PM defends aide, didn't know Vance allegations were 'Me Too complaint'

Commons committee testimony and email evidence contradicts Prime Minister Trudeau's claim yesterday that no one in his office knew allegations against Canada's top military officer was a "Me Too complaint."

The Canadian Press with CNC files

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is defending his top aide, saying nobody in his office knew an allegation against Canada's top military officer three years ago was a "Me Too complaint." However, previous testimony and email evidence is raising questions about the accuracy of the prime minister's comments.

The prime minister made the comments today in response to fresh questions about what he and his chief of staff, Katie Telford, knew about the allegation against general Jonathan Vance in March 2018.

That is when then-military ombudsman Gary Walbourne first flagged the allegation of sexual misconduct to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, touching off a flurry of activity at the top levels of government, but no formal investigation.

Former Trudeau adviser Elder Marques told a parliamentary committee last week that he was told by either Telford or her assistant to investigate allegations against Vance, which he was told were related to "personal conduct." Marques told the committee he assumed it could have been sexual in nature.

Marques also testified that he kept Telford informed about the investigation, which which passed to the Privy Council Office, the Prime Minister's bureaucratic office, and that he discussed the PCO's investigation several times with her.

A March 2018 memo recently obtained by Global News and prepared by the Privy Council Office and dated March 16, 2018, a few days in advance of a PCO meeting with military ombudsman Gary Walbourne, indicated the purpose of the meeting was to discuss allegations of "sexual harassment."

A earlier email, obtained by Global News and dated March 2, 2018, was sent from PCO staff to staff in the Prime Minister's Office asking for comment on a draft email to be sent to invite Walbourne to the meeting. The email states the purpose of the meeting is to discuss "allegations of sexual harassment."

The Prime Minister yesterday tweeted that the reason his government is feminist is due to Ms. Telford's leadership of his office.

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