Mercedes Stephenson Profile picture
Ottawa Bureau Chief @GlobalNews @GlobalNational Host of @TheWestBlock. Journalist with a curious mind. Political journalism, defence & foreign policy. Pro otter
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29 Apr
In 2016 I started reporting how the chain of command and military justice system let down victims, and allowed perpetrators to avoid criminal charges, plead out or be protected at work. It's 2021. We are still having the same conversations like the 2016/17 stuff never happened
When I first started reporting I got angry calls from the highest levels of the Canadian Armed Forces telling me I was "hurting" the troops and the institution.
Will put together another spread sheet - the ideal Gen Vance told me he had when he created the admin system to deal with sexual misconduct was to fill the gaps where the military justice system wasn't working and that he couldn't change (JAG reports to political authorities)
Read 7 tweets
27 Apr
PM Trudeau says that nobody in his office or the Defence Minister's office knew that the complaint against General Vance was "a Me Too" complaint. On Friday Elder Marques, formerly of PMO, testified he felt it was likely sexual and serious (but did not have solid knowledge).
PM Trudeau gives extensive answer, says the govt is deeply committed to change on this issue. Defends how his office and MND's office handled the issue. PM Trudeau does not answer the question from @mikelecouteur on whether his Chief of Staff, Katie Telford, should have told him.
Mike follows up asking how disappointed the PM is that he did not learn about this concern until this year. "Katie's leadership... is why we call ourselves a feminist govt" re: Katie Telford.
Read 5 tweets
23 Apr
Elder Marques, former senior advisor to Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau is now testifying about what he knew about the allegations against Vance in 2018
@JustinTrudeau #BREAKING Elder Marques just revealed the Chief of Staff to the Prime Minister, Katie Telford, was aware there were allegations against General Jonathan Vance
Marques says he has no recollection of briefing the Prime Minister on the allegations against Vance or knowledge of anyone else briefing the Prime Minister.
Read 6 tweets
20 Apr
I asked PM Trudeau and DPM Trudeau about Liberal MPs shutting down the committee that was looking into military sexual misconduct and about the message that sends... as well as why 10+ weeks into this story we don't have any info on the external probe or watchdog (1/3) #cdnpoli
The federal budget set aside $ to deal with military sexual misconduct including setting up an independent watchdog (no info on if it reports to Parliament), providing independent legal advice to victims and making the JAG system to "better respond to allegations of misconduct"
PM and DPM gave no specifics on what the probe will involve, when it might be announced, or a timeline for action. Said committee acted independently. Reiterated commitment to action and need for change but no details on what that looks like or when.
Read 4 tweets
8 Apr
Global News did not ask DND for permission for women to speak. We asked the women.
Unclear to me how CFNIS & JAG would have been consulted abt 3 cases where there was *no* investigation prior to our reporting, they learned about allegations from our show…
Several women we spoke to also made it clear they did not trust CFNIS and JAG in handling sexual misconduct cases. There is an irony that they should be the deciding authority on whether women get to come forward...
Also worth discussing - CFNIS and the JAG's record on handling sexual misconduct and sexual assault. The concern about plea bargains, dropped charged etc led to the administrative changes Vance introduced to kick people out.
Read 4 tweets
6 Apr
Former Clerk of the Privy Council Michael Wernick admits that PCO lost sight of the questions about allegations against Vance. They were looking at massive turn over at the upper ranks of the military and Vance's "ambition" to become top NATO General.
Wernick says PCO never closed file looking into allegations against Vance but reached "an impasse" determining it would be inappropriate to confront Vance, there were not witnesses (although they hadn't interviewed anybody to determine this) and victim didn't want to come forward
Wernick says in hindsight more could have been done and he regrets that this issue fell off the radar. He says that Minister Sajjan was in fact involved in discussions about Vance's term, that Wernick and Sajjan had those conversations.
Read 5 tweets
6 Apr
Today Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's former Chief of Staff Zita Astravas had been called to testify at the defence committee loking into sexual misconduct in the CAF. Instead of Astravas, Minister Sajjan is appearing. #cdnpoli #CAF
Astravas was the staffer who contacted PCO about the allegations against Vance in 2018.

