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Criminal charge against former top general Jonathan Vance goes to court today

The criminal case involving the country’s former top military commander will come before a provincial court judge in Ontario today.

Retired general Jonathan Vance was charged by military police in July with one count of obstruction of justice in relation to an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) did not provide details about the charge but said that it relates to events that happened after the military police began investigating Vance on Feb. 4, 2021.

Provincial court documents released in July allege that Vance “did willfully attempt to obstruct the course of justice in a judicial proceeding by repeatedly contacting Mrs. KB by phone and attempting to persuade her to make false statements about their past relationship to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.”

“KB” refers to Maj. Kellie Brennan, a staff officer at army headquarters, who told Global News last winter that she and the former chief of the defence staff had an on-again, off-again intimate relationship.

The court hearing is expected to be held via video conference. It’s not clear whether Vance will be required to enter a plea.

His attorney, noted Ottawa criminal lawyer Rodney Sellar, did not return phone calls this week.

The allegations against Vance — which surfaced two weeks after his retirement after five years in the top defence post — were followed by a cascade of misconduct allegations that have consumed the upper ranks of the military.

criminal charge against former top general jonathan vance goes to court today
While Admiral Art McDonald has demanded his old job back, he remains on leave. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

His successor, Admiral Art McDonald, voluntarily stepped aside after it was revealed he was under investigation for alleged misconduct. Military police recently opted not to lay charges against him. Even though he demanded through his lawyers that he be given his job back, McDonald remains on leave.

The former head of the country’s vaccine rollout, Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, has been charged with one count sexual assault in relation to a three-decade-old allegation of misconduct.

His case will make its first appearance in a Gatineau, Que. courtroom on Monday.

criminal charge against former top general jonathan vance goes to court today 1
Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin claims there was political interference in the decision to drop him as head of the vaccine rollout. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Separately, Fortin has launched a Federal Court challenge alleging political interference in his removal as head of the Public Health Agency of Canada’s vaccine distribution task force.

The misconduct crisis and its ongoing sordid revelations — many of them about Vance — were the subject of two sets of parliamentary committee hearings.

Having a personal relationship with a subordinate can, in some instances, be contrary to military regulations and the Code of Service Discipline.

Right from the outset last winter, legal experts said it would have been virtually impossible to prosecute Vance under disciplinary sections because — as the former highest-ranking member of the Armed Forces — there was no one senior to him who could sit in judgment under military law. There is no mechanism or statute that would allow such a case to be heard.

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