ARCHIVED - Allegations against the Canadian Forces Complainant: Captain Bruce Poulin

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PART ONE: Allegations contained in the July 1996 memoranda and the chain of command's response

A. Allegations against Lieutenant-General William Leach

Lieutenant-General Leach was the intended recipient of Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 9, 1996 (Appendix I) that contained allegations against Colonel Labbé. At that time, Lieutenant-General Leach was the Deputy Commander of Land Forces and held the rank of Major-General.
 

Captain Poulin's memorandum of July 9, 1996 stated that Colonel Labbé had made inappropriate advances toward a civilian member of the mess dining room staff. Additionally, Captain Poulin alleged Colonel Labbé did not take action to prevent students from consuming alcohol on a Canadian Forces (CF) passenger bus and inside the air terminal at CF Base Trenton. In his memorandum, Captain Poulin also included information shared with him by other students alleging that, in the mid-1980s, Colonel Labbé had arranged a trip to a local exotic dancing establishment with officers under his command during his time as a battalion commander.
 

Captain Poulin also submitted a second memorandum dated July 15, 1996 (Appendix II) that criticized the abilities, attitudes and behaviour of many instructors at the Canadian Land Forces Command and Staff College (CLFCSC), including the alleged assault of a student. He also made critical comments on training conventions and course standards.
 

On June 17, 1998, Captain Poulin's original memorandum dated July 9, 1996 became public at a press conference chaired by Lieutenant-General Leach, who was the Chief of the Land Staff in 1998. During the press conference, members of the media had circulated copies of the memorandum and a media representative, Colonel (Retired) Michel Drapeau, asked Lieutenant-General Leach if he had any comments to make regarding the memorandum that had allegedly been delivered to him.
 

The investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) concluded:
 

There is no evidence to support criminal or service offence charges against LGEN LEACH; however, this issue should be reviewed from an administrative perspective by the chain of command. (emphasis added)

 

Captain Poulin maintains that Lieutenant-General Leach had acknowledged his allegations against Colonel Labbé but took no action.
 

In his response to the relevant portions of the interim report that were forwarded to him, Lieutenant-General (Retired) Leach indicated,  “have nothing to say or add at this point.” He also expressed appreciation for the opportunity to review “this part of your work to date.”   
 

Allegation 1: Failure to respond to allegations of misconduct by Colonel Labbé in July 9, 1996 memorandum

Captain Poulin states in his written complaint to the Ombudsman's Office:
 

On or around July 9, 1996, during my discussions with then Major-General Leach, we discussed my memo dated July 9, 1996 and specifically the behaviour of Col. S. Labbé. His subsequent inaction was in direct violation of QR&O 107.02(1).
 

It states that:  “Where a complaint is made or where there are other reasons to believe that a service offence may have been committed, an investigation should normally be conducted as soon as practical to determine whether there is sufficient grounds to justify the laying of charges.”  
 

Lt.-Gen. Leach's inaction in this regard may also be considered a service offence under section 124 of the National Defence Act - Negligent performance of duty.

 

Captain Poulin states that he had a discussion with then Major-General Leach on July 9, 1996 regarding the conduct of Colonel Labbé and that then Major-General Leach invited him to submit a memorandum outlining his allegations. On the same date, Captain Poulin prepared a memorandum addressed to then Major-General Leach that contained the allegations of inappropriate conduct against Colonel Labbé.
 

The Ombudsman's examination of this allegation focused on the memorandum dated July 9, 1996 and the alleged failure by Lieutenant-General Leach or any other CF authority to respond to the allegations it contained.
 

The allegation that Lieutenant-General Leach is guilty of a service-related offence is based on the belief that Lieutenant-General Leach received the July 9, 1996 memorandum, was aware of the allegations of misconduct against Colonel Labbé that it contained and failed to order an investigation or otherwise act on the allegations.
 

The Ombudsman's Office did not find any evidence that any official action was taken or any investigation conducted in response to the alleged misconduct by Colonel Labbé outlined in the July 9, 1996 memorandum until the memorandum was made public on June 17, 1998. After the memorandum was made public, the CFNIS initiated investigations into both the allegations of misconduct against Colonel Labbé and the question of whether Lieutenant-General Leach failed to respond to or act on these allegations. The CFNIS investigation into the alleged inaction by Lieutenant-General Leach concluded on October 26, 1998 and found there was no evidence to support criminal or service-related charges against Lieutenant-General Leach.
 

In the course of investigating this allegation, in almost all instances, Ombudsman's investigators sought information directly from the sources, notwithstanding the fact that CFNIS investigators had collected their information from the same sources. It should be noted that the purpose of this Office's investigation into this and all allegations was not to recommend the laying of charges, which lies outside the mandate of the Ombudsman's Office and indeed most ombudsman offices. This Office's investigation was conducted as an administrative review of the allegations brought forward, with a view to making the appropriate recommendations.
 

Lieutenant-General Leach was interviewed by Ombudsman's investigators on June 30, 2000 and July 10, 2000. Lieutenant-General Leach retired from the CF on August 8,
2000.
 

