Canada's Federal Court struck down Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin's request for reinstatement as the head of Canada's COVID vaccine rollout Tuesday. The judge presiding over the case said Fortin must first pursue a grievance over his removal with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
Justice Ann Marie McDonald threw out Fortin's request, ruling his case as premature. She said he "must exhaust the internal grievance process before seeking a remedy" in court. Fortin's lawyer said the CAF removed the senior military officer from the vaccine campaign for political reasons, reported CTV News.
A 20-page judicial review ruling comes after the court heard over two days of Fortin's legal team and the federal government going tit for tat on who was responsible for his dismissal. The former alleged political interference by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Health Minister Patty Hajdu and Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, and insufficient due process or privacy in the decision to remove him.
Fortin's lawyers filed over 100 heavily redacted pages of mostly short-hand notes by Lt.-Gen. Wayne Eyre highlighting internal email exchanges with top military officials in Federal Court.
On March 19, Eyre's notes indicated top government brass had "anxiety" as officials considered "workplace safety," "victim support," and "ensure public confidence in vaccine rollout."
Dated March 17, Eyre referenced Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, writing, "what does [the] victim want?" He made another reference to carrying out due process. "[We] need to protect the institution," they said. "We take everything seriously." He noted a "roundtable with experts soonest" could "create a process for those who came forward."
On May 12, Eyre's notes implied Health Minister Patty Hajdu wanted to "protect herself," "doesn't want to create a narrative," and "find balance."
The government's lawyers said the lawsuit is premature and it should be thrown out because there is an established grievance process under the National Defence Act and the Queen's Regulations and Orders for the CAF, which they claimed as an "adequate alternative remedy."
"Fortin has not demonstrated that the decision to remove him from his PHAC position cannot be redressed through the CAF grievance process. Therefore, he must avail himself of the grievance process before proceeding on judicial review," wrote Justice McDonald Tuesday.
Fortin served as head of Canada's COVID vaccine rollout until May 14. He was removed five days before the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service referred a sexual misconduct investigation to the Quebec prosecution service to determine if charges should be laid. Fortin denied any wrongdoing. He also received the boot as Canada's vice-president of logistics and operations with the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) the same month.
Fortin stated in an affidavit his reputation had been "irreparably tarnished," and his career is "over" because of his dismissal and the decision to publicize he was under investigation. Days after his removal, the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service referred to the Quebec criminal prosecution service.
In August, Fortin was charged in Gatineau, Que. with one count of sexual assault. Fortin has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to defend himself "vigorously" against the charge. The next court date in that matter is scheduled for November 5.