LILLEY: Trudeau’s cover-up of Vance allegations matches his own cover-up

Over the weekend, Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe was relieved of his post at the top of Canada’s Special Forces over his handling of a sexual assault case.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and all of their top officials remain in their jobs despite turning a blind eye to sexual misconduct complaints in the military.

Dawe’s offence is that he wrote a letter of reference for a subordinate convicted of sexual assault against another member of the Forces. The current command is taking a dim view of his actions and has put the general on paid leave while they consider the situation. It is a sign the military brass is taking the issue of sexual misconduct of any type much more seriously.

Too bad that isn’t happening with the political bosses the military reports to.

Trudeau and Sajjan continue to say that they did nothing wrong in handling sexual misconduct allegations against Gen. Jonathan Vance in 2018. The truth is, they not only looked the other way, they extended Vance’s contract and gave him a significant raise.

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Trudeau says he knew there was a complaint against Vance at the time but didn’t know it was a “#MeToo complaint.” Which is shockingly odd given that Trudeau’s chief of staff and his top political advisors were discussing the matter with top bureaucrats and using the term sexual harassment in emails about the matter.

Did Trudeau not know or did they not want him to know?

We know that at the time of the Vance issue being discussed in the PMO there was already concern that someone would break the story of Trudeau’s Kokanee grope. As CBC acknowledged in 2018, they knew of the story and had contacted the woman Trudeau manhandled but she declined to comment and didn’t want anything more to do with the story.

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Trudeau had gone on the record, in a television interview with CBC’s Chris Hall, in late January 2018 to say that he was sure his past actions were all above board.

“There is no context in which someone doesn’t have responsibility for things they’ve done in the past,” Trudeau told Hall while saying that standard must apply to all, including him as PM.

“As you look back at your own career, is there a chance at some point that your actions might not have been construed as they were intended?” Hall asked.

“I don’t think so, I’ve been very, very careful all my life,” Trudeau said.

Months later he would be apologizing again for the Kokanee grope while also saying that the woman had experienced things differently.

“I don’t remember any negative interactions that day at all,” Trudeau said in July 2018.

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  1. Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, arrives at a cabinet retreat in Ottawa, Sept. 14, 2020.

    Tories take aim at PM’s top aide over Vance allegations as Sajjan dodges questions

  2. Then Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau listen to Canada's Governor General Julie Payette delivering the throne speech in the Senate chamber in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on Sept. 23, 2020.

    LILLEY: Trudeau’s blind eye on military sexual misconduct

  3. The Canadian Forces flag flies outside office buildings in Ottawa, Tuesday March 9, 2021.

    Review of military sexual misconduct a response to system-wide failures: Trudeau

How does this old story relate to Trudeau and his office not following up on complaints against Vance? Trudeau’s office was dealing with the past indiscretions of their boss when the Vance issue hit them.

The idea that they knew of a complaint but didn’t know it was a sexual misconduct complaint isn’t believable. The military ombudsman described it as sexual misconduct, the Clerk of the Privy Council described it as sexual harassment, Trudeau’s own staff discussed it this way in an email.

The best that can be said is that they were protecting Trudeau from knowing about this issue by not telling him and making it go away quietly to keep everything from blowing up in their faces. Now it has blown up in their faces and someone has to be held accountable at the political level.

Sajjan should be fired but the same should happen to Katie Telford, Trudeau’s chief of staff.

Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, arrives at a cabinet retreat in Ottawa, Sept. 14, 2020.
Katie Telford, chief of staff to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, arrives at a cabinet retreat in Ottawa, Sept. 14, 2020. Photo by Blair Gable /REUTERS

The Conservatives have a motion calling for Telford to be axed before the House of Commons and will ask MPs to vote on it this week.

“Katie Telford not only failed to inform the prime minister about a serious sexual misconduct allegation, she went on to orchestrate a cover-up to hide the truth from Canadians,” Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole said Monday.

The military brass have shown that they are willing to take action. We will see this week whether the political masters are willing to do the same or if they believe they can keep sweeping everything under the rug.

blilley@postmedia.com

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