Lieutenant-General Leach asserted that he did not recall ever seeing Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 9, 1996. He also stated, as he told the CFNIS investigators in 1998, that had he seen Captain Poulin's memorandum containing the allegations against Colonel Labbé, he would have taken action to deal with the matter.
 

Ombudsman's investigators interviewed Major Michel Lavoie as a witness to this allegation (Appendix III). Major Lavoie had previously served as Executive Assistant to then Major-General Leach when he was the Deputy Commander of Land Forces. Major Lavoie related that he had placed Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 9, 1996 on then Major-General Leach's desk and remarked on its particular sensitivity to then Major-General Leach.
 

Major Lavoie stated he had asked then Major-General Leach about the status of Captain Poulin's memorandum, months later, in response to Captain Poulin's follow-up query, with Captain Poulin in close proximity. Major Lavoie notes that, while he considers Major-General Leach the most approachable and principled officer he has worked for, Major-General Leach's reaction to this inquiry appeared uncharacteristically stern. He recalls that Major-General Leach gestured in the affirmative in response to Major Lavoie's query,  “so you have handled it, General?” Major Lavoie adds that he never raised the question again with Major-General Leach.
 

Ombudsman's investigators interviewed Lieutenant-Colonel Trudel as a witness to this complaint in the Hotel Belson, Brussels, Belgium on September 10, 2000. Lieutenant-Colonel Trudel replaced Major Lavoie as Executive Assistant to then Major-General Leach when he was Deputy Commander of Land Forces. Lieutenant-Colonel Trudel recalled Major Lavoie showing him Captain Poulin's memorandum that contained allegations against Colonel Labbé. Lieutenant-Colonel Trudel reported he searched for the memorandum after the June 17, 1998 press conference but it was no longer in the file. No explanation could be offered by any staff member of army headquarters interviewed by Ombudsman's investigators as to why the memorandum was not retained on the file.
 

Lieutenant-General Leach's secretary in the Land Forces Headquarters in St. Hubert was Ms. Ginette Nault. Ms. Nault was interviewed by the CFNIS investigators in July 1998 and the interview was recorded on audio cassette. A copy of the recording was provided to the Ombudsman's Office.
 

During her interview, Ms. Nault reported that she had been given the memorandum written by Captain Poulin and passed it on to Major Lavoie, the Executive Assistant. When she was shown a copy of Captain Poulin's July 9, 1996 memorandum, Ms. Nault was confident she had received that document, which contained the allegations against Colonel Labbé.
 

When asked if she had logged in Captain Poulin's memorandum, Ms. Nault was unable to provide a direct answer. Ms. Nault stated that she normally registered correspondence and that, after receiving a document she would have logged it in prior to giving it to Major Lavoie, who reviewed all correspondence before delivering it to Lieutenant-General Leach. Ms. Nault stated she did not recall logging in Captain Poulin's memorandum.
 

Ms. Nault's inability to specifically recall having logged in Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 9, 1996 is consistent with information Captain Poulin related to Ombudsman's investigators. Specifically, Captain Poulin stated that, at the time he had submitted his July 9, 1996 memorandum, Ms. Nault had confided that, considering the sensitivity of his memorandum, she had not logged it in the office correspondence log.
 

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Assessment

Major Lavoie and Ms. Nault both report seeing Captain Poulin's July 9, 1996 memorandum. Lieutenant-Colonel Trudel also recalled seeing this memorandum when he took over from Major Lavoie as Executive Assistant. Despite Lieutenant-General Leach's assertion that he does not recall seeing it, it is my view that it is highly unlikely Captain Poulin's July 9, 1996 memorandum containing allegations of misconduct against Colonel Labbé went unseen by Lieutenant-General Leach.
 

In reaching this finding, I place considerable weight on the information provided by Major Lavoie both to the CFNIS investigators in 1998 and more recently to my investigators. First, Major Lavoie recalls personally alerting then Major-General Leach of the placement of the particularly sensitive document on the top of routine correspondence. Further confirmation is provided when Major Lavoie later asked Major-General Leach about the status of Captain Poulin's memorandum. Major Lavoie received what he considered an atypically abrupt response from Major-General Leach, who replied that he didn't believe he had to report back to a captain, meaning Captain Poulin. Major Lavoie related to my investigators that he was caught off guard by Major-General Leach's response and noted that Major-General Leach was typically absolutely approachable. Compelled to obtain some response from Major-General Leach, Major Lavoie asked "so you've handled it, General?" He described Major-General Leach's response as a non-verbal affirmative gesture.
 

It should be noted that, even if then Major-General Leach had not in fact seen Captain Poulin's memorandum, one cannot help but conclude maladministration by CF authorities in this case. Although the chain of command retains a measure of discretion to deal with complaints about CF members as it deems appropriate, when members submit written memoranda to the senior leadership (or to any level of their chain of command) they deserve, as a minimum, to know that their concerns have been received, that they will be investigated where appropriate and that they will be informed of the results of the investigation and any action taken in response. This practice reassures CF members and the Canadian public that the CF chain of command is committed to acknowledging complaints of misconduct, investigating them in a timely fashion and taking corrective action whenever necessary. Unfortunately, this was not done in this case. Through no fault of his, Captain Poulin never received any official written acknowledgement of his memorandum, nor was he informed of any follow-up action or investigation (as it appears none was taken at the time).
 

