Senior officer “reprimanded” after relaying complaint in unclear reporting system


OTTAWA – The senior officer who filed a conduct complaint against Canada’s highest commander testified Friday that the military’s reporting process is “disheartening and disappointing,” and that on one occasion he was reprimanded for having done his

OTTAWA – The senior officer who filed a conduct complaint against Canada’s top commander said on Friday the military’s reporting process was “disheartening and disappointing” and that on one occasion he was reprimanded for to have done his duty.

Lt.-Cmdr. Raymond Trotter’s testimony before the House of Commons defense committee detailing the fallout from reporting two cases of suspected misconduct adds new urgency to concerns about how the Canadian Armed Forces handle complaints.

Trotter was called to testify following a Global News report that he received two anonymous threats after making an allegation of misconduct by Admiral Art McDonald last month.

McDonald has temporarily resigned as chief of defense, after six weeks on the job, while military police investigate the allegation, which has not been publicly detailed.

Trotter said on Friday that the threats were made on March 4, but declined to go into details as the case is under investigation by the military, he said.

Opposition conservatives accused the Liberal government of being behind the alleged threats, an accusation that the defense minister’s office strongly rejected.

Trotter described the February 4 pinball machine between the Army Sexual Misconduct Response Center and what he believed to be the Defense Minister’s office – although he may have spoken with Department of Defense bureaucrats – finding there was no proper authority to convey concerns to.

Each referred him to the other to file the complaint, he said, with apparent confusion as to whether the response center was a place to report misconduct or a broader victim support resource. .

“They had let me know that they were going to take the allegation to the minister,” Trotter said of conversations with defense personnel.

February 5, the day after he started making calls, Trotter sat down for an interview with members of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, whom he had initially sought to avoid as he reports to the chain of command and ultimately reports to the Chief of Staff of defense, opening the door to a conflict of interest. Nonetheless, McDonald withdrew 20 days later.

“At this point, I felt like I had been going around in circles all day, and I said I was ready to talk about it,” Trotter said in committee.

He added that he had had worse experiences with another sexual harassment complaint, involving a comment made on a video conference. “In fact, I was reprimanded in a very humiliating way for following up on my reporting. I think I was treated that way because the complaint also concerned another senior officer,” he said. .

“In this environment, I can certainly understand why so many victims of sexual misconduct would be reluctant to come forward.”

Earlier on Friday, Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan admitted that “confidence has been shattered” in the Canadian military following accusations of misconduct against high-ranking officials.

The Canadian Armed Forces will create an independent complaints process for allegations of misconduct, where “all options are on the table” as to its structure, he said in a virtual meeting hosted by the Institute of the Conference of Defense Associations.

The defense committee also heard from Sajjan on Friday afternoon about his handling of an allegation of sexual misconduct against then defense chief Gen. Jonathan Vance, brought to his attention three years ago. years.

Sajjan told the committee that most of his meeting with Walbourne on March 1, 2018, focused on an investigation into a whistleblower’s complaint about the ombudsman’s office. Walbourne insisted the complaint was unfounded and alleged in committee last week that it was used as an excuse to pressure him and his team.

Sajjan told the committee that involving an elected official in an investigation would be “wrong and dangerous, to politicize any investigation that threatens a just outcome for those who come forward.”

Sajjan also said senior officials followed up on the allegation. “Actionable information has been requested. Information has not been shared,” he said.

His testimony echoed Trudeau’s insistence that the government was right to refer the matter to the Privy Council Office, the bureaucratic operation that backs up the Prime Minister’s Office. Trudeau said there was nothing more he could do because Walbourne declined to provide information about the allegation.

Trudeau also said the government did not know the details of the allegation until a global report last month.

The report alleges that Vance engaged in an ongoing relationship with a subordinate that began over a decade ago and continued after he became Chief of the Defense Staff in 2015. Global also reported that Vance allegedly sent an obscene email to a much more junior soldier in 2012.

Vance declined to respond to repeated requests from The Canadian Press for comment, and the allegations have not been independently verified. However, Global reported that Vance has denied any wrongdoing.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said last week that a Conservative government would establish an independent body to deal with complaints outside the chain of command, among other measures. NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the military ombudsman should report directly to Parliament.

On Friday, Trotter described an incident which he said occurred during a video conference involving more than 100 members of the Royal Canadian Navy, where a senior officer commented on a serviceman’s room, visible in the background.

“He called it his ‘red room’, which many people on the call saw as a reference to the movie ‘Fifty Shades of Gray’,” Trotter told the defense committee, adding that others spoke up. joined to him with inappropriate sexual remarks. “There were a lot of women on that call.”

Trotter, who was not on call, said he reported the complaint after his colleague relayed his experience. At least one other woman on the call reported a second complaint, he said.

He said the investigation was assigned to a subordinate of the senior officer who made the alleged “red room” comment.

Trotter said that when raising concerns about the conflict of interest, an official who is a former sea captain played down the incident.

“It seemed to me that it prejudged and predetermined an outcome,” Trotter said.

An official who is a former sea captain then berated him, saying he had “ruined the respondent’s career for nothing,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 12, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

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