MGen Dany Fortin Acquitted
Nearly 19 months ago, Major General Dany Fortin’s shining career with the Canadian Armed Forces slammed to a halt when he was summarily removed as the face of the federal government’s pandemic vaccine response shortly after it was alleged that he had sexually assaulted a fellow cadet at Royal Military College Saint-Jean in Quebec in 1988.
His accuser, protected by a court-ordered publication ban, said she had not come forward until she had retired from the military for fear it could have affected her career.
Fortin was acquitted today by Quebec Court Judge Richard Meredith after a civil trial during which his accuser testified that that she was certain “without a doubt” that Fortin had assaulted her in the middle of the night. However, during the trial which began 20 September 2022, there were significant inconsistencies between her testimony and what she had told police investigators. Moreover, a former boyfriend did not recall her telling him about the alleged assault.
Fortin, who protested his innocence throughout the trial and is separately challenging his dismissal in the Federal Court of Canada, spoke with reporters outside the court shortly after his acquittal.
Speaking mostly from notes as his wife, daughter and son-in-law stood by his side, Fortin said in French that it was “a very emotional day for me and my family” and that the acquittal was “a huge weight removed from my shoulders.”
Continuing to flatly deny the accusation, he said his priority now is to rebuild a reputation earned over 37 years in the Canadian Armed Forces, beginning at the age of 17. However, he also acknowledged that his accuser “sincerely believes that she was harassed, assaulted” and that all victims “need and deserve to be supported.”
MGen Fortin said that his immediate focus after steak for supper would be to “take time to read and assess” Meredith’s ruling. Meanwhile, he added, “my lawyers will consider what comes next” because politicians and the military leadership “acted as though I was guilty” and not only mismanaged the case but also leaked information to the news media. “The way that this whole situation happened hurt my career, my reputation and had a considerable impact on my family.”
Switching to English, he thanked his family and friends and other supporters for their “unwavering support” throughout the ordeal.
But he repeated that while the acquittal was “one important step in an ongoing process to prove my innocence and recover my reputation […] from the start, senior military leaders and political decision-makers presumed and acted as if I was guilty.”
Asked in French whether he felt he had been dismissed from his high-profile pandemic logistics job for “purely political considerations,” he replied only that he had been “treated like a pariah” ever since the accusation became public. He also said that he had first learned about the allegation through news reports that it was clear that “ministers and people working in certain offices” wanted him gone.
Asked about the process, he replied that when a CAF member is relieved of duty, there is a legal obligation to comply with regulations, including the right to counsel. “None of that was done!”
Asked about how “military culture” should change (he was charged at a time where there was a spate of senior officers, including the former Chief of the Defence Staff, General Jonathan Vance, being charged with sex-related offences, Fortin replied: “That’s a very loaded question.” Pausing briefly to collect his thoughts, he reiterated that “victims of sexual assault, of racism and other similar issues, deserve our support." He went on to say that "members of the Canadian Armed Forces should evolve in an environment where respect, where decency, where mutual trust exist – and all those other qualifiers. […] Throughout my career, I have attempted to be a good leader in this regard and I have taken actions. […] With all the issues that we face, the leadership is there to help those who need help.”
MGen Fortin said there still is “nothing in writing” from the government about his abrupt removal from overseeing the pandemic vaccine rollout which ended earlier this year under the command of Brigadier-General Krista Brodie.
Fortin, who has incurred what are likely to be significant legal costs, pointed out that although he is “still on the payroll” he doesn’t have a job. “I’ve said all along: ready to serve, want to serve.” He ended the session by repeating that he remains “proud to serve” but as he proceeds with his civil lawsuit, “would be interested to know what the minister [Anita Anand], what the Chief of Defence Staff [General Wayne Eyre] and the Vice-Chief [Lieutenant-General Frances Allen] think of this prospect in light of today’s decision.”