Liberal Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan allegedly knew about the sexual assault allegations made against reitred general Jonathan Vance since 2018, a former military ombudsman claimed.
Canada’s former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne told the defence committee on Wednesday that he had approached the minister with specific evidence against Vance but was dismissed by Sajjan.
“Yes, I did directly tell him about an allegation of inappropriate behaviour against the chief of defence staff,” Walbourne told parliamentarians.
“I did tell the minister what the allegation was. I reached into my pocket to show him the evidence I was holding. He pushed back from the table and said, ‘No.’ The minister didn’t want to see the evidence.”
Minister Sajjan appeared before the same committee on February 19 to testify on the Vance allegations.
During his appearance, Sajjan refused to answer Conservative MP James Bezan’s questions whether he knew about the allegations prior to them being made public.
“Let’s make a link to when as minister, Vice Admiral Mark Norman at the time was suspended based upon some unproven allegations about him, your government moved very quick to suspend him yet here we are and General Vance sat in position for three years without any suspension or investigation, why did that happen?” asked Bezan.
“As I stated, the discussions with the ombudsman are always kept confidential so that anybody can feel confident to bring anything forward and I can assure this committee and all parliamentarians and all Canadians that any allegations if it was brought to me were always taken to the appropriate authorities,” replied Sajjan.
Sajjan also claimed that he was surprised when he found out about the allegations and insisted that all proper procedures were followed to report the matter. However, according to Walbourne the minister wasn’t being completely truthful and that he had “other levels at his disposal” to deal with the matter.
Since Walbourne’s testimony, Sajjan has stated that he disagrees with the former ombudsman’s characterization.
“I disagree with parts of the testimony that occurred in Committee today. As I have stated, I was as shocked as everyone else at the allegations that were made public last month,” Sajjan told Global News.
“I can assure the Committee, and all Canadians, that any allegations that were brought forward were very quickly put forward to the proper authorities, while respecting the need to protect the privacy of any individuals involved. Any suggestion that I have done otherwise is wrong.”