Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance watches a news conference from the front row of seats Thursday May 7, 2020, in Ottawa. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s former chief of staff is the latest Liberal aide to avoid a House of Commons order that she testify before a parliamentary committee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance watches a news conference from the front row of seats Thursday May 7, 2020, in Ottawa. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s former chief of staff is the latest Liberal aide to avoid a House of Commons order that she testify before a parliamentary committee. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Sajjan aide skips committee hearing on military misconduct, minister appears instead

OTTAWA — Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan’s former chief of staff is the latest Liberal aide to avoid a House of Commons order that she testify before a parliamentary committee.

A majority of MPs approved a motion demanding Zita Astravas appear before the Commons defence committee to answer questions about the government’s handling of allegations of sexual misconduct involving Gen. Jonathan Vance.

The motion also called for two of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s top advisers and one of Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland’s aides to appear before the Commons ethics committee to testify on the government’s now-dead deal with WE Charity.

But the Liberal government has said it will not let political staff appear before committees and is instead having Sajjan testify in place of Astravas, who is now chief of staff to Public Safety Minister Bill Blair.

Opposition members shut down an ethics committee hearing last week after Associate Finance Minister Mona Fortier appeared on behalf of Freeland’s aide Amitpal Singh.

But members of the defence committee have opted to grill Sajjan on what happened after then-military ombudsman Gary Walbourne flagged an allegation involving Vance in March 2018.

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