Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

Investigation into military officer overseeing vaccines referred to Quebec prosecutor

Military confirmed for the first time Fortin investigation related to sexual misconduct allegation

Canada’s military police have referred their investigation into the general who oversaw Canada’s vaccination campaign to Quebec’s prosecution service, which has responsibility for laying charges in the province.

The move was announced in a statement from the military’s top police officer on Wednesday, which also confirmed for the first time that the investigation related to an allegation of sexual misconduct against Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service “has conducted an investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct involving Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin,” reads the statement from Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau.

“It has referred the matter to the director of criminal and penal prosecutions, who is the charge laying authority for criminal and penal prosecutions in the province of Quebec.”

While the statement did not reveal when the case was sent to Quebec’s prosecutions, the referral would explain why acting chief of the defence staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre abruptly sidelined Fortin from the vaccination campaign on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Quebec prosecution service confirmed receipt of the file “during the past week.”

“Consequently, as with any other file brought to our attention by the police, we will conduct a rigorous analysis of the evidence to determine whether charges will be laid,” said Audrey Roy Cloutier. “At this point, we cannot comment further on this matter.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that he first learned weeks ago that Fortin was under investigation, while Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s office has said the minister was briefed in mid-March.

Fortin nonetheless remained in charge of the vaccination campaign until Friday, when the Defence Department released a terse three-line email saying he was being removed from his position because of an unspecified “military investigation.”

The Defence Department and government have not revealed the specifics of the investigation, but CTV has reported it relates to an allegation Fortin exposed himself to a woman while studying at the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, Que., in 1989.

Fortin’s lawyer has said his client was unaware of the details of the allegation until a reporter contacted him Sunday, and that the general, who was widely praised for overseeing the vaccination campaign since November, categorically denies any wrongdoing.

Experts and political opponents subsequently criticized the lack of information around his removal, saying it underscores existing frustration over a lack of transparency within the military, and raised concerns about Canada’s vaccination effort.

Brig.-Gen. Krista Brodie, who previously worked with Fortin on the vaccination campaign, has taken over in his stead.

Retired lieutenant-colonel Rory Fowler, now a lawyer specializing in military law in Kingston, Ont., said the fact investigators have referred the case to Quebec’s prosecution service suggests a possible jurisdictional issue in the case.

Notably, he said, the military did not have authority to prosecute cases dealing with sexual assault prior to 1998. There is also a previous three-year limitation on the prosecution of offences.

“So there’s at least two jurisdictional issues that could potentially be at play, depending upon the potential charges,” he said.

Fortin joins a growing list of generals and admirals who have been suspended or forced to step aside in recent weeks, many of them in response to allegations of inappropriate conduct.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2021.

—Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

RELATED: New head of Canada’s vaccine rollout named after predecessor accused of misconduct

RELATED: Liberals silent on nature of Fortin probe or who will replace him on vaccine campaign

Militaryvaccines

Just Posted

A concept rendering of the proposed seven-unit, two-storey development at 1129 Riverside Ave. in Sicamous. (District of Sicamous graphic)
Proposed luxury development in Sicamous sparks parking concerns

Seven-unit commercial-residential building planned for Riverside Avenue

The Shaw Centre and the SASCU Recreation Centre are the two largest producers of greenhouse gas emissions on City of Salmon Arm properties. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
City of Salmon staff surprised COVID not cause of drop in greenhouse gas emissions

2020 sees emissions on city-owned properties decrease well below 2019 totals

Shuswap Litas and Son of Stomp head out from uptown Askew’s parking lot on Thursday, June 10, some with teddy bears and stuffies, to ride to Pierre’s Point by Adams Lake community hall to show their support for band members in the wake of the confirmation of 215 children buried at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap bike clubs ride to support Indigenous communities

Motorcyclists go to Pierre’s Point in solidarity with bands in wake of residential school findings

Interior Health is offering mobile vaccination clinics for the first dose only of COVID-19 vaccine in the Shuswap from June 15 to June 19h. (Interior Health image)
First-dose vaccinations for COVID-19 offered via mobile clinics in Shuswap

Clinic in Salmon Arm scheduled for June 15, other clinics in Sorrento, Malakwa, Chase

The price per litre of regular gasoline was at 145.9 cents at several gas stations in downtown Salmon Arm on June 11, 2021. (Zachary Roman - Salmon Arm Observer)
Gas prices pumped up in Salmon Arm and Sicamous

Price spikes from 131.9 to as high as 145.9 cents per litre

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Most Read