Military investigators refer allegation involving Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin to Quebec prosecutor
OTTAWA -- Canadian military police say that after conducting an investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct involving Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) has referred the matter to Quebec’s prosecution service.
In a brief statement on Wednesday confirming the sexual misconduct investigation, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal said that the investigation has been referred to the director of criminal and penal prosecutions. As the charge-laying authority for criminal and penal prosecutions in Quebec, it will be up to that office to determine whether and how to proceed.
According to Audrey Roy Cloutier, a spokesperson for the civilian Quebec prosecutor, their office received the file in the past week.
In a statement issued in French, Cloutier said that as with any other file brought to their attention, the evidence will be assessed in order to determine whether charges will be laid, but will not be commenting further at this point.
It is unclear whether the investigation by CFNIS— a specialized unit within the Canadian Armed Forces military police—is entirely concluded, as the prosecutor may request additional information.
As CTV News has exclusively reported, according to sources, Fortin is facing a sexual misconduct claim against him that dates back more than 30 years. The military investigation stemmed from an allegation brought forward two months ago, sources said.
Sources have told CTV News that military police received a formal complaint against Fortin in March, alleging a “historical sexual assault.” The incident, sources say, allegedly dates back 32 years to early 1989, when Fortin was a student at the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, Que.
The sources, who are not authorized to speak publicly, said Fortin is under investigation for allegedly exposing himself before a woman.
Fortin, through his lawyer Cmdr. Mark Letourneau, has said he “completely denies” the allegation. The allegation has not been proven or tested in court.
Speaking to CTV News on Tuesday, Fortin’s lawyer said that Fortin had known for a few weeks that an investigation had been initiated. According to Letourneau— who is with the Defence Counsel Services and provides legal representation within Canada’s military justice system—as of Tuesday, Fortin had still not been officially informed of what the nature of the investigation is.
As Fortin’s lawyer has previously told CTV News, Fortin was not aware of the specific allegation until CTV News contacted him on Sunday.
The public was first made aware that an investigation was underway last Friday evening, when the Department of National Defence announced in a brief statement that Fortin would be stepping away from his role overseeing the delivery and distribution of COVID-19 vaccine doses across the country, “pending the results of a military investigation.”
Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was aware in March that the military investigation was underway, several weeks before Fortin stepped aside from leading Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Tuesday that he was also made aware of the investigation “a number of weeks ago” but he did not receive details about what was alleged.
In an interview on CTV News Channel’s Power Play on Wednesday, defence parliamentary secretary Anita Vandenbeld suggested that the Acting Chief of Defence Staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre “at a certain point” in the military investigation, would have made the decision to ask Fortin to step aside.
“It was the acting chief of the defence staff who would have made that call, based on the information that he had from investigators, and based on what the proper processes are in these cases,” she said. “My understanding is that that is a process that happened in this case, I can't say that for certain.”
Trudeau’s public comments Tuesday — his first about the military investigation since it was announced – have prompted new questions about how the situation unfolded and the timing of Fortin’s departure.
When asked why more information had not been disclosed about why Fortin remained in his job leading Canada’s mass vaccination effort after Trudeau was made aware that an investigation was underway, the prime minister said that the matter is being handled by the “appropriate authorities.”
“I understand that people have questions and are hopeful that this process is going to be — as I highlighted my desire for it to be — fair, complete, and rigorous,” Trudeau said.
On Wednesday on CTV News Channel’s Power Play, Conservative MP and defence critic James Bezan suggested that the federal government has not been transparent enough about the series of events that have occurred between when the allegation had first come to light, the military investigation beginning, when political leaders were informed, and when Fortin left his highly-public role.
“If prime minister Trudeau and minister Sajjan aren't being open and honest, how are we ever going to restore that morale within the Canadian Armed Forces, or regain the trust of Canadians in this great institution?” Bezan said.
Military sexual misconduct allegations have been handled by CFNIS since 2015. These investigations can be initiated in several ways, including receiving direct complaints or information from an informant or anonymously, according to Canadian Forces Provost Marshal senior public affairs officer Lt.-Cmdr. Jamie Bresolin. In a statement on Tuesday, he said that all complaints are investigated that are within their jurisdiction until “there is no further requirement to pursue the investigation…or that charges will be laid.”