Special Forces commander to be replaced early after apology for handling of sexual harassment case.
Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe said that he has learned from his mistakes and promises to ‘do better’ in the future.
The chief of Canada’s Special Forces will resign early this week after it was reported that he wrote a letter defending another soldier accused of sexual harassment and refused to help the victims.
This summer, Maj.-Gen. Peter Dawe was scheduled to be rotated out of his current role as commander of the country’s elite commando unit.
Late Friday, the Department of National Defence reported that acting Chief of Defence Staff Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre had accelerated the change of command to next week.
According to the Department of Defense, Dawe will assume the role he was scheduled to take upon leaving his current command: director general of international security policy.
The decision was made following a meeting between Eyre and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan today.
“Both the acting CDS and the DM have faith in [Dawe’s] ability to continue serving Canada,” the DND said in a statement to CBC News. “However, the pain caused by his letter four years ago continues to ache those who were affected.”
“We must always prioritize the needs of victims… MGen Dawe accepts full responsibility for failing to consider the victims’ viewpoint.”
Dawe apologised to his subordinates last night for disappointing a major in his chain of command following his wife’s sexual harassment by another soldier.
“As you have almost certainly heard, I betrayed a member of our Command,” Dawe wrote in an open letter published by CBC News. “Rather than that, when the defendant confronted me in this case, I felt empathy for his personal struggles and reacted emotionally. “And, although my motive was pure, it is clear that the effect of my behavior was deeply detrimental to the victim and her spouse. Additionally, I did not understand the impact of my acts on other silent survivors or survivors of sexual harassment within our ranks.”
The apology follows a CBC News report about former Armed Forces veterans Kevin and Annalise Schamuhn, who said they felt misled after Dawe wrote a character reference for a convicted criminal in order to help him obtain a more lenient sentence in court while offering no assistance to them, the victims.
Sajjan said in a media statement that he had “significant questions” about the handling of this case and challenged “the decision to include character references in this matter.”
“I have spoken with the Acting Chief of the Defence Staff about the ramifications and next steps associated with the grave error of judgment,” Sajjan said. “Sexual assault of any manner is inappropriate. We must still acknowledge the trauma and suffering endured by those who have been sexually assaulted.”
The Schamuhns said that they believed Dawe had forfeited his moral legitimacy to command the Special Forces as a result of his mishandling of their case.