Chairperson's Speaking Notes - Ottawa, March 10, 2015

Glenn M. Stannard, Chairperson
Military Police Complaints Commission

News conference to release
Final Report on the
Fynes Public Interest Hearing

Check against delivery

I would like to welcome you to our news conference and thank you for attending.

In particular I would like to thank all of the members of the media who are here today and who covered the Commission’s Public Interest Hearing into the Fynes complaint. In our democracy, the media play an important role in ensuring that our Government institutions are accountable to Canadians. Your attention to this case has helped keep it, and the important issues it raises, on the public agenda.

Today the Commission is releasing its Final Report on the Public Interest Hearing into investigations conducted following the death of Corporal Stuart Langridge.

According to evidence heard by the Commission, Stuart joined the Cadets at 12, and enrolled in the Reserves at 17. At age 21, he became a full-time member of the Canadian Forces, posted to the Lord Strathcona’s Horse Regiment.

Corporal Langridge deployed overseas twice, to the former Yugoslavia in the fall of 2002, and to Afghanistan in 2004. He was described by his commanders as a “very reliable soldier who completed all tasks given to him on time and to a high standard.”

In the period following his return from overseas, Cpl Langridge suffered from a number of medical issues. He displayed symptoms consistent with depression and anxiety, and struggled with alcohol and substance abuse issues. There were suggestions that he may have suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, but no formal determination was ever made. His mental and physical health continued to deteriorate, and he made several suicide attempts.

On March 15, 2008, he took his own life at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, or CFNIS, the branch of the Military Police that investigates serious crimes and other matters of a sensitive nature, conducted three separate investigations into matters connected to his death.

The first, in 2008, was intended to investigate his sudden death and to determine whether there were any grounds to suspect foul play.

The second, conducted in 2009, arose from complaints by Cpl Langridge’s parents, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, about a decision to give authority over Cpl Langridge’s funeral to someone else.

The third, in 2010, arose from allegations by the Fynes that members of the Canadian Forces were negligent in connection with his death.

In a complaint filed with the Commission in January 2011, Mr. and Mrs. Fynes alleged deficiencies with respect to each of these investigations. In all, they made a total of 39 allegations about the CFNIS. Their allegations can be grouped into three categories:

Because the Fynes’ complaints go to the core of military policing and raise issues of public interest and importance, the Commission convened a full Public Interest Hearing. The Hearing began on March 27, 2012 in Ottawa.

Based on the complaints, the Commission identified 13 members of the Military Police as subjects of the complaint. They had standing as Parties at the Hearing, as did Mr. and Mrs. Fynes, the Complainants.

The Public Interest Hearing was extensive. The Commission heard testimony from some 90 witnesses. Over 22,000 pages of documentary material were entered into evidence. The Commission received detailed written submissions from the Parties and heard oral closing submissions in January 2013.

In accordance with the procedure for Public Interest Hearings set out in the National Defence Act, the Commission prepared an Interim Report. As mandated by the National Defence Act, the Interim Report was submitted to the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, the head of the Military Police, on May 1, 2014.

Following delivery of the Commission’s Interim Report, the National Defence Act calls for the CFPM to prepare a Notice of Action. This document represents the Military Police’s response to the findings and recommendations in the Interim Report. After receiving the Notice of Action, the Commission is to prepare its Final Report.

In the current case, the CFPM delivered a Notice of Action to the Commission on December 16 2014. The document being released today is the Commission’s Final Report.

The Report is available in English and in French. Aside from the printed material that is included in your media kits, there is also a CD that contains a digital version of the 1008 page Report. In addition, the full Report is available on our website in both official languages.

The Report contains a preliminary section that provides an overview of the Report.

This is followed by a narrative section reviewing the facts leading up to Cpl Langridge’s suicide and its immediate aftermath, based on the evidence heard.

There then follow detailed sections examining each of the three investigations conducted by the CFNIS.

Based on the analysis in these sections, the Report then sets out the Commission’s findings with respect to the Complainants’ allegations. It then moves on to provide recommendations.

There is also a section in the Report that contains numerous blacked out pages. This is the section in which the Commission discusses in detail the Military Police’s responses to the findings and recommendations in the Report, as set out in the CFPM’s Notice of Action.

There are also numerous blacked out pages in the Appendices. This is where the Commission has included the complete text of the Notice of Action and some related correspondence.

In previous Public Interest Hearings Reports, the contents of the Notice of Action have been included in full. In this case, the CFPM had told the Commission not to publish the Notice of Action. The CFPM maintained a security designation for the Notice of Action called “Protected B”.

The impact has been to prevent the Commission from releasing the Notice of Action to the public or discussing the contents publicly in any detail. “Protected B” is an internal Government of Canada designation intended to prevent the publication of sensitive personal, private or business information where the publication could result in “grave injury.”

