That, given that:
(a) women and all members of the Canadian Armed Forces placed their trust in this government to act on claims of sexual misconduct;
(b) the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff was informed about a specific sexual harassment allegation against General Jonathan Vance three years ago;
(c) the Prime Minister asserts that this sexual harassment allegation was never brought to his attention; and
(d) the Prime Minister said that those in a position of authority have a duty to act upon allegations,
the House call upon the Prime Minister to dismiss his Chief of Staff for failing to notify him about a serious sexual harassment allegation at the highest ranks of the Canadian Armed Forces and for being complicit in hiding the truth from Canadians.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time this morning with my colleague, the member for Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman.
I am going to be beginning debate today on our opposition day motion and, to be frank, I wish this was not a topic that we were discussing. There are a lot of very important and pressing issues that are facing the country today, issues such as vaccines, and the fact that we do not have enough vaccines and that there are very mixed messages coming out from the government about vaccines. There are also issues like the economy and jobs, and the fact that Liberals have no plan to secure our future.
At the foundation of those and other issues really is the question around trust and confidence that Canadians can put in their government; trust and confidence that their Prime Minister is telling them the truth; trust and confidence that the Prime Minister is acting in their best interest and not in his own; trust and confidence that when people do the wrong things at the highest level, they are held accountable.
That is why today we are debating the cover-up of sexual misconduct allegations against the chief of the defence staff by the Prime Minister, by his office and by his Minister of National Defence, and the fact that the cover-up needs to be brought to light and that people need to be held accountable to ensure that it never happens again.
Our men and women in uniform serve our country every day with honour and integrity, many times sacrificing not only their own lives, but their mental health, their own emotional and physical stability and health. They sacrifice their time with their families. They even sacrifice their relationships.
Women in military, women in uniform, have a unique sacrifice. They give up time with their own children, sometimes their very young children. They give up their own time to even have children. They give up so much to serve this country and they expect and they want to have confidence that their government will serve them with the same integrity, honour and sacrifice. Our women in uniform put their faith in their government to protect them from harassment, from sexual misconduct, from having their superiors being able to take advantage of their position of authority. Sadly, the Liberal government has failed them in doing so over the last number of years.
Today, we are going to be talking about what happened. We are going to talk about who knew, who did not know and who should be held accountable. We know the Minister of National Defence knew. We know that the ombudsman testified that he brought specific allegations of sexual misconduct to the Minister of National Defence back in 2018. We know the Minister of National Defence, at the time, told the ombudsman he did not want to hear about it, and he turned a blind eye. Unbelievably, he even refused to speak to the ombudsman again. I am sure throughout the day, we are going to hear more about what the Minister of National Defence did and did not do.
What I would like to focus my remarks on at this point is what happened in the Prime Minister's Office, the highest office of this land, and who should be held accountable for covering up those serious allegations.
We are being told to believe that the Prime Minister did not know. He has told Canadians, he has told the media and he has told this House that he did not know about the allegations until just recently when all of us learned about them just a few months ago. We are told through testimony that the Prime Minister's chief adviser knew, as well as his chief of staff, Katie Telford, but apparently they did not tell him. They withheld this important information from the Prime Minister. That is what we are being told that we should believe.
For context, and this is important, let us remember that in March 2018, the Prime Minister and his office would have known that the evidence of him inappropriately groping a woman in 2000 was going to be brought to light. I personally recall the spring of 2018. It was one of the worst-kept secrets in Ottawa. There was an article circulating written by a young reporter detailing her very unpleasant experience with the Prime Minister when he was 28, in the Kokanees. If so many of us knew about this article, the Prime Minister and his office would have to have known.
He must have known that at some point it was going to be made public and he was going to be asked about it. In that context, it is important to consider what the Prime Minister could have reasonably been thinking and what his state of mind could have been. He could have been thinking that if he fired General Vance for allegations of sexual misconduct, he was also going to have to hold himself to the same standard when the evidence of his more egregious conduct came forward.
I am sure the Prime Minister would have been faced with a very serious personal choice had he known about the sexual allegations against General Vance, a choice of either dismissing the chief of the defence staff for what he had done or ignoring the allegations, thus protecting himself. When the Prime Minister was confronted with the groping incidents, he skated around it by saying that some women experience things differently. He gave himself a pass on his conduct, which I believe in and of itself shows how far away the Prime Minister is from being a feminist. It is classic misogynist behaviour to blame and dismiss the woman. Looking back now it all makes sense as to why the Prime Minister would have known about Vance but covered up the allegations.
In that same context, let us follow the Prime Minister's assertion that he did not know, that everyone around him knew but he was kept in the dark. Let us pretend that is reasonable, which I personally do not see as believable. That would mean the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Katie Telford, knew and she did not tell him. It means that Katie Telford knew of these allegations yet allowed the Prime Minister to go ahead between the course of 2018 and 2020 and not only praise General Vance publicly for his good work on Operation Honour, but also make him the longest-serving chief of the defence staff and give him a $50,000 raise. To me, it just does not seem believable that a competent chief of staff would allow her boss, the Prime Minister of this country, to put himself in such a vulnerable position and set himself up to be so badly embarrassed, discredited and disbelieved. If that was true and I was the Prime Minister, I would say with friends like Katie Telford who needs enemies? I would be furious with her, but I note the Prime Minister does not seem too furious, does he?