The failure to acknowledge or to respond to the memorandum and to initiate an investigation is a troubling occurrence. Complaints must be taken seriously. To ensure that they are given the attention they deserve and that an administrative malaise relating to complaints does not develop or appear to have developed, systems must be put in place so that confirmation and responses are routinely and uniformly provided. Furthermore, it reflects poorly on the entire CF leadership when allegations of misconduct go unacknowledged and are not immediately investigated. Members who have complaints may share perceptions that the chain of command is covering up the problem and protecting its own, while subjects of complaints may be left with a taint or a cloud over their heads, particularly if allegations that are never investigated resurface at a later time.
 

At the  “Giving a Voice to Ethics”  Conference held in Ottawa on October 20, 1998, the Chief of the Defence Staff confirmed the organization's policy that witnesses should be encouraged to speak out promptly and report to their chain of command instances of abuse and sexual harassment. In return, he stated, witnesses will be listened to and action taken. In that context, it is not surprising that the failure to respond to his July 9, 1996 memorandum contributed to Captain Poulin's growing feelings of distrust of CF leaders. In other words, the social contract between leader and member had been broken by the former, with the result that the member lost faith in the organization's leadership. This feeling of distrust appears to have been a significant factor that drove the ongoing and deepening conflict Captain Poulin experienced in his workplace from the time the memorandum was released at the June 1998 press conference. Indeed, as a general proposition, the circumstances unveiled by the evidence in this instance could breed such lack of confidence in the chain of command that, in my view, CF members could well be motivated to eventually leak problems and concerns to the media in order to ensure they receive a response.
 

I caution against responding to the problem by writing it off as the responsibility of one individual who has now retired from the CF and pledging that the current leadership is  “new and improved”  and has shaken off its past. The CF, as a whole, must take concrete action now to improve its way of doing business and put appropriate measures into place to prevent such situations from recurring in the future.
 

Ombudsman's recommendations

I therefore recommend that:

1. Procedures be adopted to ensure that correspondence submitted for the action of leaders and managers at any level is routinely logged and monitored to ensure a timely response by the appropriate level of the chain of command.
 

In reply to my interim report, the Chief of the Defence Staff replied that generally accepted office management practices and procedures, including a system for logging and tracking of correspondence, are already well established for all staff, including the senior command within National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ). He acknowledged, however, that had these practices and procedures been correctly observed, the documents in question (Captain Poulin's memoranda of July 9 and July 15, 1996) would have been properly logged.
 

Although the Chief of the Defence Staff is not convinced that existing procedures were inadequate, he agreed with the importance of ensuring that service authorities remain vigilant in maintaining an accurate and complete records system for correspondence. In response to my recommendation, the Chief of the Defence Staff has directed "that current guidance be reviewed and that direction with respect to the management of recorded information be strengthened, where appropriate" (response of Chief of the Defence Staff, March 16, 2001, p. 2/5).
 

I accept this response to my recommendations and I look forward to seeing the results of this review and to being kept informed of any revisions made to strengthen the current direction.
 

2. The records-keeping and monitoring procedures should require that all Canadian Forces members have a right to receive written acknowledgement of their complaint and a written response detailing any action taken in response, including the results of any investigation (wherever appropriate).
 

The Chief of the Defence Staff has replied that he agrees in principle with this recommendation and the objective of ensuring that all CF members receive formal acknowledgement of their written complaints. He has expressed his belief that there is merit in this recommendation and has undertaken to examine this issue further. I accept this response to my recommendations and rely on the Chief of the Defence Staff to inform me of the specific steps taken to implement it once he has completed his examination.
 

3. The records-keeping and monitoring procedures should require that, if no written response or follow-up action is logged, the matter be brought forward immediately to the attention of the officer who is the immediate superior of the member who failed to discharge the responsibility of logging or following up the complaint. If complaints are not logged or dealt with promptly, the matter should be referred to the Office of the Ombudsman for review.
 

In response to my interim report, the Chief of the Defence Staff supports the intention to ensure that a system of checks and balances exists to provide recourse to a complainant in situations where a letter of complaint goes unanswered, whether through neglect or intentional disregard. In response to my Office's original recommendation, the Chief of the Defence Staff noted that the chain of command could not be by-passed by referring matters directly to his office for response. In his view as commander of the CF personnel,  “In resolving issues and complaints, the Chain of Command must be engaged and must be part of the solution. If there is a breakdown in trust in that Chain, this breakdown must be addressed and corrected ...” (response of Chief of the Defence Staff, March 16, 2001, p. 3/5)
 

The Chief of the Defence Staff notes that a service member is always permitted to request an audience with his commanding officer as a  “custom of the service.” He also pointed out that any member  “who believes that their complaint has not been dealt with, or dealt with adequately, may refer the complaint to an appropriate authority higher in the chain of command - normally the next superior officer in the reporting chain.” He also referred to those oversight mechanisms, both internal and external to the CF, that are available to members to ensure that their complaints are adequately dealt with.
 

