Conduct Case MPCC‑2012‑040 Summary
In 1984, as a new recruit in the Canadian Forces (CF), the complainant was taking part in basic infantry training (Battle School). He alleges that, as part of an initiation ritual that was common in the unit at the time, he was forced to leave his room in the barracks and to take off all his clothes. He was then tied naked to a chair in the corridor. Other members of the unit then made fun of him and mistreated him: they put a dirty mop on his head, they repeatedly inserted a mop or broom handle between his buttocks and legs from behind and put ice cream on his genitals.
The complainant further alleges that, in 1985, on the same base, he was accosted in the corridor by one of the two main participants in the previous incident. That individual grabbed his sweater and held him with his back against the wall for some time. His facial expression and his body language were threatening. The complainant stated that the attacker finally released him and told him to watch out, or something to that effect.
The complainant stated that those two incidents had a very negative and lasting effect on him. He started to consume alcohol to excess and to have suicidal thoughts. He also reported having been sexually assaulted at the age of 11 by a summer camp counsellor. He left the CF in 1988.
In 2006, having received psychological support and having recognized the true effect of those incidents on his life, the complainant reported the incidents at the Battle School to the police. The first report he made was to his local detachment of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). Since the alleged offences took place on Department of National Defence property, the RCMP decided to refer the matter to the military police (MP). They communicated with the closest detachment and came to the premises in October 2006.
The next day, given the seriousness of the allegations, the MP detachment transferred the complainant’s file to the Pacific Region office of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS). In November 2006, that office transferred it to the Eastern Region (ER) because of the location where the offences were committed.
The CFNIS decided to investigate the allegations of sexual assault with a weapon, unlawful confinement, assault and uttering threats. The investigation lasted four years (from 2006 to 2010). For the first two years, five CFNIS members were assigned to the investigation. For the last two years, a single investigator was responsible for the file. The CFNIS ER made contact with 18 of the complainant’s former Battle School classmates in order to verify their recollections of the incident. It conducted 13 interviews with 10 witnesses, including the 2 main suspects whom the complainant had implicated.
During the investigation, the CFNIS learned that the complainant had previously made contact with some of the witnesses, running the risk of tainting their recollections with his own. The CFNIS asked the complainant to cease that practice, but it seems that he continued to communicate with the witnesses before they were interviewed by the police.
The last CFNIS investigator responsible for the file presented the case to a military prosecutor in 2009.
The MP was bound by the law in effect at the time of the offences; it provided for a limitation period of three years in which charges had to be laid under the Code of Service Discipline. (That provision of the National Defence Act (NDA) has since been repealed.).
At the beginning of 2010, the case was presented to a civilian prosecutor in the province where the alleged offences took place. In that province, the decision to lay criminal charges lies with the prosecutors and not with the police. In this case, the prosecutor determined that a conviction was unlikely and decided not to lay charges under the Criminal Code. The CFNIS therefore decided to end the investigation and to close the file.
After considering the various legal options available, the complainant finally registered a complaint of misconduct with the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC). In his complaint, he alleges that the CFNIS investigation had been deliberately "botched" as part of a plot designed to protect the reputation of the unit involved in the initiation ritual gone wrong and of its former members.
After a thorough review of the complaint, the MPCC held that the CFNIS had taken the original criminal allegations seriously, contrary to the claims of the complainant. Many witnesses were located and questioned. The MP presented the case to a military prosecutor and to a civilian prosecutor. Military prosecution was ruled out because of the limitation period in effect under the NDA at the time when the offences allegedly occurred. As for the decision not to lay criminal charges in the civilian system, it must be remembered that, in the province in question, that decision lies with the prosecutors, not the MP.
Although some aspects could have been improved, the investigation is not as flawed as the complainant suggested. There is no evidence that the MP investigators deliberately caused the investigation to fail.
The MPCC noted that the evidence gathered during the CFNIS investigation (such as the recordings of the interviews) was destroyed about two and a half years after the MP investigation file was closed. This raises administrative and procedural questions. After investigating the matter, the MPCC concluded that the evidence was not destroyed with any malicious intent. However, the MPCC has established that other police services keep evidence in similar cases much longer. It therefore recommends that the CF MP Group (CF MP Gp) adopt policies that more closely match those of its civilian counterparts.
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