OTTAWA – Lt.-Gen. Paul Wynnyk could be the epicenter of the latest controversy to convince the Canadian Armed Forces, but the second official from Canada seemed relaxed and was in a good mood on Wednesday when he pledged to forcefully deny that his resignation on they had something to do with his relationship with the best soldier in the country.
"In general, I would like to say that it is not so," said the second in command of the military during an interview in his office, before launching into a robust defense of his boss.
"The chief appears to be a target. It is not only unfair to him. It damages the institution," Wynnyk said.
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"I think there is a lot of unfair criticism on the way of the boss. He is a lightning rod. In many ways it is as if there were conspiracy theorists out there."
Some concluded that General Wynnyk's resignation was due to friction between him and Vance. It was absolutely not so, said Gen. Wynnyk.
"January Vance was a great and supportive leader. We've known each other for over 40 years. This is why I really want to make things clear. This is not the case at all. He has done and continues to do great things for Canadian forces. When you look Strong, secure and committed (the government document that outlines his vision for the future of the military) and the way we are engaged in the world, I have the utmost confidence in his leadership ".
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Perception is everything in the social media era. Stories can quickly become mushrooms in something that can shock the people involved.
This is what happened here, after Wynnyk's retirement letter was leaked to Global News and the Ottawa Citizen within hours of his shipment to Vance.
It was inevitably linked to the recent withdrawal of Vice-Admiral Mark Norman. Admiral was relieved of his position in VCDS after being accused of breach of trust by the RCMP for providing information on the status of a ship supply contract to a shipyard.
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A probable reason for the rapidity with which the letter of resignation was leaked almost immediately after Gen. Wynnyk not only gave it to Gen. Vance but, unusually, he sent a copy to 28 other generals and admirals. Most such notifications are generally sent only to a couple of people.
The gen. Wynnyk seemed genuinely surprised by the response to his decision to resign. He explained that he shared it with so many other senior officers because he wanted them to know what was happening.
"I know there are flaws in the National Defense Department," said the 55-year-old combat engineer. "I simply didn't expect, when I looked at those who were on that list, that they would leak it, especially not so fast."
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Defining the "unpleasant" loss for himself and for General Vance, he added: "All these people are my direct relationships or they are my three stars I work with. Rather than making them feel through the rumor mill or the second hand , I wanted them to understand, coming directly to me because we had made this transition. "
The dilemma for Gen. Wynnyk and Gen. Vance is that the way it came out was another blow to the military reputation. Many politicians, journalists and others who follow the military have concluded that the deputy head of defense personnel departure is an example of what they see as upheaval, upset and unhappiness with the leadership of the Ottawa National Defense headquarters.
The pending departure of Gen. Wynyyk has been accelerated in the coming weeks. It follows the recent withdrawal of his predecessor, Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, after the crown was accused of breaching his confidence in him and was offered his old job by General Vance.
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"It is this perception that there is turmoil in Canadian forces," Wynnyk said. "From my point of view, it is not. If you talk to most senior officers, they would say, no, it is not. They said we are going on with business."
The Norman saga caused two years of suffering for the Admiral and his family, as well as for Vance and other senior officers who had to face the fallout after the RCMP arrested the Admiral and then, after a long delay, the Crown decided there was not likely that they could get a conviction.
What is not widely known outside the military is that General Vance has deep ties with Wynnyk and Norman. These ties added to the distress felt by him, Wynnyk and Norman, as well as others in the higher ranks.
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General Vance has been a dear friend of Gen. Wynnyk since the generals met when they were teenagers at Camp Petawawa.
They made their first parachute jump together in Alberta and were roommates on Vancouver Island at Royal Roads, which was then a military college.
Gen. Vance's report with Vice-Admiral Norman goes even further back. Their parents knew each other before they were born.
As children, the future four stars and the three stars of the future shared the same bath water when their mothers bathed them.
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General Vance told General Wynnyk that if Norman had returned to his new position, the Admiral's career would be over. When the Admiral reached an agreement with the government – the details of which were not made public – Vance said that Wynnyk could remain as VCDS.
However, Wynnyk said that after talking to his wife, Marianne, who has been living alone in Edmonton for five years while in Ottawa, he decided that he would also retire.
"It wasn't rushed," he said. "It's been going on for two months. This is really a family decision and a discussion with my wife. We thought about life outside the army.
"I didn't find a job, I'm not looking for a job yet. I could in the future."
Wynnyk said he respected Vance's decision to offer Norman his old job as a VCDS, but when that happened it led him to talk to his wife about their future.
"We still love each other deeply, so we started thinking about other options and life outside the army," he said. "This is combined with almost 39 years of this nomadic life, he sent us on a mental train where we decided it was time."
Towards the end of the interview, Wynnyk commented that the explanations he had provided might not "sell, but it is the place where Paul Wynnyk is."
Wynnyk and Vance had, he said, already started to put together a list of likely candidates to become the next VCDS and would send him soon and their recommendations to Defense Minister Harj Sajjan.
Matthew Fisher was a journalist for 45 years and a foreign correspondent for 35 years. He is a member of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and the Visiting Resident Scholar in defense and security at Massey College, University of Toronto. It's on Twitter @mfisheroverseas
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