Conservatives and NDP slam Trudeau government’s attempts to cover-up alleged sexual misconduct

JAMES Bezan, Conservative Critic for National Defence, reacting to reports that a senior member of the Trudeau government threatened a Canadian Armed Forces member attempting to report allegations of sexual misconduct by then-chief of the defence staff, General Jonathan Vance, said in a statement: “According to media reports, the Trudeau government has undertaken a coordinated campaign to threaten and silence a sexual misconduct whistleblower. This includes telling the whistleblower that if he told Canadians about allegations of sexual misconduct, his ‘career in the military would be over.’

“This is more evidence that Justin Trudeau and his Liberal government have gone to great lengths to cover-up allegations of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.

“We ask a lot of the brave Canadian women who serve in our Armed Forces. In return, we have a duty to protect those who have sworn an oath to protect all of us. That’s why Conservatives will continue to search for answers and further expose this cover-up.

“Threatening a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to secure their silence is a clear and concerning abuse of power. The lengths that the Liberal government will go to in order to hide the truth from Canadians is appalling.

“That is why Conservatives are calling for an emergency meeting of the Defence Committee, so that we can understand the extent of this orchestrated cover-up.”

NDP Critic for Women and Gender Equality, Lindsay Mathyssen, called on the Prime Minister to explain how women in the armed forces can expect their accusations of harassment to be taken seriously when his government continues to ignore accusations against its top members.

“Justin Trudeau promised to address the pervasive problems of violence, misconduct and sexual harassment in the armed forces, and the more we learn, the more we realize that allegations of sexual misconduct towards the most senior member of the Canadian Forces were not taken seriously,” said Mathyssen. “Instead, everyone involved seemed to have been passing the buck and hoping that the problem would go away. Women deserve much better than that from this government.”

The former military ombudsman told a parliamentary committee that Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan refused to hear important information regarding sexual misconduct allegations against Vance. Then, just last week, reports surfaced that a senior adviser to the Prime Minister working in the PMO was made aware of concerns about Vance — three years ago, the NDP pointed out.

Mathyssen said it’s hard for Canadians to believe the Prime Minister’s claim that he didn’t know anything about these allegations. She pointed out that, for many women who report harassment or violence, powerful men failing to take the necessary action to keep them safe is a sadly familiar story.

“Women deserve to know that they will be supported when they come forward after experiencing harassment or violence in their workplace. How can they trust their reports will be taken seriously now? Stories of harassment and abuse in this government only seem to concern the Prime Minister when he reads them in the newspaper,” said Mathyssen. “Over and over again, we’re seeing this government try to bury stories of harassment and abusive behaviour. By letting his team bury the allegations to protect his government, the Prime Minister reinforced the culture of silence. How can women in the armed forces be confident to come forward after that?”