The man who was set to take charge of the Canadian Army is under investigation by military police for sexual misconduct and his appointment to commander has been postponed, the Department of National Defence said on Wednesday.
Lieutenant-General Trevor Cadieu is the latest senior officer to face allegations of sexual misconduct, which have rocked the Canadian Forces leadership this year. Since February, the former chief of defence staff and his successor have been among the top military leaders to be investigated, and the Forces’ ability to support victims has come under intense scrutiny.
In a joint statement, the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces said acting chief of defence staff General Wayne Eyre was told about the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service’s probe into “historical allegations” against Lt.-Gen. Cadieu on Sept. 5 – two days before he was set to take command of the army.
Gen. Eyre told Lt.-Gen. Cadieu the same day that the change of command ceremony would be postponed to allow the investigation to “run its course,” the statement said.
“The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service received an allegation of sexual misconduct against Lt.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu. As a military police investigation is ongoing, no further details will be provided,” the military police said in a brief statement on Wednesday. The investigation was first reported by The Ottawa Citizen.
Lt.-Gen. Cadieu denied the allegation in a statement provided to The Globe and Mail by the Department of National Defence. Spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier said he has been on leave since he was notified of the investigation on Sept. 5.
“The allegations are false, but they must be investigated thoroughly to expose the truth,” Lt.-Gen. Cadieu said. “I believe that all complaints should be investigated professionally, regardless of the rank of the accused.” He added that he asked Gen. Eyre to “consider selecting another leader” for the army.
“I know that these false claims will, as intended, create doubts about my ability to lead in this environment,” he said. “Canadian Army soldiers deserve a leader who is unencumbered by allegations and can lead at this important time when culture change, addressing systemic misconduct and preparing tactical teams for operations must remain the priority effort.”
Lt.-Gen. Cadieu said he has “already voluntarily provided information” to the military police and he has taken unspecified other measures to prove his “truthfulness and innocence.”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was told about the investigation on Sept. 5, midway through the federal election campaign. His spokesperson, Todd Lane, said on Wednesday he would not comment further because of the open investigation.
The Canadian Forces did not disclose that the change of command ceremony was being postponed at the time of the decision. Mr. Le Bouthillier said on Wednesday that’s because the department “does not, under normal circumstances, proactively disclose the existence of ongoing investigations as doing so could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.”
Postponing the ceremony “is not an indictment of Lt.-Gen. Cadieu,” the joint statement from the Defence Department and the Canadian Forces said. “However, in light of the ongoing investigation, a decision was made to allow the justice system to pursue the matter in accordance with the rule of law.”
Lt.-Gen. Cadieu was promoted to his current rank on Aug. 31, Mr. Le Bouthillier said. He had been the director of staff, leading the strategic joint staff team within the Forces.
The Conservatives and NDP said the investigation into Lt.-Gen. Cadieu shows Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mr. Sajjan have failed to address the cascading crisis of sexual harassment in the Forces.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said in a statement on Wednesday they “have consistently failed service women – and Canadians – by appointing and protecting men who are not equipped or not interested in changing the status quo.”
Conservative MP James Bezan said Mr. Sajjan “has abdicated his responsibility and has provided no political leadership for our troops. He cannot be allowed to continue as Minister of Defence.”
Gen. Eyre was appointed acting chief of defence staff in February amid turmoil within the Canadian Forces over its handling of sexual misconduct cases and as a growing number of major commanders stepped aside pending investigations into complaints against them.
In February, military police launched an investigation into former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance over allegations of sexual misconduct. The probe ended with no charges related to the allegations. However, Mr. Vance was charged with obstruction of justice in connection with the misconduct investigation.
Admiral Art McDonald, who had replaced Mr. Vance as chief of defence staff, stepped aside when the military opened a probe into an allegation against him. In August, the military police said its investigation did not reveal evidence to support charging Adm. McDonald under either the Code of Service Discipline or the Criminal Code of Canada. He is on administrative leave pending a separate government probe, and is campaigning to get his job back.
In August, Major-General Dany Fortin was formally charged with sexual assault. He was dismissed from his job leading the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Canada in May pending the investigation and has challenged his removal from the post.
Major-General Peter Dawe was put on leave in May after CBC reported that he wrote a positive character reference for an officer convicted of sexual assault. He was then quietly brought back and tasked with reviewing ways to eliminate sexual misconduct from the Canadian Armed Forces. Amid a public backlash last week over that appointment, he was removed from the post.
In April, Mr. Sajjan asked former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to examine sexual harassment and misconduct in the military and to chart a path for how the Canadian Armed Forces could set up an independent reporting system. The move was widely criticized for falling short as it came six years after another former Supreme Court justice, Marie Deschamps, recommended that an independent centre of accountability for sexual assault and harassment be set up outside the Forces.
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