Military Reeling as New Defence Chief Steps Aside Amid Allegations of Misconduct

February 25, 2021 Updated: February 25, 2021

OTTAWA—The Canadian Armed Forces is reeling after news defence chief Admiral Art McDonald is being investigated for misconduct, only weeks after military police launched an investigation into allegations against his predecessor.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan revealed late Wednesday that McDonald had “voluntarily stepped aside” while military police investigate unspecified allegations.

McDonald took over as the chief of the defence staff last month from Gen. Jonathan Vance, who is being investigated after allegations of inappropriate behaviour.

Vance has denied any wrongdoing and McDonald has not commented.

Canadian Army commander Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre has been appointed acting chief of the defence staff.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan called Thursday for the government to reveal the nature of the allegations against McDonald, who used his first address as defence chief on Jan. 14 to apologize to victims of military sexual misconduct and hate.

“In the interest of morale, and for our women and men in uniform to have confidence in the senior leadership of the Canadian Armed Forces, Minister Sajjan must confirm why chief of defence staff Admiral Art McDonald is under investigation,” Bezan said in a statement.

Bloc Quebecois Leader Yves-Francois Blanchet said the message from the government must be that the military “can be no less than exemplary.”

“I believe that the people that go into the army, that decide that this is their choice for a career, are good people, and must not be judged as a whole. I believe that there are a few people in the institutions that are not up to the task of being exemplary.”

In a memo to members of the Forces on Wednesday, McDonald made no mention of allegations against him, but said the “time for patience is over” and the military must “accelerate our culture change.”

“Our institution can no longer put the burden of change and transformation on those affected by harassment, discrimination, or any form of misconduct. That burden must rest on us. All of us,” he wrote.

“I as the Chief, along with all the leaders in CAF, need to work every day to earn your trust. And we are all committed to doing so.”

“If you are considering speaking to anyone with information on (the Vance) case, or any other case of alleged misconduct, you have my support to come forward, to speak up, and to tell the truth. And you can expect to be heard, supported, and protected as you do.”

By Lee Berthiaume