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Former defence chief Vance sentenced to 80 hours community service after guilty plea

Ex-chief of defence staff Jonathan Vance pleads guilty to obstruction of justice
Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance sits in the front row during a news conference Friday, June 26, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Former chief of the defence staff general Jonathan Vance has been sentenced to 80 hours of community service after pleading guilty on Wednesday to one charge of obstruction of justice.

Ontario Justice Robert Wadden delivered the sentence during a virtual court appearance this morning in which the former Canadian Armed Forces commander appeared by video.

“You’ve pled guilty before me to one count of obstruction of justice, And I find you guilty of that offence,” Wadden told Vance after hearing arguments from the retired general’s lawyer and Crown attorney Mark Holmes on the conditions for a discharge.

A court can order that an accused person be discharged of an offence after a finding of guilt, meaning no conviction will be registered. Under a conditional discharge, the accused must agree to conditions imposed by a judge.

In addition to community service, Wadden ordered Vance to be put on probation for 12 months and to refrain from contacting Maj. Kellie Brennan, with whom he had what a statement of facts filed in court described as a “long-standing intimate relationship.”

The statement of facts says Vance failed to disclose the relationship, which exposed him to the possibility of a charge under the National Defence Act, and that he attempted to “discourage” her from revealing the full nature of their relationship to military investigators.

Wadden described Vance’s action as a “serious offence,” particularly given his position of authority as Canada’s top military commander for more than five years.

“It is serious because it is breach of trust,” he said. “It is serious because it impacts all Canadian society to see a commander of your stature behave in this manner. It is serious because it has personal impacts.”

Yet the judge, in granting the conditional discharge, also said that Vance appeared to be “a man of good character” who had contributed to Canada’s mission in Afghanistan and the Canadian Armed Forces during his career.

Wadden added he believed Vance, dressed in a suit and wearing glasses, was still in a position to contribute to society.

Military police charged Vance with one count of obstruction of justice last July following a months-long investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct.

Vance was not charged with any inappropriate sexual misconduct.

In requesting a discharge, Vance’s lawyer Rodney Sellar had argued his client entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity and has already suffered significant financial and reputational damage.

—Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

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