Minister orders investigation after ex-officer accused of sexual misconduct gets job at naval base

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Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan ordered a review of the prompt release of a former Navy commander who was under investigation for sexual misconduct and is now back as a civilian at Naval Base Halifax .

The move comes days after CBC News first contacted the Department of National Defense (DND) about the case of retired Commander Danny Croucher.

“When the minister heard about this situation late in the afternoon yesterday, he was appalled at the apparent lack of judgment,” Sajjan spokesman Todd Lane wrote in a statement to CBC News. .

In June 2020, the Navy temporarily removed Croucher from his post as Chief of the Naval Warfare School at CFB Halifax, the Defense Department confirmed. He was removed from his post after a complaint was filed against Croucher alleging that he made inappropriate and damaging comments said to be of a sexual nature, multiple sources familiar with the matter said.

Sources said a subsequent investigation uncovered wrongdoing on Croucher’s part. Sources said he was to be given a so-called “5-F” – an involuntary release from the military. Instead, multiple sources confirmed that Croucher’s request for voluntary release was granted, allowing him to land a civilian job at the base in June.

The Minister of National Defense has ordered a review of the release of former Navy Commander Danny Croucher, who was under investigation for sexual misconduct and now works as a civilian at the same naval base. (Atlantic Naval Fleet School / Facebook)

CBC News has now learned that the Canadian Armed Forces are reviewing the case to determine if they have broken their own rules. At the very least, it appears the Army has flouted the spirit of its own regulations by approving Croucher’s request to voluntarily leave the Navy before his case reaches the discipline stage.

“The military acted as if they were above the law and could do whatever they wanted,” said military law expert and retired Colonel Michel Drapeau.

“Someone at National Defense Headquarters within the Military Career Administration Directorate played with that… Here we are, a senior officer who sort of escaped responsibility.”

CBC asked Croucher for comment but received no response. DND said it has confirmed it is declining to comment at this time.

The acting chief of staff “extremely troubled”

In June, Croucher moved to DND in a new job as “Senior Sustainable Management Staff Officer” at the same naval base – Maritime Forces Atlantic in Halifax – where he had previously served. at the Naval War School. His new position seems to come with a lower pay.

The military is also investigating what led to Croucher’s release from the military and his hiring at the Department of Defense.

“This matter has just been brought to the attention of senior DND / CAF management, including the [Acting Chief of Defence Staff] and the [Deputy Minister] – who are both extremely disturbed by these developments and have ordered full reviews and investigations into the circumstances, ”wrote DND spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier in a statement to CBC News.

“The results of the review could lead to administrative or disciplinary action if wrongdoing is found,” the department said.

“Someone made it happen”

CBC News asked the DND who made this decision to voluntarily release Croucher; the ministry has not yet answered the question. The review of the case should determine who was responsible.

Tthe queen’s regulations and ordinances state that if a “commander” or the “chief of the defense staff” signs a voluntary release, they must certify that it is not to enable the member to avoid the consequences of misconduct.

“To make that happen, someone made it happen,” Drapeau said. “Someone facilitated release on demand as opposed to mandatory release because someone failed in their duty.

“Someone got a free pass. It shows a lack of social intelligence, common sense, certainly awareness and respect… It’s almost a daily drop of reporting on senior management’s failure to To be sensitive.”

This is the second time this week that media have learned that a senior military official caught up in the sexual misconduct crisis has quietly started working in a new role.

The vice chief of the defense staff apologized on Tuesday evening for mismanaging the major general. Peter Dawe returns to work on the sexual misconduct case. Dawe has been on leave since May after CBC revealed he wrote a positive character reference in 2017 for a soldier convicted of sexual assault.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday he was “stunned” and “appalled” by the handling of Dawe’s case and said it was “obvious” that “the military still does not understand that the survivors must be In the center”.

Acting Chief of Staff General Wayne Eyre is “extremely disturbed by these developments,” the Department of Defense said in a statement to CBC News. (Adrian Wyld / The Canadian Press)

Charlotte Duval-Lantoine of the Canadian Institute of World Affairs said the case shows how deeply rooted the problem of sexual misconduct is within the military.

“There are discipline issues where the military doesn’t really clearly see an ethical issue and other people can get away with behavior issues and grossly unethical conduct,” she declared.

The government appointed former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor to lead an external review into sexual harassment and misconduct in the military.

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