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Lack of charges against Admiral McDonald did not mean allegation was 'unfounded,' military police say

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Admiral Art McDonald is shown at a media briefing in July 2019, when he was commander of the Royal Canadian Navy. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Admiral Art McDonald is shown at a media briefing in July 2019, when he was commander of the Royal Canadian Navy. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Military police say that the lack of charges against Admiral Art McDonald does not mean the allegation of sexual misconduct made against the former top military commander was unfounded.

In a media statement issued today, the Canadian Forces provost marshal stated that the "allegation of sexual misconduct against Admiral McDonald" did not lead to charges because of "insufficient evidence."

"This does not mean that the allegation was unfounded, which is defined by Statistics Canada as, 'After a police investigation it is concluded that no violation of the law took place nor was attempted,'" the statement continued.

McDonald launched a public campaign last week to return to his former command as chief of the defence staff. In a letter to military generals and flag officers, McDonald argued military police had exonerated him of any wrongdoing and that he should be reinstated.

He stepped aside from the role 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.

The provost marshal first issued the statement to Global News, making the point that legal experts argued last week.

The woman at the centre of the allegation against McDonald, navy Lt. Heather Macdonald, told Global News that McDonald's letter amounted to a public attack on her integrity and said witnesses corroborated her statement to military police.

WATCH | Admiral McDonald not returning to lead the military yet, government says:

In August, McDonald's legal team issued a statement saying he was returning to his job as chief of defence staff after a five-month investigation that did not end in criminal charges. But the Privy Council Office (PCO) said he would remain on leave while the "matter is fully reviewed."

The position of chief of the defence staff is a governor-in-council appointment — meaning the prime minister can dismiss the chief at any time.

The PCO has not yet issued a statement about McDonald's future.

"This suspension remains in force," the PCO said in a statement to CBC News on Oct. 5. "The government is assessing all circumstances in determining next steps."

The PCO said earlier this month that, according to the government's ethics policy, "public office holders have an obligation to perform their official duties in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law."

The provost marshal's office also said that it wanted to assure survivors and victims coming forward that military police do not "divulge investigative" information to the subject of an investigation when they are informed of the outcome.

In his letter last week, McDonald had said that he was pleased with the investigation because it "found allegations against me to be unsubstantiated — the outcome of which I was certain."

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