By The Canadian Press - Saturday, December 1, 2012 - 0 Comments
The fate of a Canadian reservist charged in a fatal training accident in Afghanistan has been placed in the hands of a military jury.
CALGARY – The fate of a Canadian reservist charged in a fatal training accident in Afghanistan has been placed in the hands of a military jury.
Maj. Darryl Watts, 44, faces charges that include manslaughter, unlawfully causing bodily harm, breach of duty and negligent performance of duty.
Cmdr. Peter Lamont, the military judge overseeing the court martial in Calgary, delivered a two-hour charge to the five-member jury panel late Saturday afternoon.
“The time has come for you to make your finding,” said Lamont.
“You have now heard all of the evidence. In every court martial there are two judges. I am one — you are the other,” he said.
“You are the judges of the facts. You — not I — will determine the evidence in this case.”
Cpl. Josh Baker, 24, died and four other soldiers were injured when a Claymore anti-personnel mine, packed with 700 steel balls, peppered their platoon on a training range near Kandahar city in February 2010.
The Crown argues that Watts, who was the platoon commander, turned a blind eye to safety standards and abdicated his duty as a leader during the exercise.
“Maj. Watts, being the platoon commander having ordered his platoon onto that range, is responsible for the conduct of the range,” said senior prosecutor Maj. Tony Tamburro in an interview with reporters Saturday.
“He can delegate certain tasks to his subordinates but he still remains accountable for the way those tasks are performed.”
The defence counters that Watts had no training on the Claymore, so he handed over responsibility for safety to his second-in-command, who was an expert on the weapon.
Cmdr. Lamont told the panel it had to be sure within a reasonable doubt that Watts was guilty of the charges he has been charged with and that every person charged with an offence is presumed to be innocent.
“You must find the accused innocent of the offence unless the prosecution proves it beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Lamont.
The platoon, which was stationed at Camp Nathan Smith in Kandahar city, usually visited the Kan Kala firing range about once a month.
The day of the accident the range was divided into four training sections.
The first two tests of the anti-personnel mine went off without a hitch. But when the second firing occurred, the ball bearings fired backwards, hitting Baker and four others.
Videos of the accident show several soldiers, including Watts, standing around watching the tests. They were not inside armoured vehicles or standing behind them for cover, as set out in Canadian Forces safety guidelines.
Maj. Tamburro acknowledged that it was a difficult case to prosecute.
“Negligence cases are always somewhat difficult because we’re not alleging crimes of intent here. No one has ever alleged that Maj. Watts intentionally harmed anyone or killed anyone,” Tamburro said.
Cmdr. Lamont also warned the jury not to go beyond deciding the guilt or innocence of the accused.
“Punishment has no place in your discussion or in your decision,” said Lamont.
“It is my job — not yours — to decide what kind of punishment is appropriate.”
By The Canadian Press - Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 6:50 AM - 0 Comments
CALGARY – The fate of a Canadian reservist charged in a fatal training accident…
CALGARY – The fate of a Canadian reservist charged in a fatal training accident in Afghanistan will soon be in the hands of a military jury.
Maj. Darryl Watts faces charges that include manslaughter, unlawfully causing bodily harm, breach of duty and negligent performance of duty.
Cmdr. Peter Lamont, the military judge overseeing the court martial in Calgary, is to charge the five-member panel today.
Cpl. Josh Baker died and four other soldiers were injured when a Claymore anti-personnel mine, packed with 700 steel balls, peppered their platoon on a training range near Kandahar city in February 2010.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 4:08 PM - 0 Comments
Independent MP Peter Goldring—he resigned from the Conservative caucus 11 months ago—has issued a statement to condemn the CBC’s reporting on a Canadian Forces video that poked fun at Osama bin Laden.
Edmonton East Member of Parliament Peter Goldring has expressed outrage and disgust over the manner in which the CBC conducted cheap, amateur, yellow journalism of the worst sort against Canada’s proud military.
The 2010 video of a private party skit in question involves a Canadian soldier dressed up in Taliban attire and posing as Osama bin Laden`s brother, ‘Eugene’. The CBC has latched on to this video and used it to paint the Canadian military and its members as both offensive and culturally insensitive persons.
“This video was meant as nothing more than a little black humour intended for a private audience,” Mr. Goldring stated. “The Canadian military didn’t make this video public, The CBC did. The CBC, who did the right thing to report it to the Canadian military, then had the opportunity to do the next right thing and simply put this video in the garbage can along with the rest of the copies where it belongs. Instead, the CBC are the ones inciting hate and hurting the Arab community worldwide by blasting this video out through national media to be picked up internationally.
“By engaging in yellow journalism and irresponsibly disseminating it for the world to see, the CBC hurt Canada’s image, our military’s image, and unnecessarily offended Arab’s around the world. By spinning this and putting it out for international consumption, the CBC is propagating racism. They took a video that was internal, personal, and limited to a very few, and turned it into an outward Canadian racial attitude for the rest of the world to believe.
