Tories under fire over suicide report
WATCH: After a damning report into how the military dealt with his death was released this week, his parents learned the military said their divorce contributed to his suicide. Jacques Bourbeau reports.
OTTAWA – The Harper government was under mounting pressure on Friday to release the uncensored version of an internal Defence Department report on the suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge and to say how it will overhaul the tarnished military police branch.
Both the political opposition and the family of Cpl. Stuart Langridge say stonewalling by Defence is unacceptable.
Sheila Fynes, the soldier’s mother, wants Defence Minister Jason Kenney to force the military to act.
“We implore the minister to exercise true and genuine political leadership to bring the military to purposeful actions,” Fynes said in a statement issued through her lawyer.
“Our sons and daughters serving in the military, our veterans and military families deserve respect, compassion and genuine care from the military establishment. They also richly deserve to have a military justice system whose standards are at least equal to those available in civil society.”
Speaking in Calgary, Kenney committed himself to meeting the family once he has reviewed a Military Police Complaints Commission report, which this week rebuked military investigators for their handling of Langridge’s suicide.
Col. Rob Delaney, the provost marshal or chief of police of the Forces, has refused to detail how he will address the commission’s findings. He has suggested the Langridge investigation was an isolated and outdated incident.
“How does that kind of response wash?” asked Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray. “It doesn’t wash. I think it’s a disgraceful response and it shows the organization is not taking this seriously. And I don’t see evidence that the government is taking this seriously.”
The military conducted a separate inquiry into the March 2008 suicide and a censored version of that report released this week blames Langridge and his parents’ divorce for his mental health issues and eventual death.
In the Commons on Friday, Kenney’s parliamentary secretary James Bezan said the military watchdog’s findings show what happened in this case is completely unacceptable, and “the inclusion of these remarks in the board of inquiry report is further evidence of how unacceptable it was.”
The minister was more measured, but still troubled by the military’s internal investigation, which largely focused on Langridge’s personality and personal history rather than potential problems with his care in the defence health system.
“If it in any way casts blame on the family for this tragic incident that’s deeply regrettable and I would look forward to an opportunity to meet with the Fynes family to express that personally,” Kenney told reporters.
The independent complaints commission conducted an exhaustive inquiry into claims that the suicide investigation was botched and that the military deliberately mishandled follow-ups in order to absolve itself of blame.
The commission was blunt in its assessment of the initial investigation and the handling of the case in general. But it found no evidence of bias, or deliberate cover-up, something Kenney noted.
“Well the report said not all of the allegations made against the military police were verifiable,” he said. “There was a great degree of incompetence and unacceptable behaviour on the part of military police who handled this case and that’s been identified in the report tabled this week.”
—With files from Bill Graveland in Calgary
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