The decision to grant General Jonathan Vance parole after he pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice marks a “devastating” blow to the push for accountability from top military leaders, an expert has said.
In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Megan MacKenzie of Simon Fraser University said the way the plea was handled in court and the decision not to leave Vance with a criminal record speaks to longstanding cultural challenges that remain in the civil justice system.
General Jonathan Vance pleads guilty to obstruction of justice and is granted parole
“It is already very difficult for victims to come forward. It’s so personal. It is difficult for their life. They have nothing to gain but a sense of justice,” said MacKenzie, who holds the Simons Chair in International Law and Human Security and specializes in the study of military culture.
“So for them to see a case like this result in, essentially, a pat on the back and hugs rather than a criminal conviction, I think it’s really discouraging..”
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During the plea hearing, the defense repeatedly highlighted Vance’s military service history, while Judge Robert Wadden described him as a ‘man of good character’ who still had ‘much to contribute’ .
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“I don’t think it’s necessary to burden you with a criminal conviction,” Wadden said in granting the discharge on Wednesday.
Six letters of reference in support of Vance’s character were read out in court.
The victim impact statement was not.
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MacKenzie said the need for military leaders to consider stripping Vance of his honors, such as the prestigious Order of Military Merit, takes on greater significance in light of the release.
“Simply moving military affairs into the civilian system will not be a silver bullet,” she said. “We still have broader cultural issues.
“So I think taking away someone’s honors and all the access and benefits they get is at least something in the face of a total failure to hold someone accountable in terms of justice.”
Under the terms of the discharge, which the judge granted, Vance must complete 80 hours of community service and cannot communicate with Major Kellie Brennan, who identified herself as one of the women behind the allegations in a interview with The West Block on February 21, 2021.
Vance can only communicate with Brennan through an attorney on family court matters. Vance and Brennan share a child, and Sellar told the court that Vance paid Brennan child support.
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