Politics
Former ombudsman says he warned Sajjan about allegations against General Vance 3 years ago

Former ombudsman says he warned Sajjan about allegations against General Vance 3 years ago

Canada’s former military ombudsman said today he warned Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan about possible sexual misconduct involving Gen. Jonathan Vance when he last met with the minister there. three years.

Gary Walbourne appeared before a parliamentary committee today to file a scathing indictment of Sajjan’s handling of the allegation against Vance – Chief of the Defense Staff at the time – in a private meeting March 1, 2018.

“I told the minister what the allegation was. I rummaged in my pocket to show him the evidence I had. He walked away from the table and said, ‘No’ and I don’t think that we exchanged another word. ” Walbourne said.

The meeting ended, Walbourne said, when he asked Sajjan for directions on what to do about the allegation.

“I wanted the minister to do his job,” he said. “There was no book. There was no manual on what to do with an allegation against the Chief of the Defense Staff.”

‘I will not reveal the name’

Walbourne declined to go into the substance of the allegation against Vance, saying the complainant told him she was not filing a formal complaint.

“I had explained to Minister Sajjan that the complainant only contacted me after confidentiality was assured,” he said. “I will not reveal the name of the complainant or the details of the complaint because that is their story to tell, not mine.”

Much of what Walbourne had to say to the committee was first reported by CBC News, citing confidential sources, in a series of articles over the past month.

But his appearance at the committee today offered the first official and public recognition of what was said at the meeting and calls into question Sajjan’s actions.

The reunion was the culmination of a poisoned relationship between Walbourne and Sajjan which led to the watchdog’s resignation and premature departure from the post later that year.

Walbourne presented the committee with a separate investigation into his office’s workplace harassment, suggesting it was a political vendetta that only accelerated after the acrimonious meeting with Sajjan.

The House of Commons defense committee is investigating what the Liberal government knew, and when, of allegations of sexual misconduct involving Vance.

Sajjan has repeatedly declined to discuss concerns raised by Walbourne, citing confidentiality. He insisted that whenever “allegations” were brought to him, he handed them over to “the appropriate authorities”.

Walbourne said the day after telling Sajjan about the complaint, he was called to the Privy Council Office where he was questioned about the allegation.

General Jonathan Vance, then Chief of the Defense Staff, in Ottawa on Remembrance Day, 2020. (Giacomo Panico / CBC)

“I was shocked that they knew that. I was completely stunned when they asked about the allegation involving the Chief of Defense Staff,” he said, noting that ‘he had asked Sajjan to keep the matter confidential.

The Privy Council Office’s review, however, was hampered by Walbourne’s refusal to separately hand over the potentially incriminating emails and the name of the military woman who had complained about Vance informally.

Without these leads, senior officials seemed unable to address the concerns he raised, both in writing and in the meeting with Sajjan.

The Privy Council Office is responsible for the conduct of Governor in Council appointments, such as the Chief of Defense. The government has not said whether PCO shares the concerns with the PMO.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said publicly that he first learned of the allegations against Vance in a Global News report last month. This report alleged that the former commander-in-chief had a long-standing inappropriate relationship with a subordinate and separately sent a racy email to a junior non-commissioned officer.

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