#childmolestor | Top soldier apologizes after anger builds over his support for a general who backed sex offender


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Growing anger over the actions of a general who supported a sex offender has prompted an apology from the country’s top soldier on how the situation was handled.

Acting Chief of the Defence Staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre issued a statement Sunday that he realizes that military personnel feel betrayed by the actions of Maj. Gen. Peter Dawe and the response from senior leadership on that issue.

Over the last several days Eyre has faced a growing backlash from military personnel for his decision to not only fully back Dawe but to praise the officer. Military insiders say Eyre’s decision to not hold Dawe accountable is creating significant anger in the ranks and is being used as yet another example of how senior officers accused of wrongdoing are being shielded by military leadership.

Major-General Peter Dawe
Major-General Peter Dawe Photo by Wayne Cuddington /Postmedia

The details about what Dawe had done only emerged publicly after the CBC aired a report on Thursday. Kevin Schamuhn, a retired major with Canada’s special forces, told the news organization that he felt betrayed after senior military leaders including Dawe gave positive character references to a soldier found guilty of sexually assaulting his wife while offering no support to his family.

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The CBC report noted that on May 2, 2017, a judge found the soldier guilty on six criminal counts, including unlawfully entering the Schamuhns’ home and sexually assaulting Schamuhn’s wife, Annalise, a retired logistics officer, on two occasions. The soldier was also found guilty of physically assaulting Schamuhn twice.

Dawe acknowledged to Schamuhn that he wanted to influence the sentence the soldier would receive and that he felt the sex offender was a “good guy” who deserved a break, the CBC reported. A judge cited the supportive letters from Dawe and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment in his sentencing decision. The soldier was sentenced to three years of probation, instead of jail time.

But the soldier that Dawe and the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry regiment vouched for was later convicted in connection with another unrelated sexual assault and sentenced to three years in jail.

Eyre’s initial reaction was to issue a statement of strong support for Dawe, noting that he had full confidence in the special forces general. Eyre pointed out that Dawe had accepted responsibility for his actions and had learned from his mistake.

When that didn’t quell the growing anger about Dawe’s actions, Eyre released another statement, again supporting the general, but also noting that Dawe would go to his new job sooner than scheduled.

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Deputy Minister Jody Thomas also noted her support for Dawe in the same statement.

But on Sunday, as anger continued to build, Eyre reversed his position, somewhat.

“It has become increasingly clear to me that MGen Peter Dawe’s actions four years ago around sending a character reference are causing division and anger within the CAF,” Eyre wrote. “I apologize for increasing this pain.”

Neither Eyre nor Thomas have ever publicly condemned Dawe’s actions. It is unclear why Thomas felt she had to release a statement of support for Dawe as she does not command military officers.

In addition, Eyre’s statement on Sunday once again included support for Dawe. “I have confidence in MGen Dawe as an officer who has accepted full responsibility and has learned from this tragic case,” Eyre added.

Eyre is a member of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry or PPCLI. That regiment has rallied around the sex offender, also a member of the PPCLI, and refused to help the victim and her family.

Eyre announced Sunday that Dawe will go on paid vacation until his future can be determined.

Dawe has turned over command of special forces to Brig.-Gen. Steve Boivin, the current deputy commander.

Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan
Canada’s Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan Photo by BLAIR GABLE /REUTERS

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has said he had serious concerns about Dawe’s judgement but the minister did not take further action. Sajjan is in the midst of his own controversy about how he has handled allegations of sexual misconduct in 2018 against then chief of the defence staff Gen. Jon Vance.

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Schamuhn and his wife, Annalise, told CBC that Dawe and other senior officers did not consult with them before writing the letters for the soldier they believed was struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder and other issues. “I believe that, through this experience, Gen. Dawe lost his moral authority to lead the special forces,” Schamuhn said.

The level of betrayal by the senior leadership was extreme, he added.

“Gen. Dawe was in my chain of command,” Schamuhn told CBC. “For him to support a violent criminal who had violated my wife, I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked.”

Dawe had been seen as a potential candidate in the future to become chief of the defence staff.

Over the last several months the Canadian Forces leadership has faced serious allegations of sexual misconduct. Chief of the Defence Staff Adm. Art McDonald stepped aside Feb. 24 from that job after being put under military police investigation. He has been replaced by Eyre on a temporary basis.

Another police investigation has been launched into the alleged actions of McDonald’s predecessor, Gen. Vance. Police are also looking into allegations of sexual assault made against Vice Adm. Haydn Edmundson.

Edmundson and Vance have denied any wrongdoing. McDonald has not commented.

Parliamentary committees looking into sexual misconduct in the Canadian Forces have heard about a military system that protects sexual predators and punishes or ignores the victims. In addition, there have been allegations about an “old boys” network in the Canadian military that makes excuses for those who have committed sexual crimes.

Dawe said he never condoned the serious offences for which the soldier was convicted for in civilian court. His supportive letter was to highlight that soldier’s military accomplishments and his struggles, Dawe added in a statement.

Dawe added that he failed to acknowledge “the significant burden the victims were carrying and would continue to carry, which I regret.”



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