OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada’s former top military chaplain is charged with committing sex crimes in 1972, military police said on Tuesday, in another blow to the armed forces, already shaken by murder charges against an air base commander.
Retired Brigadier-General Roger Bazin faces charges of buggery, indecent assault against a man and gross indecency. Investigators allege he committed the crimes in 1972 when he held the rank of captain.
Bazin went on to become the chaplain general, or head of the military chaplaincy, from 1992 to 1995.
The current chaplain general, Brigadier-General David Kettle, said he was “shocked” by the allegations.
“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,” Kettle said in a statement.
The military was already struggling to contain any public opinion backlash from the high-profile case of Colonel Russell Williams, commanding officer of the country’s largest military base. Williams was arrested on February 9 and charged with the murder of two women, one of them a soldier at his base in Trenton, Ontario.
Canada’s military is carrying out a politically sensitive mission in Afghanistan, where 140 of its soldiers have been killed in about eight years of combat.
Williams, who is 46 years old and married, is also charged with the sexual assault of two other women after having broken into their homes.
Military officials have stressed that despite rigorous testing and evaluation throughout his career, Williams had never given any clues he was capable of such acts.
On Tuesday, Brigadier-General Kettle said the military chaplains also undergo a “thorough endorsement and selection process” to ensure “the highest moral standard.”
Police are still collecting evidence in the Williams case and said last week they are looking at reopening cold cases of slain women.
Reporting by Louise Egan; Editing by Frank McGurty