This position, which was maintained by the CFPM until this past Friday morning, has meant that the Final Report as published today does not include the text of the Military Police’s response to the Commission’s findings and recommendations or a detailed discussion by the Commission of the specifics of that response.

A change in the CFPM position has allowed the Commission to include, separately, with the media kits, copies of the Notice of Action and of the Chapter of the Final Report that discusses the Notice of Action in detail.

I will discuss the CFPM’s new position in a few moments. This issue should not obscure the Commission’s actual findings and recommendations as set out in the Final Report.

In terms of the findings in the Final Report, the Commission found that 15 of the allegations made by the Complainants were substantiated, 9 were substantiated in part and 15 were unsubstantiated.

In general, the Commission found significant deficiencies in each of the investigations conducted by the CFNIS.

The 2008 investigation was conducted without any apparent plan or direction, mostly due to the inexperience of the investigators. The 2009 investigation was conducted without a clear understanding of the nature of the complaint and without asking for necessary legal advice. As for the 2010 investigation, the CFNIS did not conduct any actual investigation, yet nevertheless felt able to conclude the Canadian Forces could not possibly have been culpably negligent in Cpl Langridge's death as Mr. Fynes had alleged.

The Commission also concluded there were unacceptable errors, reflecting lack of professionalism and/or lack of competence, in the way the Military Police interacted and communicated with the Fynes, particularly in connection with Cpl Langridge’s suicide note. The suicide note was wrongly withheld from the Fynes for 14 months. The reasons for this were never properly explained to them.

As to the Complainants’ allegations of bias and lack of independence, the Commission found that none of these were substantiated.

The Commission did not make any findings on a number of other issues that were mentioned from time to time in the testimony. Most notably, there are no findings in connection with whether or not Cpl Langridge in fact suffered from PTSD and whether that may have been a factor in his suicide. There are no findings as to whether or not the health care, protection or supervision offered to Cpl Langridge by the military was or was not adequate. There are no findings as to whether this did or did not contribute to his death.

These are matters no doubt of great concern to the Complainants. The Commission found that some of these matters should have been investigated by the Military Police and the failure to do so is one of the defects in the investigations the Military Police conducted. Otherwise, however, they are entirely outside of the mandate of the Commission to determine. The Commission’s Report focuses on the conduct of the Military Police in this case.

The Commission has made specific recommendations to address the deficiencies identified in its findings. Although the Commission did not substantiate any of the Complainants’ allegations of bias or lack of independence, the Commission made recommendations to strengthen Military Police independence and to improve the Military Police’s ability to demonstrate that independence.

The Commission’s recommendations include recommendations intended to ensure that:

As the Commission heard in the testimony of Cpl Langridge’s parents, one of their motivations in bringing their concerns to the Commission’s attention was to ensure that improvements are made in the way the Military Police deal with situations like this. That is also the goal of the Commission’s recommendations.

In the Notice of Action, the Military Police has, with a few minor exceptions either rejected or failed to respond to the Commission’s findings and recommendations.

The Military Police has no obligation to accept all, or even any, of the Commission’s findings or recommendations.

However, in the Commission’s view, the effect of the failure to respond to large numbers of the findings and recommendations is to frustrate a key purpose of the Notice of Action itself. It deprives the Parties and the public of information to which they are entitled.

The Parties and the public, as much as the Commission itself, are entitled to know how, if at all, the Military Police intends to implement the findings and recommendations. They need to be able to assess for themselves what, if anything, the Military Police has learnt from the matters complained about.

The Commission has also been especially concerned about the CFPM claim to be entitled to prevent or control publication of the Notice of Action. This claim appears to challenge the principles of transparency and accountability that are central to civilian oversight of the police.

For that reason, last week the Commission filed an Application for Judicial Review in the Federal Court of Canada asking the Court to rule that the Commission is entitled to publish the Notice of Action.

During previous exchanges, in a letter dated February 11, 2015, the CFPM had 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.

The new position communicated by the CFPM this past Friday removes the “Protected B” designation from the Notice of Action, effective as of the date of release of the Report. This allows the Commission now to distribute copies of the Notice of Action and of the previously blacked-out Chapter.

Importantly, however, the announced change in position leaves in place the CFPM’s claim to be entitled to control what the Commission can and cannot do with the Notice of Action, to impose various conditions on how the Notice of Action can or cannot be made public – or even to block publication entirely.

This is unacceptable. The Notice of Action is a statutory document the parties and the public are entitled to see in its entirety. The Commission believes the CFPM has no right to attempt to control whether, how or when the Notice of Action will be published.

The Commission will therefore continue with its Application to Federal Court to challenge the CFPM’s policy.

As for anything further arising from what is in the Report, the Report will have to stand on its own and speak for itself. I will not be taking any questions about the Report or its contents.

I urge you to read the Report itself. Lead Commission counsel Mark Freiman, and Commission counsel Genevieve Coutlée will be available to answer questions in English and in French.

Thank you.

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