Elder Marques said Telford or her assistant contacted him in March 2018, to ask him to speak with the defence minister’s top staffer about Gen. Jonathan Vance

Elder Marques said Telford or her assistant contacted him in March 2018, to ask him to speak with the defence minister’s top staffer about Gen. Jonathan Vance

Trudeau’s chief of staff knew of 2018 Vance allegation: ex-senior staffer

Elder Marques said Telford or her assistant contacted him in March 2018, to ask him to speak with the defence minister’s top staffer about Gen. Jonathan Vance

A former senior adviser to the prime minister gave testimony before a House of Commons committee Friday suggesting Justin Trudeau’s chief of staff Katie Telford knew about a misconduct allegation against Canada’s then-top military commander three years ago.

Elder Marques, who worked in the Prime Minister’s Office, says Telford or her assistant contacted him on March 1 or March 2, 2018, to ask him to speak with the defence minister’s top staffer “on an issue related to the CDS,” referring to chief of defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance.

“I think very quickly everyone had the same information, which was very limited, and we quickly moved to ask the Privy Council to now take carriage of that matter and do what it could with that information to have an investigation ultimately take place,” Marques told a defence committee hearing Friday.

The testimony appears to contradict the sequence of events laid out by Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan earlier this month and raises new questions about what Trudeau knew about the allegations before a Global News report came out in February.

Trudeau and his office initially said they only learned about the allegations from the Global News story, but the prime minister confirmed in the House on March 10 that his office had been aware of concerns raised by military ombudsman Gary Walbourne, who sat down with Sajjan about the topic on March 1, 2018.

But Trudeau has denied personally knowing about the allegations until the news broke on Feb. 2.

“As we have stated, after the defence ombudsman received a complaint, the minister directed him to independent officials who could investigate. Additionally, as the Privy Council Office has confirmed and stated at committee, they never received further information, so were unable to move forward with an investigation,” Trudeau spokesman Alex Wellstead said in an email Friday.

Conservative defence critic James Bezan derided Trudeau’s assertion that he was in the dark on the details until this year, calling that narrative a “cover-up” and accusing the Liberals of “misleading Canadians.”

“Justin Trudeau’s claim that he was not aware of allegations of sexual misconduct by General Vance is clearly false. It is outrageous to believe that everyone around Justin Trudeau was aware of these allegations but the prime minister didn’t know,” Bezan said in a statement.

Sajjan told the defence committee on April 6 that his then-chief of staff Zita Astravas communicated first with the Privy Council Office and then with Marques in the Prime Minister’s Office. But Marques said Telford, his former boss, asked him to contact Astravas, and only after that did he inform then-Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick.

Wernick gave no hint during testimony earlier this month that Telford or other staffers in Trudeau’s office knew about the allegation.

“The only person I know who would have been aware would be Elder. I don’t know who he would have spoken to in PMO at the time, but I think effectively both Minister Sajjan and PMO had given carriage of the file to us at PCO,” he told the committee on April 6.

Sajjan told the committee on March 12 that drawing an elected official into a probe would be “wrong and dangerous, politicizing any investigation that threatens a just outcome for those who come forward.”

Several senior civil servants and now a high-up former political adviser have testified to their knowledge of a misconduct allegation against Vance.

Marques said he departed the PMO in December 2019 and left government last year.

Allegations of misconduct against senior officers have rocked the Canadian Armed Forces in recent months, prompting a renewed examination of military culture and the degree of independence in investigatory processes as military police probe the complaints.

Earlier on Friday, Trudeau said the culture of tolerance for sexual harassment and “unacceptable actions” in the military needs to end.

He also reiterated that Sajjan properly handled the allegations against Vance, but that better support systems must be established for whistleblowers and survivors.

The prime minister also said testimony from Maj. Kellie Brennan on Thursday was “extraordinarily moving” and commended the woman at the heart of sexual misconduct allegations against Vance for her “strength and commitment” to spurring change.

Brennan had told a House of Commons committee that the now-retired chief of defence staff fathered two children with her but has taken no responsibility for them during a relationship that allegedly began in 2001 and continued after Vance accepted the top job in 2015.

She also told MPs that Vance instructed her to lie about their relationship and threatened consequences if she didn’t.

Vance, who stepped down in January, has not responded to requests for comment from The Canadian Press, but Global News has reported that he denies any wrongdoing and says the relationship with Brennan did not continue when she was under his command.

Vance is also being investigated for allegedly sending a lewd email to a junior officer before becoming defence chief.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

federal government

Just Posted

Ron getting loose and sipping a glass of the family’s favourite greek amber spirit, Metaxa. (Photo supplied)
In Our Valley: Ron Lechner

Retired part-time singer and Rio Tinto lifer: Ron Lechner

Map of the road work that will be completed this summer. The streets highlighted in red are what the district planned on completing before additional funding, and the streets highlighted in orange is the road works that will be done with the additional funding. (District of Kitimat photo)
$1.1 million allocated for road work this year in Kitimat

Kitimat council has added $470,000 for more work by deferring four other projects.

Hirsch Creek Golf Course Volunteer, Augie Penner, talking about how he continues the tradition, set by Joe Atamchuck, to catch and release fry that keep spawning at the course. (Jacob Lubberts photo)
VIDEO: Kitimat golf course volunteers making moves for the fishlings

During the highwater season, salmon are known to lay their eggs in the ponds at the golf course

Ocean Wise’s cetacean photogrammetry research program uses aerial images collected by boat-launched drones to measure the body condition of whales. (Ocean Wise Marine Mammal License MML-18 photo)
LNG Canada commits $750K to whale research, conservation initiative

Ocean Wise education team will work alongside educational and Indigenous leaders in the area

The Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre will be closed from June 28 until September 13 for annual facility maintenance as well as teach pool and decking repairs. (Black Press photo)
Sam Lindsay Aquatic Centre closed: June 28 – September 13

The aquatic centre will be closed for annual facility maintenance

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

BC Green Party leader and Cowichan Valley MLA Sonia Furstenau introduced a petition to the provincial legislature on Thursday calling for the end of old-growth logging in the province. (File photo)
BC Green leader Furstenau introduces old-growth logging petition

Party calls for the end of old-growth logging as protests in Fairy Creek continue

B.C. Premier John Horgan leaves his office for a news conference in the legislature rose garden, June 3, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. premier roasted for office budget, taxing COVID-19 benefits

Youth addiction law that triggered election hasn’t appeared

A vial containing the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is shown at a vaccination site in Marcq en Baroeul, outside Lille, northern France, Saturday, March 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michel Spingler
mRNA vaccines ‘preferred’ for all Canadians, including as 2nd dose after AstraZeneca: NACI

New recommendations prioritizes Pfizer, Moderna in almost all cases

Most Read