Senior military leaders golfed with former top soldier currently under investigation

Two senior military leaders went golfing with the former chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance last week while he’s at the centre of a military police investigation for allegations of inappropriate behaviour involving female subordinates.

The vice-chief of the defence staff, Mike Rouleau, and the head of the Royal Canadian Navy, Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, met with Vance on June 2 at the Hylands Golf and Country Club in Ottawa, said a senior defence official speaking on the condition they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Rouleau’s decision to go golfing with Vance comes after witness testimony raised concerns about a sexist double-standard on fraternization at a parliamentary committee reviewing sexual misconduct in the military. The testimony revealed cases where women’s careers were cut short while high-ranking male officers in similar cases are allowed to carry on after being involved in the same behaviour.

Todd Lane, press secretary for the defence minister, said Harjit Sajjan was not aware the three individuals went golfing until this afternoon following media inquiries.

“The decision by LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines to go golfing with Gen Vance is troubling and unacceptable,” said Lane in a statement. “The Minister will discuss next steps with Acting Chief of the Defence Staff.”

The Canadian Forces National Investigative Service (CFNIS) is investigating Vance for inappropriate relationships with two female subordinates. Vance has told Global News he denies the allegations.

The CFNIS reports directly to the military’s provost marshal, which Rouleau has authority over. 

Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau golfed with Canada’s former top soldier, retired general Jonathan Vance, on June 2, despite a military police investigation. The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigating Vance reports directly to the military’s provost marshal, which Rouleau has authority over. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

‘We recognize the seriousness of the matter’

The Globe and Mail and Global News first reported on the meetup at the Ottawa golf course, described on the course’s website as a “first-class golf venue” for Canadian Forces personnel and their families. 

Neither the chief of defence staff, Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre, nor the deputy minister of National Defence, Jody Thomas, were aware of the golf game and learned from the media on Saturday, said the official speaking on background.

Jessica Lamirande, spokesperson for the Department of National Defence, said “we have been made aware that LGen Rouleau and VAdm Baines went golfing with Gen (Retired) Jonathan Vance.

“We recognize the seriousness of the matter and, as such, we will gather facts and advice in order to determine next steps.”

The woman at the centre of Vance’s sexual misconduct case, Maj. Kellie Brennan, delivered bombshell testimony to a parliamentary committee in April. In it, she said Vance considered himself “untouchable” and that he fathered but does not support two of her children. 

In the second case, Vance allegedly sent a racy email almost nine years ago to another woman, who was a junior non-commissioned officer at the time.

An official said Lt.-Gen. Rouleau was slated to move into a new position as a strategic advisor to Eyre next month. Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen, is expected to replace Rouleau and become the first woman to serve as vice-chief of the defence staff. 

CBC News submitted a request for comment to Rouleau and Baines on Saturday night but has not yet received a response.

The military is in the midst of a crisis of leadership with more than half a dozen senior officers swept up into the sexual misconduct crisis, including Vance’s successor Admiral Art McDonald.

A landmark review by former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish into the military’s judicial system found sexual assault and misconduct cases should be turned over to civilians in the interim until the military puts in place more protections for victims. 

The government has tasked former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour with leading an external review of sexual harassment and misconduct in the military. The Department of National Defence also created a new position of “chief of conduct and professionalism”, now held by Lt.-Gen. Jennie Carignan.