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

A person receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. Northern Health confirmed it has the lowest vaccination rates amongst the province’s five regional health authorities. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Vaccination rates in Vanderhoof, Fraser Lake, Fort St James well below provincial average

COVID-19 immunization clinics for youth 12+ coming up in Fort St. James

Steve McAdam (left) is studying substrate conditions in the Nechako River and how they impact sturgeon eggs. The work will help design habitat restoration measures, said McAdam. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Sturgeon egg studies to help inform future habitat restoration

“It’s an interesting, challenging issue,” says Steve McAdam

Saik’uz First Nation Coun. Jasmine Thomas and Chief Priscilla Mueller speak about the need for addiction treatment facility near Vanderhoof, March 2021. (Aman Parhar/Omineca Express)
Vanderhoof addiction treatment centre tries again with ministry support

Agriculture minister insists she is not interfering in land commission

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Premier John Horgan speaks as provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, right, and health minister Adrian Dix look on during a press conference to update on the province’s fall pandemic preparedness plan during a press conference from the press theatre at Legislature in Victoria, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
B.C. officials to provide details on Step 2 of COVID reopening plan Monday

Step 2 could allow for larger gatherings and a resumption of recreational travel

Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller is seen during a news conference, Wednesday May 19, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Indigenous child-welfare battle heads to court despite calls for Ottawa to drop cases

Feds are poised to argue against two Canadian Human Rights Tribunal rulings

The Great Ogopogo Bathtub Race has been held in Summerland as a fundraising event. Do you know which Canadian city introduced this sport? (Black Press file photo)
QUIZ: A summer’s day at the water

How much do you know about boats, lakes and water?

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Most Read