The Chief of the Defence Staff, in his response, referred to the  “custom of service” that permits members to notify the responsible superior officer that a complaint has not been responded to properly. The recommendation I am making is not intended to interfere with that custom, but rather to ensure that it is clearly expressed in a set of procedures designed so that written complaints are given prompt and effective attention. Accordingly, the intent of my revised recommendation in this final report is to ensure that the  “custom of service” referred to by the Chief of the Defence Staff is expressly stated in written procedures that require a specific response to written complaints and allow immediate recourse to avoid delays which may result from requiring members to channel their concerns through multiple layers of the chain of command. Such delays contribute to perceptions that the bureaucracy of the system serves to prevent effective and timely resolution of complaints.
 

My Office is available to all CF members who have attempted to use existing complaints mechanisms and who feel that the system has not fairly dealt with their complaints. It is my hope that two benefits will accrue through the Chief of the Defence Staff's acknowledgement of the role that my Office can play in assisting the CF to comply with records-keeping and monitoring procedures. First, recognition of the Ombudsman's role will heighten awareness of the need to strengthen recording and monitoring of complaints in a military institution committed to openness and transparency. Second, recognition of the function of the Ombudsman's Office by the Chief of the Defence Staff will increase awareness among CF members of the assistance this Office can provide.
 

My recommendations are capable of being put into place relatively quickly and with little additional administrative effort; all the same, they will be effective in preventing lapses by individual members of the chain of command in addressing serious concerns that are brought forward.
 

If these recommendations are implemented, the degree to which they achieve their purpose is dependent upon the chain of command's genuine commitment to following these procedures, not just for the sake of following the rules, but to ensure accountability and transparency. I believe that the implementation of these recommendations will not only improve the welfare of members of the Department of National Defence (DND) and the CF but will ultimately strengthen trust in the chain of command.
 

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Allegation 2: Failure to take action in response to Captain Poulin's comments related to Colonel Labbé's leadership of the Canadian Land Forces Command and Staff College, Kingston

In his written complaint to this Office, Captain Poulin states:
 

During his interview with the NIS, Lt.-Gen. Leach admitted that he recalled:  “... that he (Capt. Poulin) had comments about not only the course content but about DS orientation and qualifications and about the leadership style and habits of the Commandant Colonel. Serge Labbé ...”  Therefore, Lt.-Gen. Leach had, according to CFAO 19.39 paragraph 11, an obligation to  “... take action to deal with the incident.”  Furthermore, CFAO 19.39 paragraph 30 states:  “Initial notification of alleged harassment may be made either orally or in writing.”  LCdr. Moore never brought these facts, and the related potential service offence(s), to light in his report.

 

Lieutenant-General Leach recalled Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 15, 1996. He stated to Ombudsman's investigators that he had welcomed Captain Poulin's observations at that time because the course curriculum was about to be rewritten. He reported that he considered Captain Poulin's observations as factors to be included in the rewrite of the staff college course.
 

During his interview with Ombudsman's investigators, General Baril, the Chief of the Defence Staff, stated that, shortly after returning from the course in Kingston, Captain Poulin had made comments to him critical of the CLFCSC. General Baril stated:
 

... [Poulin's] comments to me [about the course] were very wise at that time and what he had told me was the influence of Colonel Labbé on the course ... was not the way it should be and I have been at the college and what he was telling me was right ... at that time Labbé was leaving the Staff College for the reason that [Poulin] had told me at that time. That was exactly the way [Leach and I] saw it too. And we had a young student who came out and who told me exactly what me and Leach thought - that we had to pull [Colonel Labbé] out because it was a bad influence for what we were trying to do with the Army. So from that point of view, [Captain Poulin] had it bang on.

 

Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 15, 1996 contains many observations about course content, assessment standards and the quality of many of the course directing staff.
 

Captain Poulin's allegation suggests that, as a result of receiving Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 15, 1996, Lieutenant-General Leach had a responsibility to take action in accordance with CF Administration Order 19-39. At that time, CF Administration Order 19-39 was the CF policy regarding the prevention of harassment in the workplace.
 

Assessment

Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 15, 1996 contained his personal critique of the instruction, curriculum and assessment standards of the CLFCSC in Kingston. This memorandum was submitted to then Major-General Leach who did not dispute receiving this memorandum from Captain Poulin. In fact, he indicated he had welcomed Captain Poulin's input because the staff college was being closed for a one-year period in order to undertake a complete rewrite of the course. This memorandum does not appear to include any reference or comment that would have obligated Lieutenant-General Leach to take action under the CF harassment policy of the time.
 