“By calling upon CBC comedian Shaun Majumder – a visible minority – to speak out on the supposed ‘cultural insensitivities’ of this video is the height of hypocrisy, as Shaun has portrayed bin Laden as an Arab himself. The CBC attempted to detonate a racist scandal where there simply was none to be found.
“To frame this in perspective, the late Leslie Nielsen has portrayed Osama bin Laden in film – does that make him decidedly racist or insensitive? No, in fact he is recognized on Canada’s Walk of Fame and has also received an Order of Canada.
“Shaun Majumder – the CBC spokesperson condemning the actions in this video – has portrayed Osama bin Laden in skits himself, most notably in a spoof video poking fun at both bin Laden as well as the H1N1 virus during the outbreak. Majumder never faced any backlash or criticisms for his portrayal although it certainly could be said that he was propagating racial hatred not in a simple private event but worldwide.
“This video should not have been news-worthy, but the irresponsibility of the CBC’s reporting has served to define what this harmless skit has now morphed into.
“In the face of this incident, we have to thank the men and women of our Canadian military who were doing nothing more than relieving themselves of the endless stresses of their jobs with a little bit of black comedy that from time to time many people of all races of all countries enjoy, and ended up showing us where the evil truly exists in this country – the CBC headquarters.
“God help us if we have a CBC that does harm to our military and to our country worldwide by exploitative sensationalism.
“I call on the Prime Minister to call up the CBC to issue a sweeping apology to not only our military but our entire country. Their reckless reporting surrounding this non-story has done a great disservice to both our military and out country’s reputations.
“It’s time to consider whether the CBC is with Canadians or against.”
Defence Minister Peter MacKay said the video included “inappropriate content and poor taste.”
By Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press - Sunday, November 11, 2012 at 7:28 AM - 0 Comments
CALGARY – The lawyer for a Canadian soldier charged after a landmine explosion killed…
CALGARY – The lawyer for a Canadian soldier charged after a landmine explosion killed a colleague on a training range in Afghanistan says his client isn’t guilty of a crime.
But the prosecution contends that Maj. Darryl Watts’s supervision of the range on the day in question was negligent to the point that criminal charges are justified.
Watts, a Calgary reservist, faces a court martial this week on a charge of manslaughter and five other offences.
Cpl. Joshua Baker, 24, died on Feb. 12, 2010 at a range four kilometres northeast of Kandahar city when an explosive Claymore mine packed with 700 steel balls raked a Canadian Forces platoon. Four other soldiers were wounded.
Watts is also charged with two counts of negligent performance of a military duty, one count of unlawfully causing bodily harm and two counts of breach of duty.
He was a captain at the time and the officer in charge the day of the accident.
“My personal view is that Darryl Watts didn’t do anything wrong here and certainly didn’t do anything criminal, and hopefully the evidence will bear that out,” said his civilian lawyer, Balfour Der, in an interview with The Canadian Press.
“Legally, it’s a very interesting case in that they’ve charged my client with manslaughter for a negligent act,” he said. “There aren’t very many cases where the prosecution charges manslaughter and then relies on negligence. Usually the charge is criminal negligence causing death.”
The court martial will be similar to regular court proceedings, except the judge will be a senior military officer and the jury will be made up of five other officers who will determine whether Watts is guilty.
“What the prosecution is alleging is the way that range was conducted on the day in question was negligent to the point of attracting criminal liability,” explained Maj. Tony Tamburro, the prosecutor from the Office of the Judge Advocate General.
“No one is alleging anyone here intentionally committed an offence,” he said.
“What we’re saying is that their standard was such a departure from the norm that it attracts criminal liability. So from that point of view, it’s not an intentional offence.”
If convicted, Watts could be sentenced to prison time in the Canadian Force’s detention barracks in Edmonton or in a regular correctional facility.
Lesser punishments can include dismissal from the military, a reduction in rank or a fine.
Two other Canadian Forces personnel were charged following the accident.
Warrant Officer Paul Ravensdale, who was the safety officer at the firing range, faces identical charges to Watts.
Last September, Maj. Christopher Lunney pleaded guilty to negligent performance of duty while four other charges were dropped. He was demoted to captain and received a severe reprimand.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version included an incorrect surname for the prosecutor and an incorrect list of charges in the case. The earlier version also wrongly identified who was leading the platoon the day of the explosion.
By Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press - Saturday, November 10, 2012 at 7:08 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – As he goes from door to door wooing byelection voters in southwestern Ontario, Erin O’Toole talks about a lot of different issues, with one pointed exception: his 12 years as a member of the Canadian Forces.
OTTAWA – As he goes from door to door wooing byelection voters in southwestern Ontario, Erin O’Toole talks about a lot of different issues, with one pointed exception: his 12 years as a member of the Canadian Forces.
O’Toole, the Conservative hopeful in the riding of Durham, is fiercely proud of his time in the Royal Canadian Air Force and the Navy, which included Sea King helicopter missions after the 1998 crash of Swissair Flight 111.
It’s just that he doesn’t want to be seen as using his military service or work with veterans as a springboard to a political career.
“When you leave the military, you feel a sense of guilt because your friends are still there, they are still serving,” said O’Toole, who traded the life of a soldier for law school in 2000.
