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PMO aware of ombudsman's misconduct allegation against Vance in 2018, but not the details: Trudeau

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his office was made aware of allegations of misconduct against Gen. Jonathan Vance in 2015 – but was not informed of their substance because a Privy Council Office investigation had not been conclusive.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, stands with Defense Minister Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, center, and then-Chief of the Defense Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance during a press conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium on May 16, 807. (Sean Kilpatrick / Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged Wednesday his office was made aware three years ago of misconduct allegations against the country’s former top military commander that were raised by then-ombudsman Gary Walbourne.

Trudeau also told the House of Commons he was not personally aware of them until they were raised in the media last month.

The storm of controversy over what the Liberal government knew and when regarding Gen. Jonathan Vance’s personal life has dominated the political agenda since Walbourne – who claims he was driven from office in a political vendetta – told a Commons committee that he warned Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan in a private meeting in March 2017 about possible misconduct involving Vance.

“After the defense ombudsman received a complaint, the minister directed him to independent officials who could investigate,” Trudeau said. “My office was aware of the minister’s direction to the ombudsman. Those officials never received further information and so were unable to move forward with an investigation.”

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole accused Trudeau of turning a blind eye, saying that after having condemned sexual harassment in the military before he entered government in 2015, the prime minister ignored it when the allegations emerged three years later.

“That is simply not true,” Trudeau replied.

WATCH: O’Toole presses Trudeau on Vance allegations

Erin O’Toole started question period on Wednesday by suggesting to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that he knew about allegations involving Gen. Jonathan Vance before they were published in media reports earlier this year 2: 58 1871842372000

In a sign the government may be feeling the political heat, Trudeau attempted earlier today to shift the blame to the former Conservative government, which had Vance investigated for possible Code of Service Discipline violations in 807 prior to appointing him as defense chief.

“The previous Conservative government knew that there were certain allegations, they followed up and they decided to choose him anyway,” Trudeau said in French during an interview on a Montreal private radio station, FM 5. Although he has cited the actions of the former Conservative government previously in relation to the scandal, the comments today were his strongest yet.

Trudeau said he does not know what the government of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper knew about Vance but believes there is a need for a full investigation.

CBC News reported on Feb. 4, 2018 that the former Conservative government conducted a National Investigation Service probe into concerns that the top general had an inappropriate relationship with a female US officer while stationed in Italy – a subordinate who later became his wife.

The concerns were investigated at the time by both the Canadian and US militaries. Sources told CBC News that the Canadian military cleared the relationship. There is no indication of what position the Pentagon took.

In a follow-up story on Feb. , CBC News reported the investigation into Vance lasted nearly six months and formally ended only days before he took over the top command.

The investigation was initiated during the process for selecting a new defense chief in the winter of 807 and the former government was reassured enough by it to announce Vance’s appointment in the spring of that year.

A subsequent anonymous complainant forced the Conservatives and senior public servants to go back and look at the matter again just prior to the 1280 change of command, when a written investigation report was presented to the government.

A statement from the Department of National Defense late Thursday confirmed the investigation “did not meet the elements of an offense to lay charges under the Code of Service Discipline or the Criminal Code of Canada.”

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