The woman at the centre of the sexual misconduct case against the country’s former top military commander delivered bombshell testimony to a House of Commons committee late Thursday, making fresh allegations about the personal life and conduct of retired general Jonathan Vance.
Maj. Kellie Brennan, an army staff officer, told the status of women committee the former chief of the defence staff considered himself “untouchable” and that he fathered but does not support two of her children.
Vance has not responded publicly to any of the allegations made against him since they were raised by Global News in early February, nor to the latest claims.
The former defence chief is facing separate allegations of misconduct involving Brennan and another unidentified woman. Military police are looking into whether his relationship with Brennan, a former subordinate, was inappropriate and contravened military regulation.
He is also being investigated for apparently sending a racy email almost nine years ago to another woman, who was a junior non-commissioned officer at the time.
| Maj. Kellie Brennan tells MPs Vance considered himself ‘untouchable’:
In her testimony to the committee Brennan painted a portrait of Vance as a senior leader who acted with impunity, professionally and personally.
She claimed Vance often told her that he had Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan under his control.
“Those were comments to me personally,” she said. “I can’t discuss their working relationship. I was not privy to that.”
Although, there was some confusion over that portion of her testimony. Brennan said she, Vance and Sajjan all served together in Downsview, a neighbourhood in north Toronto.
Sajjan, a former lieutenant-colonel in the reserves based in Vancouver, told the Commons defence committee a few weeks ago that he had never served in any capacity in Toronto.
By far, the most devastating new allegation involved her claim that Vance was the father of two of her eight children, but refused accountability for them.
“In my experience, in many different areas, the law does not apply to him,” Brennan said of the recently retired general. “On a personal note, he fathered two children with me. He’s not responsible to pay or to have those children under his responsibility.”
Brennan, who previously went public in a Global News interview, spoke in detail about what information she had handed over to military police, saying she had given them tape recordings and text message conversations with Vance.
She told the four-party committee that she was interviewed over two days by investigators and that she had not initiated the complaint against Vance, but rather that it was filed at the urging of senior army staff.
When the first story broke with allegations of misconduct, Brennan claimed Vance tried to intimidate her into silence and told her to lie to investigators.
“It’s recorded and the [Canadian Forces National Investigation Service] has all of the recordings of him directing me what to say, what not to say, how to say it, what not to say, what to exclude, how to perjure myself and to lie,” she said, adding that, while there was no threat of bodily harm, the impression was left that there “were consequences for not following his orders.”
She said there has been little followup from investigators.
“I definitely feel that there will not be justice for me and, in all honesty, that’s OK because if my speaking out can change everything for other women to come forward, and to change our policies, that’s OK with me,” Brennan said.
In earlier testimony Thursday night before the status of women committee, the acting head of military personnel, Maj-Gen. Steve Whalen spoke about how the loss of trust in leadership has been devastating for the military.
“That was reinforced to me when I listened to the testimony on Tuesday,” said Whalen, referring to the appearance of four survivors of sexual assault before the committee.
Aviator Emily Tulloch told MPs how she was raped one month into her basic training and then assaulted a second time as she trained to be aircraft technician.
Whalen was left dismayed.
“I have a daughter who is 22 years old and [who is] considering joining the Canadian Forces. It was like a punch in the gut and I still feel it even right now as I am speaking,” he said.
Whalen said he is still processing everything he’s learned since the crisis began.