The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) is determining “next steps” after being made aware that senior military leaders, including one who can issue orders regarding military police investigations, went golfing with former defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance, who is currently under military police investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.
In a statement with us, the CAF said it has been made aware that Lt.-Gen. Michael Rouleau and Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, head of the Royal Canadian Navy, went golfing with Vance earlier this month at a private club in Ottawa.
“We recognize the seriousness of the matter and, as such, we will gather facts and advice in order to determine next steps,” the CAF said in the statement.
Rouleau has oversight authority for the military police who launched an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Vance in early February following his retirement.
“It’s a conflict of interest,” Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, an expert on sexual misconduct in the military at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, told us. “You have the Vice Chief who is responsible for military police and can intervene and interfere in the investigation into Vance. This is a serious problem.”
Rouleau is able to issue orders to the CAF’s top police officer, Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau, and since changes made to the National Defence Act in 2013, those orders have included the ability to “issue instructions or guidelines in writing in respect of a particular investigation.”
A retired Supreme Court Justice, Morris Fish, criticized this policy in a report released at the start of June, saying the provision “significantly encroaches on police independence.”
Rouleau, Baines and Vance met for a round of golf in early June at an exclusive Ottawa club for military members and their families.
A spokesperson for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan issued a statement with us saying Sajjan was made aware of the situation Saturday afternoon following media inquires.
“The decision by the Lt.-Gen. Rouleau and Vice-Admiral Baines to go golfing with Gen Vance is troubling and unacceptable,” the statement read. “The Minister will discuss next steps with Acting Chief of the Defence Staff.”
Baines released a statement Sunday night apologizing for his conduct and saying he would be “taking a few days of personal leave.”
“I fully accept responsibility and accountability for not understanding how such a public display of support sends the wrong signal as to my commitment to lead in resolving our systemic cultural and misconduct issues,” the statement reads. “For this, I sincerely apologize.”
On Sunday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau deferred to that discussion when asked whether the two officials should lose their jobs.
“I know the minister of defence is following up with the acting chief of [defence] staff on this issue,” he told reporters at the end of the G7 summit in the United Kingdom.
We have not independently verified the allegations against Vance. Vance’s successor, Admiral Art McDonald, is also under a separate investigation. Both have denied any wrongdoing.
Recent high-profile cases, including the allegation against Vance, have prompted the force and its top leaders to re-commit to ending sexual misconduct within the ranks, but after years of broken promises, many survivors say that trust has eroded, with this golfing incident casting further doubt.
“It demonstrates the old boys club is still alive and well, and I question whether they are really committed to culture change and due process,” Lori Buchart, volunteer with It’s Not Just 700, told us.
Rouleau is nearing the end of this time as Vice Chief of Defence Staff. In a statement, the Prime Minister’s office said Rouleau has not issued any instructions of guideline in regards to any on-going military police investigation.
With files from Canadian Press, CTV National News parliamentary correspondent Kevin Gallagher, and CTVNews.ca’s Alexandra Mae Jones
I fully accept responsibility & accountability for not understanding how such a public display of support could send the wrong signal regarding my commitment to lead in resolving our systemic cultural & misconduct issues.— VAdm/Vam Craig Baines (@Comd_RCN) June 14, 2021