The revelation, a month after the fact, that the incoming army commander’s installation was stalled due to a sexual misconduct investigation points to an urgent need for the Canadian Armed Forces to be more transparent, experts say.
The CAF did not reveal that Lt.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu’s change of command ceremony was postponed in September after military police opened an investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct, an allegation Cadieu denies.
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and the acting chief of the defence staff, Gen. Wayne Eyre, were both made aware of the investigation on Sept. 5, when the decision was also made to postpone the ceremony.
But the latest chapter in an ongoing crisis that has rocked the Canadian Armed Forces this year was not publicly acknowledged by the CAF until the Ottawa Citizen broke the news this week.
“It’s really time for the Canadian military to be more proactive in sharing information about its culture change efforts, but also on particular cases where senior leadership is being investigated,” said Maya Eichler, Canada research chair in social innovation and community engagement at Mount Saint Vincent University.
Eichler, who specializes in sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces, said the military should have told the public in September about the situation with Cadieu.
She said the military finds itself far too often in the position of reacting to media reports about allegations of sexual misconduct.
“We’re in a context right now where there are huge trust issues that the military faces on the sexual misconduct file,” she said.
“Operating as usual is not good enough.”
Eichler has suggested that military brass engage in regular news conferences to have a more nuanced discussion on complex issues like culture change and sexual misconduct.
“We’re all getting tired and impatient with media leak after media leak without anything really changing,” she said.
Canada’s military police force says it does not usually disclose the existence of ongoing investigations proactively, as such disclosure “could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.”
“Confirming investigations does occur on a case-by-case basis with due regard to the integrity of the investigation, the privacy rights of all involved and the public’s right to know,” the force said in a written statement.
Asked why Sajjan didn’t tell the public in September about the investigation into Cadieu, a spokesperson for the defence minister said communication about investigations is up to military police and “should not be politicized.”
But an expert on sexual misconduct in the military says the disclosure policy should be changed where very senior officers — such as the incoming head of the army — are concerned.
“Once again, the military serves the public and should not be an obscure institution that the public is removed from all the time,” said Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
“We need to have a Canadian public that has absolute trust in (the military’s) leadership, and transparency can do a lot to establish trust.”
Few details are known about the investigation into Cadieu. The Citizen reported that military police have taken the statement of a female former military member.
Cadieu denied any wrongdoing in a statement Wednesday, but said he’s asked Eyre to consider finding a replacement for 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,” he said.
The situation underscores the need for external, independent investigations, said New Democrat MP Randall Garrison, which were recommended years ago by an independent review but never implemented by the government.
“Until we have an independent oversight mechanism and independent investigators, then we’ll continue to have these problems and serving women will have no confidence that they can serve equally in the Canadian military,” said Garrison, his party’s defence critic in the last Parliament.
Garrison has called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to drop Sajjan as defence minister when Trudeau shuffles his cabinet later this month. Sajjan was censured by the House of Commons in June for his handling of the sexual misconduct file.
Jacques Gallant is a Toronto-based reporter covering politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @JacquesGallant