Daniel Ménard scandal leaves military reeling
Allegations that top soldier had an in-theatre affair deals another blow to credibility of leadership
The reputation and morale of Canada’s military, still reeling from allegations that a base commander committed multiple murders, has suffered another blow with the dismissal of its top soldier in Afghanistan for breaking the rules on personal relationships in the field.
Brigadier-General Daniel Ménard was removed from command following allegations he had an intimate relationship with a member of his staff. The subordinate involved has been sent home, according to a military spokesman.
Brigadier-General Jonathan Vance, Gen. Ménard’s predecessor, will be returning to Kandahar this week to assume command less than a year after he left, arriving as coalition troops are poised to launch a major operation in Kandahar in June that is cast as the defining moment of the war.
While Canadian military commanders in Afghanistan sought to down play the controversy as a personal ordeal, military observers and former officers said Gen. Ménard’s dismissal could be damaging to the morale of the troops on the ground, and possibly taint Canadians’ image of the armed forces.
It will certainly “take away some of the glitter” that was associated with Canadian soldiers’ performance in Afghanistan, said Michel Drapeau, a professor of military law and a former armed forces colonel.
It is particularly unfortunate that it comes so soon after Colonel Russell Williams, the former base commander at CFB Trenton, was charged with multiple murders and sexual assaults, he said. While the allegations against Gen. Ménard are in no way similar, they will add to the public’s concern about the quality of leadership in the armed forces and raise worries within the Forces as well, he said. “People in the military [will say] ‘Here we go again,’”
However, the greatest impact, Mr. Drapeau said, will be on the morale of troops in Afghanistan who served under Gen. Ménard. “It’s devastating,” he said. “They [put] all of their trust and respect in him, and they were prepared to follow him into battle ... Their sense of confidence in leadership will take a hit.”
Military historian Jack Granatstein said it is important to note that the allegations against Gen. Ménard are “infinitely less serious” than those against Col. Williams. If proven, they will primarily demonstrate “stupidity on the part of a commanding officer who’s job it is to set an example.”
Gen. Ménard commanded 2,800 Canadian soldiers in southern Afghanistan, as well as a contingent of American troops serving under Canadian command.
The allegations against him caused military command to “lose confidence” in his “capacity to command,” the military said in a brief statement. Military rules strictly forbid any kind of intimacy on deployments, including relationships of an emotional, romantic or sexual nature.
Gen. Ménard, is 42 and married with two children. Major Daryl Morrell, senior public affairs officer with Joint Task Force Afghanistan, said it was “too early to speculate on the charges” Gen. Ménard could face, because they won’t be known until the military completes its investigation.
Lieutenant-General Marc Lessard, commander of Canadian forces overseas, made a brief visit to Afghanistan several weeks ago, before Gen. Ménard went on a three-week leave, from which he has just returned. However, reporters at Kandahar Air Field were told the allegations were only revealed to Gen. Lessard on Saturday. Lt.-Gen. Lessard acted immediately to replace Gen. Ménard.
Colonel Simon Hetherington, previously Brig.-Gen. Ménard's second-in-command, is now acting commander until Gen. Vance arrives. He sought to down play any consequences the allegations could have on the military’s reputation.
“The allegations against Brig-Gen. Ménard are that – they’re allegations,” Col. Hetherington said. “It’s a personal thing, so I don’t see that as any sort of mark against the institution at all,” he added.
Defence Minister Peter MacKay declined to comment on the case while it was under investigation by the military.
Michael Byers, a professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, said that while it is clearly discouraging for troops to see a senior officer accused of breaking the rules, it also tells the public that those rules are being applied at all levels.
“I’m encouraged by the fact that Ménard was removed from his post, since it suggests that the Forces are taking the rules, and the rights and interests of female soldiers, seriously,” Prof. Byers said.
Retired major-general Lewis Mackenzie said the fact that Gen. Ménard was the commander in Afghanistan raises the situation above a minor issue, because he would be the one to make final decisions in other cases of inappropriate behaviour. “He’s the last level of authority in the theatre in disciplinary matters.”
