Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Liberals silent on nature of Fortin probe or who will replace him on vaccine campaign

Some experts have expressed worry over the lack of information about the nature of the investigation

The Liberal government is scrambling to reassure Canadians that the COVID-19 vaccination campaign will not be hurt by Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin’s sudden departure, but are remaining tight-lipped over why he has been sidelined and who will replace him.

The Department of National Defence issued a terse three-line statement on Friday evening that Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin was leaving his role as head of the government’s vaccine distribution efforts because of an unspecified “military investigation.”

Some experts have expressed worry over the lack of information about the nature of the investigation given the importance of Fortin’s role and recent concerns about a lack of transparency and accountability from the military.

They have also questioned why it is taking so long for the government to identify a replacement to take over leadership of the vaccination rollout.

The Canadian Press has confirmed via a source who was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly that the investigation relates to an allegation of sexual misconduct.

CTV News reported on Sunday that Fortin is being investigated for having allegedly exposed himself to a woman while he was an officer cadet at the Royal Military College in Saint-Jean, Que., in 1989.

Fortin declined to comment in an email to The Canadian Press and CTV quoted his lawyer as saying the general “completely denies” any wrongdoing.

Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole on Monday called on the government to provide Canadians with more information, and suggested its failure to do so represented a threat to public confidence in the military and the vaccine campaign.

“Justin Trudeau must be transparent with Canadians, who deserve confidence in our system, and that starts with providing information,” O’Toole said in a statement.

“The government released a statement late Friday announcing that Maj.-Gen. Fortin would no longer be in charge of the vaccine rollout while an investigation was ongoing, but have yet to confirm the nature of the investigation.”

O’Toole also demanded the government announce who will be taking over from Fortin, who was appointed to the Public Health Agency of Canada in November to manage the vaccination campaign after overseeing the NATO training mission in Iraq.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a brief public appearance on Monday to announce federal funding for the hiring of auditors for home-energy retrofits, but he did not stick around to take any questions.

It instead fell to Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan and Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough to answer questions about Fortin’s removal and what it would mean for the vaccination campaign.

The ministers played down any significant impact on the campaign, suggesting it is well underway and that other Canadian Armed Forces members are continuing to play an important role in the effort.

But both remained otherwise mum on the nature of the investigation, when the government first learned about it, and who will be tapped to replace Fortin.

“I don’t have the exact name details of the individual that will be replacing, either in the interim or permanently, Maj.-Gen. Fortin,” Qualtrough said.

“But the mission is ongoing. We keep delivering, we are keeping the operation going … so ultimately, at the end of the day, Canadians get the vaccines that we have to deliver to them.”

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Canadian Armed ForcesCoronavirusvaccines

Just Posted

Flowers and candles were laid on the driveway of the Weber home, where Kerri Weber was found dead in November 2020. (Black Press Media file photo)
Langford man to stand trial for death of his wife last November

Ken Weber is charged with second-degree murder of his wife, Kerri Weber

Police dog Obi assisted in an arrest Tuesday night after a man reportedly damaged a Victoria restaurant with a large steel beam. (Courtesy of VicPD)
Police dog called in after Victoria restaurant damaged with steel beam

Suspect reportedly entered restaurant and started damaging walls

Police dog Hitch helped arrest a man who had reportedly threatened the security guards of a Victoria shopping centre with a knife on June 15. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man with knife arrested after reportedly threatening Bay Centre security guards

The K9 unit’s police dog, Hitch, was deployed to assist with the arrest

GardenWorks nursery in Oak Bay at its home until August. (Black Press Media file photo)
GardenWorks puts down new roots in Oak Bay this summer

Nursery shifts down The Avenue to fill former fitness studio space

Saanich Volunteer Services Society volunteers head out to deliver this week’s meals to local seniors. (Megan Atkins-Baker/News Staff)
VIDEO: Weekly meal deliveries help brighten the day for Saanich seniors

Seniors are delivered nutritional meals by a group of volunteers every Wednesday

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

The discovery of a missing woman’s body in Nanaimo earlier this month is now being treated as homicide, say Nanaimo RCMP. (File photo)
Discovery of woman’s body in downtown Nanaimo now being investigated as a homicide

Amy Watts was found dead near Albert Street and Victoria Crescent on June 3

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens as Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents the province’s latest budget, April 20, 2021. The budget projects $19 billion in deficits over three years. (Hansard TV)
B.C. government budget balloons, beyond COVID-19 response

Provincial payroll up 104,000 positions, $10 billion since 2017

Ocean debris is shown on Long Beach in Tofino, B.C. on April, 18, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Shoreline cleanup finds COVID-related trash increased during height of the pandemic

Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup reports litter from single-use food packaging nearly doubled

Doctor David Vallejo and his fiancee Doctor Mavelin Bonilla hold photos of themselves working, as they kiss at their home in Quito, Ecuador, Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Doctor Vallejo and Doctor Bonilla suspended their wedding in order to tend to COVID-19 patients and in the process Vallejo got sick himself with the disease, ending up in an ICU for several days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
Love, sacrifice and surviving COVID-19: one couple’s story

COVID hits Ecuadorian doctors who delayed wedding to treat sick

The Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society, which has been operating a treatment centre on land leased from the Nanoose First Nation for 35 years (pictured), has begun a fundraising campaign to open a new centre near Duncan. (Tsow-Tun Le Lum Society photo)
New residential school healing centre to be built near Duncan

$5-million Indigenous treatment centre will help survivors of residential schools heal

Two Lotto Max tickets sold on Vancouver Island were winners, though nobody won the $70-million jackpot in Tuesday’s draw. (BCLC image)
Vancouver Island lottery players win $1 million and $500,000 in Lotto Max draw

$1 million ticket sold in Campbell River, $500,000 ticket sold in Nanaimo

St. Joseph's Mission site is located about six kilometres from Williams Lake First Nation. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake First Nation to search residential school site for unmarked graves

St. Joseph’s Mission Indian Residential School operated from 1886 to 1981

Most Read