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Canadian navy lieutenant fined, reprimanded for vaping aboard ship

Sailors from Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary prepare to depart from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii in July 2016. (Corporal Brett White-Finkle, Canadian Forces Combat Camera) Sailors from Her Majesty's Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary prepare to depart from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii in July 2016. (Corporal Brett White-Finkle, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)
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A navy lieutenant has been reprimanded and fined $750 for using an e-cigarette aboard a Royal Canadian Navy frigate.

Lt. Benjamin Gillis pleaded guilty Thursday to conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline at a military court hearing in Victoria.

The 30-year-old combat systems engineer was twice caught vaping in the wardroom of HMCS Calgary in October 2021.

The incidents occurred outside work hours but in the presence of several junior officers, which undermined both morale and respect for the ship's rules against smoking and vaping, the court heard.

After the first incident on Oct. 4, a colleague sent an email reminding Gillis of the ship's standing orders prohibiting e-cigarette use.

Despite the warning, the lieutenant was again seen vaping in the wardroom in the presence of junior officers on Oct. 15. This time, the lieutenant had dialed down the setting on the e-cigarette to emit little to no vapour.

"This is a case of someone who thought he could get around the rules – twice," military prosecutor Greg Moorehead told the court Thursday.

"He thought that by changing the settings on the device he could get around the rules," Moorehead said. "He was already told and reminded of the smoking policy by his superior, and this turns a simple error in judgment into something a little bit more."

Military judge Cmdr. Martin Pelletier heard that Gillis, who enrolled in the naval reserves in 2008 and earned the Canadian Forces' Decoration award for 12 years of service, was posted to HMCS Calgary – his second ship posting – from September 2021 to February 2022.

The judge acknowledged HMCS Calgary has experienced problems with its smoking policy in the past, most notably in January 2020, when the ship's executive officer was removed ahead of deployment to the Asia-Pacific region.

Lt.-Cmdr. John Forbes was found guilty on three counts of misconduct and fined $3,000 for disabling the wardroom's smoke and heat detectors so he could smoke while the ship was in San Diego, Calif.

Gillis's defence lawyer and the military prosecutor provided a joint sentencing submission Thursday, proposing the $750 fine and reprimand, which the judge accepted.

Gillis, who plans to leave the military in March, "demonstrated contempt for a very simple rule," the judge told the court, decrying the "lack of judgment by an officer of the offender's rank."

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