OTTAWA – Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan called on the military to create a position that was eventually filled by a reserve officer from his old unit who, according to newly released briefing notes, had been suspended by the Vancouver police for an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.
Sajjan also wanted the military to upgrade the position less than two months after Major Greg McCullough was hired because, according to the notes, the minister wanted even more assistance with his riding home in Vancouver, although that request was not carried out.
The briefing note comes amid ongoing questions about how and why McCullough ended up in the unique position prior to his removal last month after revelations about the complaint and disciplinary action taken against him while serving as a sergeant with the Vancouver Police Department.
It also follows opposition calls for Sajjan to resign over his handling of sexual misconduct allegations involving senior military commanders and concerns over an “old boys network” protecting top executives from repercussions.
McCullough was hired to assist Sajjan in March 2020, despite an outside investigation found him guilty of two wrongdoings in 2018 over his relationship with Const. Nicole Chan, who later committed suicide in January 2019.
Sajjan’s office has confirmed that the Minister and McCullough knew each other as officers in the British Columbia Regiment (Duke of Connaught’s Own) and that they had both served in the Vancouver Police Department at the same time.
However, it is said that the military was responsible for the process that led to McCullough’s hiring, and that neither the minister nor his staff were aware of the complaint and disciplinary action taken against him while he was a sergeant in the Vancouver Police Department .
The Department of National Defense announced last month that McCullough is no longer serving as Sajjan’s adjutant, even though he remains a member of the Canadian Army Reserve.
Prepared for then-defense chief Jonathan Vance on May 28, 2020, the briefing note obtained from The Canadian Press through access to information does not mention McCullough by name, but shows that the minister personally led the indictment for a new assistant in Vancouver.
While Sajjan already had four military assistants in Ottawa at the time and the Department of Defense says there is no record of the creation of such a position outside of the capital, the note states: “The minister noted that additional full-time assistance is required while he’s in Vancouver. “
In March 2020 a “suitable candidate” was selected who is currently working with the minister, but that Sajjan needs even more support “on the basis of the latest instruction from the minister” and therefore the position should be upgraded in part – time to Full time job.
Such an upgrade would have meant a significant increase in salary for the respective position.
The briefing recommended that the position be upgraded and filled through an “open, fair and equitable” competition, although Defense Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said the upgrade did not occur as such full-time positions are only for exceptional circumstances .
Sajjan’s spokesman Daniel Minden defended the creation of the Vancouver military assistant, saying in an email: “To avoid the high cost of traveling to Vancouver for the Ottawa-based military, a Vancouver-based military assistant position was created.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister Sajjan spent part of the past year working from his riding in Vancouver, where that support was even more important.”
The pandemic is not mentioned in the briefing note.
Le Bouthillier said the position would remain vacant.
“Ottawa military assistants travel to Vancouver as needed to perform these duties,” he added in an email.
“The role is still required, but the Canadian Armed Forces are conducting an updated feasibility and efficiency analysis (after several months of COVID-19 restrictions) in order to make a decision on how best to structure the Military Assistant’s office. “
Reached by phone on Thursday, McCullough declined to comment, saying he was in trouble for speaking to the Canadian press beforehand and was not authorized to speak further.
“Minister Sajjan had nothing to do with my recruitment process,” he said last month. “He needed a military assistant on the west coast because of the time he is here and that’s it. I haven’t spoken to Minister Sajjan about this process and I am serving in the Canadian armed forces.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has insisted that Sajjan, who has been Canada’s only defense minister since the Liberals first took office in late 2015, is the right person to bring charges when it comes to changing the culture of the military and sexual misconduct To eradicate hatred.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 22, 2021.