Vance charged with obstruction of justice following military investigation
By Rachel Aiello, Ottawa News Bureau Online Producer
OTTAWA -- Former chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance has been charged with one count of obstruction of justice under the Criminal Code, allegedly for attempting to persuade a woman to make false statements about their past relationship.
The Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence issued a statement announcing the charge had been laid against Vance on July 15.
The military said that after the charge was laid by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) that: “considering the specifics of the case and in the interest of justice… the CFNIS decided to pursue the relevant criminal charge in the civilian justice system.”
Specifically, Vance has been charged with one count of “Obstruct Justice, contrary to Section 139 of the Criminal Code.”
Military police launched an investigation into Vance on Feb. 4, over allegations of misconduct, following his retirement. It was in the course of this investigation that the military said the obstruction is alleged to have occurred.
Court documents accessed by CTV News state that the charge relates to Vance allegedly attempting to “obstruct the course of justice in a judicial proceeding by repeatedly contacting Mrs. K.B. by phone and attempting to persuade her to make false statements about their past relationship" to the CFNIS.
“K.B.” appears to be in reference to Maj. Kellie Brennan, who is at the centre of the misconduct allegations against Vance. The documents indicate Vance’s alleged obstruction occurred between Feb. 1 and Feb. 3, 2021, the few days leading up to the CFNIS starting its investigation.
The CFNIS is the specialized unit within the military police system that focuses on “serious and sensitive matters.”
In April, Brennan testified before MPs about the nature of her relationship with Vance, saying that Vance—who she had a sexual relationship with while he was her superior and during his time as chief of the defence staff— had instructed her to lie to military investigators.
Brennan said that Vance fathered two children with her, and told her that he was “untouchable,” should she go to military authority. While Brennan said Vance never threatened her with “bodily harm,” she alleged that he did tell her there would be consequences should she speak out.
Vance has denied any wrongdoing and CTV News has not independently verified the allegations against him. The obstruction charge has yet to be tested or proven in court.
Since the allegations against Vance were first reported by Global News, multiple women have shared their stories of experiencing sexual misconduct in the military, forcing a reckoning over misconduct within the ranks.
Several high-profile officers—including Vance’s successor, Admiral Art McDonald— have also become subject to investigations into allegations of past inappropriate behaviour.
The specific allegations against McDonald, who temporarily stepped aside in February after the CFNIS struck its investigation, have not been publicly disclosed.
The testimony heard by the House of Commons Status of Women and National Defence Committees centred on how Vance and other senior leaders rose to the top of the chain of command, how difficult and complex the reporting process is for members who experience sexual misconduct, and what culture change and reforms to military oversight and accountability should look like.
The Liberal government has faced strong criticism for its handling of the Vance allegation upon hearing about it as early as March 2018, however an investigation into his behaviour following “rumours” of an inappropriate relationship began in 2015, when he was first appointed defence chief.
Both Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan declined to comment Thursday, citing the “ongoing legal proceedings,” as Sajjan’s office put it.
In a statement, Conservative MP and defence critic James Bezan repeated his calls for Sajjan to resign over his handling of sexual misconduct in the military, saying that: “Accountability goes straight to the top.”
“We’ve known for years that this is a problem and Mr. Vance's case is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire institution of the military needs to be reformed,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in a statement. “We stand with the women in the Canadian Armed Forces who continue to wait for a real culture change in the face of sexual misconduct and assault in the military.”
Vance is scheduled to appear at the Ottawa Courthouse in relation to the charge on Sept. 17.
With files from CTV News’ Sarah Turnbull and Brooklyn Neustaeter