Backgrounder – Fynes Public Interest Hearing

Corporal (Cpl) Stuart Langridge

Stuart Langridge was born in Surrey, British Columbia on March 26, 1979. At the age of 12, he joined the Army Cadets; at 18, he enrolled in the Army Reserves. When he was 21, he became a fulltime member of the military and was posted to the Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) Regiment in Edmonton on June 1, 2000.

Corporal (Cpl) Langridge was a crewman, an armoured soldier who operated and maintained armoured fighting vehicles. He was deployed overseas twice. From October 2002 – April 2003, he was in the former Yugoslavia as a Coyote (armoured reconnaissance vehicle) driver in an infantry battle group. He served in Afghanistan as a Coyote gunner on a reconnaissance squadron from August 2004 – February 2005.

In December 2005, Cpl Langridge was described in military documents as being “dedicated, loyal and motivated” and a “definite asset to the CF.”

On March 15, 2008, after having struggled with severe health issues, Cpl Stuart Langridge committed suicide in his room at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

The Complaint

Cpl Langridge’s parents, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, maintain that their son was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder at the time of his death.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) conducted three investigations: the first, into the circumstances surrounding Cpl Langridge’s death; the second, regarding the decision to give authority over his funeral to the person recognized by the military as his common law spouse; the third, on whether the military chain of command and medical community were negligent in failing to provide him with appropriate medical treatment and care during the period leading up to his death.

In the years that followed, Sheila and Shaun Fynes became increasingly frustrated with the Canadian Forces’ lack of response to their repeated requests for information about the investigations. It was 14 months after their son’s death before they were told about a suicide note that had been found in their son’s room and had been seized by the Military Police as evidence.

On January 25, 2011, Sheila and Shaun Fynes filed a complaint with the Military Police Complaints Commission.

The 33 allegations they made have been grouped by the Commission into three categories, based on the type of issues complained about:

The Public Interest Hearing

On April 29, 2011, the Chair of the Commission, Glenn Stannard, made the decision to launch a Public Interest Investigation into the Fynes complaint. He wrote: “The possibility that a bias may exist – leading MPs to favour the CF Chain of Command in the conduct of their investigations or to feel in any way prevented from exposing information detrimental to the CF – goes to the core of military policing and of the MP’s ability to perform its important role. Even a perception that the MP lacks the necessary objectivity or independence to investigate the CF Chain of Command could negatively impact on public confidence in the MP.[…] For all of these reasons, I consider it advisable in the public interest […] to cause this Commission to conduct an investigation into this complaint and, if warranted, to hold a hearing.”

Within three months, Mr. Stannard formed the conclusion that it was desirable to continue the investigation into the complaint in the context of a Public Interest Hearing so as to ensure openness and transparency in the process.

In his decision letter, dated September 6, 2011, he wrote:

Openness is particularly important in light of the fact that these allegations themselves raise issues about transparency. Allegations that a failure to provide information was influenced by other CF interests or motivated by litigation concerns, and that MP members participated in efforts to justify CF actions instead of investigating them, by definition raise concerns about a possible lack of transparency in MP processes. As a result, the process used to shed light on this matter and determine whether these allegations are well founded should itself be open and transparent.”

The Public Interest Hearing (PIH) began on March 27, 2012. Over the course of 62 public hearing days, the MPCC heard evidence from 90 witnesses from across Canada and abroad. The MPCC heard final closing submissions by the parties on January 9, 2013.

Transcripts from the hearing totalled over 12,500 pages. In addition, the MPCC examined 1,699 documents totalling more than 22,000 pages of material entered as exhibits during the Hearing.

The Chair, who presided over the Hearing, reviewed and analyzed this evidence to prepare his report.

The Interim Report

The Chair prepared a two-volume Interim Report totalling 889 pages, with eight appendices comprising another 65 pages. The Interim Report included findings in relation to 39 allegations – three of the original 33 allegations were subsequently withdrawn, while others were divided in parts. The Interim Report also included 46 recommendations.

The Interim Report was submitted to the senior leadership of the Military Police, the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence on May 1, 2014.

The Notice of Action

More than seven months later, on December 16, 2014, the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal (CFPM) delivered to the MPCC the Notice of Action (NOA).

The 90-page NOA is the Military Police’s response to each of the Commission’s findings and recommendations.

In January 2015, the CFPM notified the Commission of a new policy that prevents publication of the NOA by maintaining a security designation of “Protected B” for that document. “Protected B” is an internal Government of Canada designation intended to prevent the publication of sensitive personal, private or business information whose publication could result in “grave injury.” A security designation of “Protected B” does not allow the Commission to release the NOA or to discuss the details of its contents publicly.

In previous Public Interest Hearings, the Commission had included the text of the Notice of Action in the Final Report, either by appending the NOA to its Report or by reproducing the words of the NOA verbatim within the Report. In this case, the NOA continued to bear a Protected B designation despite the Commission’s strong objections and notwithstanding extensive correspondence between the Chair and the CFPM’s office on the issue.

On February 11, 2015 the CFPM offered to lift the “Protected B” designation, but only if the Commission would agree not to publish the Notice of Action as an appendix to its Final Report. This was a condition the Commission could not accept.

As a result, on March 4, 2015, the Commission filed an Application for Judicial Review with the Federal Court of Canada challenging the jurisdiction of the CFPM to prevent or control publication of the NOA.

On Friday, March 6, 2015, the CFPM informed the Commission that it would lift the “Protected B” designation of the NOA effective as of the date of the release of the Final Report.

The decision to lift the “Protected B” designation only applies to the specifics of this case and is only effective as of the date of the release of the Report. The CFPM position continues in effect to assert a right for the CFPM to determine whether, how and when the Commission may publish a Notice of Action.

The Commission believes the new CFPM position continues to challenge principles fundamental to independent civilian oversight of the Military Police.

The Commission will therefore continue with its Application for Judicial Review to challenge this policy.

In the Final Report, the Commission states: “Accountability cannot be achieved where what is being done is not revealed,” and concludes that the attempt to prevent the publication of the Notice of Action in this case “frustrates the fundamental goals of independent civilian oversight.”

The Final Report

The Final Report is being released on March 10, 2015. It is a three-volume, 1,008-page report with nine appendices.

In addition to an overview, which sets out the context of the complaints and the content of the Report, the Report outlines the hearing process, contains a detailed narrative of Cpl Stuart Langridge’s life, and provides a comprehensive examination of the CFNIS investigations. The Commission’s 39 findings are included in the Final Report, as are its 46 recommendations. The Commission found 15 of the allegations to be substantiated; 15 unsubstantiated and nine substantiated in part.

Because of the timing of the CFPM’s announcement lifting the designation of the NOA as Protected B, 143 pages of the report – the detailed analysis of the NOA, the NOA itself and correspondence between the Chair and the office of the CFPM on the subject – continue to be completely redacted in the text being released. Copies of the NOA and of the detailed analysis are being distributed separately.

For more information about the Final Report and the Public Interest Hearing into the Fynes Complaint, visit the MPCC’s website at www.mpcc-cppm.gc.ca.

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