His desire to be in public life comes from somewhere else, he suggested.
That reluctance to highlight a military resume, while seemingly common in Canada, is at odds with politicians in the United States, where time in the armed forces is often seen as a prerequisite of sorts for running for office.
That could be changing — this year marked the first presidential election since 1932 where neither the Democrats or Republicans had a veteran running for president or vice president.
But for whatever reason, Canada has seen a far smaller proportion of ex-soldiers choosing to throw their berets into the political ring.
Over the history of the House of Commons, only 18 per cent of the 4,202 MPs ever elected have military duty on their resume, according to statistics on the parliamentary website.
Among them was George Baker, elected as a Tory in 1911 as the Canadian government decided to join the British effort in the First World War. He then joined the military and was the commander of the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles when he was killed in action at Ypres in July 1915.
The majority of MPs who have military records come from the First and Second World Wars, when collectively about 2 million Canadians served in the forces.
As the number of Canadians serving has dwindled, so too has the number of politicians drawn from their ranks, said military historian Christian Leuprecht.
“In the U.S., the military has a strong linkage with society — 1 in 8 Americans will serve at some point in their lifetime,” he said via email from a conference in Spain.
“In Canada, it’s closer to 1 in 100. It just doesn’t have the same cache as it does in the U.S.”
Of the 43 men who have served as U.S. president, only 11 have zero military experience on their resume. By contrast, of the 22 Canadian prime ministers, 15 have never done military duty.
The last prime minister to see active duty was Lester Pearson, who was both a member of the Canadian Army Medical Corps during the First World War and then a pilot in Britain.
Thirteen current MPs list some military service in their official backgrounds: two are Liberals, five are New Democrats and six are Conservatives.
Only one is a veteran of Canada’s most recent conflict, the war in Afghanistan.
Tory MP Corneliu Chisu did one rotation in Kandahar as an engineer, responsible for setting up the Canadian compound and bases in the province. He also served in Bosnia.
He said he believes his military record helped him get elected, because he came across as a different kind of candidate. Not only is he an immigrant — he was born in Romania — but one who served in the military, to boot.
“Members of the public, they get used to politicians who are running for office, but what have they done in their lives?” he said.
While Chisu and O’Toole both cited the continuing desire for public service at the heart of the decision to move from military to political life, many other soldiers are turned off by politics, suggested Audrey Prenzel, a Canadian career transition expert specializing in former military members.
She said she’s never worked with anyone who has expressed an interest, and when she asks, she’s often met with laughter.
“They like to get stuff done, they like to ask and answer questions directly and get direct straight-shooting answers,” she said.
“So in terms of corporate culture, it just doesn’t seem to be a fit.”
Chisu said he does find it frustrating sometimes to listen to other politicians talk about the military and veterans when they have little real experience with either. But he uses his knowledge to try and shape the debate, where he can.
“You have to know how to ask the right questions,” he said.
New Democrat MP Christine Moore served as a medical assistant with the 52nd Field Ambulance reserve unit in Sherbrooke for three years. Her military training has been useful as she adapts to life as an MP, she said.
“We have an advantage thanks to the discipline and teamwork and leadership training,” she said. “Politics is also a crazy life, not as physical as military life, but you are away from your family and always on the go.”
Leuprecht said that the peripatetic nature of military life often leaves soldiers without the community connections necessary for starting a political career.
For O’Toole, those connections have partially been found through other veterans.
His father represents Durham in the Ontario legislature and his family has longtime roots in the area. But he’s been surprised at the number of other former soldiers who’ve turned up to help him campaign.
He said he believes it’s possible that the war in Afghanistan will produce a new crop of political leaders, as groups supporting veterans and helping them move into their civilian lives are far more available than they used to be.
“I hope to see more of them,” O’Toole said. “Maybe I’m on the starting cusp of a bit of a trend. Maybe not.”
By Murray Brewster - Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 7:53 AM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Canadians are a humble bunch. Maybe too humble.
Within a few weeks,…
OTTAWA – Canadians are a humble bunch. Maybe too humble.
Within a few weeks, Gov. Gen. David Johnston will bestow a final batch of bravery decorations on Canadian troops who fought in southern Afghanistan, but the list likely won’t include the nation’s highest battle honour: the Victoria Cross.
The notion that Canada will exit its first major shooting war in 60 years without such recognition has some asking what precisely a Canadian soldier must do to win the honour — and whether the criteria in a professional, often self-deprecating military is too stringent.
The British, the Australians, and New Zealand have all given out a handful of VCs for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the United States has awarded 10 Medals of Honour, the American equivalent, in both wars.
The lack of Canadian Victoria Crosses is also strange in light of the intensity of fighting that took place in the heartland of the Taliban insurgency, as well as the Harper government’s apparent fondness for military pageantry.
The military recoils at the suggestion that politics comes within a country mile of deciding who is awarded the country’s highest decoration for “extraordinary valour and devotion to duty while facing a hostile force.” The stringent process that sees a nomination pass through no less than three committees of senior officers ensures that selection is based on merit.
By macleans.ca - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 at 12:10 PM - 0 Comments
For years, the former soldier had struggled with PTSD. Finally, last year, he sought treatment. He was better than ever.
