The scandal currently not roiling Canada over military sexual misconduct is a classic case of a fish rotting from the head. Not just a green one. A political class that threw it in the alley when nobody was looking and is now going: Smell? What smell?
Well, the very credible allegations against former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance, including an “inappropriate relationship” with a subordinate lasting so long that, she says, he fathered two of her eight children. But did not support them, which would have been a bit of a red flag.
We don’t know if it’s true. But we know these allegations were brought to very senior political figures three years ago, including the defence minister and prime minister’s chief of staff, who flung them away with distaste.
Now that the reek has gotten into Parliament, the politicians are in full politician mode. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland just called these and other allegations “deeply, deeply troubling,” then waved her arms about ineffectively. “It’s clear to me,” she burbled, “as we heard from numerous reports in the past, that there are some deep problems in the Canadian Armed Forces with sexual harassment, and with treatment of women. And that has to end.” As for how, well gosh, see that is to say…
One obvious possibility would be to elect a megafeminist prime minister who made half his cabinet women “because it’s 2015,” then count on him to, um ah gee… That plan having apparently failed, the deputy PM waved some money about, specifically another quarter-billion dollars over five years to help “eliminate sexual misconduct and gender-based violence” in Canada’s military.
We deficit-spend with consummate sincerity. But would there be additional civilian oversight? Commence Operation Fog Machine: “I just want to assure them that we take it very seriously, and putting this measure in the budget is one sign of that seriousness and there is a lot more to come.”
This aroma of decisively soothingly indecision comes from the top. Trudeau himself said “I can tell you we continue to work very hard and closely with various organizations to move forward in the right way and we will have more to say shortly.” Well yes. Wouldn’t want to rush into it. I mean, it’s not as though the minister of defence was warned by the military ombudsman about Vance in 2018 and brushed him off. Oh wait. It is.
Still, it’s not as though Trudeau’s own chief of staff was warned about it that same year and… Oh. Yeah. That too. Another senior staffer says he briefed her but insists she didn’t tell the PM. It’s not clear how he’d know, or why she didn’t. Would he not care? Did she forget?
You may be tempted to laugh. But then-clerk of the Privy Council Office Michael Wernick recently told the Commons Defence Committee sure, he knew, but “I do concede it dropped off the radar in 2018.” I do concede. But how does something this major “drop off the radar” unless people don’t want to see it there?
Certainly one problem is our politicians’ capacity for cluelessness on reality issues like security. When the military went full woke on women in combat we were promised no deleterious effects on ethos or combat readiness. But what do they know of either?
Freeland just said “young women who want to serve their country need to know that they can do that safely.” Safely? What a strange pitch for military service.
Did young men who signed up in 1939 “need to know” they could fight U-boats, raid Dieppe, and garrison Hong Kong “safely”? And since the politicians have underfunded the military to the point that it couldn’t fight anyway, a vital qualification for promotion to senior posts has become willingness to deny obvious problems, which rather narrows the field of potential candidates and creates unwholesome complicity.
There’s also the troubling Canadian habit of tolerating mediocrity, smugness, and misconduct in our ruling class generally. Vance allegedly boasted that he was untouchable and “owned” the military police. But given how often the PM has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, from his Aga Khan vacation to SNC-Lavalin, and how little interest the RCMP, his party, or voters have shown in following up, you can see where Vance might have gotten that attitude.
To this day Trudeau insists he only heard the Vance allegations this February from the media. So is it a mess? Heck no. “I have confidence in the people who took the decisions in the moment,” Freeland told Global journalist Mercedes Stephenson. “Every single person you’ve mentioned is someone who cares deeply about women, who cares deeply about safe workplaces, and who cares deeply about serving Canada.”
Yeah. They just don’t act like it.
What is that smell?
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, commentator-at-large with News Talk Radio 580 CFRA in Ottawa, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.