the Liberal government whether Sajjan was aware of any other allegations of misconduct against any other senior officer in the military. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland avoided directly answering the question, instead saying the government takes all allegations seriously, no matter the rank of the individual involved.
The allegations against Vance and removal of McDonald from the top military job have shaken trust in the defence leadership and has raised questions about the Canadian Forces’ commitment to putting a stop to sexual misconduct, military analysts have pointed out.
McDonald was named chief of the defence staff on Dec. 23 and officially took over the job on Jan. 14. During his inaugural speech McDonald promised to stamp out sexual misconduct and racism in the Canadian Forces. He apologized to those in the ranks who have suffered from such actions.
McDonald is currently on paid leave, according to Le Bouthillier. The admiral has not commented on the police investigation or the allegations.
Vance has been asked repeatedly by this newspaper for comment about the allegations made against him but he has not responded. He told Global News he did nothing improper.
Sajjan appointed Army commander Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre as Acting Chief of the Defence Staff for the immediate future.
Eyre sent a message on Friday to all military personnel pointing out the need to “ensure we are an institution in which Canadians can see themselves.”
“How we do things is as important as what we do,” he added. “I will lead you from the front and I expect all leaders to do the same.”
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