Taxpayers spent up to $720K on salaries for military leaders sidelined by sexual misconduct crisis

Politics

Taxpayers have spent an estimated $639,000 to $720,900 on salaries for high-ranking military officers who have been moved out of their jobs in connection with the military's sexual misconduct crisis, according to a CBC News analysis.

Multiple senior military leaders have been placed on temporary leave or permanently moved out of their roles in connection with the sexual misconduct crisis.(Murray Brewster/The Canadian Press)

Taxpayers have spent an estimated $639,000 to $720,900 on salaries for high-ranking military officers who have been moved out of their jobs in connection with the military's sexual misconduct crisis, according to a CBC News analysis.

CBC News analyzed the pay ranges for eight military leaders and the amount of time that has passed since they were shuffled out of their jobs. Some of them are on leave with pay, some are transitioning out of the military and some have been placed in other positions within the Canadian Forces.

While it's difficult to pinpoint a figure given the information publicly available, the analysis indicates the federal government has spent roughly $639,000 to $720,000 on salaries for these individuals since they were moved out of their leadership roles.

The Department of National Defence says all military members have the right to due process and are entitled to their pay during military police investigations. DND says Canadian law ensures that a workplace cannot punish employees unless they've been proven guilty.

CBC's analysis does not include individuals who retired, were removed from their roles and placed in other staff positions, or used vacation time to cover the entirety of theirtemporary leave.

The former chief of the defence staff, retired general Jonathan Vance, is collecting his pension and awaiting his criminal trial on one count of obstruction of justice. Vance's salary before he retired in July 2020 was $260,600 to $306,500, according to an order-in-council.

The salary figure, and the number of officers under investigation, reflect the scale of the misconduct crisis and its effects on the Canadian military, said Megan MacKenzie of Simon Fraser University.

"This figure is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the cost, both financial and emotional and reputational, for the defence forces," said MacKenzie, the Simons Chair in International Law and Human Rights Security.

"I think it's signaling that we really need leadership on this issue. We need civilian leaders. We need the prime minister and the minister of defence to come to help to solve this issue."

MacKenzie said the true cost of the sexual misconduct crisis goes beyond the salary figure. She said service members are taking medical leave or exiting the military altogether, while the military struggles with the effects on recruitment and the risk of lawsuits.

Eleven high-ranking military officers have been temporarily or permanently removed from their leadership roles since February in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct, or in response to how they handled sexual misconduct claims.

CBC News has a full list of the cases here.

'Case after case'

MacKenzie said she can't think of another defence force in the world that has seen so many senior leaders face sexual misconduct allegations or be placed on leave at the same time. She's been researching military culture for a decade and is leading an international study into military sexual misconduct in Canada, the U.S. and Australia.

In other countries, she said, high-profile scandals erupt and then die down after official reviews or policy changes.

"But what's happened in Canada is that you have case after case, multiple cases at the same time," she said. "There is no recovery. There's no moment between scandals and you have this sort of growing groundswell of calls for serious action."

MacKenzie said it's not unusual to place military members on paid leave while they're under investigation. The problem, she said, is that some of the investigations are taking "a very long time," with service members stuck at home while they wait to learn the outcome.

She said it's been a common tactic for militaries to try to wait out public anger by placing members on paid leave.

"There are so many individuals under investigation, so these investigations have to be handled quickly," she said.

Throughout the crisis, the military has maintained its police are conducting thorough investigations. DND said in a media statement that, as an institution based on the rule of law, the Canadian Armed Forces "must ensure all members are afforded their fundamental rights of due process, procedural fairness."

Admiral McDonald's case unresolved after almost 8 months

Admiral Art McDonald has been paid the most to date while on leave for almost eight months. He was removed from his job as the chief of defence staff in February in connection with a sexual misconduct allegation.

CBC News estimates McDonald has been paid between $149,000 and $176,00 since being suspended.

Admiral Art McDonald was removed from his job as the military's chief of defence staff in February. He's been on paid leave for almost 8 months.(Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

MacKenzie said she's surprised that the government hasn't been in more of a hurry to resolve McDonald's case, given the fact that he's still being paid while his old job is being done by Acting Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre. McDonald's annual salary is $232,700 to $273,700, according to an order-in-council.

The position of chief of the defence staff is a governor-in-council appointment, meaning the prime minister can dismiss the chief at any time. McDonald's lawyers revealed in August that the military police investigation had wrapped up without charging him with anything. More than two months later, the federal government hasn't decided if it will reinstate McDonald.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented yesterday on McDonald's recent public attempts to get his old job back. Trudeau said McDonald's comments were not in line with the government's focus on putting victims first and will be "taken into account as we make a final determination on the permanent post of chief of defence staff."

The Prime Minister's Office said it would not comment further when asked why it hasn't reached a decision yet on McDonald's future, or whether it's waiting until the public's focus on the misconduct crisis eases.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin's lawyers, meanwhile, say he's stuck at home collecting a salary with no work to do. Quebec prosecutors charged Fortin in August with one count of sexual assault; his criminal case is now working its way through the civilian court system.

Fortin denies the allegation. He launched a federal court battle to regain his former position as head of the vaccine rollout, arguing the federal government meddled politically in the decision to sideline him.

He was assigned a new job but his lawyers say he's been sitting at home without any assignments. CBC estimates he's collected between $81,000 and $95,000 since leaving his role with the Public Health Agency of Canada.

In March, the military also placed Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson on indefinite paid leave from his role as commander of military personnel following a CBC News report on an alleged sexual assault. A military police investigation is underway into a claim he raped a 19-year-old steward on a Canadian navy ship in 1991 while docked in Pearl Harbour, Hawaii.

Edmundson denies the allegation and has been posted since May as a supported member at the Transition Centre in Ottawa. Since leaving his position in charge of military personnel, he's been paid an estimated $137,000 to $148,000, according to the CBC News analysis.

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson has been on indefinite leave since March in connection with a rape allegation that he denies.(THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Edmundson's successor, Lt.-Gen. Steven Whelan, stepped aside from his role last week in response to an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations. The military also postponed last week the appointment of Lt.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu as the next commander of the army over sexual misconduct claims.

Both Whelan and Cadieu are now on leave and their individual monthly pay is estimated to be between $20,683 and $22,392, according to the military's publicly disclosed pay rates.

DND says it has full confidence in broader leadership

CBC News asked DND what it's doing in response to the number of senior leaders currently on leave from their roles. The department said that military leaders are trained to fill in for their superiors.

"As the justice system continues to dutifully proceed, we have full confidence in our broader leadership team to continue to tend to the business of defending Canada," said DND spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier.

Retired captain Annalise Schamuhn, who was sexually assaulted by another soldier, said she sees the number of sexual misconduct allegations being reported as an encouraging sign. Schamuhn shared her story publicly, hoping it would help lead to institutional change in the Canadian Armed Forces.

"I think the more stories and cases come out, the more it seems like things are getting worse," said Schamuhn. "But I take it as a sign that things are getting better.

"The fact that people feel comfortable coming forward, I think, is a sign of progress."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ashley Burke is a senior reporter with CBC's Parliamentary Bureau. Have a story idea? Email her at ashley.burke@cbc.ca

    With files from Murray Brewster and Kristen Everson

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    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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