OTTAWA — A senior leader in the Canadian Armed Forces has retired and travelled to Ukraine to help defend the country from Russia’s invasion while still under investigation for alleged sexual misconduct.
The Department of National Defence confirmed Thursday that lieutenant-general Trevor Cadieu retired on April 5 after more than 30 years in uniform, even as military police continue their investigation into his conduct.
“His release was done in accordance with proper procedures and in accordance with his legal rights to release from the CAF,” Defence Department spokesman Daniel Le Bouthillier said in a statement.
“There has been no CAF support, material or otherwise, given to Cadieu since his departure as it pertains to his personal endeavours.”
Several defence sources say Cadieu has since headed to Ukraine to volunteer to help fight back against a Russian invasion that is about to enter its third month. The sources were not authorized to comment publicly on his whereabouts.
Cadieu, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, could not be reached for comment on Thursday while the Defence Department declined to confirm his whereabouts.
“As he is now a private citizen, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further on his personal plans,” Le Bouthillier said.
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service said in a statement that its investigation is ongoing, adding: “A member’s release has no bearing on investigative work, nor does their personal travel.”
Defence officials have previously said Armed Forces members can be charged for crimes allegedly committed while in uniform even after they retire.
Cadieu’s sudden retirement and departure come more than six months after the popular officer was slated to take command of the Canadian Army, with some military insiders predicting his eventual appointment as chief of the defence staff.
Defence chief Gen. Wayne Eyre instead quietly suspended Cadieu’s installation as army commander in September after he was informed of what the CFNIS has described as “historical allegations” of sexual misconduct.
Following news of Cadieu's departure, Eyre on Thursday announced that he had tapped Lt.-Gen. Jocelyn (Joe) Paul to become the next commander of the Canadian Army.
The army had been without a permanent commander since February 2021, when Eyre was tapped to serve as acting chief of the defence staff while then-defence chief Admiral Art McDonald was being investigated for alleged sexual behaviour.
While McDonald was not charged, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau opted to replace him on a permanent basis with Eyre. Maj.-Gen. Michel-Henri St-Louis has served as acting army commander since April 2021.
Eyre also announced the pending retirement of Royal Canadian Navy commander Vice-Admiral Craig Baines, who came under fire last July for golfing with retired defence chief Jonathan Vance while Vance was under police investigation.
Baines, who apologized and was kept on as navy commander, promising to make the most of his second chance, will be replaced by Rear-Admiral Angus Topshee.
Cadieu is one of several senior commanders to be investigated by military police for alleged sexual misconduct in the past year.
Those allegations have forced a reckoning within the military over its failure to address inappropriate behaviour. They also sparked criticism of the Liberal government's handling of the issue and calls for more external oversight of the military.
Cadieu strenuously denied any wrongdoing in a statement last fall, saying: “The allegations are false, but they must be investigated thoroughly to expose the truth.” He said he had provided information to investigators to prove his innocence.
The retired officer also said at the time that he had asked Eyre to select someone else to serve as Canadian Army commander, adding: “I know that these false claims will, as intended, create doubts about my ability to lead in this environment.”
Cadieu’s decision to travel to Ukraine follows an order from Eyre banning serving members of the Canadian Armed Forces from joining the thousands of foreigners who have flocked to the country in recent weeks to help fight Russia’s invasion.
Russia has reportedly threatened criminal prosecutions against any foreigners captured fighting in Ukraine while a senior Canadian officer last month raised the spectre of Moscow attempting to use captured foreign fighters for propaganda purposes.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 21, 2022.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press