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Sending former defence chief's case to civilian courts the only option, says expert

OTTAWA — One of Canada’s top military law experts says the decision to send former chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance’s criminal case to the civilian justice system was the only real option.

Retired colonel Michel Drapeau says the case needed to go to the civilian system to satisfy the appearance of justice and fairness, but also because the military justice system is not set up to deal with such cases involving top commanders.

Drapeau says that became evident during last year’s aborted court martial of Canada’s chief military judge, which was plagued by issues before ultimately falling apart because of a perceived conflict of interest with the rest of the judiciary.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service announced on Thursday that Vance was being charged with one count of obstruction of justice.

Court documents say Vance is accused of repeatedly calling a woman identified as K.B. in February and trying to persuade her to make false statements to military police about their past relationship.

Maj. Kellie Brennan told a parliamentary committee in April that she had turned over to military police recorded conversations of Vance instructing her to lie about their inappropriate relationship and threatening consequences if she didn’t.

Vance has previously denied wrongdoing and none of the allegations have been proven in court.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 16, 2021.

The Canadian Press