1st woman named as vice-chief of the defence staff in Canadian military shakeup

1st woman named as vice-chief of the defence staff in Canadian military shakeup-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen is currently Canada’s military representative at NATO Headquarters in Brussels. (Facebook/Canadian Armed Forces)

The Canadian military’s second-in-command has been replaced as part of a major shakeup of the senior ranks of the embattled institution.

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Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen has been promoted to vice-chief of the defence staff (VCDS), replacing Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau, a statement from the Department of National Defence announced Tuesday morning.

It is happening at a time of extraordinary crisis within the military as the two most senior officers — Admiral Art McDonald and Gen. Jonathan Vance — remain under investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service for alleged sexual misconduct.

After learning last week that he was under investigation, McDonald, who had only been in the Chief of the Defence job a month, stepped aside.

The normal practice would have been to make the vice chief the acting top commander, but Rouleau was passed over and the head of the Canadian Army, Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre was given the temporary appointment by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan.

Rouleau, who is the former commander of special forces, has been moved into a new role as senior adviser on future capabilities.

Both Rouleau and Allen have only been at their current jobs since last summer.

Allen, who as a major-general served as the deputy vice chief, is currently Canada’s military representative at NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

She will become the first woman to hold the position of vice chief and in that capacity will be responsible for the day-to-day administration of the military.

Lt-Gen Mike Rouleau-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Lt.-Gen. Mike Rouleau will be moved aside as Vice Chief of the Defence Staff in order to make way for Lt.-Gen. Frances Allen, CBC News has confirmed. (CBC News)

Increased political scrutiny

Allen inherits an institution in the midst of crisis, one that is struggling to salvage its signature social initiative: the campaign to stamp out sexual misconduct, which has suffered a major credibility hit because of the scandals surrounding Vance and McDonald.

There will be increased political scrutiny.

On Monday, a Parliamentary committee agreed to an expanded set of hearings into sexual misconduct in the military.

The House of Commons defence committee has held a series of meetings and heard from a number of witnesses, including former military ombudsman Gary Walbourne, who told MPs he had warned the minister three years ago about an allegation of inappropriate behavior involving Vance.

An investigation into the claim was hamstrung because the complaint was informal and Walbourne had given the woman his guarantee of confidentiality.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who is a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, welcomed Allen’s appointment.

“We need more women and more under-represented groups at the command table … in Ottawa making decisions for this important institution,” said O’Toole.

While he spoke highly of Allen, O’Toole called for a freeze on wage increases and promotions for generals, and for an independent investigation into the misconduct allegations against Vance and McDonald.

“An institution that is very important to Canada … there is eroding trust in it right now,” said O’Toole. “We have to show swift and serious action for the men and women wearing the uniform, particularly the women wearing the uniform.”


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