Opposition MPs say that Liberals are "ignoring the house" and "contemptuous" for substituting the Minister for the former Chief of Staff.
NDP MP @r_garrison says he looks forward to speaking about the concept of ministerial responsibility with Minister Sajjan since he is pointing to that to justify staff not appearing, there are questions on ministerial responsibility after Sajjan refused to accept evidence
Read 5 tweets
22 Mar
#Breaking LGen Chris Coates is suddenly and unexpectedly retiring from the military. Coates' posting to NATO was pulled after @davidpugliese reported he had an affair with an American while he was NORAD Deputy Commander.
In a letter Coates says his retirement was for his own personal reasons and says it was his decision to retire. It also says that he believes his retirement is in the best interests for the Canadian Armed Forces.
"Last week I asked the CDS for my release. I want to emphasize that this is my decision. After much reflection, I made this decision for my own personal reasons, including what I believe would be in the best interests of the Canadian Armed Forces." LGen Coates
Read 4 tweets
22 Mar
Former PM Harper's Chief of Staff Ray Novak is testifying about what the Conservative govt was aware of when they appointed General Vance Chief of the Defence Staff.
Novak says Harper asked Vance about the info briefed to PMO by PCO on questions around Vance's relationship with a subordinate officer who Novak says PMO was told was "not in his chain of command." Novak says Harper asked Vance if there was anything else he should know.
Novak does not remember Vance saying anything in response beyond the officer in question was now his fiancée.
Read 6 tweets
16 Mar
In light of recent events I've been thinking a lot about how life is different for women owing to the quiet but ever present concern for our physical safety. I've decided to tweet this thread because because I believe there is still a serious lack of awareness. Here we go.
I do not live in fear, but I am always aware. I'm aware of who is around me. Who is behind me. Where the dark corners are that I can't see into. Whether those footsteps behind me are picking up. I hate wearing a hood in the winter because I can't see who is close.
Like all of my female friends, I have walked with my keys between my fingers on the way to my car or home, hidden in my pocket in the winter. I get uncomfortable with earbuds in when it's dark and I'm out walking because I want to know when someone is close.
Read 13 tweets
3 Mar
Former Military Ombudsman Gary Walbourne says he tried to present Defence Minister @HarjitSajjan with evidence of he allegations being made against the CDS and Min Sajjan refused to accept the evidence and pushed back from the table #cdnpoli
Liberal strategy here so far by @Yvan_Baker seems to be questioning whether the Ombudsman's office did a through investigation of the complaint. Libs framing this as Ombudsman not doing his job, not addressing Minister allegedly refusing to accept evidence.
Libs ask why Ombudsman did not go to the police 'isn't that the normal flow of events?'
Ombudsman: Not at all, sexual harassment & sexual assault are different things...
The Libs are implying the Ombudsman should have called the police, does that mean the Minister should have?
Read 4 tweets
3 Mar
I attended a press conference with the Chinese Embassy today. I asked if Michael Kovrig or Michael Spavor's families will be able to visit as Meng Wanzhou's family came to Canada to see her. The Ambassador did not answer that question. What he said below:
"As I just mentioned, the two Canadian citizens detained and prosecuted in China because they have been involved in suspected crimes endangering national security..." Ambassador Cong Peiwu
"...The relevant Chinese judicial organs are handling that case according to law and their local rights are ensured and guaranteed, so that’s my answer. All their local rights are ensured and guaranteed."
Read 8 tweets
24 Feb
The Conference of Defence Associations @CDAInstitute has put out a pretty robust press release on @globalnews reporting about sexual misconduct allegations against former CDS Gen Jonathan Vance and concerns about wider sexual misconduct among senior ranks in the CAF.
To put this in context, the CDA/CDAI are seen as the defence establishment in Ottawa. So what they say carries significant weight. It is an organization with a lot of retired generals in it. They are not defending anyone but victims in the statement.
The statement reads:
A few quotes from the statement: it is with " ... deep concern that we have read serious allegations of sexual misconduct by named and unnamed members of the CAF in positions of authority."