Although the July 15, 1996 memorandum does not appear to have required action as a harassment complaint, it raised a number of significant concerns, including concerns about the instruction, curriculum and assessment standards of the CLFCSC and the general administration of the college. In his interview with my investigators, Lieutenant-General Leach acknowledged he welcomed these observations since a revision of the course was underway. A reasonable person can only conclude that at least some of Captain Poulin's concerns had merit. General Baril, the Chief of the Defence Staff, also acknowledged in his interview with my staff that Captain Poulin's complaints about the college and Colonel Labbé's administration were "very wise at that time" and that Captain Poulin "had it bang on."
 

Nonetheless, despite the chain of command's apparent agreement with some of the concerns Captain Poulin expressed, no member of the CF chain of command appears to have officially acknowledged any of Captain Poulin's concerns, informed him in writing of their response or communicated to him the changes which were made to the CLFCSC curriculum. The foregoing recommendations that address the need to ensure proper acknowledgement and response to members' concerns as soon as they are brought forward to the chain of command should help to prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.
 

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Allegation 3: Failure to conduct an investigation into allegations of abuse of a subordinate and assault, contained in July 15, 1996 memorandum

In his written complaint, Captain Poulin states that:
 

Records released under ATI/Privacy suggest that Lt.-Gen. Leach admitted knowing about and reading the July 15, 1996 memo (the second memo). At paragraph 12 of the July 15, 1996 memo, an incident is described whereby a senior officer choked a junior officer (Section 95 of the National Defence Act (abuse of a subordinate) and Section 266 of the Criminal Code of Canada (assault).
 

By admitting knowledge of the existence of the July 15, 1996 memo but not conducting an investigation into this allegation of a service and perhaps even a criminal offence, Lt.-Gen. Leach was in direct violation of QR&O 107.02(1).
 

It states that:  “Where a complaint is made or where there are other reasons to believe that a service offence may have been committed, an investigation should normally be conducted as soon as practical to determine whether there is sufficient grounds to justify the laying of charges.”  
 

Lt.-Gen. Leach's inaction in this regard may also be considered a service offence under section 124 of the National Defence Act - Negligent performance of duty.

 

The concern behind these allegations is that one of the incidents described in Captain Poulin's July 15, 1996 memorandum constituted a potential assault or service-related offence that Lieutenant-General Leach ought to have referred to the appropriate authority for investigation.
 

As previously noted, Lieutenant-General Leach acknowledges the receipt of Captain Poulin's July 15, 1996 memorandum. A copy of Captain Poulin's memorandum dated July 15, 1996 was provided to Ombudsman's investigators. This memorandum, entitled  “Comments on course 9601 at CLFCSC,”  includes seven pages of what Captain Poulin described as  “incidents that had a negative effect on the group as seen from a training perspective.” The memorandum included what Captain Poulin observed to be several problems with the course. In reference to this specific allegation, Captain Poulin states:
 

On one occasion a [Directing Staff] mentioned how - during a media training exercise - one of the students being interviewed had found himself in a 'tight spot.' To paraphrase the DS' words, the interviewer had the interviewee by the neck and was almost in a position to choke [the] interviewee. At the time, everyone understood this to be a simple figure of speech. So, although the comment itself seemed rather harmless the subsequent gesture posed by the DS was not. After making his remarks, he grabbed the student who had been interviewed and simulated choking him ...

 

During an interview with Ombudsman's investigators, Captain Poulin confirmed that he was the student whom the member of the directing staff had choked as described in his memorandum. Captain Poulin did not make a complaint of assault at the time and did not name the individual he suggests had committed an assault despite knowing his identity.
 

Assessment

In his July 15, 1996 memorandum, Captain Poulin refers to the Directing Staff's actions as a  “gesture” and states that he had "simulated choking" the student. Although this conduct appears out of place in a professional setting, I do not believe that a reasonable person would have necessarily concluded as a result of reading Captain Poulin's memorandum that a potential assault or service-related offence had occurred or been compelled to report the incident to the responsible authority for investigation. Nevertheless, regardless of whether a potential assault or service-related offence was alleged within the memorandum, Captain Poulin was entitled to have the concerns he detailed in both the July 9 and July 15 memoranda acknowledged by the chain of command and to be informed of the response and any action that was taken.
 

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B. Allegations against General Maurice Baril, the Chief of the Defence Staff

General Baril is currently the Chief of the Defence Staff of the CF. In 1996, General Baril was the Commander of Land Forces and held the rank of Lieutenant-General. At that time, Captain Poulin worked directly as a speechwriter for then Lieutenant-General Baril. Lieutenant-General Leach was the Deputy Commander of Land Forces and held the rank of Major-General.
 

Allegation 1: Failure to conduct an administrative review or take corrective measures in response to allegations against Lieutenant-General Leach

In his written complaint submitted to this Office, Captain Poulin alleges:
 

On or around October 23, 1998, The Canadian Forces Provost Marshal wrote and submitted a covering letter (NCN 510-001-98) along with LCdr. Moore's investigation report on Lt.-Gen. Leach for action by the Chief of the Defence Staff. (sic)
 

The conclusion of the subject report stated:  “... this issue should be reviewed from an administrative perspective by the chain of command.”  To the best of my knowledge, no administrative review or corrective measures were ever taken despite the NIS recommendation.
 

