Ministry of Defense fires former naval commander from civilian role after review

The Department of National Defense (DND) has fired retired naval commander Danny Croucher following an investigation into how he was re-employed as a civilian at his old naval base following a sexual misconduct investigation.

A second review by the military of Croucher’s quick release from service also found that the military violated its own rules by signing off on Croucher’s request last year to voluntarily leave the navy before his case reached the disciplinary stage.

Croucher landed a job at CFB Halifax in June 2021—the same month he left his military job at the base.

The DND said Croucher had the right to retire due to his years of service.

The Chief of Military Personnel is now looking into whether “additional measures are needed to address a situation where a member may have violated professional standards, but has the right to release,” the DND said in a media statement.

Charlotte Duval-Lantoine, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said the case exposed a “terrible” loophole – that some members of the military accused of wrongdoing could leave the force without consequence because they were eligible for retirement.

“This loophole means officers can avoid disciplinary action,” said Duval-Lantoine, who studies toxic culture and leadership in the Canadian Armed Forces.

He said he believed Croucher “clearly avoided” disciplinary action and allowing him to serve on the same base on the civilian side “may have caused moral problems” at the base.

Both reviews were fueled by CBC News Report last year in the Croucher case. Military regulations state that the commanding officer must state that the member is not released in order to avoid consequences for the offence.

Watch | The Minister of Defense responded to the release of retired Cmdr. Danny Croucher:

Secretary of Defense responds to the release of retired commander Danny Croucher

Anita Anand says she works to ensure the military is a place where everyone feels ‘safe, protected and respected.’ 1:21

Croucher was placed under unit investigation by the navy

The Navy removed Croucher from his job as head of the Atlantic Naval Fleet School in June 2020, the DND confirmed. Croucher was placed under a unit investigation by the navy after a complaint emerged accusing him of making inappropriate comments and malicious comments said to be of a sexual nature, sources familiar with the case told CBC News.

Sources said subsequent investigations found fault on Croucher’s part. Sources said he was expected to receive a forced release from the military as part of the disciplinary phase. But Croucher asked for a voluntary release before that happened.

The Navy granted Croucher’s request and he left the navy in June 2021. He rejoined the base as a civilian later that month, the DND confirmed.

Croucher has not responded to CBC’s request for comment, which was filed early Wednesday on Facebook and via DND. Croucher has declined to comment in the past.

Two reviews found problems with recruitment, release

The DND said that following the CBC story in October 2021, it launched a review to “determine the circumstances under which Mr. Croucher was hired as a civilian employee – in particular whether individual references were verified and whether the hiring team had knowledge of Mr. Croucher’s historical work with the Royal Canadian Navy.”

“In light of the administrative investigation into his recruitment as a civilian, while we are unable to provide details at this time due to Privacy Act considerations, we can confirm that he is no longer employed by the Department of National Defense,” a DND spokesperson wrote. Daniel Le Bouthillier in a statement to CBC News.

Croucher was dismissed from his job this year following the completion of the review. DND has not given an exact date of departure.

WATCH | The former naval commander left the position undisciplined:

Former naval commander leaves undisciplined position after sexual misconduct investigation

The defense secretary has ordered a review of how the Canadian Armed Forces handled the departure of retired commander Danny Croucher. He is being investigated for sexual misconduct, but was allowed to leave voluntarily rather than face discipline. 2:41

The former defense minister, Harjit Sajjan, also ordered a military review of Croucher’s quick release from troops last year following the CBC report. Sajjan said he was “disappointed by the lack of judgment” in the case.

The military review concluded that Croucher’s release “was not carried out in accordance with policies that favor the release of CAF members in situations where violations were suspected,” LeBouthillier said.

But the department also said that in this case, Croucher “has the right to release” under the Canadian Troops Retirement Act because he has “completed a full term of service.”

‘Totally confession’

Retired colonel and military law expert Michel Drapeau said the results of the review were “reasonably acknowledged” by the DND and they should be “shamed.”

“They will know that a number of their personnel (military and civilian) played a role in facilitating his early discharge from CAF and concurrent entry into public service,” Drapeau said.

“This did not happen by chance or by routine procedure. It required the participation of a number of senior Royal Canadian Navy staff to facilitate his early release.”

Drapeau also said the Croucher case called into question the reliability of the public service recruitment process because it appeared to “short-circuit successfully.” The Public Service Commission must now investigate the matter independently, Drapeau said.

The former Minister of National Defense, Harjit Sajjan, said he was “disappointed by the lack of judgment shown” regarding the swift release of former naval commander Danny Croucher from the military. Croucher is pictured here. (Atlantic Naval Fleet School/Facebook)

Defense minister says process ‘needs to be better aligned’

When asked about the case Thursday, Defense Minister Anita Anand said she was aware “there are situations, in terms of our policy, where members are suspected of having violated professional standards but are legally entitled to be released.”

“Our processes need to be better aligned, so that victims and survivors feel safe, respected and protected at work,” said Anand.

Anand said he continues to work with Chief of Defense Staff General Wayne Eyre and leaders across the military to “build a military where everyone feels safe, protected and respected.” He said he was awaiting the latest report by former Supreme Court Justice Louise Arbor about sexual harassment and abuse in the military.

CBC News asked Eyre about the case Thursday morning. He said he had not been informed about it and declined to comment further.

WATCH | “I haven’t been briefed on any of this,” chief of defense staff reacts to Danny Croucher’s military release

“I haven’t been briefed on any of this,” chief of defense staff reacts to Danny Croucher’s military release

Ashley Burke of CBC asked Chief of the Defense Staff General Wayne Eyre about the quick release of Cmdr. Danny Croucher. 0:22

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