The Canadian military has concluded on the balance of probabilities that Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin “did not engage in sexual misconduct” after the senior military officer was acquitted of sexual assault late last year.
A spokesman for the Canadian Armed Forces says a review process did not result in any administrative action and an administrative review is not required in the case.
Daniel Le Bouthillier said in statement that Fortin will be assigned “appropriate duties commensurate with his rank and experience,” though he did not provide a timeline for when that may occur.
“We acknowledge that this has been a long and difficult process for all individuals impacted by this matter,” he added.
A Quebec civilian judge ruled last month that the Crown prosecutor had not established beyond a reasonable doubt that Fortin sexually assaulted a fellow military college student in 1988.
The Quebec prosecution service confirmed earlier this month that it would not pursue an appeal in the criminal case, but told The Canadian Press in a French statement that it wanted to “underline the courage and resilience” the complainant showed throughout the proceedings.
Fortin was the head of the government’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout when the historical allegation emerged. He was removed from the role in May 2021 pending an investigation.
He has argued in separate Federal Court proceedings that he was removed due to political interference and without due process, claims the government has denied.
His lawyer, Natalia Rodriguez, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but in an interview with The Canadian Press last month she left the door open to a lawsuit or settlement.
She called the ordeal a “very heavy blow to his career.”
Le Bouthillier said Fortin has continued to be paid by the Canadian Armed Forces since the allegation emerged, and has held the title of senior adviser to the commander of the Canadian Joint Operations Command since August 2021.
But Rodriguez said despite that, her client had essentially been left in limbo for 18 months and this had limited his ability to work and be promoted before reaching the military’s mandatory retirement age of 55 this coming summer.
Retired Col. Michel Drapeau, who is now a lawyer specializing in military cases, also told The Canadian Press last month that a “not guilty” verdict should result in Fortin being immediately assigned to a new role with full duties.
“There is no legal or administrative reason not to do this,” Drapeau said.
The military’s conclusion that Fortin did not engage in misconduct comes after a review necessitated by a policy put into place in late 2020 amid ongoing concerns about the military’s record on rooting out sexual abuse.
The policy says that if a military member is acquitted on a charge, the Armed Forces is still required to review the facts of the case “to determine whether there is reliable evidence that establishes on a balance of probabilities that sexual misconduct has occurred.”
The policy notes that a guilty finding is not required for the military to recommend a release or impose other administrative penalties.
In Fortin’s case, the conclusion was drawn “following a review of the available information, including the Superior Court of Quebec’s decision,” Le Bouthillier said.
—Marie-Danielle Smith, The Canadian Press