Military replaces another top officer in wake of sexual misconduct allegations

·4 min read
Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson has been replaced as head of Military Personnel Command and chief of military personnel. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press - image credit)
Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson has been replaced as head of Military Personnel Command and chief of military personnel. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press - image credit)

The Canadian military has put another senior officer in charge of its personnel command after the former commander, Vice-Admiral Hayden Edmundson, stepped away earlier this year following allegations of sexual assault and misconduct.

The announcement, made Friday by the acting chief of the defence staff, is part of a broader shakeup of the senior ranks. That shakeup was triggered in part by the ongoing sexual misconduct crisis that has tarnished the institution and left a number of major commands with "acting" commanders.

Lt.-Gen.Steve Whelan was promoted to replace Edmundson on a permanent basis as head of Military Personnel Command and chief of military personnel.

Edmundson has been on leave with pay for roughly six weeks while the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigates a claim of rape dating back to an alleged incident in 1991 aboard a Royal Canadian Navy ship.

Retired leading seamen Stéphanie Viau said Edmundson exposed himself to her on multiple occasions onboard during a navy exercise abroad. She said his behaviour escalated and he raped her while the ship was docked in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.

Edmundson's lawyer, Brian Greenspan, said his client denies the allegations.

"It is regrettable that after 37 years of loyal service to Canada, Vice-Admiral Edmundson has been replaced in his role without an opportunity to appropriately respond and defend against untested allegations which he categorically and unequivocally denies," said Greenspan in a statement to CBC News.

Greenspan said Edmundson wishes "his team and new Commander his best wishes for success in their future endeavours."

WATCH | Stéphanie Viau shares her story of alleged sexual assault:

DND reviewing request for civilian police to investigate

Viau said she wants her case investigated by civilian police because she can no longer trust the military police after a prior sexual assault.

The Department of National Defence said it has been looking into other investigative options. If Viau's case is transferred to the RCMP or another police force, it would set a precedent for future sexual assault cases in the Armed Forces.

"This is a delicate matter and one we take extremely seriously, so we need to take the time to ensure all options are being explored, while respecting the integrity of investigative process, the wishes of the victim, the military justice system, as well as the jurisdictions of other police forces," says a DND statement sent to CBC News.

The department's deputy minister, Jody Thomas, has called Viau's case a complex historical one. She said the provost marshal, who is in charge of the military police, is "working diligently to understand what can be done to support Ms. Viau."

"What we want to do is be able to do what is right so justice can be served," said Thomas on April 29 at a press conference about sexual misconduct in the forces.

"What that looks like is under investigation right now."

DND said there are no plans currently for Edmundson to return to work.

Whelan will have as his deputy Maj.-Gen. Lise Bourgon, a respected air force officer.

Announcement formalizes key appointments for number of senior women

One glaring omission in the general officer and flag officer list released today is the absence of any reference to Lt.-Gen Wayne Eyre's status. Eyre stepped into the top military commander's job after the current chief of the defence staff, Admiral Art McDonald, voluntarily stepped aside in February after it was revealed he was under military police investigation for sexual misconduct.

Commodore Josee Kurtz, who recently commanded a NATO task group, will take over as commandant of the Royal Military College.
Commodore Josee Kurtz, who recently commanded a NATO task group, will take over as commandant of the Royal Military College.(Mike Dembeck/The Canadian Press)

Eyre remains "acting" chief and his post as head of the army continues to be filled on an acting basis by Maj.-Gen. Michel-Henri St-Louis, who commanded Canada's last battle group in Kandahar.

And Lt.-Gen. Jocelyn Paul has been promoted to the position of deputy NATO commander at the joint forces headquarters in Naples. Paul, also a former member of the battle group in Kandahar, is the military's highest-ranking Indigenous member.

Today's announcement also formalized the promotions and appointments of a number of senior women to key posts throughout the military.

Along with the appointment of Lt.-Gen. Jennie Carignan to the newly-created post of chief of conduct and professionalism, the military formally announced today that Commodore Josee Kurtz, who recently commanded a NATO task group, will take over as commandant of the Royal Military College.

Many survivors and sexual assault experts have cited the culture in the military colleges in Kingston, Ont. and St-Jean, Que. as a major factor contributing to the misconduct crisis.

Meanwhile, Maj.-Gen. Nancy Tremblay is being appointed to a new temporary position as "Chief Materiel Program" — part of the team that buys military equipment.

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