Forces ombud backs predecessor's handling of Vance allegation

Current military ombudsman Greg Lick says ex-ombud had no way to address claims against Vance except by bringing them to Minister. Sajjan referring claims to Forces' National Investigation Service would not have been interference, says its chief.

OTTAWA — Military ombudsman Greg Lick is defending the way his predecessor Gary Walbourne handled an allegation of sexual misconduct involving former defence chief Gen. Jonathan Vance, saying he would have followed the exact same steps.

Lick says Walbourne had no other avenue than to bring the allegation directly to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in March 2018, and that Walbourne would not have been able to speak to anyone else without permission from the complainant.

Lick made the comments in testimony to the House of Commons committee on the status of women, where Sajjan earlier this week said he told Walbourne to refer the matter to the military’s sexual misconduct response centre or military police.

While Lick says he would not have been able to speak to either, the head of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service indicated to the committee that Sajjan himself could have referred the matter to his unit.

Lt.-Col. Eric Leblanc says anyone can ask his unit to look into an allegation, including those dealing with sexual misconduct, and that the defence minister’s doing so would not constitute interference.

But Leblanc, who defended the independence and professionalism of his officers, said only the military’s top police officer can actually order him to launch an investigation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on March 25, 2021.

The Canadian Press

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