An army logistics officer who's spent more than 30 years in uniform has been named the military officer in charge of the Public Health Agency of Canada's vaccine rollout.
PHAC announced today the appointment of Brig.-Gen. Krista Brodie following the sudden departure of Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, who left the post on Friday after an allegation of sexual misconduct was raised.
At one point in her career, Brodie commanded 1 Service Battalion, one of the military's largest units. She has also served in overseas deployments in Croatia, Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Since the military was brought in last year to help with the planning and logistics of vaccine distribution and to keep the supply chain safe from cyber attacks, Brodie has been a key member of the team led by Fortin.
She returned briefly to the Department of National Defence but will now move back to oversee the vaccine distribution drive.
Iain Stewart, president of the public health agency, said putting Brodie in charge "allows for a seamless transition."
Fortin had been the public face of the vaccine distribution drive — a calm, reassuring presence throughout many televised events. His 27-member team included experts in global logistics, health care and planning.
Sources told CBC News on Friday that the sexual misconduct allegation against Fortin predated 2015 and the start of Operation Honour, the military's now-defunct campaign to stamp out inappropriate behaviour in the ranks.
The confidential sources, who could not speak publicly because of the sensitivity of the file, would not specify the nature of the allegation. On Sunday, however, CTV News reported that the allegation involved a claim of indecent exposure more than 30 years old, dating from when Fortin attended the Royal Military College in St-Jean, Quebec.
His lawyer, Cmdr. Marc Létourneau, said his client will fight the claim.
"It is a news reporter who informed Major-General Fortin of the allegation against him Sunday, May 16," Letourneau said in a written statement. "This took him completely by surprise. He vigorously and categorically denies this allegation."
Fortin joins a list of half-a-dozen military leaders who have come under fire for alleged sexual misconduct.
His departure came about suddenly. As late as Friday morning, Fortin was listed as being seconded to PHAC in a Department of National Defence statement involving the assignments of general officers.
CBC News reached out to Fortin for comment, but he declined and has referred questions to the Department of National Defence.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tasked Fortin with leading Canada's COVID-19 vaccine distribution effort in the fall.
The prime minister ducked questions today about how the general's sudden departure would affect vaccine distribution. On Friday, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan took a stab at reassurance, saying the military would remain focused on the task of getting millions more life-saving vaccine doses into the country.
There were signs Monday that opposition parties were gearing up to reopen parliamentary hearings on the sexual misconduct crisis in the military. A meeting of the House of Commons defence committee has been called for Tuesday to discuss a proposal to hear more witnesses.
Public hearings looking into who in the Liberal government knew about a sexual misconduct allegation against the former chief of the defence staff, retired general Jonathan Vance, had largely concluded. The committee was on course to begin writing its report but the latest allegations involving Fortin could raise more questions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Murray Brewster is senior defence writer for CBC News, based in Ottawa. He has covered the Canadian military and foreign policy from Parliament Hill for over a decade. Among other assignments, he spent a total of 15 months on the ground covering the Afghan war for The Canadian Press. Prior to that, he covered defence issues and politics for CP in Nova Scotia for 11 years and was bureau chief for Standard Broadcast News in Ottawa.
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