Gen. Baril has a responsibility, under QR&O 4.02 (c) to  “promote the welfare, efficiency and good discipline of all subordinates.”  His failure to take action regarding the NIS report was in direct violation of his responsibility under QR&O 4.02 (c).
 

Gen. Baril's inaction in this regard may also be considered a service offence under section 124 of the National Defence Act - Negligent performance of duty.

 

Ombudsman's investigators interviewed General Baril on October 16, 2000 in his office at 101 Colonel By Drive, Ottawa. General Baril was provided with a copy of Captain Poulin's allegations against him prior to the interview.
 

General Baril related that, following a police investigation, there could be many reasons for further examination of an administrative nature, and that administrative action could range from a career review leading to someone's release from the CF to ensuring adequate office procedures exist. In any case, he stated, such a decision is his prerogative. In this instance, in response to Lieutenant-General Leach's alleged failure to respond to Captain Poulin's July 9, 1996 memorandum, General Baril's action was limited to obtaining assurances from Lieutenant-General Leach that adequate procedures existed to ensure that an item of such sensitivity would not go unseen in the future. General Baril stated:
 

My reaction to a report like this was ... tell General Leach,  “do you have a procedure now in place that when there is a delicate memorandum that comes in, if your EA or his staff officer has seen it, you must have some kind of an envelope or a file that this is a real hot one ” ... So that was my administrative review - to be assured by the Commander of the Army ...

 

General Baril continued:
 

To me, the measure that was suggested by the NIS report was that I go in and make sure it doesn't happen again but that's for me to decide. I don't even have to explain to you what I do but that's what I have to do to have a clear conscience ...

 

General Baril stated that Captain Poulin was unlike most captains in that he:
 

... was one of the very few Captain[s] in the Headquarters of the Army who could barge into my office without ... even stopping for my EA because we were dealing [with each other] all the time ... if he had such a hot memo that he wanted us to look [at], either me or the Commander of the Army, and it took him two years to find out that none of us had read it because we never took any action, he did not exercise his privilege of coming to me and [saying] ... I discussed with you and I've given you the memo, what have you done about it? I mean, I was travelling with him and I knew his children ... he had complete and full access to me at all time[s].

 

General Baril suggested that he believed the results of the CFNIS investigation and, based on his personal knowledge of Lieutenant-General Leach, believed he had not seen Captain Poulin's memorandum. General Baril commented that he and then Major-General Leach were appointed Commander and Deputy Commander of Land Forces respectively in 1995 to bring change to the army. General Baril stated:
 

It would have been totally contrary to what we've been trying to do in the Army, ignoring something like this. So, I was convinced too, like the police, that Leach hadn't seen it. I knew I hadn't seen it ... if it would have been seen spark[s] would have flown ...

 

Assessment

General Baril informed my investigators that, regardless of the outcome of an investigation into a criminal or service-related offence, it remains the prerogative of the chain of command to take subsequent administrative action; this prerogative applies whether a recommendation is included in the report of the investigation or not. It is clear from the report of the investigation into the allegations against Lieutenant-General Leach that, based on the evidence it collected, the CFNIS believed that an administrative review of the matter was warranted despite their conclusion that there was insufficient evidence for laying any criminal or service-related charges.
 

Nevertheless, the circumstances surrounding how Lieutenant-General Leach could not recollect the July 9, 1996 memorandum and the allegations against Colonel Labbé were not subjected to any review, despite evidence that the memorandum was placed in his office and brought to his attention, until the Chief of Review Services became aware of the matter as a result of the speech that Captain Poulin prepared for the 1998 Defence Ethics Conference and the matter was ultimately referred to my Office for investigation.
 

General Baril informed my investigators that the extent of his administrative action in this case included obtaining assurances from Lieutenant-General Leach that an adequate system was in place to prevent a recurrence of the problem and relying on the character and integrity of Lieutenant-General Leach.
 

Beyond obtaining these assurances, it does not appear that General Baril took any tangible steps to determine whether appropriate measures to prevent a recurrence of the problem were actually in existence in July 1996. General Baril also does not appear to have inquired as to what, if any, new procedures were put into place by Lieutenant-General Leach since July 1996 to prevent correspondence of this nature from going unacknowledged in the future.
 

Unfortunately, General Baril's belief in the good character and integrity of Lieutenant-General Leach does little to address the failure to respond to a serious allegation of misconduct against a senior officer. It does little to reassure members of the CF who look to their organization to follow the highest standards of management and personnel practices.
 

My investigators have carefully reviewed the system in place when Captain Poulin submitted his memorandum on July 9, 1996 from an administrative perspective and have compared it with the procedures in place in 1998. It is clear that there was, in fact, no major change in the way complaints are received and processed.
 

The system in place in 1996 consisted of a correspondence register that was maintained by then Major-General Leach's secretary. Correspondence was reviewed by the Executive Assistant, Major Lavoie, prior to being passed on to the Deputy Commander of Land Forces, and documents judged to be of particular importance or sensitivity were brought to Lieutenant-General Leach's attention. As already noted, Major Lavoie stated that he followed this practice in this case by mentioning the sensitivity of the document concerning Colonel Labbé and indicating to Lieutenant-General Leach its placement on the top of routine correspondence.
 

