Canada’s former top soldier in Haiti sues over false affair allegations

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News Writer
Daily Brew

Colonel Bernard Ouellette was once Canada's top soldier in Haiti.

The former commander of the Canadian Task Force and chief-of-staff to the UN mission was stripped of his command in Port-au-Prince two years ago following allegations that he had an "inappropriate relationship" with his civilian secretary, Albanian Vlora Merlaku.

In March 2012, officers under Ouellette's command emailed Ottawa with accusations that Ouellette and Merlaku were "frolicking together" by the pool and had been seen holding hands.

Ouellette was given an administrative job in National Defence headquarters. He claimed he was unaware of the allegations before he was sanctioned — and wasn't able to defend himself.

Ouellette, 51, maintains that the allegations were false — and have effectively destroyed his career.

In November 2010, five months after he was relieved of his duties, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service concluded there was "insufficient evidence to support the charge."

But this January, an administrative review launched in March 2011 recommended "the (compulsory) release of Col. Ouellette" as "unsuitable for further service" citing "the misconduct" and "the unsatisfactory performance" of Ouellette as "extremely grave," CBC News reports.

Ouellette is now suing the Canadian Forces for defamation, demanding both an apology and compensation "from three Canadian members of his former staff in Port-au-Prince, the Defence Department, and a military ethics instructor, who has used him as an example of improper conduct before a class of 57 students in Toronto," Allan Woods reports for the Ottawa Bureau.

"The defamatory statements…have become so widespread and familiar that they are currently being used as an example to demonstrate 'unethical conduct' " at Canadian Forces College, says the statement of claim.

"He has suffered emotionally, physically and his reputation has been tarnished, considerably, for something that he hasn't done," Ouellette's lawyer, retired colonel Michel Drapeau, told CBC News.

The decision to strip Ouellette of his command responsibilities cited his "personal relationship" with Merlaku, noting that she lived in his personal quarters for two months.

Ouellette insists that Merlaku moved into his residence after her own home was deemed unsafe, and that he slept in his office and other locations while she slept in his bed.

"I have been married for 28 years and I have never deceived my wife. I have deep values. I acted in good faith and without ulterior motive," Ouellette wrote to the head of the Canadian Forces Expeditionary Command.

Ouellette claims that the false accusations made him miss out on being decorated for his involvement in the Haiti rescue-and-relief effort, and was the reason he was passed over for the job as chief of staff for the army in Quebec, the Ottawa Bureau reports.

He filed the $6.2 million lawsuit in January but only came to public attention this week.

The Department of National Defence has not yet responded to the lawsuit.