OTTAWA - A senior military officer has been charged with sexually assaulting two other service members while he was commander of a Quebec-based artillery unit three years ago.
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service said Monday that the service members were allegedly assaulted in separate incidents at CFB Valcartier between September and December 2014.
Col. Jean-Francois Duval, a 29-year veteran of the Forces who was commander of the 5th Canadian Light Artillery Regiment at the time of the alleged attacks, has been charged with two counts of sexual assault.
Navy Lt. Blake Patterson, a military police spokesman, would not provide further details Monday about the alleged incidents, including the relationship between Duval and the two service members.
But defence officials confirmed that he is the highest-ranking officer to be charged with sexual assault since Gen. Jonathan Vance ordered an immediate end to all sexual misconduct in the military in August 2015.
"Rank has no meaning for this," Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said Monday of the military's commitment to eliminating inappropriate sexual behaviour.
"We'll be working extremely aggressively as we move forward. And we want anybody in the Canadian Armed Forces, if they've been affected, to come forward, so that we can investigate and take serious action on this."
Duval has also been charged with one count of indecent acts, two counts of scandalous conduct, two counts of disgraceful conduct in relation to two alleged incidents involving the same service members.
One of the incidents occurred at CFB Valcartier between 2009 and 2010, officials said, and the second was between September and December 2014, but otherwise would not provide more detail.
Duval has also been charged with three counts of prejudicing good order and discipline in relation to three alleged incidents involving different individuals at CFB Valcartier and CFB Gagetown between 2005 and 2014.
Defence officials said the investigation, which is now proceeding through the military justice system, was launched last year when information about the alleged incidents arose in a separate case.
Duval has spent the last five months in Kingston, Ont., where he has served in a senior position with the Canadian Defence Academy, which is responsible for overseeing all military training.
Following news of the charges, Rear Admiral Luc Cassivi, commander of the academy, said Duval was being relieved of his duties as director of professional development.
"He will be employed under my direct supervision with no leadership and supervisory duties until the case is disposed of in court," Cassivi said in a statement.
Military commanders have promised to crack down on sexual misconduct in the ranks since retired Supreme Court justice Marie Deschamps reported April 2015 that she had found an "underlying sexual culture" in the military.
Military police reported earlier this month that they launched more than 200 investigations into alleged sex-related crimes last year, which represented a dramatic increase from the 119 initiated in 2014.
But while there has been a similar jump when it comes to charges, with 44 laid last year as compared to 20 in 2014, the number of cases in which a suspect could not be identified grew to 111 last year from 39 in 2014.
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