The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) is consulting with civilian prosecutors in Ontario to determine if criminal charges should be laid against Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson over a rape allegation that he denies, says the complainant's lawyer.
Retired Canadian Forces member Stéphanie Viau went public with her claims in March. Since February 2021, 11 current and former senior Canadian military leaders have been sidelined, investigated or forced into retirement from some of the highest ranking posts in the Armed Forces.
Viau alleged that she was a 19-year-old steward in the navy when Edmundson, a superior and lieutenant commander in 1991, started exposing his genitals to her onboard a navy ship deployed to the Pacific Ocean for an exercise.
Viau said Edmundson raped her onboard HMCS Provider in early November, 1991, while the ship was docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Viau's lawyer, Paul Champ, said he found out on Oct. 21 that military police gathered "what they feel was sufficient for a Crown to review on whether to lay charges" against Edmundson.
Champ said he believes it's a sign the investigators found the "evidence serious and credible."
Edmundson denied the allegations in March and said has never had "non-consensual sex with anyone, ever." Edmundson's lawyer has not yet responded to CBC's request for comment.
The military placed Edmundson on paid leave when CBC's story first aired and later replaced him as the commander in charge of military human resources when the allegations were made public.
'Serious systemic problems'
At the time, his lawyer Brian Greenspan called it regrettable that Edmundson was "replaced in his role without an opportunity to appropriately respond and defend against untested allegations which he categorically and unequivocally denies."
Newly appointed Defence Minister Anita Anand recently announced that she would act on a recommendation to transfer military sexual misconduct cases to the civilian justice system. A process has not yet been set up to transfer those files.
Viau had asked the military to bring in the RCMP to investigate her case on secondment. The military turned down that request. Now, CFNIS investigators are consulting with civilian prosecutors, as they have done in two other cases involving high-ranking leaders.
Champ said Anand's announcement about transferring cases to the civilian system was a positive step forward and long overdue.
"In fairness, [Viau] has been quite appreciative of those officers who are investigating the case. They have been quite sensitive and very diligent," he said. "But there's no doubt that we've seen serious systemic problems with the Canadian military in ensuring that there is proper criminal accountability for sexual misconduct and sexual assaults within the military."
CFNIS said in a media statement that since Viau's case is "an ongoing investigation," it "can't provide any further information."