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Case against former top general Jonathan Vance adjourned until October

·3 min read
A criminal charge against former chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance goes to court in Ontario today. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)
A criminal charge against former chief of the defence staff Jonathan Vance goes to court in Ontario today. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press - image credit)

The criminal case involving the country's former top military commander that went before provincial court in Ontario today has been adjourned until Oct. 15.

Retired general Jonathan Vance was charged by military police in July with one count of obstruction of justice in relation to an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) did not provide details about the charge but said that it relates to events that happened after the military police began investigating Vance on Feb. 4, 2021.

Provincial court documents released in July allege that Vance "did willfully attempt to obstruct the course of justice in a judicial proceeding by repeatedly contacting Mrs. KB by phone and attempting to persuade her to make false statements about their past relationship to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service."

"KB" refers to Maj. Kellie Brennan, a staff officer at army headquarters, who told Global News last winter that she and the former chief of the defence staff had an on-again, off-again intimate relationship.

The court hearing was held via video conference. Vance did not attend and was not required to enter a plea.

His attorney, noted Ottawa criminal lawyer Rodney Sellar, did not return phone calls this week. An associate of Sellar's appeared in court today and told the justice of the peace that a pre-trial conference has been scheduled for Oct. 6 and asked the case be put over until Oct. 15.

The allegations against Vance — which surfaced two weeks after his retirement after five years in the top defence post — were followed by a cascade of misconduct allegations that have consumed the upper ranks of the military.

Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press
Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press

His successor, Admiral Art McDonald, voluntarily stepped aside after it was revealed he was under investigation for alleged misconduct. Military police did not lay charges against him — his lawyers have said that was because "there was no reasonable and probable grounds" to charge.

Even though he demanded through his lawyers that he be given his job back, McDonald remains on leave.

The former head of the country's vaccine rollout, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, has been charged with one count sexual assault in relation to a three-decade-old allegation of misconduct.

His case will make its first appearance in a Gatineau, Que. courtroom on Monday.

Justin Tang/The Canadian Press
Justin Tang/The Canadian Press

Separately, Fortin has launched a Federal Court challenge alleging political interference in his removal as head of the Public Health Agency of Canada's vaccine distribution task force.

The misconduct crisis and its ongoing sordid revelations — many of them about Vance — were the subject of two sets of parliamentary committee hearings.

Having a personal relationship with a subordinate can, in some instances, be contrary to military regulations and the Code of Service Discipline.

Right from the outset last winter, legal experts said it would have been virtually impossible to prosecute Vance under disciplinary sections because — as the former highest-ranking member of the Armed Forces — there was no one senior to him who could sit in judgment under military law. There is no mechanism or statute that would allow such a case to be heard.

The case against Vance came up on the federal election campaign trail today when Liberal leader Justin Trudeau was asked about it. Citing the court proceedings, he did not answer the question directly but cited his government's efforts to change the military culture and end gender-based violence.

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