OTTAWA — A former chaplain general in the Canadian Forces faces charges of sexual assault stemming from incidents at Canadian Forces Base Borden in 1972.
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service said Tuesday retired Brig.-Gen. Roger Bazin has been charged with one count of buggery, one of indecent assault and one act of gross indecency.
No details of the charges were given but they were filed in civilian court, not under the military justice system.
Bazin says he’ll fight the accusations.
The news comes as Canada’s military is still grappling with charges of murder and sexual assault earlier this month against 8 Wing commander Col. Russell Williams of CFB Trenton.
Bazin told QMI Agency he had no warning he’d be charged.
“This fell upon me this morning,” he said. “The only thing I can say is I’m certainly going to defend myself.”
“I need prayers and I’m going to give it good fight,” said the 72-year-old, who lives with his 78-year-old sister.
Bazin drove from his St. Claude, Manitoba, home to meet military police in Winnipeg Tuesday.
“All of my life was helping people,” he said. “I can see that it’s all going to come to a screeching end because of those allegations.”
Retired Col. Michel Drapeau, an Ottawa lawyer and commentator on military affairs, called the charges “devastating” news for Canada’s Armed Forces.
The investigative service said Bazin was a chaplain in the forces who became the military’s chaplain general from 1992 to 1995, a position Drapeau describes as being akin to the “Armed Forces’ bishop.”
In a press release, Col. Tim Grubb, Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, said, “The military police consider this to be a serious matter.
“These types of alleged acts, if proven, are illegal and represent unacceptable conduct.”
Murray Farwell, a former chaplain general who himself retired from the military in 2002, worked with Bazin in the chaplain general’s office in Ottawa from 1989 to 1992.
“I’m just totally surprised at this information,” he said. “My impression of him was he seemed OK to me.”
Brig.-Gen. David Kettle, the current chaplain general, said he was “shocked by these allegations.
“I will not comment on the charges as they are being dealt with by the criminal justice system, but I am certain that I speak for all chaplains when I say that my heart goes out to the victims of such crimes, and their families,” he said in statement.
Farwell said he worries the charges against Bazin will affect how people view the military chaplaincy.
“When anything like this happens, it’s an incident that is going to somehow reflect upon other people. I think that’s a shame but that’s the way life is.”
As chaplain general, Bazin would have had access to the chief of defence staff, and would have provided advice and feedback about stress and morale among lower ranks to the top brass.
— with files from Christina Spencer