Gregory John Matters was born on April 12, 1972, in Prince George, B.C., and grew up on a 160-acre farm in nearby Pineview, where his parents, George and Lorraine, raised cattle and other animals. Greg and his older siblings, Trevor and Tracey, helped tend to pigs, chickens and goats.
The Matters children didn’t have many toys, and spent all their spare time outdoors. Greg was an accomplished tree climber, and would fish for trout with a homemade rod and worms from the garden. As they got older, Greg, a rugby player at Prince George Senior Secondary School, “had all the girls swooning,” Tracey says; but he was bashful and didn’t like attracting attention to himself.
After graduating in 1990, Greg travelled to Australia, where Tracey had joined the civil service. As he was cycling near Tracey’s neighbourhood in Canberra, a kangaroo jumped in front of him, causing him to flip over the bike’s handlebars and break his collarbone. Greg underwent surgery, but his left arm never completely recovered; he never regained a full range of motion.
He returned to Canada to work on the farm, and, at 20, he decided he wanted to become a Canadian Forces peacekeeper. He was a “valiant and proud Canadian” and “wanted to make a big impact on the world,” says Tracey. But the Forces turned him down because of his bad arm. Greg was disappointed, but didn’t give up. After another surgery and a year of physiotherapy, he reapplied, and in October 1994, he joined the 4th Air Defence Regiment at CFB Gagetown, in New Brunswick.
In 2001, Greg was deployed on a seven-month mission to Bosnia, where peacekeepers were upholding the peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war in 1995. Greg was part of a NATO-led mission in Velika Kladuša, near the Croatian border; there, he witnessed rapes and murders. When he returned to Canada, his family noticed he was increasingly angry and withdrawn, but he refused to discuss what he’d seen. Gone was the “happy-go-lucky guy I had grown up with,” Tracey says.
Greg struggled with depression, and was posted to Gagetown until 2009, when the Canadian Forces deemed him “unsuitable for further service.” He moved back to his parents’ farm in Prince George, and in 2011, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“Who committed the genocide? It was your neighbours, the military, the people in power, the militia,” says Dr. Greg Passey, his psychiatrist at the British Columbia Operational Stress Injury Clinic. In addition to the atrocities Greg had witnessed, it emerged that he had been bullied and assaulted by fellow soldiers. Greg’s experience in Bosnia, says Passey, “cemented his fear of authority figures.”
But under Passey’s care, Greg thrived. Soon he became “an even better version of his old self,” says Tracey. He re-established friendships and spent time with his grandmother. When his mother was hospitalized with pneumonia, Greg stayed by her bedside through the night and bought chocolates for her nurses. Last Christmas, Greg went all out, covering the Matters farmhouse with tinsel and decorations. The family built an eight-foot snowman. Greg added the finishing touch—his own scarf. “Greg would have normally sat inside and smiled from the inside of the house,” says Tracey. But this time, “he was right out there with us.”
In September, Greg enrolled at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, and studied psychology. “He wanted to become a psychologist or counsellor to help other veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Tracey says. He set up a study in a cabin on his grandparents’ property, a quiet place where he completed his coursework.
He was planning to visit Tracey in Australia over Christmas, and had started buying gifts in July—he was close to his nephew and nieces. He told his sister he was hoping to get married and settle down. He’d even agreed to let Tracey give him a makeover and a new haircut. Finally, he seemed to have moved past the trauma that had haunted him since Bosnia.
On Sept. 9, the RCMP was dispatched to the Matters farm after an incident between Greg and his brother, Trevor. Greg, who was unarmed, was refusing to come out of the cabin. On Sept. 10, after a 30-hour stakeout, Greg was fatally shot by police. He was 40 years old. His death is under investigation by B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office.
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 10:18 AM - 0 Comments
HALIFAX – A navy intelligence officer rose before a judge in a Halifax court…
HALIFAX – A navy intelligence officer rose before a judge in a Halifax court Wednesday to plead guilty to espionage and breach of trust, making him the first person in Canada to be convicted under the Security of Information Act.
Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Paul Delisle showed no emotion as he acknowledged to a provincial court judge that he understood the consequences of entering guilty pleas to three charges and was voluntarily giving up his right to a trial.
Defence lawyer Mike Taylor said his client decided about a week ago to end the matter that captivated the intelligence community and raised uneasy questions about the effect any leaked material might have had on Canada’s relations with its closest allies.
“He’s just wants to move forward, he wants to get it done, put it behind him, accept his responsibility and have the court deal with it,” Taylor said outside court after the surprise guilty plea at the scheduled start of his preliminary hearing.
“This was simply a matter of deciding there’s no good reason to simply put on a show for the public, to go through the motion when, in my estimation, the outcome was clear and Mr. Delisle was realistic about that.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 13, 2012 at 1:29 PM - 0 Comments
David Pugliese quibbles with the Defence Minister’s announcement of new “next generation” tanks.
It seems that MacKay’s public relations machine was in full swing and “as usual they got way ahead of themselves in hyping this,” explained one individual associated with the file. “Just like all those re-announcements the minister made this summer,” said another. So exactly what is this “next generation tank?”