As I have previously observed, the failure to adequately acknowledge or respond to the concerns contained in Captain Poulin's memoranda of July 1996 in a timely fashion appears to have contributed to Captain Poulin's mistrust of the CF leadership and the integrity of the institution in general. At the October 1998 Defence Ethics Conference, the Chief of the Defence Staff spoke of the importance of creating an environment of trust that encourages everyone to voice concerns and take responsibility for action. While I fully support the opinion he expressed at the time that, in most cases, the chain of command deals well with these matters, I also share his view that, on occasion, the system fails.
 

In my view, the system failed Captain Poulin. It did so by failing to take prompt notice of the ethical concerns he raised in his July 9, 1996 memorandum. General Baril's response to the CFNIS recommendation that the matter be reviewed from an administrative perspective unfortunately contributed further to Captain Poulin's perception that the chain of command had again failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing and take corrective measures. This distrust on the part of Captain Poulin added fuel to the conflicts he experienced in his workplace in Public Affairs, which led to further complaints against several staff members. These complaints are dealt with in Part Three of this report.
 

My Office has recommended procedures that will ensure that serious allegations such as those in Captain Poulin's July 9, 1996 memorandum are responded to in the future. The chain of command's acknowledgement that the current system needs to be improved and its implementation of these recommendations will go some way towards restoring faith in the commitment to improvement by the CF leadership.
 

The institution's leaders depend upon members to bring problems that occur within the CF to their attention so that appropriate action can be taken. In return, members are entitled to expect the chain of command to acknowledge their concerns and inform them of any investigation or other action that has been initiated in response. Such demonstrations of transparency and accountability serve to instil faith in the system and strengthen members' confidence in the chain of command.
 

It should not be forgotten that Captain Poulin went to considerable effort to document concerns about the administration of the CLFCSC and the perceived misconduct by Colonel Labbé. Whether these concerns ultimately turned out to be warranted or not, Captain Poulin was entitled to an acknowledgement that his concerns had been received and to be informed of follow-up action that was taken in response. This did not happen.
 

In my view, the chain of command should acknowledge that the system did not work in Captain Poulin's case and should confirm to him personally, in writing, its commitment to ensure that future concerns are acknowledged and responded to.
 

I have conducted research into how other defence organizations deal with circumstances in which the organization has failed to properly handle a complaint by one of its members. Australia's military is often used as a reference point on many issues by the CF, as it has much in common with our own. Moreover, Australia's Defence Force and its Department of Defence appear to embrace values and ethics similar to those of DND and the CF.
 

The Australian Defence Service Charter pledges that  “Defence is committed to being honest, open and fair ...”  and provides that it  “will maintain the highest possible standards of service” in dealing with all Australians, including members of its Defence Force. The charter also commits the organization to the following:
 

... if we do not meet these standards we will explain what has happened and try to put things right. We will not hesitate to apologize if we are wrong ... (emphasis added)

 

The CF and DND also espouse commitments to  “honesty,”  “openness” and  “fairness,” and these ethical principles are articulated in publications and advocated by leaders throughout the CF. They are the result of the Office of the Judge Advocate General's promotion of reform of the military justice system and serve as the ethical compass for mechanisms dedicated to the resolution of grievances and harassment complaints.
 

The Office of the Judge Advocate General claims recent amendments to the National Defence Act (S.C. 1998, chapter 35 assented on December 10, 1998)  “... modernize the military justice system by enhancing its transparency, fairness and effectiveness.”  According to the Office of the Judge Advocate General, such amendments instil  “confidence in the men and women of the Canadian Forces that their justice system is fair and open ...”  
 

Similarly, the Defence Ethics Program within the office of the Chief of Review Services includes “honesty,”  and  “fairness” among the  “ethical obligations” of members of the CF and employees of DND.
 

In his speech to the 1998 Defence Ethics Conference, General Baril, the Chief of the Defence Staff, also referred to ethical imperatives in speaking of the need  “to create a new culture, a culture of trust and openness.”  General Baril also remarked that   “leaders must acknowledge that the direct chain of command is not always trusted and that we make mistakes” (emphasis added) and that in certain instances there should be an acknowledgement that   “we should have done better.”  While General Baril was speaking in the context of the treatment of victims of sexual harassment, his comments on the necessity to take prompt action are equally important in the handling of other complaints.
 

The Chief of the Defence Staff pledged the following:
 

My message to you today is this: First, everyone has a voice in ethics. Second, everyone who expresses ethical concerns can do so safely and will be listened to ... Whether we are victims or witnesses of unethical situations, we have a moral obligation to act promptly in order to prevent harm and relieve suffering. (emphasis added)

 

I have contacted Australian Defence Force officials responsible for administering the Australian Defence Force Charter, who cited several recent instances in which the organization has acknowledged failure. It is accepted practice for the organization to issue such acknowledgements when it finds that administrative deficiencies have occurred.
 

