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Former Afghanistan commander and subordinate charged in sex case

OTTAWA - The chief of the defence staff is battling immorality in the ranks as the former commander of Canada's troops in Afghanistan and a female subordinate face charges from their sexual liaison.

OTTAWA - The chief of the defence staff is battling immorality in the ranks as the former commander of Canada's troops in Afghanistan and a female subordinate face charges from their sexual liaison.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service launched an investigation shortly after Master-Cpl. Bianka Langlois acknowledged she had an affair with Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard in Afghanistan.

Menard, married with two children, faces two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline under the military's fraternization regulations.

The 26-year veteran has also been charged with one count of obstructing justice and a separate count of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.

Langlois has been charged with one count of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, also related to military fraternization regulations.

A spokeswoman for Gen. Walter Natynczyk, chief of defence staff, said her boss is "very disappointed and seized by these incidents," including recent charges and investigations involving two other high-ranking military officers.

"He has reinforced the fact that leaders in the Canadian Forces are held to a high standard of values, morals and ethics," said Maj. Cindy Tessier.

"In each of theses instances, leaders who have failed to live up to the standards expected by the men and women in uniform under their command are being held accountable."

In speeches, briefings and meetings, Tessier said Natynczyk also speaks about the importance of unit cohesion and esprit de corps. He tells his officers that, while 99 per cent of CF personnel are doing good work, "a leadership climate that undermines the tenets of professionalism, integrity, conduct and honesty" cannot be tolerated.

"Our business of security is by its very nature dangerous," Natynczyk told a change-of-appointment ceremony in Ottawa on Monday.

"In these stressful circumstances, it is the trust and confidence amongst us that enables the teamwork and unit cohesion that are vital for mission success.

"It is only fitting then that we as senior leadership are held to a very high and uncompromising standard. A high standard that reflects the very best morals, military ethos and values of our society."

Menard's case will now be referred to the director of military prosecutions, who will decide whether to proceed with a court martial. Because of her rank, Langlois can elect a summary trial or court martial.

Military regulations bar soldiers — even married couples — from having intimate relations on deployment.

Menard was removed as field commander in Afghanistan last month and ordered home in disgrace. He was slated to assume command of land forces in Quebec but his army boss, Lt.-Gen. Andrew Leslie, said events in Afghanistan shook the military's faith in him.

The Quebec posting went to one of Menard's predecessors in the Afghan mission, Brig.-Gen. Alain Tremblay, who takes over command July 30. Menard was replaced in Afghanistan by Brig.-Gen. Jon Vance.

An army spokesman declined comment on the case, saying it's now a matter for the courts.

But Lt.-Col. Jay Janzen, director of army public affairs, said "morale in the army remains high."

"Our soldiers are very busy, with the key focus being on training and operations."

The investigation and subsequent charges "clearly demonstrate the CF is a professional organization with clear standards of conduct that it is willing to enforce when required," Janzen added.

Nevertheless, they're more salt in the wounds of a military already smarting from the sensational case of Col. Russell Williams, former CO at the country's biggest air force base, in Trenton, Ont.

Williams is facing two murder charges and numerous other counts related to sexual assault and the alleged theft of women's underwear.

Also last month, Canada's most senior-ranking military officer in Haiti was relieved of command and faces a number of allegations, including one allegedly involving an inappropriate relationship.

Military police are investigating Col. Bernard Ouellette, who doubled as chief of staff to the United Nations mission in the earthquake-battered country.

Lt.-Col. Chris Lemay, a military spokesman, said at the time the allegation of an inappropriate relationship did not involve another member of the Canadian military.

Ouellette, who won praise for his cool handling of Canada's relief effort following the massive earthquake that destroyed UN headquarters in Port au Prince, was at the end of a year-long deployment to Haiti.

The decision to cashier Menard in such a public fashion drew criticism and prompted a public debate about the military's strict punishment for fraternization.

Part of the criticism was founded on the fact the Forces refused to immediately release the name of the woman accused of having a relationship with him.

A military source told The Canadian Press the recent actions follow a "sermon on the mount" from Natynczyk early this spring.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the CDS assembled all his senior officers and gave them "a very powerful sermon ... reinforcing the values, morals and ethics that he expected from his officers" after the shock of the Williams affair.

Earlier in May, a court martial fined Menard $3,500 for negligently firing two rounds from his assault rifle in March.

The incident occurred as Menard and Natynczyk were about to board a Blackhawk helicopter at Kandahar Airfield. No one was hit and no property was damaged by the burst.

 
 
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