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Canadian air force commander relieved of duties in Kuwait after claims of inappropriate comments

Canada’s military relieved an air force commander of his post in Kuwait on Dec. 7 amid an investigation into claims he made inappropriate comments, CBC News has learned.

The Department of National Defence confirms that Lt.-Col. Philip Marcus was sent back to Canada on Dec. 7, “when concerns over some inappropriate comments that demonstrated a concerning misalignment with our institution’s efforts to evolve our culture were raised” to leadership.

“These allegations resulted in a loss in confidence in the member’s ability to effectively lead and conduct the duties associated with his appointment as a commanding officer, and he was immediately relieved,” DND spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier said in a statement.

DND described the alleged comments as inappropriate. Sources who spoke to CBC News but who were not authorized to speak publicly said Marcus was heard making comments about lower-ranking women in the Canadian Armed Forces.

The allegations against Marcus were reported while he was the commanding officer of the air task force for Operation Impact in the Middle East. He started that role in November, according to a post on a military Twitter account.

The training mission is aimed at building military capabilities in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon to help a global coalition defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Marcus, among the mission’s highest-ranking officers based at the headquarters in Kuwait, was responsible for aircraft, flight crew and other support personnel. As a commander, he could have been involved in responding to sexual misconduct complaints if others reported issues to his chain of command, the Defence Department confirmed.

The department said concerns were raised to leadership of Joint Task Force Impact and Canadian Joint Operations. Military members involved in the operation in the Middle East were briefed on Marcus’s departure to ensure they were supported and understood the work underway to change the culture, the department said.

Marcus is now working as a staff officer at the Royal Canadian Aerospace Warfare Centre at CFB Trenton. 

The Defence Department said it would not comment on the details of the allegations because the case is currently under investigation.

canadian air force commander relieved of duties in kuwait after claims of inappropriate comments
Marcus, right, takes command in November of the air task force for Operation Impact in the Middle East. Marcus, among the mission’s highest-ranking officers based at the headquarters in Kuwait, was responsible for aircraft, flight crew and other support personnel. (Twitter/Operation Impact)

“We are in a period of culture change and are determined to ensure the CAF is a workplace in which all members — whether in Canada or deployed on operations around the world — are safe, empowered and inspired to bring their very best to the table in service of Canada and Canadians each and every day,” Le Bouthillier wrote.

This past year, 11 other senior Canadian military leaders, current and former — from some of the most powerful and prestigious posts in the defence establishment — have been sidelined, investigated or forced into retirement  in connection with a sexual misconduct crisis.

Defence Minister Anita Anand and the military’s chief of the defence staff, Gen. Wayne Eyre, have committed to addressing the crisis. Experts say the issue is unlike any other being faced by military elsewhere in the world because so many senior leaders are swept up in the crisis at the same time.

Government and military officials offered a historic apology earlier this month to those who have suffered from military sexual assault, harassment and misconduct. It was meant to be a step toward formally acknowledging the harm caused to thousands of members over decades.

More than 19,000 serving and retired military members and civilian defence workers have submitted settlement claims as part of a class-action lawsuit against the federal government over sexual misconduct. About 60 per cent of the survivors are women and 40 per cent men.

Marcus did not respond to a request for comment from CBC News.

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