Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin sues Trudeau, federal government for $6M

The Morning Mails

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin sues Trudeau, federal government for $6M

OTTAWA - Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, a senior military officer who was acquitted of a sexual assault charge late last year, has filed a $6 million lawsuit against the Canadian government. Fortin, who was dropped as the lead for Canada's COVID-19 vaccine program in early 2021, has named 16 high-ranking officials in a wide-ranging suit, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre, former defence minister Harjit Sajjan and former health minister Patty Hajdu.

A statement of claim filed Wednesday with the Ontario Superior Court of Justice accuses the officials of “reprehensible, extreme, flagrant and high-handed” conduct and seeks $5 million in general damages and $1 million in punitive damages. The document alleges that Fortin suffered damages due to defamation and misfeasance in public office. It also accuses the officials of negligent investigation, the inappropriate public disclosure of private facts, breach of confidence and conspiracy to cause damages. “He was not afforded due process,” lawyer Thomas Conway said in an interview. “It's caused him the kind of grief that you expect anyone would go through, facing the kinds of allegations that he had to face publicly.

” Fortin was removed as head of the government's COVID-19 vaccine rollout in May 2021 pending the investigation of a historical allegation stemming from his time at military college in 1988. He was charged with sexual assault in August 2021 and acquitted of the charge last December. The lawsuit alleges that the investigation was grossly negligent and that there was never any basis to make a criminal prosecution in the first place. It accuses officials of dismissing him from the prominent vaccine role for political reasons. “There is a certain, I would say, chill that has descended over the Canadian Armed Forces relating to all of these allegations of sexual misconduct,” Conway said.

“And we are not by any means trying to trivialize that issue. Not by any means. It's a serious issue. However, unfortunately, everyone seems to have tossed out the notion that someone is entitled to … a fair process.” He added that despite Fortin's acquittal, a stain has been put on his reputation.

“That stain, that damage, is not something that is ever going to be removed unless he seeks redress for what has happened in the courts by way of civil remedy,” Conway said. The military formally cleared Fortin of misconduct on the balance of probabilities, and said it would assign him to a new role. But the lawsuit alleges the Canadian Armed Forces is either refusing or unreasonably delaying his reintegration. The Canadian Armed Forces and Prime Minister's Office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. When asked about whether Fortin pursued a settlement with the government before filing the suit, Conway would only say that Fortin does not have any interest in getting into extended litigation with his former colleagues, and with an institution he served for more than 30 years.

“Believe me, this is the last thing he wanted to do.” This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 15, 2023.

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