A Canadian soldier who publicly spoke out against federal vaccine mandates while in uniform has been charged, while another Armed Forces member has been fined in the wake of posting a video supporting the Freedom Convoy.
On Wednesday, the Defense Department affirmed the charges against Warrant Officer James Topp and the finding of guilt against Aviator Riley MacPherson, adding six other service individuals remain under investigation for criticizing the government’s policies.
A 22-year-old veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who served in Afghanistan, Topp faces two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline for remarks he made while wearing his uniform in February.
In a copy of the charge sheet, his attorney, Phillip Millar, expresses that one of the charges relates explicitly to a video presented on TikTok. The military reservist criticized vaccine requirements for federal employees and military personnel.
The second charge deals with comparative criticisms that Topp made in Surrey around a similar time, also in uniform. An expert-looking video of those remarks was later published on social media.
Canadian Armed Forces members are severely confined in the remarks they can make while wearing the uniform, especially when criticizing the government’s policies. This is to primarily safeguard the military from any impression of politicization.
Yet, Millar contended that such limitations shouldn’t matter to policies that personally affect Armed Forces members.
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“We don’t want people in uniform making political statements,” he said. “But this is not a case where he’s supporting the NDP or the Conservative government. He’s speaking about a policy that directly affects him, and his conviction.”
In his first video, Topp acknowledged he didn’t have the approval to wear his uniform while standing up against the vaccine mandates. However, he took full responsibility for his actions and any consequences.
But the warrant officer added: “I do not believe that the state should have the power over my body and what goes into it.”
Later, he shot the second video in everyday civilian clothing, saying he had been ordered to take the first video down. However, the original remains on social media.
Chief of defense staff Gen. Wayne Eyre requested all military personnel be completely vaccinated before mid-October to ‘protect’ the Canadian Armed Forces from covid. The deadline was later pushed to mid-December.
Most service members complied with the request. The Defense Department detailed that more than 98% of Canadian soldiers had received the vaccine. But, unfortunately, many others didn’t and have been – or are currently being – thrown out.
Miller claims his client was initially offered a trial by court-martial, in which the case would be heard by a panel or judge. However, they later changed it to a summary trial, meaning Topp’s chain of command would hear the case. This change implies that the case will not be heard by a fair and independent body, Miller said, and Topp will not have the option to carry legal counsel to his hearing.
“The opportunity to explore whether or not the policy was, in fact, legal is denied to him,” Millar said.
The Defense Department didn’t answer inquiries concerning whether the case was changed from a court military to rundown preliminary. However, the Defense Department said 13 Armed Forces members have been or are in the process of being investigated for publicly criticizing government policy. Military police are conducting two of those investigations, while four others are being driven by individual units.
Officials opted not to charge the last five, three of whom have since departed the military.