Scheer: Military in 'turmoil'

Federal opposition parties are accusing the Trudeau government of creating an unprecedented crisis inside the Canadian Armed Forces even as some have started to question the leadership of Canada's top general.

The comments followed news of Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk's plan to step down abruptly as the military's second-in-command, a decision he linked in a resignation letter to an aborted attempt to reinstate Vice-Admiral Mark Norman into the position.

Wynnyk's departure as vice-chief of the defence staff, effective Aug. 9, is the latest blow to the Canadian military, whose top ranks have been in a perpetual state of upheaval since Norman was suspended as second-in-command.

Some analysts have pointed the finger at Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance, but Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer on Wednesday laid the blame squarely at Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's feet.

In a statement, Scheer alleged the Liberals' "political interference" in Norman's breach-of-trust case, which was dropped in May, had "created unprecedented chaos" in military and ruined the careers of Norman and Wynnyk.

"In four years, (Trudeau) has destroyed the careers of two of our country's most senior military officers and caused instability and turmoil at the highest levels of the military," Scheer said.

Norman's lawyers repeatedly accused the government of interfering in their client's case by withholding key documents and information that they say could have helped demonstrate his innocence.

The Liberals have denied any wrongdoing in the case, which saw Norman suspended and later charged for allegedly leaking government secrets about a shipbuilding contract to a Quebec shipyard before the case was stayed in May.

But the allegation has been picked up by the Conservatives and New Democrats, who say the result is the loss of first Norman and now Wynnyk — and growing instability at the top of the Canadian military.

"I really hold the prime minister and the minister of defence responsible for the chaos that we've seen recently in their vendetta against Vice-Admiral Norman," said NDP defence critic Randall Garrison.

"Without any evidence, they drove Vice-Admiral Norman out of his position. And we will never be privy between the chief of defence staff and the prime minister and the minister of defence over that, but I believe that direction came from the very top."

Vance has taken sole responsibility for suspending Norman as vice-chief of defence staff in January 2017 after learning the RCMP was investigating him.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan did not respond to the opposition charges Wednesday, but thanked Wynnyk in a statement for his service and leadership during his 38 years in uniform, including his time as vice-chief, which "will fundamentally re-shape the Canadian Armed Forces for the better."

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