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Military head leading Canada's vaccine rollout steps aside due to 'military investigation'

Last Updated May 14, 2021 at 9:53 pm CDT

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, participates in a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang

The man in charge of Canada’s vaccine rollout has been forced to step aside due to a “military investigation.”

In a statement released late Friday night, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence said Major-General Dany Fortin had left his assignment with the Public Health Agency of Canada, pending the results of the investigation.

“Acting Chief of the Defence Staff, Lieutenant-General Eyre will be reviewing next steps with Major-General Fortin. We will have no further comment,” read the brief statement.

No further details were provided as to the nature of the investigation.

The Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Minister Patty Hajdu’s office refused to comment on the impact of Fortin’s departure on the vaccine campaign. They referred all questions to the Department of National Defence.

Fortin was picked by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to lead the logistical rollout the COVID-19 vaccine across Canada in November 2020.

He was involved in planning the CAF missions that went into long-term care homes in pandemic-hit centres last summer. The harrowing reports the soldiers produced after working in those homes led the federal government to draft new directives on seniors’ care.

Fortin most recently served as the chief of staff for the Canadian Joint Operations Command. He was also commander of the NATO military training mission in Iraq from November 2018 until late 2019. That followed several leadership posts in Afghanistan the previous decade, and on NATO and United Nations missions to Bosnia in the 1990s.

It’s the latest blow for the military, which is currently dealing with the fallout from a sexual impropriety allegation levelled against the former chief of defence staff, retired general Jonathan Vance.

Military police are investigating allegations that Vance had a sexual relationship with an officer under his command and that he sent an off-colour email to a junior offer in 2012, before taking the military’s top job.

Vance has not responded to requests for comment, but Global News, which first reported the allegations, says that he has denied any inappropriate conduct.

Shortly after reports of the Vance allegations, his replacement as chief of the defence staff, Admiral Art McDonald, stepped aside due to an unspecified allegation of misconduct. He, too, is now under military police investigation.

And another top commander, Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, the officer responsible for human resources, is on leave while being investigated by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.

Edmundson has not responded to requests for comment.

There is nothing in Friday’s news release that suggests the investigation against Fortin deals with sexual allegations.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan issued a brief statement.

“As I have stated previously, I am committed to working to build a true culture of inclusion for the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence, where everyone is treated with dignity and respect,” he said in an email.

“We are committed to this lasting change – one that sheds toxic and outdated values, practices, and policies.

“The Acting Chief of Defence Staff has advised me that MGen Fortin has stepped aside. As there is an ongoing investigation, I will have no further comment at this time.”

Sajjan said the Canadian Armed Forces continues to fully support the vaccine rollout and the rest of the government’s response to COVID-19 across Canada.

Files from The Canadian Press were used in this report