Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approved a performance bonus for former chief of defense staff Jonathan Vance even after he was made aware of the sexual misconduct allegations levelled against the retired general, The Globe and Mail reports.
Documents show that Vance's bonus pay in 2019 was increased to between $260,600 and $306,500 effective the previous year, an increase of about $50,000. The increase was issued through an order-in-council. This is despite the fact that the Prime Minister's Office was alerted to the sexual misconduct allegations against Vance in early 2018.
"Justin Trudeau and his office failed to live up to their own zero-tolerance standard on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces," said Conservative defence critic James Bezan.
Bezan called the Prime Minister's conduct "disgusting" and asked "how many more women were victimized in the Canadian Armed Forces by commanding officers because this type of behaviour was not brought forward and justice served?"
NDP defence critic Randall Garrison also criticized the bonus, saying that it is disturbing given the serious allegations which have been levelled against him.
"What message does this send to the women and men who serve our country?" Garrison asked rhetorically. "How can they feel valued and respected when allegations of misconduct are so blatantly ignored? The government can continue to repeat that they have zero tolerance for misconduct and harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces but their actions clearly don’t match their words – their credibility is gone."
Trudeau's spokesman said that the issue cannot be discussed as performance pay increases are a private matter. He did note, however, that the increase came on the recommendation of the public service.
Former Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan was also aware of the allegations when the bonus was approved, although he has stressed that he was "not involved with salaries for public officials."
Sajjan also insists that despite his knowledge of the allegations, it was not his duty to get involved in the investigation. "When an ombudsman receives a complaint, the process has started," Sajjan said. "I didn't want to be put into a position where I potentially interfered."