The ex-husband of an Edmonton soldier who tried to kill their children eight years ago has filed a $11-million lawsuit against the federal justice department and military over how the investigation into the situation was handled.
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.
The Crown argued the mother was motivated to kill herself and the kids because she did not want to comply the court order giving custody to her ex-husband.
According to court proceedings and a statement of claim, the kids were supposed to be at summer camp at the time while their father was deployed to help fight wildfires in Saskatchewan in July 2015, but the mother pulled them out, took them to West Edmonton Mall for a day of fun before starting the fire at their military housing home the following day.
A statement of claim filed in federal court on March 24, 2023 alleges military police failed to investigate adequately despite repeated concerns being raised before and after the fire.
None of the claim has been proven in court.
The father is seeking $1 million from the federal government, for damages arising from its “breach of statutory and common law duties.”
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.
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, father argues it shouldn’t have taken so long for his ex-wife to be arrested and said the military police and investigation service failed to act, despite him approaching them several times asking for an investigation into the attempted murders.
During the trial, the court heard that initial military police investigations in 2015 and 2016 didn’t result in any charges.
The lawsuit alleges the father filed a complaint with the Canadian Forces Provost Marshall regarding the investigation, but it was closed on Dec. 11, 2017, and a letter suggested the complaint was unwarranted.
In February 2018, the father hired a lawyer to help him pursue private prosecution for attempted murder.
That summer, the mother was denied unsupervised access to her children by the family court, which determined “she was a risk to the children from the attempts on their lives and the subsequent psychological and emotional trauma of continued exposure to their mother who had tried to kill them.”
The lawsuit said military police and the investigative service continued to ignore these facts.
In October of that year, the father received the insurance company’s fire investigation report after filing a civil claim to have it released.
The lawsuit pleads that the father provided the Co-operators insurance company report — saying the fire was deliberately set with accelerants — to the military, but no action was taken to reopen the investigation.
It wasn’t until the legal case was launched in 2018 that military police and investigators began looking into the case again the following year, that charges were laid in September 2019.
In the time in between the fire at the Edmonton Garrison and the arrest, the father said he struggled and fought for his children’s safety, trying to prevent their mother from being alone with them.
In early 2020, the father was granted full decision-making and custody of his three children and the mother was denied any direct access to the kids — in person, written or otherwise.
On Feb. 24, 2023, the mother was convicted on all the charges.
The lawsuit alleges the father and children have suffered sustained mental and emotional trauma and the after-effects continue.
It 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 today.
It also says the father’s career ended early in 2015 because of the situation.
“(The father) will never be able to fully realize the career he had earned through this devoted and diligent service to his country, including but not limited to the loss of salary and pension entitlements,” the statement of claim said.
The lawsuit also noted the father incurred significant legal costs in his push for a criminal conviction and in his efforts to look after his children’s physical, psychological and emotional wellbeing.
The lawsuit said since the conviction two months ago, the department of defence and military have not taken any action to remedy the situation or compensate the family for the pain they endured the past nearly eight years.
The father is seeking the case be tried in Edmonton.
A statement of defence has not been submitted.
The Department of National Defence said because the matter is subject to litigation, it would be inappropriate for it to comment.
It also said the father’s release from the Canadian Armed Forces is still being processed.
The mother remains under house arrest until her sentencing hearing. A date has not been set for it.