July 22, 2021
OTTAWA – The former head of Canada’s vaccine rollout says that the government’s decision to suddenly fire him while revealing he was the target of a military investigation into an allegation of sexual misconduct over 30 years ago was “devastating” and that his career “appears to be over.”
“The reputation I have built up over the course of three decades of service to my country has been irreparably tarnished by the Decision to announce publicly an investigation into my alleged conduct, exacerbated by the fact that the announcement lacked the context that the investigation relates to a single allegation of misconduct dating back over 30 years,” Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin wrote in an affidavit signed last week and obtained by National Post.
Documents filed by Fortin in support of his affidavit also show that he received a glowing performance review from acting Chief of Defence Staff Wayne Eyre just days before he was suddenly removed from his secondment at the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) and months after Eyre was allegedly informed of the military investigation targeting him.
The document, which is Fortin’s first personal reaction to his removal as PHAC’s vice-president for operations on May 14, was filed in support of his request for a judicial review by the Federal Court of the government’s decision to fire him.
His June lawsuit came shortly after military police announced that they had referred a sexual misconduct investigation to Quebec prosecutors. No charges have been laid against Fortin, and no official details relating to the allegation have been revealed.
In his affidavit, Fortin says that the decision to publicize the fact that he was under investigation by military police was “devastating” for both his reputation and his career. He says that before his removal he was poised to be promoted to the rank of Lt.-Gen. or receive an equivalent job once his secondment at PHAC was over.
“I was at the peak of my career,” he said in his sworn statement.
Alongside his affidavit, Fortin included performance reviews from the last three years signed by either acting CDS Staff Eyre or then-CDS Jonathan Vance that rave about his performance as a military leader and recommend him for “immediate” promotion within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
“MGen Fortin is an officer of rare quality, who reflects the best the CAF has to offer in terms of institutional leadership,” reads his 2020-2021 review signed by Lt.-Gen. Eyre on May 11, just three days before he was fired from PHAC. “MGen Fortin has proven to be mature, seasoned, experienced, and ready for more significant challenges.”
“Promote now and place in charge of a CAF command,” Eyre’s remarks conclude.
None of his claims have been tested in court and the federal government has not yet filed a response. The Department of National Defence was not able to comment by deadline.
Fortin’s affidavit also reiterates the claim in his original lawsuit that he was not afforded proper due process before being told to leave his post, and that his firing was decided not by his military superior but by politicians — notably the defence minister, the health minister and the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
“Political interference in the military chain of command is something that should be of concern to all Canadians,” Fortin’s lawyers, Natalia Rodriguez of Conway Litigation, said in an emailed statement.
Despite allegedly being warned by both Lt.-Gen. Eyre and PHAC President Iain Stewart back in March that he should “keep your bags packed” if ever PMO or the health minister decided he needed to be let go due to the military investigation targeting him, he claims that he still does “not know” why he was removed from his job at PHAC.
His lawsuit is asking the federal court to order the government to reinstate him to his former position at the public health agency or an equivalent role.
But separate court records reveal that the federal government intends to ask the federal court to dismiss Fortin’s lawsuit immediately because it believes that he first should have filed a military grievance opposing his removal.
In other words, lawyers representing the attorney general believe that Fortin should have gone through the internal military complaint process instead of right away asking the court to reverse the federal government’s decision.
Government lawyers hope to have their motion to strike down the lawsuit heard before Fortin’s application, which his lawyers have argued should be heard on an “expedited” basis in the fall. But Rodriguez says they plan to oppose that request.
“The (government’s) motion will only cause unnecessary delay and increased prejudice to MGen Fortin and the motion to strike is not appropriate in the judicial review context,” she said in an email.