Military watchdog continues probe into Fortin case despite general’s decision to withdraw complaint

Fortin’s lawyer wrote in March that should the Military Police Complaints Commission proceed, ‘the Complainant will fully participate in the process’

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The country’s military police watchdog will continue its investigation into how the case of a general accused of sexual assault was handled despite the retired officer’s decision to withdraw his complaint.

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin filed a complaint earlier this year with the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC), alleging he was the victim of “a biased and partial police investigation”, and that he had been charged on the basis of insufficient evidence.

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That prompted MPCC chairperson Tammy Tremblay to launch an investigation into Fortin’s complaint because of the seriousness of the alleged conduct, the systemic issues raised in the general’s complaint and the involvement of senior officials or military officers.

But last month Fortin settled a lawsuit regarding his treatment by federal government and Canadian military officials, and as a result he withdrew his complaint.

But Tremblay said Monday she is still proceeding with her investigation as the concerns that prompted her original decision still exist. “These considerations are still present and have not been diminished, nor have the allegations at the heart of this complaint lodged with the MPCC been resolved or rendered moot by the termination of the civil proceedings initiated by (Fortin),” Tremblay wrote in a statement.

After a military police investigation in 2021, Fortin was charged with one count of sexual assault. But he was acquitted Dec. 5, 2022, by Quebec judge Richard Meredith, who ruled that he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Fortin was the assailant who sexually assaulted a member of the military in 1988.

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Fortin, who received an undisclosed settlement as a result of his lawsuit, retired from the Canadian Forces in the summer.

The MPCC is a civilian, quasi-judicial oversight agency that reviews and investigates complaints concerning military police conduct as well as allegations of interference in military police investigations. It reports its findings and makes recommendations directly to the military police and defence leadership.

Fortin filed his complaint with the MPCC on Jan. 17. Eight days later, the watchdog requested the Office of Professional Standards of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal provide it with a copy of the investigation into the sexual assault allegation against the major general. That investigation was done by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, or CFNIS.

But instead, on March 31, the MPCC was only provided with a summary of the police investigation. “The MPCC has not received disclosure of the complete investigation file in question at the time of writing this decision letter, despite its follow-up efforts,” Tremblay noted in her decision.

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Tremblay said Monday that the MPCC had received an Oct. 13 letter from Fortin’s lawyer that noted, given the circumstances of the settlement, the retired general was withdrawing his complaint. But Tremblay also pointed out the letter from Fortin’s lawyer stated that, should the MPCC chairperson “decide that the public interest investigation must continue despite the Complainant’s withdrawal of the complaint, the Complainant will fully participate in the process.”

In its earlier statement, the office of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal noted it “is committed to working with the MPCC and remaining accountable to the Canadian Public and the Canadian Armed Forces.” The office declined further comment.

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David Pugliese is an award-winning journalist covering Canadian Forces and military issues in Canada. To support his work, subscribe: ottawacitizen.com/subscribe

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