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The Canadian Press Staff. OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took direct aim at military commanders on Wednesday, declaring they "don't get it" following a whirlwind 48 hours involving a senior officer who provided a reference for a convicted sex offender. Speaking at a news conference where he was announcing mandatory vaccine rules for federal public servants as well as train and plane passengers, Trudeau said he was "stunned and dismayed" at recent revelations about Maj.
Peter Dawe. Yet despite repeated calls from survivors and experts for more oversight and ability of the military, Trudeau stood by his decision to have a retired Supreme Court justice conduct a review of military sexual misconduct and find ways to fix it. Dawe was removed as commander of Canada's special forces in April following revelations he provided a character reference four years ago during the sentencing of a soldier who was convicted of sexually assaulting a comrade's wife.
Acting defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre at the time said Dawe's actions had caused "division and pain," and that he would take his time deciding the senior officer's next posting. While the Department of National Defence had said as recently as July that Dawe remained in limbo, and that it would announce any decision on his future, the Ottawa Citizen revealed this week that he had been quietly tasked with a new job.
That new position involved working with the military's second in command, vice-chief of the defence staff Lt. Frances Allen, in co-ordinating the different efforts currently underway to change the military's culture, including on sexual misconduct. Following an uproar from survivors and experts on military sexual misconduct, and despite Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan having stood by the appointment, Allen announced in a statement late Tuesday that Dawe was being removed from his new position.
Dawe will be undertaking the important task of engaging with that community, as other members have done, to better understand how he can contribute to meaningful culture change," she said. Allen also apologized for the lack of transparency around Dawe's appointment, but underscored both the need for ability and the allowance for people to learn and grow from their mistakes.
Dawe's willingness then and now to engage with stakeholders and affected persons, to continue his personal and our institutional growth, is I believe, an act of ability and a commitment to change," she said. The sudden about-face from top commanders, and the accompanying tough words from the prime minister, represent the latest chapter in a months-long reckoning over sexual misconduct in Canada's military.
The Liberal government has been accused of not having done enough to address sexual misconduct in the ranks, with much of that criticism centring around its handling of an allegation against then-defence chief Jonathan Vance. Stay on top of what's happening on the Hill with Rachel Aiello's updates on the minority Parliament when it's in session. This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. Related Stories Sajjan stands by military amid outrage over general's new job on sex misconduct file.
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