Canadian soldier Warrant Officer James Topp has pleaded guilty to two counts of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline in relation to videos posted on social media criticizing COVID-19 vaccine requirements for military personnel.
Topp, who faces a maximum punishment of dismissal with disgrace, told the start of his court martial in New Westminster, B.C., on Tuesday that he’s making his guilty pleas voluntarily.
The Armed Forces reservist from Vancouver had faced six charges under the National Defence Act over the videos posted in February last year where he criticized pandemic vaccine requirements for military personnel and federal employees.
The court martial heard that about 100 Canadian Forces troops have left the military voluntarily over the rules, while hundreds of others have had permanent censures put on their files.
Topp, who served Canada in Bosnia and Afghanistan, pleaded not guilty to charges of wearing a uniform incorrectly, and the prosecution told the hearing that those charges would be dropped.
He is a reservist with the Royal Westminster Regiment, but appeared in the videos in a uniform for the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry where he previously served.
The court martial was expected to hear testimony from Topp later Tuesday.
One of his commanding officers is also due to testify.
The court martial heard that Topp received military briefings about the COVID-19 pandemic and the military’s vaccine policy but he failed to attest to his vaccine status.
It also heard that one of the videos he uploaded on social media was taken at a home in Abbotsford, while the second was at a freedom convoy protest at the Sumas Border Crossing near Abbotsford.
“I need to hear if you formally admit the facts,” Judge Catherine Julie Deschenes asked Topp. “Are these facts as they are summarized here, accurate?”
Topp said the addresses were not entirely correct but he agreed with the events once the court changed the addresses.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 14, 2023.