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Watchdog to investigate military police handling of CFB Edmonton attempted murders

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh

After allegations of negligence on the part of the Canadian Armed Forces military police, the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) has launched an investigation into the aftermath of an Edmonton soldier trying to kill her children eight years ago.

Nobody in the family can be identified because of a publication ban protecting the children as underage victims of crime.

The mother was found guilty of three counts of attempted murder in February, after the court determined she deliberately set fire to her home at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Edmonton on July 20, 2015.

Click to play video: 'Edmonton soldier found guilty of trying to kill her children'
Edmonton soldier found guilty of trying to kill her children

On Monday, the Military Police Complaints Commission confirmed it launched a public interest investigation into a complaint over the military’s handling of the fire.

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It comes after the soldier’s ex-husband filed a $11-million lawsuit back in the spring against the federal justice department and military.

A statement of claim filed in federal court on March 24 alleges military police failed to investigate adequately despite repeated concerns being raised before and after the fire. None of the claims have been proven in court.

“There were concerns the fire at the residence of the complainant’s former spouse and their three young children had been deliberately set,” the MPCC said in a statement on its website on Monday.

The complaint alleged that the 2015-16 investigation conducted by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service Western Region into the fire was “not handled with professionalism or due diligence.”

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The complaint was found to be unsubstantiated following an initial review by the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal’s Office of Professional Standards, the MPCC said.

The complainant requested a review by the Military Police Complaints Commission in 2018. After reviewing the file, the Military Police Complaints Commission’s chairperson requested that the investigation be reopened by an outside police service, the organization said.

Following a reinvestigation into the case led by a seconded RCMP inspector, the soldier was charged with arson and several counts of attempted murder. Earlier this year in the Court of King’s Bench, the soldier was found guilty and convicted on all charges.

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The MPCC said it suspended its investigation into the complaint during the trial.

“The allegations in this complaint are serious,” said Military Police Complaints Commission chairperson Tammy Tremblay.

“If substantiated, they will amount to a failure to investigate a most serious criminal act, and one which had implications for the safety and the lives of young children.”

Tremblay went on to say the seriousness of the case is aggravated by the alleged failure of the Military Police Office of Professional Standards to notice any deficiencies when they reviewed the original Canadian Forces National Investigation Service Western Region investigations.

The father is seeking $1 million from the federal government for damages arising from its “breach of statutory and common law duties.”

Click to play video: 'Arson investigation concerns from ex-husband of Edmonton soldier who tried to kill her kids'
Arson investigation concerns from ex-husband of Edmonton soldier who tried to kill her kids

He is also suing both the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) for $5 million, for what he claims was a negligent investigation undertaken by the Military Police Service and the Canadian Armed Forces Investigation Service into the attempted murder of the children and arson.

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The Edmonton man is also seeking $5 million in punitive and/or exemplary damages, as well as special damages to be determined for future medical and out-of-pocket expenses, along with interest and legal expenses.

The father said years of investigations, questioning, court appearances and testimony have been tough on his kids — especially his sons, who the defence tried to blame for starting the fire.

In the statement of claim, the father argued it shouldn’t have taken so long for his ex-wife to be arrested and said the military police failed to act, despite him approaching them several times asking for an investigation into the attempted murders.

The lawsuit alleges the father and children have suffered sustained mental and emotional trauma and the after-effects continue.

“I tried to kill myself because my mother tried to kill me, so I thought I should be dead,” the woman’s son said in a written statement during sentencing this summer.

Click to play video: 'Mother sentenced to 10 years in prison for trying to kill kids in house fire'
Mother sentenced to 10 years in prison for trying to kill kids in house fire

The lawsuit said their entire lives changed because of the lack of investigation and conduct of the Canadian Armed Forces over the years between the fire and now.

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It also said the father’s own career in the military ended early in 2015 because of the situation.

His ex-wife was sentenced in July to serve 10 years in prison for her crimes but is appealing her conviction.

The Military Police Complaints Commission of Canada is an independent civilian oversight agency that aims to hold military police to account.

It reviews and investigates complaints concerning military police conduct and allegations of interference, akin to how the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team looks into serious incidents and allegations of misconduct among police officers in Alberta.

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