Canada’s first female vice-chief of the defence staff is now officially in the role.
Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen was sworn in on Monday in a small change of command ceremony in Ottawa.
While the timing of Allen assuming the role had been previously planned, she takes on the role just weeks after her predecessor resigned early after public outcry over his decision to go golfing with Gen. Jonathan Vance, who is under military police investigation for allegations of inappropriate behaviour.
Vance denies the allegations.
In a statement announcing the change of command, Sajjan congratulated Allen on the role and she will play “a vital role in enabling the institutional changes underway in the Canadian Armed Forces and Department of National Defence.”
Allen said she was “deeply honoured” to take on the role.
“The challenges facing the military and our nation are complex, elaborate, and nuanced, and it is a privilege to be contributing to the way forward for the whole of the Defence team,” she said.
As vice-chief of the defence staff, Allen will hold oversight authority for the military police.
She will be the highest-ranking woman in the military at a time when the Canadian Forces is facing an institutional crisis over multiple allegations of high-level sexual misconduct against senior leaders, and a reckoning over a military’s culture deemed “toxic” to women and LGBTQ2 members.
Former Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps described sexual misconduct as “endemic” in the military in her landmark 2015 report that documented the extent of the problem.
Yet her key recommendation for the creation of an independent reporting mechanism outside the military chain of command was ignored by the federal Liberal government until this spring.
That’s when Global News first reported the allegations against Vance, which sparked two parliamentary committee probes and multiple military police investigations as allegations quickly emerged against other senior leaders in the military.
Sajjan has vowed to implement an independent reporting structure for military sexual misconduct allegations, but has so far offered no details or timeline on how he will do so.
In late April, he appointed former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour to lead an independent external review tasked with providing guidelines on how to set that up.
But the timeline for that final report stretches into next year, and has raised questions about what — if any — action the government plans to take before that to fix the reporting system.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week he will be announcing “significant changes to the way the military functions in the coming months” as Arbour begins to present interim recommendations.
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