Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan relieved of duty
Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard allegedly broke military rules on personal relationships
UPDATED: Canada's top soldier in Afghanistan, Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard, has been dismissed from command following allegations he had an intimate relationship with a member of his staff, violating the military's rules on personal relationships in the field.
Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard, commander of Canadian Expeditionary Forces, made the announcement Saturday, a day after Brig.-Gen. Ménard returned to Kandahar from a three-week leave.
The change of command comes at a crucial time in the war in Afghanistan. Coalition troops are poised to launch a major operation in Kandahar, which Brig-Gen Ménard once described as the defining moment of the war where his troops would “break the back” of the Taliban.
"Lt-Gen. Lessard made this decision following allegations concerning Brig-Gen. Ménard's inappropriate conduct related to the Canadian Forces Personal Relationships and Fraternization directives, which caused Commander CEFCOM to lose confidence in Brig-Gen. Ménard's capacity to command," the military said in a brief statement.
The military has vowed to launch an investigation into the "circumstances related to the allegations."
Major Daryl Morrell, senior public affairs officer with Joint Task Force Afghanistan, said it was “too early to speculate on the charges” Brig.-Gen. Ménard could face, because they won’t be known until the military completes its investigation.
According to military policy, fraternization “means any relationship between a CF member and a person from an enemy or belligerent force, or a CF member and a local inhabitant within a theatre of operations where CF members are deployed.”
A personal relationship, according to the same directive, “means an emotional, romantic, sexual or family relationship, including marriage or a common-law partnership or civil union, between two CF members, or a CF member and a DND employee or contractor, or a member of an allied force.”
Lt.-Gen. Lessard made a brief visit to Afghanistan several weeks ago, before Brig.-Gen Ménard went on leave. However, reporters at Kandahar Airfield were told the allegations were only revealed to Lt.-Gen Lessard on Saturday. Lt.-Gen. Lessard acted immediately to replace him.
Colonel Simon Hetherington, previously Brig.-Gen. Ménard's second-in-command, is acting commander.
Brig-Gen Jonathan Vance, who commanded Canadian forces in southern Afghanistan last year, will be dispatched to Kandahar and assume control of the mission.
This is not the first time controversy has dogged Brig.-Gen Ménard.
Last week he was fined $3,500 for accidentally firing his rifle at Kandahar Air Field in March. He had failed to switch is C8 carbine rifle to the “safe” position before departing in a helicopter with his boss, General Walter Natynczyk.
The rifle fired an accidental double-burst, which qualifies as an offence under the National Defence Act, with a maximum penalty of dismissal from the military.
At a military hearing into the incident, Brig.-Gen Ménard’s defence lawyer argued for leniency, noting the commander reported the mishap to investigators and discussed it openly with his soldiers.
“He mans up right away and says “I did it,’” Lieutenant-Colonel Troy Sweet told the court.
Talk about drama. I'm disappointed I won't get to see Brig-Gen. Jonathan Vance speak at a conference I'm going to at the end of June. D: