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Military officer overseeing Canada’s vaccine roll out steps down pending military investigation


Military officer overseeing Canada’s vaccine roll out steps down pending military investigation

The military officer tasked with overseeing Canada’s vaccine roll out is stepping down pending the results of a military investigation. The news comes days before the country sees its biggest weekly delivery of shots so far.

Maj-Gen Dany Fortin has already left his assignment, according to a statement from the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

It’s not immediately clear what the matter being investigated is.

The high-profile departure comes as the country prepares to recieve 4.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and Moderna ahead of Victoria Day weekend, making it the biggest weekly influx of vaccines since doses began arriving in December.

It also comes at a time that military leadership is facing serious scrutiny following 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.

Reached late Friday, Fortin declined comment and referred the Star to media relations at the department of national defence.

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In an emailed statement, National Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan said he was commited to building “a true culture of inclusion” in the armed forces.

“We remain focused on the vaccine rollout, with millions more vaccines arriving every week. The women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces will continue to fully support the vaccine rollout.”

Earlier on Friday, Anita Anand, minister of public services and procurement and the receiver general for Canada, told media that Pfizer had moved up its schedule to deliver two million doses of vaccine early next week, followed by 1.4 million on Thursday and Friday. Moderna is also set to send 1.1 million doses of its vaccine next week, she said.

A senior government official would not comment on any details related to the departure of Fortin as head of the vaccine rollout, but said the government is confident the national vaccine delivery campaign will continue to ramp up as planned and it will not be affected by Fortin’s exit.

Two other military planners who worked with Fortin at the Public Health Agency of Canada will continue to oversee delivery.

Fortin, whom Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called a “seasoned officer,” was tapped in November to oversee what the prime minister called “the greatest mobilization effort Canada has seen since the Second World War.”

Fortin has served in the military for almost 30 years. He commanded NATO’s training mission in Iraq and led Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan at the height of the fiercest fighting there.

When tapped for the top vaccine job, he was the chief of staff at the Canadian Force’s Joint Operations Command in Ottawa, second in charge of overseeing military operational deployments.

In the six months since, he has co-ordinated delivery of vaccines into Canada and then across the country, out of a logistics and operations hub at Health Canada.

As recently as Thursday, he’d been participating in the regular weekly media update on the vaccine roll out, and told reporters he was preparing to meet with provinces and territories next month to talk about the future of the operation.

With files from The Canadian Press and Tonda MacCharles

Alex Boyd is a Calgary-based reporter for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @alex_n_boyd

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