The Canadian Armed Forces’ incoming commander of the army is under military police investigation, the Department of Defence confirmed Wednesday.
As first reported Wednesday by the Ottawa Citizen, a change-of-command ceremony set to take place last month for Lt.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu was postponed due to the investigation into historical allegations.
The Department of National Defence did not specify the nature of the investigation in its statement Wednesday, but the Citizen reported it is related to allegations of sexual misconduct and that military police have taken the statement of a female former military member.
A spokesperson for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan confirmed that Sajjan was made aware of the probe on Sept. 5, the same day as the military’s leadership, and declined to comment further.
“The postponement of the ceremony is not an indictment of Lt.-Gen. Cadieu,” the department said in a statement. “However, in light of the ongoing investigation, a decision was made to allow the justice system to pursue the matter in accordance with the rule of law.”
In a separate statement, Cadieu said the allegations against him are false, “but they must be investigated thoroughly to expose the truth.
“I believe that all complaints should be investigated professionally, regardless of the rank of the accused.”
He said he’s asked the acting chief of the defence staff, Gen. Wayne Eyre, to consider finding a new army commander.
“While I have devoted every day of my career to making fellow members feel respected and included, Canadian Army soldiers deserve a leader who is unencumbered by allegations and can lead at this important time when culture change, addressing systemic misconduct and preparing tactical teams for operations must remain the priority effort,” Cadieu said.
He said he has provided “detailed information and correspondence” to military police investigators. “I have taken other measures to prove my truthfulness and innocence,” he said.
Cadieu has been in the military for almost 30 years, and served in Afghanistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
He was responsible for the military’s strategic joint staff, and appeared before the House of Commons’ standing committee on national defence last year to explain the military’s work on COVID-19 vaccine distribution with the Public Health Agency of Canada.
The military has been rocked by a sexual misconduct crisis this year, with current and former leaders under investigation following allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
Retired general Jonathan Vance, a former chief of the defence staff, was recently charged with obstruction of justice as part of an ongoing probe by military police.
His successor, Adm. Art McDonald, remains on leave after military police decided in August not to lay criminal or disciplinary charges against him as part of a separate sexual misconduct investigation.
And last week, the military’s leadership came under fire for appointing Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe in a position to help craft the Canadian Armed Forces’ response to recommendations for dealing with sexual misconduct.
Dawe had been on leave as special forces commander since May, after CBC News reported he submitted a character reference at the 2017 sentencing hearing for a soldier who had been found guilty of sexual assault.
Dawe was removed from the new position within a day of his appointment being revealed by media.
The outrage over Dawe’s appointment prompted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to declare that Canada’s military leaders “still don’t get it” when it comes to tackling sexual misconduct. But others have made the same criticism of Trudeau’s government, which is responsible for overseeing the military.
News of the Cadieu investigation comes just days after Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin lost his court bid to be reinstated as head of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, a job he lost in May amid a military police investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct.
Fortin was charged in August with one criminal count of sexual assault, an allegation he denies.
An independent review of sexual misconduct in the Canadian military is currently underway. The review, headed by retired Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour, is expected to deliver a final report by next spring.
Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant