Anti-vaccine military officer pleads guilty in court martial | Coronavirus
Several soldiers strongly and publicly opposed the sanitary measures.
A Canadian Armed Forces officer, who had urged other service members to disobey orders and not participate in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, received a reprimand and a fined on Thursday by court-martial after offering an apology for his “public display of disloyalty”.
Cadet instructor Laszlo Kenderesi, 60, apologized at the start of this unprecedented court-martial. He was later sentenced to a severe reprimand and a $4,200 fine, after pleading guilty to one count of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline.
Military police initially charged Mr Kenderesi with trying to persuade another to take part in a mutiny, for which he faced a maximum sentence of life in prison. But prosecutors eventually withdrew that count before the trial began on Thursday.
Mr. Kenderesi was also facing the charge of having conducted himself in a manner that was scandalous and unbecoming of an officer, but that charge was automatically stayed when military judge Martin Pelletier accepted his admission. of guilt on the count of harmful conduct.
Calling the case one of a kind, Judge Pelletier said in sentencing that the defendant was not being punished for his personal views on vaccines, but for participating in – and publicly expressing his support – for anti-vaccine protests while in uniform.
It is even more unacceptable for Officer Kenderesi to incite members of the Armed Forces Canadians to disobey orders […] regarding scheduled duties to assist in the distribution of vaccines, the military judge said.
Mr. Pelletier repeatedly mentioned the lack of precedent – a very good thing, he said. The court and counsel are not aware of any other instance where a Canadian Armed Forces officer attended, in uniform, a protest against a high-profile government action and took a microphone to ask members of the Canadian Armed Forces to refuse orders to perform lawful duties, he said.
This court-martial is linked to a speech given at a rally against lockdowns in December 2020 in Toronto. Mr. Kenderesi, dressed in his full military uniform, then spoke out against what he called killer vaccines.
I call on all service members to do the same, not to accept unjust orders to donate and distribute vaccines, Kenderesi said, according to a transcript read in court. A video of his speech was then posted online.
The Canadian army had just, a few days earlier, officially received the mandate to plan the distribution to the provinces vaccines against COVID-19, as Health Canada begins the final stages of its review of candidate vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna.
Mr Kenderesi on Thursday expressed remorse for his actions, ahead of sentencing submissions. I was wrong to represent myself as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to publicly express my private opinions, the accused testified. I abused the trust that comes with the privilege of wearing the uniform of the Canadian Armed Forces. I'm sorry.
It was not for me to question orders from the chain of command, he added. I violated the fundamental principle of service by not supporting the legitimate authority of the chain of command. I am ashamed of my public display of disloyalty.
In an affidavit filed on record, the court heard that Kenderesi was born and raised in Hungary while that country was under the influence of the Soviet Union, and COVID-related lockdowns -19 in 2020 had affected him both emotionally and financially. His wife lost her job and his trucking business collapsed, after which he declared bankruptcy.
The court also heard that although Mr. #x27;first joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1978 and served for years as a Reserve Cadet Instructor at Base Borden, he had virtually no contact with the military after 2018.
Defense attorney Maj. Alexandre Gélinas-Proulx attempted to use these arguments as mitigating factors, but prosecutor Jennifer Besner argued that the underlying problem in this case was that of #x27;enforcement of discipline.
Discipline is the quality that every soldier must have, which enables him to put the interests of Canada and the interests of the Canadian Forces before his personal interests, argued Lieutenant Commander Besner.
This is essential, because members of the Canadian Forces must willingly and promptly obey lawful orders that can have devastating consequences for people.
The defense and prosecution s& #x27; nevertheless intended to recommend that Judge Pelletier condemn Kenderesi to a severe reprimand and a fine of $4,200. They added that the officer had already completed 80 hours of community service.
Although Judge Pelletier ultimately accepted the joint defense and prosecution recommendations, and acknowledged the emotional and financial strains the accused was facing at the time, he nonetheless underscored the seriousness of the actions taken.
The outcome of this case could indeed have implications for future court-martials of military personnel who have publicly spoken out against mandatory vaccination and x27;other government policies.
This is the case of Warrant Officer James Topp, an army reservist who was also charged earlier this year of two counts of conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline, for having denounced, dressed in his uniform, the compulsory vaccinations.
Mr. Topp has since become a celebrity to some Canadians opposed not only to vaccines and health restrictions, but more generally to the federal Liberal government. He currently travels the whole country on foot.