Canada’s former top soldier pleads guilty to obstruction of justice

TORONTO — Canada’s former top military commander pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice Wednesday in one of several high-profile cases of alleged sexual misconduct that have rocked the Canadian Armed Forces and renewed criticism of the efforts of the military and federal government to stamp out a long-standing problem.

Gen. According to court papers, Jonathan Vance was the chief of defense staff and resigned last year. He was accused of “willfully” calling Maj. Kellie Brennan several times via phone in order to get her to make “false statements” about their relationship.

An agreed statement of facts submitted to the court said Vance had conversations with Brennan that she surreptitiously recorded “about a collaborative and mutually beneficial response to publicity concerning their clandestine, intimate relationship” and “promoted a false narrative,” pushing her to deny that they had sex while he was chief of the defense staff.

An Ontario judge agreed to a request from prosecutors and Vance’s attorney to grant him a conditional discharge, which means he will not have a criminal record if he meets certain conditions, including completing 80 hours of community service. He will be put on probation for 12 months and barred from contacting Brennan.

Vance is Canada’s longest serving chief of defense staff. Brennan said last year that she believes he has abused his authority through a relationship. According to the agreed statement of facts, they had a child.

“General Vance would like to express his gratitude for the support and love he received from his wife Kerry and his friends during this time. His attorney made the statement following Wednesday’s hearing. “He apologizes and takes responsibility for his part in this matter.”

Vance, who as chief of the defense staff was the equivalent of the U.S. chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is one of several top military officials to face accusations of sexual misconduct in the past year. Anita Anand, the Defense Minister, publicly apologised for “a crisis in broken trust” within military.

The cases drew fresh attention to the issue and prompted Ottawa to tap former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to head an external review. Advocates have found it difficult to see the progress of the review, as sexual misconduct claims in military have been alleged for decades and are already the subject of external reviews.

In 2015, former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps found an “underlying sexualized culture” in the military and “a broadly held perception in the lower ranks that those in the chain of command either condone inappropriate sexual conduct, or are willing to turn a blind eye to such incidents.”

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, the investigative arm of the military police, charged Vance with obstruction of justice last July. It said in a statement that it referred the case to the civilian justice system in part because of “limitations” of the military justice system to try the retired top soldier. The federal government, following an interim recommendation by Arbour in November, stated that sexual misconduct allegations in Canada’s Armed Forces will be investigated and pursued by civil authorities.

In a briefing with reporters Wednesday, military officials said they could not provide data on how many cases have been referred to civilian authorities since November.

Anand declined to comment on Wednesday’s developments, telling reporters in Ottawa that her “responsibility is to continue to build an institution where everyone can work with the respect and the protections that they need to do their jobs on behalf of our country.”

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