Lawyer for officer suing federal government calls for outside probe of military police

The lawyer representing the former head of the Canadian Armed Forces personnel branch is calling on Defence Minister Bill Blair to bring in either the RCMP or the Ontario Provincial Police to review the "professional competency" of the military police service and its leadership.

In a recent letter, Phillip Millar said military investigators' handling of sexual misconduct investigations has shaken trust in the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) and the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS).

He said Blair has the legislative authority to order an independent review and the institution can no longer be trusted to police itself.

"There are clear indicators of chain of command interference, gross negligence concerning professional investigation standards, multiple deliberate lapses in preserving and securing evidence integrity, a failure to protect sensitive investigations, and a lack of independence," Millar wrote in a June 7, 2024 letter to Blair obtained by CBC News.

"An external police review would demonstrate your resolve to preserve the public's trust in a CAF that has struggled to maintain credibility."

Millar represents Lt.-Gen. Steven Whelan, who last month launched a lawsuit in Federal Court against his accuser, the federal government, the chief of the defence staff and other military officials.

He had been accused of giving a female military member a better score on her performance evaluation report in 2011 to stop her from reporting allegedly "flirtatious" emails he sent her.

Military prosecutors withdrew a series of service offence charges against Whelan last year.

He is now seeking $10 million in damages.

Millar said a recent report by the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), which accused CFPM of obstructing independent reviews, got his attention.

National Defence Minister Bill Blair delivers a keynote address at the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries annual defence industry trade show CANSEC  in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 29, 2024.
National Defence Minister Bill Blair delivers a keynote address at the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries annual defence industry trade show in Ottawa on Wednesday, May 29, 2024. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

He said the complaints made by MPCC chair Tammy Tremblay suggest a disturbing trend and raise doubts about whether Blair can properly assess the degree to which military police are operating within proper boundaries.

"You should be concerned that a major lever of regulatory oversight and governance is raising red flags and being met with indifference and intransigence by a police leader seemingly attempting to avoid accountability," Millar wrote in his letter to Blair.

"Notwithstanding the MPCC report, the events of the last three years concerning outcomes of the senior officer investigations should be enough to prompt you to launch a systemic review."

In her annual report to Parliament, Tremblay said that the panel had been forced to go to Federal Court in some cases to force the provost marshal to disclose information the watchdog needed to complete its investigations and reviews.

She described the situation as unacceptable and called it "an erosion of the MPCC's ability to exercise civilian oversight of the military police."

"The CFPM has, at times, refused to disclose information to which the MPCC is legally entitled and that it requires to fulfil its legislative mandate," Tremblay wrote in the report, which was tabled in the House of Commons in early May.

The House of Commons defence committee is conducting a review of transparency at the Department of National Defence and officials were questioned about the watchdog's complaints. They declined comment because some of the MPCC cases were still before the courts.

The minister's office was asked for comment about Millar's letter, but declined because of ongoing litigation.