Military’s former head of HR charged with sexual assault, indecent acts

Military's former head of HR charged with sexual assault, indecent acts-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson has been charged under the Criminal Code. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)

Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, the military’s former commander in charge of military human resources, has been charged with sexual assault and committing indecent acts.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) laid the Criminal Code charges today.

“As the matter is now proceeding through the civilian justice system, no further information can be released at this time,” Department of National Defence spokesperson Daniel Le Bouthillier said in a media statement.

The allegations against Edmundson date back more than two decades, to when he was a lieutenant-commander overseeing training at the naval officer training centre in Esquimalt, B.C.

Retired Canadian Forces member Stéphanie Viau went public with her allegations in March in a CBC News story.

Viau alleged that she was a 19-year-old steward in the navy when Edmundson, a superior and lieutenant commander in 1991, started exposing his genitals to her onboard a navy ship deployed to the Pacific Ocean for an exercise.

Viau said she yelled at Edmundson and told him it was unacceptable behaviour. Days later, she said, the misconduct escalated and Edmundson raped her onboard HMCS Provider in early November, 1991, while the ship was docked in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Edmundson denied the allegations in March and said has never had “non-consensual sex with anyone, ever.”

In response to the charges laid Tuesday, Viau’s lawyer, Paul Champ, told CBC News his client “will make no comment on this matter other than to say we will wait for justice to take its course.”

Champ said last month that CFNIS was consulting with civilian prosecutors in Ontario to determine if criminal charges should be laid. The defence department said the case would be handed over to civilian prosecutors.

Defence Minister Anita Anandannounced last month that she had accepted former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour’s recommendation to transfer sexual misconduct investigations to civilian police except in cases where an investigation is close to completion.

“In this particular case, the investigation was near completion,” Le Bouthillier said regarding why CFNIS laid the charges.

Stéphanie Viau-Milenio Stadium-Canada
Stéphanie Viau accused Hayden Edmundson of sexual assault. (Andrew Lee/CBC News)

The military placed Edmundson on paid leave when CBC’s story first aired in March and later replaced him as the commander in charge of military human resources when the allegations were made public.

At the time, his lawyer Brian Greenspan called it regrettable that Edmundson was “replaced in his role without an opportunity to appropriately respond and defend against untested allegations which he categorically and unequivocally denies.”

The Canadian military is engaged in a public struggle with sexual misconduct in the ranks. Since February 2021, multiple current and former senior Canadian military leaders have been sidelined, investigated or forced into retirement from some of the highest ranking posts in the Armed Forces.

The allegations against Edmundson are the most serious to be levelled recently against a senior leader in the Forces.

DND said that since May 12, Edmundson has been posted as a supported member at the Transition Centre Ottawa. While many military members who go to the transition group end up leaving the military, some transition back in.

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