Canadian Forces rescind appointment of senior military police officer sanctioned for sexual comments

WARNING: This story contains vulgar language with sexual content.

The head of Canada’s military justice system has revoked his appointment of a high-ranking military police officer who faced sanctions three years ago for making sexual comments about three women during a police function at Christmas.

Last week, Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau has appointed Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Lacoste as the highest-ranking Chief of Military Police in charge of military police.

His notice of internal appointment dated March 29, a copy of which was obtained by The fifth state, was distributed across the country. In it, Trudeau said he was confident Lacoste would be “an excellent representative of the Military Police Branch in this key position.”

However, on Friday, Trudeau withdrew Lacoste’s nomination.

In a statement to The fifth statethe Canadian Armed Forces said Lacoste was appointed Military Police Branch Chief Warrant Officer under a “recently established internal Military Police process” that will now be reviewed.

Decision to rescind the appointment

“Shortly after this appointment, it was determined that the process did not fully consider all relevant aspects of conduct and discipline required when selecting individuals for this key appointment,” the statement read. .

“Following discussions with the Vice Chief of the Defense Staff, the [provost marshal] made the decision to rescind that appointment and subsequently order a review of that practice in its entirety.”

A Canadian Forces spokesperson said Lacoste was aware of the CBC report and would not comment. Trudeau declined an interview request.

The fifth state learned that Lacoste was investigated by the military police and court-martialed in 2019 for his behavior two years earlier when he ran the military police training school at the Force Base Canadian Borden, northwest of Toronto.

Lacoste attended a Christmas police dinner and dance at an off-base golf club in December 2017, when he was 43 and a master warrant officer, one rank below his current rank .

Along with several of his employees and spouses at the event, Lacoste became visibly drunk and made sexual comments to those around him, according to the sentencing decision in his case.

“Repugnant” remarks, according to the judge

CBC found the judge’s decision on sentence in military court martial database which included a description of what Lacoste had agreed had happened. The decision was written in French, as were its comments, which CBC translated into English.

The judge, Cmdr. Martin Pelletier, called his remarks “sexualized” and said his comments about a woman’s alleged sexual activities and sexual orientation were “frankly repugnant”.

In the statement of facts, Lacoste agreed that he commented on a junior sergeant who wore a low-cut dress.

The document states that Lacoste told a co-worker, “Look at her with her tits sticking out. We know her boyfriend is in Afghanistan. She just wants to get fucked,” or other remarks to that effect. Lacoste also made a vulgar comment about the perceived sexual orientation of a woman who was of a higher rank.

Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Simon Trudeau, left, awards Chief Warrant Officer Jonathan Lacoste, right, a Sacrifice Medal Feb. 23, 2022. Trudeau appointed Lacoste to the highest police position in the Canadian Armed Forces in late March, before withdraw the offer shortly thereafter. (Halifax Military Police Unit/Facebook)

Later, he was in a car with a female friend and told her, according to court documents, not to be a “holy nittouche,” a slang term that roughly translates to a prude who is a tease.

The ruling also said he made mean comments about her husband, who did not attend the event.

When the woman returned to her hotel room, “she was in shock and unable to sleep”, and called her husband to tell him what had happened, the document says. The next day, she reports Lacoste to the military police.

Promoted stereotypes, according to the judge

In his ruling, Pelletier said Lacoste, as head of military police officer training, should have set an example at the official party.

“On the contrary, he appeared visibly drunk in the eyes of subordinates and civilians and engaged in language that undermined the dignity of people and promoted stereotypes which obviously cannot be tolerated within an organization. disciplined military that cares about respecting the dignity of every person,” Pelletier said.

As part of a plea deal, Lacoste was found guilty of drunkenness and fined $2,800, an offense and sentence that will not appear on his criminal record or prevent promotions.

In the court-martial document, Lacoste said he deeply regretted his behavior and apologized to the victims.

“The Embodiment of Discipline”

Retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, a military lawyer, has long campaigned for military police reforms. He called it a “top of the ladder appointment” that would “effectively outrank all other non-commissioned members” serving as a military police officer.

“It’s a good job, responsible for all the military police,” he said. ” What can I say ? They don’t learn.

In this role, Lacoste would have acted as an adviser to Trudeau, who is in charge of the military justice system. He also reportedly oversaw all military police discipline and operations.

A chief warrant officer should be considered “the epitome of discipline” and has a duty to ensure his troops follow all the rules, Drapeau said.

“It doesn’t surprise me. They do that all the time. He’s seen as one of the good guys, they’re happy with him and they’ve promoted him,” he said. “Most other people would have seen their careers hit a plateau.”

Michel Drapeau is a retired colonel who practices military law. He has represented many current and former military personnel who have been victims of sexual misconduct on the job. (Doug Husby/CBC)

Many members of the Canadian Armed Forces have reported being victims of sexual assault and harassment on the job, including from senior leaders. Thousands of current and former members have filed claims in an ongoing sexual misconduct class action lawsuit.

As good as Fifth domain investigation revealed flaws in the way the military justice system handles sexual assault cases, including, as revealed a former military police officer, when non-police commanders interfered in criminal investigations.

Last week, retired General Jonathan Vance pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice in a military police investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct against him. The former chief of defense staff championed an anti-sexual misconduct program, known as Operation Honor, when he held the top job.

Jonathan Vance is pictured in 2016, when he was Canada’s Chief of Defense Staff. He is now retired. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

Lacoste’s role as police chief while being investigated for sexual misconduct is reminiscent of the Vance case, Drapeau said, in that he still continued to be successful in his career.

Drapeau said he believed military leaders would have been fully aware of Lacoste’s legal record before appointing him, as it was public knowledge.

“Especially someone of his rank and function, you would have expected more scrutiny,” he said.

“He fails himself, then is rewarded despite his shortcomings.”

While Lacoste awaited his court-martial, he was “suspended from police duties”, according to court documents, which Drapeau said could mean he was not authorized to act temporarily as a police officer.

However, during his suspension, Lacoste was removed from his position as head of the police academy.

Months before his case was resolved, he was promoted to acting chief warrant officer and posted to a new position at Canadian Forces Base Winnipeg to oversee police operations there.

WATCH | The investigation of the Fifth estate, Shattered Honour: Sexual Misconduct in the Military

“The dice were being cast and this guy was seen as a mover and shaker, someone destined to rise to a higher rank,” said Drapeau. “And obviously he didn’t pay a very good and very efficient price for his conduct.”

The judge notes an “excellent” career record

Lacoste is a decorated veteran, having served as a soldier in the former Yugoslavia and later as a police officer in Afghanistan. He was also recognized for his voluntary work. Earlier this year, the Provost Marshal awarded him the sacrifice medal acknowledge a serious injury he sustained while deployed.

Lacoste’s service was noted in his sentencing decision, as were his mental health issues, post-traumatic stress disorder and heavy drinking, for which he said he got treatment.

The judge said his “excellent” career record suggested that “the actions he committed probably amounted to isolated misconduct”.

He was also ordered to read the Operation Honor guidelines, which Lacoste would have been responsible for communicating and enforcing to his students and staff.

“The French expression is: ‘The more it changes, the more it is the same thing.’ Nothing changed,” Flag said.

“We don’t have senior leaders in the Canadian Forces who understand what’s required and who understand how to follow the rules, and who understand that no one should be above the law, whether you’re a chief warrant officer or a general. .”

The Canadian Armed Forces have not announced who will replace Lacoste as head of the military police.