Former Canadian commander enters guilty plea

AP News
Posted: Jul 21, 2011 8:41 PM
Former Canadian commander enters guilty plea

The former chief of Canadian forces in Afghanistan who was dismissed from his post after being accused of having an alleged sexual affair with a subordinate was fined more than $7,400 after pleading guilty to two charges Thursday.

Retired Brig.-Gen. Daniel Menard, 45, entered the pleas while facing court martial in Montreal. Menard was once a rising star in the army and was the No. 1 military man in Afghanistan before his career unraveled.

The married father of two was charged with two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline under the National Defense Act. One charge related to an alleged sexual affair with a corporal under his command; the second charge was for allegedly trying to impede a military police investigation into the affair.

Military regulations bar soldiers, even married couples, from having intimate relations while on deployment.

The court also took the strictly symbolic measure of ordering his rank reduced to colonel.

However, that will have no practical effect because Menard is already retired from the military and will retain his previous rank and pension benefits.

Along with reducing his rank, the military court also hit Menard with a $7,406 fine. Other possible punishments he could have faced included a prison sentence of up to two years and/or dismissal with disgrace, which would make re-enlisting in the Canadian forces or working for the federal government nearly impossible.

After apologizing in court Thursday to his wife and children for the sexual liaison that got him sent home from Afghanistan in disgrace, Menard said the media scrutiny of his case has been punishment enough for his family.

Menard's downward spiral began the moment his affair was revealed by a prominent U.S. military-affairs blogger. Soon thereafter, he was back home in Canada and feeling like persona non grata.

"It was clear I was no longer in the club of generals," Menard said. "I felt completely ostracized ... I concluded I didn't have a place anymore."

Menard met Master Cpl. Bianka Langlois in Canada in 2008, before they were deployed together to Afghanistan.

Court documents suggest the two had a sexual affair between Nov. 15, 2009, and April 27, 2010, while Menard _ a 26-year army veteran and married father of two _ was commanding Canada's task force in Afghanistan.

Authorities say Menard repeatedly tried to persuade Langlois to delete incriminating e-mails once the alleged affair became known in May 2010.

Langlois was convicted in a summary trial last Sept. 28 of one count of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline. She was reprimanded and fined $738.

Menard was initially also charged with four counts of obstructing justice, which were withdrawn. Those more serious charges carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

He was abruptly removed from his post in Kandahar in June 2010 and sent home.

Menard had also faced another court martial for accidentally discharging his rifle in March 2010. During that incident, he accidentally fired two rounds while preparing to board a helicopter with Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Walt Natynczyk at Kandahar Airfield. He pleaded guilty to the charge and was fined $3,692 for negligently firing two rounds from his assault rifle.

The general had been slated to assume command of the army in Quebec. Instead his military career was cut short as he tendered his resignation last November and left the military one month later. The former military commander is now unemployed and is seeking private-sector work in management.

The military's decision to dismiss Menard in a public fashion drew criticism and prompted a public debate about the forces' strict punishment for fraternization.