Prime Minister Justin Trudeau today criticized a letter from former top military commander Admiral Art McDonald calling for his reinstatement, saying the letter’s contents do not align with the government’s approach to sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.
McDonald claimed in the letter that a military investigation had exonerated him of a sexual misconduct allegation. While investigators did not bring forward charges, the Canadian Forces provost marshal later stated publicly that the lack of charges does not mean the allegation was unfounded.
McDonald stepped aside as chief of the defence staff (CDS) in February after CBC News and the Ottawa Citizen learned he was being investigated by military police in relation to a decade-old allegation of misconduct.
In the letter, McDonald argued that he should be reinstated to the post and criticized the government’s handling of his case. Gen. Wayne Eyre has since taken McDonald’s place and is acting CDS.
At a news conference in Ottawa today, Trudeau fired back.
“It is important that we take the right decisions in the right way to ensure that survivors and all who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces are at the centre of decisions taken,” Trudeau said, echoing his previous comments about a wave of sexual misconduct controversies that have rocked the military.
“Certainly, the personal views expressed by Admiral McDonald in that letter do not align with the practices, or approach that we have, of putting victims or survivors at the centre of everything that we do,” Trudeau continued. “And it will be taken into account as we make a final determination on the permanent post of chief of defence staff.”
Trudeau took the opportunity to praise members of the military, pointing to their efforts to fight the pandemic.
He said the government is taking the problem of sexual misconduct “seriously.”
“We are absolutely taking this seriously and with every new revelation that confirms that there is a deep cultural problem at Canada’s military that isn’t worthy of the extraordinary women and men who choose to serve,” he said.
Earlier this year, the government appointed former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to conduct a review of the military’s culture and processes for addressing sexual misconduct cases.
“We have made significant steps, there’s a lot more to do and, yes indeed, that change is not happening as rapidly as we would all like to see,” Trudeau said. “That’s why we’re continuing to work with external experts and people within the highest ranks of the military to make sure that these changes are being made as quickly and as lastingly as possible.”