That is the name that is being used by the CF and MacKay’s office for those used Leopard 2 A4s that Canada ordered years ago. MacKay will announce that ten tanks have been repaired and overhauled and delivered so far. The tanks are going to be used for training and Defence Watch has been told there is nothing new or special that was installed on board. The transmission was worked on and upgraded a little but there are no new electro-optics or computers. These tanks are not even the equivalent of the more modern Leopard 2s outfitted for the Afghanistan war (since after all they are to be used for training in Canada).
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press - Wednesday, September 5, 2012 at 3:30 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – A Canadian Forces soldier who took his own life “ping-ponged” between a…
OTTAWA – A Canadian Forces soldier who took his own life “ping-ponged” between a civilian medical system that didn’t want to deal with him and a military system that didn’t know what to do with him, his grieving stepfather told an inquiry Wednesday.
The often emotional, heart-rending testimony from Shaun Fynes about the troubled last years and death of Cpl. Stuart Langridge was at once an ardent defence of the young man’s character and an angry indictment of the Canadian military.
“Stuart didn’t fall between the cracks, he was stuffed between the cracks,” Fynes told the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is holding a hearing into allegations that the investigation into Langridge’s suicide was biased.
“He ricocheted through the system and ping-ponged between provincial hospitals that didn’t want anything to do with him, and the medical unit that didn’t know what to do with him,” Fynes testified.
“They couldn’t figure out who was co-ordinating his care and who was responsible for his care. Stuart didn’t stand a chance. He was killed by the military.”
The commission’s inquiry, which began last spring and resumed Wednesday after a summer hiatus, had previous heard testimony about Langridge’s spiral into a haze of alcohol and drugs following tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan.
Fynes acknowledged the young soldier’s fight with alcohol, but testified that it was “self-medication” for the depression and post-traumatic stress he suffered while overseas.
The military disputes the PTSD claim and has essentially laid the blame for the suicide on the drug problems of Langridge — who had previously tried to take his own life — and what it described as a tumultuous personal life.
The commission has heard that Langridge, almost a year before his death, sought a medical discharge. In the weeks leading up to his suicide, he checked himself into civilian mental health care in Edmonton.
But he was persuaded to return to the garrison, where he was not placed in a military hospital, but in barracks where he eventually killed himself.
The military has presented a jumble of conflicting statements about whether he was placed on suicide watch, but the commission has heard from a witness who would describe it only as a “watch.”
Military police interviews with the regimental sergeant-major, who is responsible for ensuring discipline within a unit, revealed that conditions were placed on Langridge, who was told he would get access to a bevy of treatment options within the military system provided his conduct remained good.
Fynes said he believes the military was trying to build a case for dismissal against a soldier who up until that point had never been in trouble.
“My son was a soldier who was injured, and he was punished and disciplined for the symptoms of that injury,” he testified.
“He had self-confessed to those issues. He had asked for help. He was absolutely participating in attempts to improve his own care.”
An autopsy found no alcohol in his system at the time of Langridge’s death, but it did find a measurable quantity of cocaine.
His stepfather said that finding should not distract from the central issue, which he considers the failure of the military to properly take care of its own.
“Stuart was a veteran. He was an injured veteran,” Fynes said. “He was entitled to medical treatment that he didn’t get.”
By Murray Brewster - Monday, September 3, 2012 at 12:35 PM - 0 Comments
OTTAWA – Sheila Fynes couldn’t sleep most nights this summer, wondering whether she made…
OTTAWA – Sheila Fynes couldn’t sleep most nights this summer, wondering whether she made the right decision in allowing a public inquiry to view a 34-minute military police video of her son’s lifeless body hanging from a chin-up bar in his barracks.
The graphic, disturbing images of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, were never released to the news media, but the commission investigating the military’s handling of his suicide played it in public, as part of a series of hearings last spring.
His mother and stepfather, Shaun Fynes, wrestled with the question of showing the video almost up until the day it was played.
“There are times when I think I’ve shared the most personal thing about Stuart’s life and I hope, … I hope it wasn’t for nothing,” said Sheila Fynes in an interview with The Canadian Press from her Victoria home.
Langridge hanged himself on March 15, 2008, and his body was left in place for four hours while investigators documented and searched through everything in the room.
The video sometimes zoomed in on his head and face. Federal lawyers representing the Defence Department argued in advance that if the video were to be shown, it would have to be in its entirety.
Sheila Fynes said that “at first, we said: No, we don’t want anybody ever to see that.”
“But then (after) discussions with our lawyer (and) between ourselves, we decided there would be no better way for the chair to understand our allegation of the total disrespect shown to Stuart in his death, than for him to see it.”
After a pause, she added: “Was it the right decision? It keeps me awake at night.”
Neither Sheila Fynes nor her husband were present when the video was played for the commission.
The Military Police Complaints Commission hearing into the Afghan vet’s death resumes Wednesday, with testimony from Shaun Fynes.
In the coming weeks, the commission will put under the microscope not only the Defence Department’s handling of the Langridge case, but also how it copes with soldiers suffering from mental illness and post-traumatic stress.
