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Canada's top soldier accused of misconduct just weeks into new job, steps aside

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The new head of the Canadian armed forces has stepped aside from his job after allegations of misconduct surfaced, the defence minister said, in the latest blow to the nation's military.

Admiral Art McDonald is the second chief of defence staff in a row to step down over misconduct accusations. He took over as Chief of the Defence Staff on Jan 14 from General Jonathan Vance, who is being officially investigated over complaints about inappropriate behavior with two female subordinates.

Defence Minister Harjjit Sajjan said accusations should be investigated regardless of rank.

"I take all allegations of misconduct seriously and continue to take strong action on any allegation of misconduct that is brought forward," he said in a statement, which did not specify what the allegations against McDonald entailed.

"I was informed that Admiral Art McDonald has voluntarily stepped aside while the investigation is ongoing," Sajjan said in the statement issued late Wednesday night, adding that he would have no further comment.

Vance denies allegations of inappropriate behaviour. He acknowledges he and one of the women were involved but denies there was a relationship when she was under his command.

He took over in July 2015 and spent much of his tenure trying to stamp out sexual misconduct in the armed forces.

In 2015, an official report said military leaders had to acknowledge that "sexual misconduct is a real and serious problem for the organization".

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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