The complainant in Lt.-Gen. Steven Whelan’s court martial has told the court she believes he wrote a poor performance report for her while they were deployed together because she refused his invitation to have a private meeting in his hotel room.
Witness says Whelan invited her to go to dinner and have a private meeting in his hotel
Sarah Ritchie · The Canadian Press
The complainant in Lt.-Gen. Steven Whelan’s court martial has told the court she believes he wrote a poor performance report for her while they were deployed together because she refused his invitation to a private meeting in his hotel room.
Whelan has pleaded not guilty to a charge of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline related to improperly changing the woman’s performance evaluation report in 2011.
Military prosecutors allege that Whelan improved her score on a performance report because he wanted to stop her from releasing personal and inappropriate emails between them.
The defence is arguing that the woman manipulated Whelan to get a better review and that he was charged for political reasons.
The woman, whom The Canadian Press is not naming due to the nature of the allegations, testified that she met Whelan in early 2010 while working in Ottawa. Her position involved liaising with small missions, which included Operation Proteus in Jerusalem.
At the time, Whelan was a colonel and task force commander on that mission.
The witness told the court martial they began emailing about work and within a couple of months, they were talking almost daily and having personal conversations on Skype, on the phone and by email.
She said that during that time, Whelan “hand-picked” her to deploy on Operation Proteus, even though the position was supposed to be for someone of a higher rank.
She told the court martial that before they deployed together, Whelan’s communication was at times inappropriate and flirtatious and it made her uncomfortable.
“I was conflicted. Most times I would ignore it, not address it, make light of it,” she said.
Witness says she was invited to Whelan’s hotel
She testified that once she was on tour, Whelan invited her to go to dinner and have a private meeting in his hotel.
She testified that she avoided his invitation and after that, his attitude toward her changed. “There was always an issue with me,” she said, adding that she felt Whelan belittled her in front of others.
When she received her performance report later that year, the witness said she was shocked to see it was a “sub-par” score.
She said she asked then-Lt.-Col. Ron Ubbens, who gave her the report, why her score was low.
The witness said Ubbens told her Whelan had changed the report he wrote to give her a lower score. She said she told Ubbens that “(Whelan) didn’t get what he wanted and this is how he is making me pay, by affecting my career.”
Ubbens, who was on the stand Monday, told the court martial in his own testimony that he wrote two performance reports for the woman, and that Whelan did not help write them.
He testified that he felt he gave the woman a good score in the first report but she refused to sign it because she said it wasn’t reflective of her work. Ubbens said the woman then told him she had inappropriate emails from Whelan and she would show them to a senior commander unless her score was improved.
The court has also seen emails in which Whelan asked Ubbens to “make her go away” and to appease her. Whelan also said he thought that it would ruin his career and marriage if the emails he sent to the woman were released.
Ubbens said he has never read the allegedly inappropriate emails himself.
It is not clear whether the emails at the centre of the case will ever become public.
The military judge, Cmdr. Martin Pelletier, has not decided whether they will be admitted as evidence because the prosecution has not yet proven they are relevant to the charge.
Whelan was charged initially with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline, including one charge for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. However, the military dropped that charge before the trial began.
WATCH | Top Canadian military commander steps aside duuring investigation:
Top Canadian military official steps aside while under investigation for sexual misconduct
The Canadian Armed Forces’ commander of military personnel has stepped aside from the role. The military confirmed late Friday that Lt.-Gen. Steven Whelan is facing an allegation of sexual misconduct that has been under investigation since at least June 2.
Prosecutor Maj. Max Reede argued Wednesday that even though the conversations happened before the pair were deployed together, they help to establish Whelan’s motive for changing the performance report by establishing that their relationship was inappropriate.
Pelletier told Reede that he feels the case is no longer about sexual misconduct.
“For two years, Gen. Whelan has been known to the Canadian public as one of the general officers who is suspected of having committed sexual misconduct. You come here at the trial, you drop the sexual misconduct allegation, Day 1,” Pelletier said.
“And now it seems to me that you are trying to bring the sexual misconduct back through the back door, knowing that these emails will become public, and knowing that therefore it’s going to be reported and the court of public opinion will have tried Gen. Whelan if I don’t get to try him for that.”
Lawyers are set to argue about the admissibility of the emails Wednesday afternoon. They are also expected to argue over whether the emails should be subject to a publication ban.