The inquiry also poses a political problem for the Harper government with Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s refusal to hand over some internal documents to the military watchdog. That decision echoes a bruising fight with the commission previously over records relating to the treatment of Afghan prisoners.
The Defence Department refutes the claim Langridge suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, following a stint in Afghanistan. The doctor who made the diagnosis is soon to testify, along with military police investigators that are the subject of the complaint.
Members of the National Investigative Service are accused of conducting an inadequate, biased investigation aimed at exonerating the Canadian Forces.
Sheila Fynes says the coming set of hearings “will get to the heart of the matter.”
Thus far, testimony from the military contends that Langridge, who also served a tour in Bosnia, was a troubled young man with an addiction to alcohol and cocaine. One expert witness traced the problems as far back as Sheila Fynes’ divorce from her son’s father.
The military withheld Langridge’s suicide note from his family for 14 months, something for which it has apologized.
Yet a jumble of contradictions and missteps were exposed in testimony last spring.
At first, it was claimed Langridge had been under a “suicide watch” prior to his death. But a fellow soldier who attended him refused to describe it that way, saying it was only “a watch.”
Witnesses also testified that the military consulted the family about the formulation of policy for dealing with loved ones, something Sheila Fynes angrily denies.
“What has surprised me the most is the levels Justice (department) lawyers have gone to try and paint a very damning picture of our son. And some of the things that have been said by witnesses are so contradictory, and some of the things are just plain, flat-out, vile lies,” she said.
Just as the hearings recessed in June, complaints commission chair Glenn Stannard asked for partial access to documents that relate to the Langridge case but were written after military police investigators had been in touch with Defence Department lawyers.
MacKay, in a terse response, refused the plea and told the chairman not to talk to contact him again directly, but instead go through Justice Department lawyers.
That has galvanized one veterans group, which released a letter to MacKay demanding he waive solicitor-client privilege.
“I was quite disillusioned when reading your letter of response, Minister MacKay, not only from a sense of empathy for the Fynes family but to those military policemen who have been accused, our brothers in arms who have been subject to great stress and long-term concerns about potential disciplinary-career consequences,” wrote Mike Blais, president of Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
“You have an obligation to those that serve, sir, an obligation to accord to those who have been accused the opportunity to defend themselves with the full truth.”
By The Canadian Press - Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 12:05 AM - 0 Comments
Calgary school named for first female soldier in Canada to be killed in combat…
Calgary school named for first female soldier in Canada to be killed in combat
The Canadian Press
CALGARY – The first Canadian female soldier to be killed in action while serving in a combat role will be honoured by having a new school named for her in Calgary.
Capt. Nichola Goddard, a 26-year-old artillery officer, died in a Taliban ambush in the Panjwaii district of Afghanistan on May 17, 2006.
Lt.-Col. Scott Long trained with Goddard and says the school will be a great legacy.
He says he knows she would be proud and thrilled.
And he says from a military perspective, it’s good to see the sacrifice of a soldier recognized by the Calgary Board of Education.
Captain Nichola Goddard School will welcome students for classes next Tuesday.
By Paul Wells - Monday, August 27, 2012 at 3:49 PM - 0 Comments
Like almost everyone else in the Press Gallery, I was all ready to say wise things if retired general Andrew Leslie managed to get himself named chief of the defence staff, and had to do some quick scrambling when it turned out to be someone else. Here’s what I’ve noticed and learned about Tom Lawson.
First, as John Geddes notes, he’s a big fan of the F-35. The only surprise here is that Lawson has been so blunt about saying so. It would be less surprising if he were a fan of the best U.S. fighter imaginable but more discreet about it, and much more surprising if he thought the Canadian Forces should be trying to get some other plane.
What jumps out at me, reading Lawson’s NORAD biography, is how much of his career has been spent in and with the U.S. Air Force. USAF Staff College, Auburn University, USAF Air War College, deputy commander of NATO. This too is not a shocker, given the extent to which U.S. and Canadian militaries operate shoulder to shoulder, and if I were a fighter pilot I’d want to learn a lot from the air force that dominated the skies of the world without serious challenge for most of the past quarter century. But it’s also familiar: Lawson’s predecessor as CDS, Walt Natynczyk, was one of the top commanders in Iraq as a CF general on loan to the U.S. Army during the bloodiest days there in 2003. This suggests somebody at DND or the PMO is mightily impressed by Canadian officers who’ve spent serious time working with the U.S. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Wednesday, July 18, 2012 at 9:45 AM - 0 Comments
The Defence Department had received government approval in 2009 to move forward with the $430 million purchase of 1,500 off-the-shelf medium-sized trucks. But in subsequent years department and military officials began adding more capabilities to what they wanted in the vehicles, bumping the estimated cost to between $730 million and $800 million. And in an unprecedented move DND officials continued on with the acquisition without going back to Treasury Board for approval to cover the extra $300 million to $370 million in costs, according to industry, military and government representatives.
When Treasury Board and Conservative government officials discovered what was happening they intervened, shutting down the project last week just minutes before bidding was to close. The decision to take such action was aimed at avoiding another publicly embarrassing military procurement for the Conservatives.
