A two-week court martial is expected to begin Monday for the Canadian Armed Forces' former head of human relations over allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate.
Lt.-Gen. Steven Whelan was charged in July 2022 with two counts under the National Defence Act related to "conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline."
The charges are tied to alleged incidents between January, 2010 and June, 2011 while Whelan served as commander of Task Force Jerusalem, the defence department said. The task force helped train the Palestinian Authority security forces to build their capacity, according to the defence department's website.
Whelan has previously denied any wrongdoing.
Whelan is one of the highest ranking military members to have his case tried in the military's judicial system in recent history.
Since late 2021, the military said all new sexual offence charges under the Criminal Code are being laid by civilian police and prosecuted in civilian courts. The move is in response to retired Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbour's interim recommendation to transfer cases of this kind to civilian authorities due to an "eroded trust and morale."
Whelan's case is going through the military's judicial system because the investigation did not "reveal any evidence" to support laying criminal charges and is "specific to the military context," the defence department has said.
A landmark report into the military's judicial system from retired Supreme Court justice Morris Fish found a series of real and perceived gaps in the military justice system's independence from the chain of command.
Whelan is also the most senior military official to face a court martial in connection to the military's sexual misconduct crisis.
Since 2021, roughly a dozen senior Canadian military officers — current and former — have been sidelined, investigated or forced into retirement from some of the most powerful and prestigious posts in the defence establishment.
Whelan replaced now retired Vice-Admiral Haydn Edmundson, who was charged in 2021 with sexual assault and committing indecent acts stemming from allegations dating back to 1991.
Edmundson pleaded not guilty in civilian court.
Top Canadian military official steps aside while under investigation for sexual misconduct
Whelan was in the job as the commander of military personnel for less than six months when he stepped aside from his post in October 2021 amid the investigation by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS), the investigative branch of the military police.
The acting chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and then defence minister Harjit Sajjan learned of the investigation four months earlier, CBC News has previously reported.
As the commander of military personnel, Whelan had authority over career consequences for military members found to have engaged in sexual misconduct.
The government's website says a top issue at Whelan's office was also complying with a class action sexual misconduct settlement. The government reached a $900-million settlement in 2019 and more than 18,000 people came forward to submit claims in 2021.
Military judge to preside over case
Military judge, Cmdr. Martin Pelletier will preside over the standing court martial for Whelan's case in Gatineau, Que. A standing court martial is a military court that a military judge presides over alone without a panel of military members.
Fish raised "major concerns" in 2021 with military judges continuing to handle cases. Fish recommended in his review into Canada's military justice system that military judges renounce their rank and become civilians to safeguard their impartiality and legitimacy.
Fish wrote in his final report that he has no reason to doubt the actual independence of the military judges he met with. But said there are major concerns "that the appearance of justice is prejudiced by the fact that military judges remain members of the CAF while holding office."
The defence minister last week said the government is working on changing the law to move forward with Fish's recommendations, but did not provide a date when that would happen.