Both the commanding officer and the second-in-command of the Esquimalt-based HMCS Calgary have been removed from their positions, but the navy said the two matters are not related.
Lt.-Cmdr John Forbes, the executive officer who was second-in-command of the Halifax-class patrol frigate was found guilty on three misconduct charges under the National Defence Act at a summary trial in Esquimalt on Jan. 16.
The charges were in relation to an incident on board HMCS Calgary while alongside in San Diego, Calif. on or about Dec. 13, 2019.
Commodore Angus Topshee, commander of Canadian Fleet Pacific, said in a statement the charge sheet states Forbes caused the smoke/heat detectors in the Wardroom to be isolated for the purpose of smoking in the Wardroom.
“Lieutenant-Commander Forbes then proceeded to smoke in the Wardroom and by virtue of his position he encouraged subordinate officers to smoke as well,” Topshee said.
“The actions of Lieutenant-Commander Forbes violated the trust placed upon him by the RCN as a member of HMCS Calgary’s command team. By virtue of his rank and position on board the ship, his actions encouraged subordinate officers to act against well-established rules.”
Forbes was fined $3,000, handed a reprimanded and relieved of his position.
“A decision with regards to further administrative action is still pending,” Topshee said.
On Jan. 20, 2020. HMCS commanding officer Cmdr. Jonathan Kouwenberg was replaced by Cmdr. Alex Barlow.
Barlow, who recently returned from a similar mission in the Pacific as commanding officer of another frigate, HMCS Ottawa.
HMCS Ottawa spent 46 days enforcing UN sanctions against North Korea, observing nine potentially illicit ship-to-ship transfers and helping intercept 13 vessels of interest.
It also sailed through the Taiwan Strait, much to China’s annoyance because China considers the waterway its own internal waters. Chinese warships and aircraft shadowed and buzzed another Canadian frigate, HMCS Regina when it passed through the strait in June.
HMCS Calgary is expected to conduct similar operations.
Topshee said a change of leadership was required to ensure the frigate could “attain the highest level of readiness prior to deploying in spring 2020.”
Commanding Officers of ships have extensive responsibilities and are charged with ensuring that the ship and crew are prepared for all missions. HMCS Calgary recently completed readiness training in preparation for a deployment and was unable to achieve the level of readiness required. It was assessed that new leadership, in the form of the Commanding Officer, would better allow the ship to achieve that level prior to the deployment this summer,” Topshee said.
Kouwenberg is still employed as a Naval Warfare Officer and Topshee said no administrative action is warranted.
“The change of command of HMCS Calgary’s Commanding Officer and the summary trial of the ship’s Executive Officer are unrelated. Management of both events is of critical importance for the ship and crew, who are preparing to deploy in the spring of 2020,” Topshee said.
HMCS Calgary is set to deploy on Operations PROJECTION and NEON from April to July 2020.. The assignment includes enforcing sanctions against North Korea and possible run-ins with Chinese vessels.
With files from The Canadian Press