By Aaron Wherry - Tuesday, June 5, 2012 at 6:18 PM - 0 CommentsThe Scene. For the second time in two days, Jason Kenney was compelled to objectively explain for the opposition the extent of the Harper government’s unparalleled greatness.
“Mr. Speaker,” the Immigration Minister declared, “the reality is that no government in the modern history of Canada has done more to invest in giving the equipment necessary to our men and women in uniform.”
The general concept of “modern history” is said to describe all time since the end of the Middle Ages, or something like the last 500 years. In that sense, the governments that saw this country through the first and second world wars might quibble with Mr. Kenney’s presumption of peerlessness. If, on the other hand, Mr. Kenney meant something like “recent history,” he might be right. Of course, it might also be noted that none of this country’s other recent governments have spent so long at war.
“The government has consistently reacted to support our men and women in uniform, giving them the modern equipment that they need,” Mr. Kenney continued, “and at every step of the way, the NDP and Liberals have opposed our efforts.”
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 12:51 PM - 0 Comments
Parks Canada will cut jobs and privatize some operations. Librarians will lose their jobs. Foreign aid for a dozen of the world’s poorest nations will be slashed. Defence staff who deal with suicide prevention and post-traumatic stress disorder will also be let go.
They have been told that the DND’s Deployment Health Section is being shut down, cutting four jobs, including those of suicide prevention specialists. The employees also monitor PTSD rates and traumatic brain injury.
Eight of the 18 jobs in DND’s epidemiology section also will be cut. Those include epidemiologists and researchers who analyze mental health issues such as depression, PTSD, and suicide. The unions say a trial program on injury prevention at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier also will be closed because of the budget cuts.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, April 30, 2012 at 10:56 AM - 0 Comments
The Federal Tobacco Control Strategy is being cut, trade consulates will be closed, a coalition of organizations that deal with homelessness in Montreal won’t receive funding, neither will six groups studying women’s health, seafood inspection is being moved, regional development auditors are being eliminated, economists at Statistics Canada will have to compete for their jobs and StatsCan will start surveying less. David Pugliese wonders why Defence Research and Development Canada is being cut.
Kevin Page puts the short-term situation in perspective.
Ottawa’s ongoing planned restraint and 6.9 per cent cut in departmental spending will reduce its share of the economy from 7.3 per cent in 2010-11 to 5.5 per cent in 2016-17. That will have a direct impact on the economy, Page’s report stresses. It projects the spending restraints and cutbacks will reduce economic output by 0.3 per cent this year, climbing to 0.88 per cent in 2014.
Canada’s economy, subsequently, will grow by only 1.6 per cent in 2013, eight tenths of a point less than forecast by the Bank of Canada and the private sector consensus. On the jobs front, restraint will result in about 18,000 fewer jobs this year than had there been no restraint, climbing to 108,000 fewer jobs in 2015. Most of the losses are due to Ottawa’s actions — including a reduction of 43,000 stemming directly from March’s spending reductions — although provincial restraint is also a factor. Unemployment, currently at 7.2 per cent, will climb to 7.9 per cent in 2013, the report predicts.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, February 24, 2012 at 5:16 PM - 0 Comments
Two weeks ago, Peter MacKay mocked Jack Harris’ attempts to explain to reporters the NDP’s position on a complicated matter. Today, perhaps having learned from Mr. Harris’ mistake, the Defence Minister opted to walk away from reporters seeking to ask him about his use of military personnel to defend himself.
On Friday morning, MacKay delivered a 20-minute speech to military officials and industry representatives at Ottawa’s Chateau Laurier before speed walking through the hotel, refusing to respond to the trail of reporters following behind.
The country’s top soldier, Gen. Walter Natynczyk, who was also attending the conference, said he was unaware of the specifics of the emails. He would not comment on whether military personnel had been inappropriately used for political purposes or whether an investigation would be launched.
By Alex Ballingall - Monday, February 20, 2012 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
Locals expect more from the military, who says poor weather conditions kept their helicopters grounded
As Burton Winters took his last breaths of frigid Atlantic air, marooned on an ice sheet off the Labrador coast, he must have scanned the sky for some sign that help might come. It didn’t. And the 14-year-old boy, a Junior Canadian Ranger from Makkovik, Labrador, froze to death in the snow.
Winters had been reported missing on Jan. 29, when he failed to return home on his snowmobile after dropping his cousin at their grandmother’s house. It was fully 48 hours before the Canadian Forces dispatched a helicopter. Three days later, his body was found; Winters had managed to trudge 19 km through the shifting ice and snow before ﬁnally collapsing.
The military claims poor weather in Makkovik kept them from sending a helicopter, but the response has been questioned by Winters’s family, local politicians and the public. Even if weather had allowed it, neither of the two helicopters stationed in Goose Bay, Labrador, could have made the flight due to maintenance issues, the Department of National Defence acknowledged last week. And private helicopters were able to launch a search, despite the weather.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, January 12, 2012 at 1:01 PM - 0 Comments
Within this story about efforts to deliver foreign aid in Haiti is an intriguing anecdote about Michaelle Jean’s role in the deployment of the Canadian Forces in the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake.
