Nov 24, 2010 - Toronto Star
Golly. Why not just give the poor guy 40 lashes, Taliban-style? I mean, if we’re going to get all punitively hysterical about it.
Ex-colonel Russell Williams killed two women and got life in prison with no parole eligibility for 25 years, which is as far as the Criminal Code will extend unless a felon is formally deemed to be a “dangerous offender.”
Brig. Gen. Daniel Menard allegedly made love to a woman in uniform - or, presumably, out of uniform - and some people are tossing around the prospect of rotting behind bars: consecutive maximum sentences that could, theoretically, add up to 40 years before the mast, hoisted by his own petard.
It’s preposterous, of course.
There is a Criminal Code sentencing guide that applies to members of the Canadian Forces as well as civilians. But men and women in service are also subject to charges and punishment under the National Defence Act, which encompasses Criminal Court violations.
Thing is, no military historian I contacted Wednesday could recall an instance of a soldier actually brought to trial for having sex with a subordinate, under the extremely broad application of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline,” under Section 120 of the Defence Act.
Menard, Canada’s former top soldier in Afghanistan, is facing - technically - prison time and dishonourable discharge if convicted on two charges of conduct prejudicial and four for obstructing justice. The former relates to a five-month fling Menard had with a subordinate (a word I really don’t like in the context of intimate relations); the latter, according to sources, arise from Menard allegedly asking the woman to delete email messages he’d sent her.
Both were yanked out of Kandahar earlier this year, sent home in disgrace for purportedly sharing a leg-over whilst in-theatre, “sexual relations” that began Nov. 15, 2009, and lasted until April 27, 2010.
Somebody must have been keeping a jelly roll log.
Although the no-nookie directive is not mentioned in the Defence Act, what exists is a policy forbidding romance or sex between deployed soldiers - even married personnel - when posted overseas.
From my own nocturnal meanderings around KAF, the huge military base outside Kandahar city, I can emphatically report that this is not a policy directive being followed to the letter - at least not judging from the amorous sounds filtering out of tents and Quonset huts.
Let’s get realistic here: Far from home, living in close quarters, physically fit men and women coping with boredom punctuated by the occasional sharp up-tick of adrenalin and the very real threat of danger, it is entirely human nature to seek out comforts of the flesh.
Proscriptions against physical intimacy may be intended to safegaurd morale - or so the tall forehead brass claim - but the opposite is true in practice; a good fraternizing snog can do wonders for esprit de corps. Further, because the ban has never been tested in court, it’s entirely possible the no-sex rule could run afoul of freedom of association rights in the Canadian charter.
Menard’s sin, the reason they’re throwing the book at him, clearly derives from the uber-offence of shagging down - the general and the master-corporal, with its implicit aye-aye-sir power dynamics.
The mook may not be fit for command. Menard did, after all, earlier commit the boner of negligently discharging his rifle while preparing to board a helicopter, with Gen. Walt Natynczyk, the chief of the defence staff, looking on - which earned Menard a $3,500 fine. It was further rumoured that he dragged his heels about fessin’ up to the embarrassing incident, though this is difficult to imagine, with Natynczyk as a witness.
But there’s been no evidence, at least not revealed publicly or in legal disclosures, that Menard - Canada’s youngest general, a bright light whose career appeared headed for the stratosphere - had amassed any kind of disciplinary or complaint file.
“Who did he piss off?” wondered his layer, Lt. Col. Troy Sweet, in a telephone interview Wednesday.
It’s unclear where the complaint against Menard came from, though it’s believed that the woman with whom he got jiggy in Kandahar will be summoned as a witness for the prosecution at trial, the Star has learned. Original reports suggested it was a third party that ratted on the twosome.
Menard, father of two, was married at the time of the affair, which may be not nice but is hardly criminal conduct. He’s still married. His wife is also a member of the Canadian Forces.
Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois, the “other woman,” has been fined $700 for her part in the alleged affair and received a reprimand during a summary trial that was held in September.
“I can understand a larger fine for (Menard) because he was in a command position,” says Sweet. “So, what, double the fine? Yet they relieved him of command. Wasn’t that punishment enough?”
Sweet says Menard has decided to leave the military willingly and has already begun the severance process.
The harshness of the undertaking brought to bear against Menard by the military is incomprehensible. “I can remember only one case of dismissal with disgrace over the past 40 years and that had nothing to do with an affair,” says Michel Drapeau, a retired colonel who practises law in Ottawa.
“We’ve seen so many cases of sexual misconduct in civilian life, involving politicians, teachers, even priests. And they’ve been sanctioned for it, personally and professionally. But it’s not often that they’re fired with disgrace.
“In my experience with the military, this kind of situation was always handled privately. Sometimes they’re recalled from a diplomatic posting or removed from a command position. But did the whole world have to know that Menard was having an affair? Does this belong in a courtroom?
“Okay, maybe Menard has been a bad cat, maybe he’s been adulterous. But the military even put out a press release about it. Did we really need all those fireworks?”
Going out with a bang…