Read 8 tweets
28 Jan
The Economist (the magazine) Intelligence Unit has released a report that estimates Canada will not see "widespread" vaccination until mid 2022. That is well behind Europe and the US. Puts us on the same timeline as Brazil. Fed govt maintains vaccination will be by Sept 2021.
Here is the report if you wish to see it for yourself…
We asked The Economist how they came up with that number. The author of the report says they are confident Canada will not see 60-70% of the population vaccinated until "early 2022" based on "recent delays in production of shots" as well as Cda's vast territory.
Read 7 tweets
20 Jan
The Canadian government was formally notified that President Biden would cancel Keystone XL late last night, a source says. The govt says they will accept the President's decisions and will not fight to change his mind on a key campaign promise #KXL #cdnpoli
Source says the govt made the case for KXL in multiple conversations to US counterparts. Foreign Minister Marc Garneau told me that the PM brought his up personally with President Biden when they spoke in November and that Ambassador Hillman had been "very active on the file"
Prime Minister Trudeau released a statement in the last hour on the KXL decision saying "While we welcome the President's commitment to fight climate change, we are disappointed but acknowledge the President's decision to fulfill his election campaign promise on Keystone XL"
Read 4 tweets
17 Dec 20
#Breaking @globalnews exclusive: Government to replace entire fleet or #RCAF troop transport and air-to-air refueling planes (Polaris planes) including the Prime Minister's plane. Expected to cost between $1-$5 Billion. My story with @amandacconn #Cdnpoli…
*Fleet OF
A few things on this story:
The govt will only buy a plane being flown now by a NATO ally.
Govt will buy 5-6 planes - so possibly one more than we have now.
Buying the whole fleet at once makes sense in many ways and protects govt from political criticism on PM plane.
Read 5 tweets
2 Dec 20
Asked about whether CPC MP Derek Sloan can stay in caucus after his vaccine petition calling the COVID-19 vaccine human experimentation, CPC Leader @erinotoole's office won't answer that question directly. Simply say vaccines are important and MPs can sponsor petitions.
Basically O'Toole's office is trying to say balance of democratic discourse, MP independence... but there is scientifically incorrect info in Sloan's petition and politically it completely undermines the Conservative's main line of attack on the govt.
Also of note as per @journo_dale Conservative leader cannot take simply decide to kick an MP out of caucus. It is a caucus decision due to the Reform Act.
Read 5 tweets
8 Nov 20
President-elect Joe Biden takes the stage for his address. "The people of this nation have spoken" "We've won with the most votes ever cast on a Presidential ticket" Biden calls it a clear victory.
Biden says he doesn't see red states or blue states, only the United States but says he will work to win the confidence of all Americans.
Biden says he wants to rebuild the middle class and make America respected around the world again.
Read 6 tweets
8 Nov 20
"Democracy is not a state, it is an act." John Lewis quote @KamalaHarris uses to open her historic speech tonight.
"You chose hope, decency, science and yes... truth." Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris says she is thinking of her mother tonight who came to America from India at the age of 19 and while she didn't necessarily foresee this exact moment, she believed in an America where it is possible.
Read 6 tweets
1 Nov 20
A few thoughts on live fire training & training deaths... informed by discussions with troops. Troops believe live fire is vital training to be able to survive in a war zone. Real bullets mean a very different experience. It is dangerous, but they believe the risk is justified
We don't know what happened in the incident that killed Corporal Choi, but I have seen how training deaths affect troops. It's absolutely heart wrenching. While everyone knows training is a risk, the mental space is very different on exercise than overseas.
The soldiers in Corporal Choi's Regiment have suffered a terrible shock and the grief is tinged with how did this happen. For the troops there when he was shot - incredible trauma. There is always a great deal of guilt that goes along with training deaths too.
Read 7 tweets
31 Oct 20
#Breaking a Canadian soldier has died after being shot during a live fire training exercise in CFB Wainwright. #CAF
Have been on a level 5 live fire range at Wainwright a few times... my heart goes out to his family. LAV rollovers not uncommon but a soldier being shot during live fire training is much more unusual.
This is a 3VP (Third Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry - 3 PPCLI) exercise but the soldier killed was a reservist attached to the Patricias from the Royal Westminster Regiment.
Read 5 tweets