Two years ago, Ms. Jean, then governor-general, was having dinner with U.S. Ambassador David Jacobson at Rideau Hall when the earthquake struck. After working the phones, she managed to convince Canada’s Chief of the Defence Staff, Walter Natynczyk, to send help immediately instead of waiting for an official call from the Haitian authorities.
The Governor General does hold the title of commander-in-chief, but there is probably an interesting discussion to have about the precedents and implications of a Governor General getting involved in overseas deployments.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 1:12 PM - 33 Comments
After it was reported in September that he had been airlifted out of a fishing trip by a Canadian Forces helicopter, Defence Minister Peter MacKay was called to explain his actions in the House of Commons. His first response came to a question from Liberal MP Scott Simms.
Mr. Speaker, with respect to the question from the honourable member, I was in fact in Gander in July of 2010, on a personal visit with friends for which I paid. Three days into the visit I participated in a search and rescue demonstration with 103 Squadron of 9 Wing Gander. I shortened my stay by a day to take part in that demonstration and later flew on to do government business in Ontario.
The NDP’s Jack Harris asked the minister next and Mr. MacKay restated his version of events.
Mr. Speaker, I think I just explained that I shortened a personal visit to take part in a search and rescue demonstration in Gander.
By Aaron Wherry - Monday, October 31, 2011 at 9:30 AM - 1 Comment
The first death since the Canadian Forces transitioned to a training mission in Afghanistan prompts consideration of risk.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper says “significant risks” remain for Canadians serving as military trainers in Afghanistan. He made his comments Sunday after the death of a Canadian military trainer — the first since the training mission began earlier this year — who lost his life after his convoy was attacked by a suicide bomber. Nearly a year ago, when Harper committed Canadian troops to a three-year training mission in Kabul, he predicted it would pose “minimal risks for Canada.”
Last month, Canadian soldiers were involved in a firefight after an attack was launched against the US Embassy in Kabul.
Last year, the Prime Minister reversed course and ordered an extension to the military engagement in Afghanistan. Upon first addressing the matter in the House, he said the new mission would be “a training mission that will occur in classrooms behind the wire in bases.”
Consequently, he said a vote in Parliament wasn’t necessary. The Liberal opposition generally agreed. The NDP was not pleased. The House later debated and defeated a Bloc Quebecois motion that sought to “condemn the government’s decision to unilaterally extend the Canadian mission in Afghanistan until 2014.”
By macleans.ca - Monday, October 24, 2011 at 12:12 PM - 7 Comments
Spending curb part of government-wide effort to cut budgets
The Canadian Forces are set to cap membership at 68,000 troops, while the Defence Department and military are looking to sell off properties and shut down facilities, according to documents obtained by The Ottawa Citizen. The moves are part of the military’s plan to trim its budget between now and 2016. The Defence Department’s holdings include about half of all federally owned buildings, or 21,000 units—of which 318 are considered cultural and historic sites,—as well as 2.25 million hectares of land. Speaking with the Citizen, Liberal Sen. Colin Kenny said closures make sense, since some underused facilities are costing the government millions of dollars to keep open. He pointed to Newfoundland and Labrador’s Goose Bay site as an example. But he also called for financial compensation packages for the communities in which Defense Department facilities are to be closed.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 3:19 PM - 8 Comments
The Scene. Peter MacKay, as is his habit, was up before the questioner was even through. This is, presumably, what the Defence Minister does to demonstrate confidence. Or impatience. Or a general disregard for proper manners.
The poser of the question in this case was Scott Simms, the diminutive Liberal from Bonavist-Gander-Grand Falls-Windsor. “Mr. Speaker, we now know, with great regret, that the Minister of National Defence ordered his search and rescue helicopter to pick him up from his vacation on the Gander River,” he lamented. “The response is ‘It was a demonstration of their capabilities.’”
There was much groaning and grumbling from the government side.
“He feels that he is entitled to use vital life-saving equipment for his own personal limousine, and we would like for him to answer to it,” Mr. Simms continued. “The Prime Minister has suggested that the chief of defence staff pay back the money for his personal flights. Will the Minister of Defence do that same, pay back the $16,000 and apologize?”
As noted, Mr. MacKay was already up, apparently eager to state his case. Continue…
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 8:45 AM - 5 Comments
Defence Minister Peter MacKay apparently had one of Newfoundland’s three search-and-rescue helicopters dispatched to pick him up from a fishing trip.
MacKay’s office defended the move, saying it was an opportunity for the defence minister to see the helicopters’ search-and-rescue abilities up close. ”After cancelling previous efforts to demonstrate their search-and-rescue capabilities to Minister MacKay over the course of three years, the opportunity for a simulated search and rescue exercise finally presented itself in July of 2010,” a statement from MacKay’s office said. ”As such, Minister MacKay cut his personal trip to the area short to participate in this Cormorant exercise.”
However, military sources say no search-and-rescue demonstration was planned until the very day MacKay’s office made the request to pick him up.