In fact, the Australian Defence Force has apologized not only for the mishandling of complaints, but also for the distress and disruption caused to the complainant and his/her family. In a particularly relevant example, when a member complained about the lack of a thorough investigation into a complaint, the organization wrote to the complainant as follows: 
 

Finally, I must apologize for the failure of the CRA (Complaint Resolution Agency) to conduct a thorough administrative review of your case when this additional evidence was made available in 1998. I am acutely aware that the pursuit of a complaint usually involves an emotional and material cost to the complainant and I sincerely regret that the actions of this Agency may, in some way, have added to that burden. (emphasis added)

 

Similarly, I believe that the CF senior leadership should welcome an opportunity to  “set the record straight,” admit that  “we could have done better” and accept responsibility for  “putting matters right” when administrative deficiencies or oversights have been identified and brought to its attention. This imperative is particularly significant when a witness brings forth serious allegations that were not dealt with according to the standards laid out by the Chief of the Defence Staff.
 

As the person statutorily vested with the command and control of the organization, the Chief of the Defence Staff is entrusted with the custodianship of the system. He therefore has a fundamental obligation to ensure the integrity of the organization. It is also appropriate that an acknowledgement of failure and regret come from the Chief of the Defence Staff since it was his immediate subordinate, the Deputy Commander of Land Forces, who did not respond to Captain Poulin's complaint in 1996.
 

I note in passing that a complete and sincere apology would go a long way to restore the complainant's trust in the leadership of the CF and could end five years of internal wrangling. In her article  “Apologies,”  M.L. Wagner states:
 

People who have been hurt or humiliated often hope for an apology. They may hope that an apology ... will restore trust, dignity and, perhaps, a sense of justice.

— UCI Ombudsman: The Journal, California Caucus of College and University Ombudsman, 1996.

 

Ombudsman's recommendation

I therefore recommend that:
 

4. General Baril should, as the commander of the Canadian Forces personnel, issue an acknowledgement of failure and regret on behalf of the chain of command to Captain Poulin and confirm to him personally the Canadian Forces' commitment to implementing procedures to ensure that when members bring forward issues and concerns to the chain of command they will be responded to in all cases.
 

In response to this recommendation in my interim report, the Chief of the Defence Staff commented that  “I deeply regret the breakdown in communication and the fact that both he [Captain Poulin] and his family suffered undue stress and anxiety as a result” (response of Chief of the Defence Staff, March 16, 2001, p. 4/5). In his response to the draft report, the Chief of the Defence Staff indicated his acceptance of this recommendation and undertook to write personally to Captain Poulin.
 

On April 17, 2001, in response to my recommendation, the Chief of the Defence Staff wrote to Captain Poulin expressing his  “personal regret that the Chain of Command was not able to address your concerns early on” and acknowledging the unfortunate impact on Captain Poulin and his family.
 

Captain Poulin responded to the Chief of the Defence Staff on April 20, 2001 and accepted his  “unreserved expression of regret.” 
 

In his letter to Captain Poulin, the Chief of the Defence Staff also referred to improvements which have been made to the handling and resolution of complaints since the events in this case occurred and he restated his commitment to review procedures to examine where additional improvement is warranted. Although Captain Poulin expressed some initial concerns about the inclusion of these comments in his letter of apology, I accept these statements as an expression of the commitment of the Chief of the Defence Staff to implementing procedures that ensure members will be responded to in all cases when they bring forward issues and concerns to the chain of command, as was suggested by the recommendation contained in my interim report. I accept the Chief of the Defence Staff's response to this part of my recommendation.
 

The Chief of the Defence Staff wrote further to Captain Poulin on April 19, 2001 indicating that  “... I believe it would beneficial for us to meet and discuss the way ahead, now that the Ombudsman's investigation is complete and his report is being finalized”  and inviting Captain Poulin to contact his staff to arrange for a suitable time and date for a meeting.
 

I am pleased and encouraged by the Chief of the Defence Staff's response to my recommendation, by his expression of regret and by his acknowledgement of the impact which these events have had on Captain Poulin and his family. I take his positive response to my recommendations and his invitation to meet personally with Captain Poulin as an indication of his willingness to address, not only the maladministration which my Office has identified in this case, but also the impact on Captain Poulin's professional and personal life by assisting Captain Poulin to achieve closure on these difficult chapters in his career with the CF.

 

Allegation 2: Interference with proposed mediation of Captain Poulin's complaint

In his written complaint submitted to this Office, Captain Poulin states :
 

My initial agreement to mediate my situation with Mr. Sterne under the auspices of Mr. Gervais, was dismissed by Gen. Baril.
 

Gen. Baril's actions, if founded, was a clear violation of QR&O 4.02(c). It states: "An Officer shall promote the welfare, efficiency and good discipline of all subordinates." Gen. Baril's direct intervention prevented my family and I from bringing closure to this whole affair.

 

This allegation is identical to the allegation Captain Poulin made against then Colonel Lise Mathieu and will be dealt with later in my report.
 
 
 Table of Contents

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