Military police chief defends independence; Vance allegedly said he 'owned' force

·2 min read

OTTAWA — Canada's top military police officer told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that he is not beholden to the top brass, as he responded to allegations that former defence chief Jonathan Vance said he "owned" the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.

Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau acknowledged during an appearance before the House of Commons committee on the status of women that there is a perception his officers are not independent of the chain of command.

"And that can be problematic as a barrier of reporting to the military police," Trudeau said, adding that he recently provided recommendations on ways to address the problem to former Supreme Court justice Morris Fish, who is reviewing the military justice system.

But, Trudeau said, "I am independent of the chain of command and I have full command of the military police involved in policing. And we will investigate allegations regardless of the rank or status. We'll analyze the facts, look at the evidence and lay charges as required.”

His comments follow explosive testimony last month from Maj. Kellie Brennan, who told the committee Vance was in an inappropriate relationship with her, which started in 2001 and continued after he became Canada’s top military commander in 2015.

Brennan told the committee that Vance, who is currently under military police investigation, told her he was "untouchable, he owned the CFNIS." She also said military police investigators would not answer when she asked if they had the power to lay charges against him.

Trudeau would not speculate on why Vance — who has declined requests for comment from The Canadian Press but denied to Global News any inappropriate conduct — would have made such a comment. He instead repeatedly asserted his independence.

The provost marshal was also grilled about a private Facebook exchange in which current and retired military police officers allegedly mocked Brennan and her testimony. Trudeau said he was "disappointed," and referred the matter to "the professional standards section."

Trudeau was one of several witnesses to appear before the committee on Tuesday, which is studying the broader issue of sexual misconduct in the military. Those others included the senior officer responsible for leading culture change in the military, Lt.-Gen Jennie Carignan.

That meeting came amid uncertainty about a separate committee investigation into the Liberal government’s handling of the Vance allegations, with opposition members wanting more answers even as the clock ticks down toward Parliament’s summer break.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2021.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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