The commander of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command will be replaced after it came to light that he wrote a letter in support of an officer convicted of sexually assaulting Analise Schamuhn, a fellow officer.
The Department of National Defense on Friday announced that MG Peter Dawe, who commands Canada’s special operations command, will be replaced next week. He was scheduled to rotate out of his command this summer.
“The acting chief of the defense staff Wayne Eyre, as well as Minister of Defense Harjit Sajjan, retain confidence in Dawe’s ability to continue to serve Canada,” a released statement from the department said.
“However, the pain of his letter of four years ago persists for those impacted. We must always put victims’ considerations first.”
The letter mentioned in the statement was written by Dawe, when he was the deputy commander of the SF unit, in support of Major Jonathan Hamilton.
Hamilton was found guilty on six criminal counts, including unlawfully entering the home of Major Kevin and Captain Analise Schamuhn and sexually assaulting Mrs. Schamuhn, a retired logistics officer, on two separate occasions. Hamilton was also found guilty of physically assaulting Kevin Schamuhn twice.
Kevin and Analise Schamuhn’s Ordeal
Hamilton and Kevin Schamuhn both had served in the same regiment and the two had multiple career postings including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2006. In 2013, the two were neighbors. One night, when Kevin Schamuhn was out of town on a training mission, Analise Schamuhn, woke up to find Hamilton in her bed trying to force her to have sex with him.
Prior to his sentencing, Hamilton asked Dawe for a letter of character reference to sway the judge from being too harsh on him. Dawe wrote a letter citing Hamilton’s military record and leadership abilities. It mentioned the effects of Hamilton’s PTSD as a mitigating factor.
Kevin Schamuhn learned of this and confronted Dawe, who told him that Hamilton “was a great guy” who deserved a break. Dawe told Schamuhn that the purpose of the letter was to affect the sentencing of Hamilton and that he wasn’t going to apologize for supporting an officer who he knew for 20 years. “I certainly don’t see him as a threat to society for just a second. I think on the whole he’s a pretty good guy,” Dawe said to Schamuhn over the phone.
Schamuhn felt betrayed by Dawe’s action. “Gen. Dawe was in my chain of command,” he said. “For him to support a violent criminal who had violated my wife, I didn’t know what to do. I was shocked,” he added in an interview with CBC.
Canadian Armed Forces Determined to Tackle Sexual Crime
The Schamuhns finally went public with the story. Analise said she left the military after 13 years because she no longer felt safe since the military had turned a blind eye to sexual misconduct.
Kevin Schamuhn believes that MG Dawe didn’t act with any malice toward them personally but was only trying to save a fellow officer. However, in doing so, he didn’t take into account the betrayal that his family faced inside the unit.
“Of all the enemies I fought overseas, none of them have that level of access to my personal life and to the vulnerability of my family,” he said.
Dawe finally apologized to the Schamuhns and to the unit as a whole in a letter that was released earlier last week.
“While my intent to help may have been purely driven, it is clear that the impact of my actions was profoundly harmful to the victim and her spouse,” Dawe wrote.
“Moreover, I did not consider how my actions would be viewed by other silent survivors of sexual assault in our ranks.”
CBC reported that Hamilton was later sentenced to three years in custody for a separate, unrelated sexual assault case.
With more and more reports of sexual assault in the Canadian Armed Forces coming to light, the military’s command is taking a more forceful approach to those who either turn a blind eye to it or try to cover for the perpetrators.