Military's second-in-command to resign, links decision with Mark Norman case

OTTAWA — The Canadian military's second-in-command has announced his surprise resignation — and is reportedly linking the decision to an aborted attempt to reinstate Vice-Admiral Mark Norman into the position.

Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk's decision to leave the Canadian Forces, effective Aug. 9, represents the latest blow to the military, whose senior leadership has been in a state of perpetual upheaval since Norman was suspended in January 2017.

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The Defence Department released a statement announcing Wynnyk's resignation late Tuesday, nearly a year after the former army commander took over the vice-chief of the defence staff position on a permanent basis. A replacement has not been named.

In the statement, Wynnyk is quoted as saying he had considered the decision for several months and decided with his wife that it was time for their family to be reunited. Wynnyk has maintained a permanent home in Edmonton.

"I would like to thank the chief of the defence staff, Gen. Jon Vance, for the confidence he showed in me when he appointed me as the vice-chief and for his leadership of the (military) during what have been challenging times recently," Wynnyk said.

Yet while Wynnyk attributed his decision to resign to his desire to return to his family, a letter obtained by Global News reportedly sent by the outgoing vice-chief of the defence staff to Vance suggests different reasons.

In particular, the letter reveals that Wynnyk had planned to retire this summer before Vance asked him last year to serve on a permanent basis as the vice-chief of the defence staff. Vance reportedly insisted on a two-year commitment from Wynnyk.

Previous to that, Wynnyk had been one in a string of senior officers filling the role in an acting capacity as the military waited for Norman's breach-of-trust case to make its way through the courts.

"After much thought and consultation with my wife, I agreed to continue to serve away from my family and beyond maximum pensionable time," he wrote to Vance, "giving you my word that I would not seek outside employment until retiring in 2020."

However, according to the letter, Vance asked Wynnyk to resign and make way for Norman to resume his duties as the military's second-in-command after the case against Norman was dropped in May.

"You advised that my continued service as the VCDS was no longer in the best interests of the (military), that you intended to restore Vice-Admiral Norman to the position," Wynnyk wrote.

The comment represents the first confirmation that Vance was intending to reinstate Norman, who had asserted after the case against him was dropped that he wanted to return to his former position.

But that was before the government reached a settlement with Norman, who in the process announced his own resignation from the military last month. The details of that settlement have not been made public.

Following news of the settlement, according to the letter, Vance at that time asked Wynnyk to stay on until next summer as planned.

Wynnyk, however, writes: "While I appreciate the change of heart, I respectfully decline and intend to take my release from the Canadian Armed Forces as expeditiously as possible."

In a statement posted on Twitter on Tuesday evening, Vance bid farewell to Wynnyk "with deep gratitude for his life of service and our close friendship for nearly 40 years," he said. "We will miss you in uniform, old friend."

Yet the move is likely to put added pressure on Vance, who some have accused of contributing to Norman's two-year legal ordeal by suspending the popular naval officer upon learning the RCMP was investigating him in 2017.

—Follow @leeberthiaume on Twitter

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