Sexual assault trial for military’s former HR leader begins in Ottawa
Vice-admiral Haydn Edmundson, the military’s former head of human resources, is on trial for sexual assault in Ottawa this week.
The retired vice-admiral has pleaded not guilty to one count of indecent acts and one count of sexual assault in an incident that allegedly happened in 1991.
The woman who made the allegation testified Monday morning that she was deployed on a military vessel that year where Edmundson was serving as a navigator and lieutenant commander.
Her identity is protected by a publication ban.
The complainant told court that one of her duties on board the ship was to wake officers, including Edmundson, for night watch.
She said that during one deployment, his behaviour got progressively worse.
At first, it would take longer than usual to wake him. Over time, she said, she began to notice he was sleeping naked and parts of his body were exposed.
She said it felt disrespectful, especially because officers had to fill out a form to request a wake-up call from a steward.
“He put his name in the book, he knew I was going to wake him up and he didn’t wear any clothes,” she said.
Because of their difference in rank, she said she “sucked it up” and continued her duties until an incident that caused her to “explode.”
The complainant was emotional as she described finding Edmundson naked in his bunk one night, fully exposed. She said she was so angry she turned on the room lights to make sure the other officer sharing that room also saw what happened.
“I couldn’t believe that I had to put up with this,” she said. “How do you handle your emotions when something like that happens?”
She said she yelled that Edmundson’s behaviour was unacceptable and then slammed the door in hopes of waking up the man in the bunk above him. She was not able to identify who slept in the top bunk of the room that night.
“I guess my intention was to make noise, you know, to make it stop,” she said. But she said no officer came to talk to her about it later, and she did not report the incident because she believed she had no recourse.
Edmundson’s trial is being held in civilian court before Justice Matthew Webber.
He was one of several high-profile military members accused of sexual misconduct in early 2021, kicking off a crisis that led to an external investigation of the Armed Forces. Edmundson stepped down as head of military personnel command in March 2021.
The investigation by former Supreme Court justice Louise Arbour led to a report calling for sweeping changes to the military’s culture.
Arbour recommended the federal government remove the military’s jurisdiction over sexual assault cases and other related crimes, and transfer cases to the civilian justice system.
The government has not yet made legislative changes to remove such crimes from the National Defence Act, though it has directed the military to transfer cases to civilian police.
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