A "terrible mistake" involving the publication of convicted murderer Russell Williams's photo in a Department of National Defence booklet has prompted an apology from Ottawa.
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Minister of National Defence Peter MacKay said he "immediately ordered the military to destroy all copies of the collected booklets" as soon as he became aware of their existence.
Melanie Villeneuve, a spokeswoman for the Forces, said via email that the the photo in question depicted Lt-Gen. André Deschamps addressing a classroom, with Williams seated in a front row of senior officers.
The image appeared in the 2012 CF Canadian Defence Academy publication, which Villeneuve said is designed “to reinforce the profession of arms to all CF personnel and to emphasize the commitment, both institutional and personal, to continuous learning and professional development.”
Villeneuve said the booklet was distributed only within the Canadian Defence Academy headquarters before the image of Williams was discovered. The majority of the copies were recalled and destroyed, but a few copies have not been returned, Villeneuve noted.
The initial print run of 4,000 copies had a cost of $5,000 and the revised version will cost a similar amount to print.
Williams, a former decorated commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, is serving two life terms with no chance of parole for the brutal rapes and murders of Jessica Lloyd and Canadian Forces Cpl. Marie-France Comeau.
He pleaded guilty to 88 charges and was sentenced in October 2010.
MacKay offered his public apologies to the victims' families on Wednesday and said he also planned to follow up personally, on behalf of the entire Canadian Forces.
"I intend to call the families of Mr. Williams' two murder victims to inform them of this terrible mistake and express our most sincere apologies on behalf of the entire military family," MacKay said in his statement.
An investigation is underway by the department to ensure a similar incident does not happen again, MacKay said.
Former Col. Russell Williams, right, then commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, leaves court in Belleville, Ont., on Thursday, October 21, 2010. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette)
Williams is seen wearing women's lingerie in this court-released photo on Monday Oct. 18, 2010, just one of hundreds of similar images seized by police. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) Det. Sgt. Jim Smyth presents evidence to Col. Russell Williams in a videotaped interrogation Feb 7, 2010. The video was played during Williams' sentencing hearing in Belleville, Ontario, Oct. 20, 2010.
Roxanne Lloyd carries a picture of her daughter, Jessica Lloyd, one of Williams' two murder victims, as she arrives at court in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, on Oct. 19, 2010 for the trial of Col. Russell Williams. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)
The Crown and police speak to media outside court following the Col. Russell Williams trial at court in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. Williams said he deeply regretted his "despicable crimes," moments before he was sentenced to life in prison. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Lars Hagberg)
Roxanne Lloyd, the mother of murder victim Jessica Lloyd, speaks to media outside the courthouse during the Col. Russell Williams trial at court in Belleville, Ontario, Canada, Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Lars Hagberg)
This Oct. 20, 2010 photo shows a letter of condolence written by Col. Russell Williams to Ernest Comeau, father of Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, long before the commander was caught and charged with her murder. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Nathan Denette)
An OPP officer opens a gate of a makeshift enclosure as a van carrying Col. Russell Williams is escorted away from an Ontario Superior Court in Belleville on Thursday Oct. 7, 2010.(AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Sean Kilpatrick)
Part 1 of the Russell Williams Dateline that aired Friday Feb 18th 2011, <strong>Canadian Commander By Day, Sexual Predator, Killer By Night</strong>.
Thousands of explicit photos that Col. Russell Williams took while wearing women's and girls' lingerie show how his sexual obsession escalated from lesser crimes to sexual assault and murder, a Belleville, Ont., court heard Monday. The decorated former commander of Canadian Forces Base Trenton, in eastern Ontario, pleaded guilty to all 88 charges against him -- including two counts of first-degree murder, two counts each of sexual assault and forcible confinement and 82 break-ins and attempted break-ins.