Se­nior soldier faces sex charges

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - CANADA - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

The com­man­der of one of the coun­try’s most fa­mous in­fantry bat­tal­ions faces se­ri­ous, sex-re­lated charges, less than a week af­ter the coun­try’s new de­fence chief pledged to erad­i­cate sex­ual mis­con­duct in the mil­i­tary.

Lt.-Col. Ma­son Stalker of the 1st Bat­tal­ion, Princess Pa­tri­cia’s Cana­dian Light In­fantry has been charged with 10 of­fences in­clud­ing sex­ual as­sault, sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and breach of trust.

The charges re­late to a se­ries of in­ci­dents in­volv­ing mil­i­tary cadets that are al­leged to have oc­curred in Ed­mon­ton be­tween 1998 and 2007.

“These are se­ri­ous and sig­nif­i­cant charges un­der the Crim­i­nal Code of Canada,” said Lt-Col. Fran­cis Bolduc, com­mand­ing of­fi­cer of the Cana­dian Forces Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vice.

“Re­gard­less of a mem­ber’s rank and role in the Cana­dian Armed Forces, the Cana­dian Forces Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vice works dili­gently and in­de­pen­dently from the Cana­dian Armed Forces chain of com­mand to pro­tect in­di­vid­u­als from those who vi­o­late the law.”

Last week, Gen. Jonathan Vance, the chief of de­fence staff, laid out changes to how the mil­i­tary han­dles sex­ual mis­con­duct com­plaints.In a let­ter sent to all mem­bers of the Cana­dian Forces, Vance likened the ap­proach to a for­mal mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion, call­ing it Op­er­a­tion Hon­our.

“I lament the fact that there ex­ist within our ranks those that would bully, de­grade or as­sault oth­ers, es­pe­cially another mem­ber of the CAF or a mem­ber of the de­fence team,” Vance wrote in his July 23 let­ter.

Vance’s pro­nounce­ments came af­ter former Supreme Court jus­tice Marie Deschamps is­sued a report that found sex­ual mis­con­duct “en­demic” in the mil­i­tary, and tol­er­ated by the high­est ranks.

Deschamps’ April report laid the blame on a per­va­sive ma­cho cul­ture in which the lead­er­ship tol­er­ates abuse and leaves women fear­ful to report it.

But only two of her 10 rec­om­men­da­tions for fight­ing the prob­lem were ac­cepted out­right by then-chief of de­fence staff Gen. Tom Law­son.

When Vance took over as the top-ranked of­fi­cer ear­lier this month, he changed the tone, say­ing he as­sumed re­spon­si­bil­ity for what he termed the “in­sti­tu­tional fail­ure” of the armed forces to ad­dress sex­ual mis­con­duct.

Stalker, 40, is charged with three counts of sex­ual as­sault, four counts of sex­ual ex­ploita­tion and one count each of sex­ual in­ter­fer­ence, in­vi­ta­tion to sex­ual touch­ing and breach of trust by a pub­lic of­fi­cer.

He ap­peared in an Ed­mon­ton court­room on Tues­day and was re­leased on $2,500 bail un­der con­di­tions that in­clude stay­ing away from places where chil­dren gather, hav­ing no con­tact with cadets younger than 18 and giv­ing up his pass­port. His next court ap­pear­ance is sched­uled for Aug. 20.

A spokes­woman for De­fence Min­is­ter Ja­son Ken­ney, in an emailed state­ment, called the al­le­ga­tions against Stalker “very dis­turb­ing.”

“Sex­ual as­sault and ha­rass­ment of any kind have no place any­where in the Cana­dian Armed Forces,” said press sec­re­tary Lau­ren Arm­strong. “This is now a mat­ter for the courts, so fur­ther com­ment would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate.”

Stalker served in Afghanistan in 2006 and again from June 2010 un­til Oc­to­ber 2011, ac­cord­ing to his LinkedIn pro­file, which was re­moved from the web­site Tues­day. He was awarded the Mer­i­to­ri­ous Ser­vice Medal in 2007 and 2012 for his ef­forts in Afghanistan.

“Re­spon­si­ble for op­er­a­tions in the most volatile and vi­o­lent re­gion of Afghanistan, he was in­stru­men­tal to op­er­a­tional suc­cess and sig­nif­i­cantly con­trib­uted to de­feat­ing the in­sur­gents.” reads the 2012 ci­ta­tion posted on the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s web­site.

“Lt.-Col. Stalker’s per­for­mance was of a high stan­dard and brought hon­our to the Cana­dian Forces and to Canada.”

More re­cently, he was one of the of­fi­cers in charge when the mil­i­tary was called out ear­lier this month to help fight wild­fires in north­ern Saskatchewan.

The mil­i­tary asks that any­one with in­for­ma­tion that may be re­lated to the in­ves­ti­ga­tion con­tact the Cana­dian Forces Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Ser­vice western re­gion tip line at 1-877-233-6066.

CP PHOTO

In this screen­grab from video, Lt.-Col. Ma­son Stalker is in­ter­viewed as Cana­dian troops fight fires in Mon­treal Lake, Sask., July 9. Stalker faces se­ri­ous, sexre­lated charges in­volv­ing al­le­ga­tions that stem from the men­tor­ing of mil­i­tary cadets.

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