Military ombudsman Greg Lick is calling on the federal government to make his office truly independent, saying the current structure is undercutting confidence in its ability to fight for aggrieved Canadian Armed Forces members and others.
In an exclusive interview with The Canadian Press, Lick says he initially believed when he took the ombudsman’s job in November 2018 that he could work with the current structure, in which senior defence officials are responsible for approving his budget and staffing.
But Lick says he has since changed his mind because the situation sets up real and perceived conflicts of interest, and he now fully endorses the calls of his predecessor Gary Walbourne to have the ombudsman’s office report to Parliament instead of the defence minister.
Concerns about the independence and functioning of the office have come to the forefront following revelations Walbourne flagged an allegation of sexual misconduct by then-chief of the defence staff Gen. Jonathan Vance to Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan in March 2018.
Licks says he believes Walbourne was “unfairly treated” during his tenure, based on what he knows about how the Defence Department investigated a whistleblower complaint against the former ombudsman and members of his staff.
Lick also says Defence Department officials warned before he began in the role that the ombudsman’s office was a toxic environment, but that what he found was the exact opposite.