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Conservatives heard ‘rumors’ about Vance’s allegedly inappropriate relationship in 2015

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In the weeks leading up to the appointment of General Jonathan Vance as Chief of Defense Staff, the former Conservative government looked into a “rumor” that he would have had an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate in 2001 and had even tried to advance her career. .

A former senior official in the office of the day’s prime minister, Ray Novak, told a parliamentary committee Monday that in the week before Vance took command of the Canadian military, the government was struggling to decide whether to proceed with the appointment.

The Conservative election for defense chief was investigated before being settled on allegations that while serving with NATO in Naples he would have had an inappropriate relationship with a U.S. Army colonel who later became his wife.

The matter was settled in calm when former National Security Advisor (NSA) Richard Fadden reported that the Department of Homeland Security and the military had investigated him and found no breach of the Code of Service Discipline, said Novak, who served as chief of staff. former Prime Minister Stephen Harper in 2015

Harper spoke directly with Vance

In a private meeting, Harper even raised the issue directly with Vance and “asked if there was anything else he needed to know,” Novak told the House of Commons defense committee, which is investigating what the former Conservative government knew. and the current Liberal government the personal life of the senior general.

CBC News, citing confidential sources, reported on many aspects of Novak’s testimony in early and mid-February.

Conservative leader Stephen Harper speaks with his chief of staff Ray Novak as he makes a campaign stop at construction sites in North Vancouver, BC on Wednesday, August 12, 2015. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press)

In later testimony Monday, Novak said he believed Vance could have deceived Harper.

“It is clear, when six years later we have these very serious allegations made by Major Brennan, if they are true and as I said before I have no reason to doubt what it means that the general was not true when met with the prime minister in March 2015, “he said.

Satisfied with Vance’s responses in the spring of 2015, the Conservatives went ahead with the appointment only to receive two more separate tips on the eve of a change of command that summer.

The first came from the chief of staff to the minister of veteran affairs of the day, who called Novak with information and an expression of concern.

“The call transmitted a rumor that General Vance had an inappropriate relationship and / or had improperly sought to further the career of an officer during his time at CFB Gagetown, which Ibelieve was in 2001,” Novak said.

“I advised the National Security Adviser about the call; he indicated he would investigate further.”

This is potentially significant because one of the accusations at the center of the crisis that has rocked the Canadian military includes the claim that Vance had had an indecent affair for a long time with a female subordinate, Major Kellie Brennan, which began in 2001 in Gagetown, NB

The National Force Investigation Service of Canada (NIS) is now investigating whether there were any military regulations or broken laws.

The second piece of advice, which was anonymously sent to a senior defense department official and headed to the prime minister’s office in July 2015, included a reinstatement of allegations of an inappropriate relationship in Naples.

The PMO briefed on investigations into the councils

“In subsequent talks between the PMO, the PCO and the Office of the Minister, it was agreed that the Command Change Ceremony would be delayed if necessary to allow sufficient time for further consideration,” Novak said.

“Over the next week or so, the National Security Adviser informed the Prime Minister and the PMO that NIS had found nothing further regarding the General’s time in NATO and that their consideration of the matter was closed. As for the Gagetown rumor, the NSA “informed the Prime Minister and the PMO that there was nothing in the DND files, there was no record of a complaint and no current or previous investigation.”

Fadden, in fact, asked Vance directly about Gagetown Romanian, the general “replied that he had been in a public relations with the appointed individual at the time, that this person did not report to him, and he denied ever having acted improperly pursuing her career “

Liberal members sitting on the defense committee on Monday tried to blame the Conservatives for the appointment in the first place.

“I think it’s safe to say that for the appointment to go ahead, you have not had any concerns based on the investigations that have taken place,” said Liberal MP Chris Bittle, who insisted on “yes” or “no” responses. his questions.

Novakde defended the decision, saying the government at the time allowed the appointment to go ahead based on the information they had.

“These appointments continue on the basis of facts,” he said.

“When a rumor is reported to the Privacy Council and no information is returned, when an anonymous email is sent and we are informed that there is no new information, there is no investigation, the matter is closed; these were the facts that were available. other facts, another decision could have been made “.

NDP defense critic Randal Garrison asked if the Conservatives stopped and wondered at any point if they were making the right choice given that the allegations were filed and investigated in 2015 and that the independent report on sexual behavior was released at the same time as the appointment of Vance.

Novak essentially shifted the blame to Vance.

“Obviously, looking back on this six years later, we have a number of very disturbing claims that have been made and when someone makes a meeting in a position as high as the Chief of Defense Staff, the Chief of the Canadian Armed Forces, one of “One of the most historic and historic military institutions in the world, one expects that individual to hold the proud record of this institution and leave it in a better place than he or she found it,” Novak said.

“And unfortunately, clearly, that has not been the case.”

Vance went on to serve five years as defense chief before retiring in January this year. His successor, Admiral Art McDonald, stepped down two weeks after taking the oath following specific allegations of misconduct against him.

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