Douglas Bland, the chair of defence management studies at the Queen’s University School of Policy Studies, said the military has moved quickly to deal with leadership issues since the Somalia inquiry, when problems in command were linked to the fatal beating of a teenager by two Canadian soldiers during a humanitarian mission in Somalia. “That is a sign of their sensitivity and seriousness about maintaining good order and discipline across the forces,” he said.
But Prof. Bland said the rules prohibiting personal relationships are essential, especially in combat zones, “where the integrity of the unit is supreme,” and must be followed, particularly, by the highest-ranking soldiers.
This is not the first time controversy has dogged 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.
Nobody was injured, but the incident 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, Gen. Ménard’s defence lawyer argued for leniency, noting the commander reported the mishap to investigators and discussed the incident openly with his soldiers.
Brig.-Gen Ménard joined the Canadian forces in 1984 and was posted to the Royal 22nd Regiment where initially served as a platoon commander.
He rose quickly through the ranks, serving in Great Britain, Berlin, Germany and Bosnia. He assumed command of Task Force Kandahar in November.
No sex, please. We're soldiers
Why getting it on in the trenches is against the rules of war
It’s a no-nookie zone, officially. Having feelings for a fellow soldier at the Canadian base in Kandahar is against the military’s fraternization rules, let alone sneaking off with the coveted keys to a light-armoured vehicle and its air-conditioned rear cabin.
But let’s face it, these are young, buff men and women working closely together in life-and-death situations. On weekend nights, the Dutch often host a disco on the base – it’s alcohol free, but the flirty dancing, says a journalist who’s attended, is closer than sanctioned military standards. Scoring the keys to the LAV is an open joke, since the vehicles are one of the few private spots for a rendezvous away from the desert heat. The army store on the base sells western-style lingerie. And there’s a reason, suggest journalists stationed in Kandahar, why condoms (ostensibly for soldiers going on leave) are freely available in the waiting room at the doctor’s office.
But when a commanding officer allegedly partakes in a similar dalliance, breaking the very rules that he’s required to set on the base, there’s no looking the other way.
“The people who are at the top simply must follow the rules and must set an example,” says Canadian military historian Jack Granatstein. “If they don’t then there is no enforcing discipline on others, and maybe more important, things down the ranks. How can I enforce discipline, when Private Jones says to me, yeah but you’re screwing so and so.”
The fraternization line is alleged to have been crossed by Brigadier-General Daniel Menard, who was relieved of his command at the base on the weekend and sent home, accused of having an intimate relationship with a member of his staff.
The announcement was made on Saturday, only days after Brig.-Gen. Menard returned to Kandahar after a three-week leave. He has two children and is married to a major with the 5th service Battalion, which provides logistics for the military in the Quebec City area.
Canada has strict rules about romantic liaisons between soldiers – more strict than many other countries. The rules are clear: no hugging or hand-holding, and certainly no sex between men and women (or same-sex partners, the regulations stipulate.) Even married soldiers serving on the base are not allowed to fraternize, or show public affection.
But reality is another story – military officials, to a certain extent, appear to accept that hanky-panky happens. Reporters driving around the base at night with military police have described catching couples, who wrongly thought that darkness was sufficient cover for a passionate interlude.
In February, the American military announced that it would stock the morning-after pill at all hospitals, including on its bases in Afghanistan and
A British military advertising campaign has recently advised female soldiers to bring condoms after a number of pregnancies at bases in
But Dr. Granatstein points out that there are good reasons why the military has regulations against romantic liaisons, even if the brass knows they can’t entirely stop them from happening.
“If you don’t have this kind of rule in place, then relationships will form – they obviously form anyhow – but you want to try to control them because they can create jealousy, they can cause tensions in the unit, they can be a distraction from the job, which is fighting a war.”
Even more questionable, he suggests, is a relationship between a senior officer and a subordinate. While Dr. Granatstein suggests that any commanding officer found guilty of these charges could expect his career to be finished, he says the case should not reflect on the overall competency of a leader of the country’s Armed Forces.
“Do we say that there is a serious problem in corporations in Canada if a CEO is having an affair with one of the secretaries?” he asks. “No, we would say that CEO has a problem.”
Source One & Source Two.
1. IDK, the allegations against Gen. Menard and Col. Williams reflect individual persons, not some defect in Canadian Forces leadership.
2. Second article included purely for because it made me lol. Dutch disco at KAF, ftw.