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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Jaimie Davis won received a Northwest Community College President’s Art Award in 2018. This year, she won the Best Solopreneur Award from Small Business BC for her online shop Jada Creations. (Contributed photo/Northwest Community College)
Terrace artist wins provincial small business award

Jaimie Davis of Jada Creations won BC Small Business’ Best Solopreneur Award

Chera Bergen (left) with her sisters Hali and Dylan Ouellet (not in the picture) raised money through a bottle drive in Terrace to buy essential supplies for a homeless shelter. (Binny Paul/ Terrace Standard)
Terrace sisters’ recycle drive raises money for homeless shelter

With the $1175 raised, Chera, Hali and Dylan bought essential supplies for Ksan Society

A memorial march takes place along Highway 16 also known as Canada’s ‘Highway of Tears’ on national day of awareness of Murdered & Missing Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG). Over five dozen people from nearby communities joined the march which began outside Terrace City Hall and ended at the memorial totem pole erected along Hwy 16, near Kitsumkalum. (Binny Paul/Terrace Standard)
‘City of Terrace can and should make spaces safer’: MMIWG activists

Activists called on governments to amplify safety net for women on national day of awareness of MMIWG

RCMP are reminding the public to be aware of their surroundings after a stabbing sent a man to hospital on May 4, 2021. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Terrace stabbing sends man to hospital

RCMP remind the public to be aware of surroundings

The construction site for the new Mills Memorial Hospital has been cleared. (Binny Paul/The Terrace Standard)
Bird nests key to decision to log hospital site in Terrace

Nests would have posed a risk of increasing costs

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read