Former army human resources chief tried for sexual assault

OTAWA –

Vice Admiral Haydn Edmundson, the former army human resources chief, is on trial for sexual assault in Ottawa this week.

The retired vice admiral has pleaded not guilty to one count of indecent acts and one count of sexual assault in an incident that allegedly occurred in 1991.

The woman who made the accusation testified Monday morning that that year she was posted to a military ship where Edmundson served as navigator and lieutenant commander.

His identity is protected by a publication ban.

The plaintiff told the court that one of her duties aboard the ship was to wake officers, including Edmundson, to perform the night watch.

He said that during a deployment, his behavior progressively worsened.

At first, it would take longer than usual to wake him up. Over time, she said, she began to notice that he slept naked and that parts of his body were exposed.

He said it seemed disrespectful, especially since officers had to fill out a form to request a wake-up call from a butler.

“He put his name in the book, he knew I was going to wake him up and he wasn’t wearing any clothes,” she said.

Because of their difference in rank, she said she “tough it out” and continued her duties until an incident occurred that caused her to “explode.”

The complainant became emotional as she described finding Edmundson naked in his bunk one night, completely exposed. She said she was so angry that she turned on the lights in the room to make sure the other officer sharing that room also saw what happened.

“I couldn’t believe I had to put up with this,” he said. “How do you handle your emotions when something like this happens?”

He said he yelled that Edmundson’s behavior was unacceptable and then slammed the door in hopes of waking the man who was in the bunk above him. He could not identify who slept on the top bunk in the room that night.

“I guess my intention was to make noise, you know, stop it,” he said. But she said no officers came to talk to her later and she did not report the incident because she believed she had no recourse.

Edmundson’s trial is being held in civil court before Judge Matthew Webber.

He was one of several high-profile military personnel accused of sexual misconduct in early 2021, starting a crisis that led to an external investigation of the Armed Forces. Edmundson resigned as head of Military Personnel Command in March 2021.

Research by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor led to a report calling for radical changes to military culture.

Arbor recommended that the federal government eliminate military jurisdiction over cases of sexual assault and other related crimes, and transfer the cases to the civilian justice system.

The government has not yet made legislative changes to remove such crimes from the National Defense Law, although it has ordered the military to transfer cases to civilian police.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2024.

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