OTTAWA - Sheila Fynes couldn't sleep most nights this summer, wondering whether she made the right decision in allowing a public inquiry to view a 34-minute military police video of her son's lifeless body hanging from a chin-up bar in his barracks.
The graphic, disturbing images of Cpl. Stuart Langridge, were never released to the news media, but the commission investigating the military's handling of his suicide played it in public, as part of a series of hearings last spring.
His mother and stepfather, Shaun Fynes, wrestled with the question of showing the video almost up until the day it was played.
"There are times when I think I've shared the most personal thing about Stuart's life and I hope, ... I hope it wasn't for nothing," said Sheila Fynes in an interview with The Canadian Press from her Victoria home.
Langridge hanged himself on March 15, 2008, and his body was left in place for four hours while investigators documented and searched through everything in the room.
The video sometimes zoomed in on his head and face. Federal lawyers representing the Defence Department argued in advance that if the video were to be shown, it would have to be in its entirety.
Sheila Fynes said that "at first, we said: No, we don't want anybody ever to see that."
"But then (after) discussions with our lawyer (and) between ourselves, we decided there would be no better way for the chair to understand our allegation of the total disrespect shown to Stuart in his death, than for him to see it."
After a pause, she added: "Was it the right decision? It keeps me awake at night."
Neither Sheila Fynes nor her husband were present when the video was played for the commission.
The Military Police Complaints Commission hearing into the Afghan vet's death resumes Wednesday, with testimony from Shaun Fynes.
In the coming weeks, the commission will put under the microscope not only the Defence Department's handling of the Langridge case, but also how it copes with soldiers suffering from mental illness and post-traumatic stress.
The inquiry also poses a political problem for the Harper government with Defence Minister Peter MacKay's refusal to hand over some internal documents to the military watchdog. That decision echoes a bruising fight with the commission previously over records relating to the treatment of Afghan prisoners.
The Defence Department refutes the claim Langridge suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, following a stint in Afghanistan. The doctor who made the diagnosis is soon to testify, along with military police investigators that are the subject of the complaint.
Langridge's family accuses members of the National Investigative Service of conducting an inadequate, biased investigation aimed at exonerating the Canadian Forces.
Sheila Fynes says the coming set of hearings "will get to the heart of the matter."
Thus far, testimony from the military contends that Langridge, who also served a tour in Bosnia, was a troubled young man with an addiction to alcohol and cocaine. One expert witness traced the problems as far back as Sheila Fynes' divorce from her son's father.
The military withheld Langridge's suicide note from his family for 14 months, something for which it has apologized.
Yet a jumble of contradictions and missteps were exposed in testimony last spring.
At first, it was claimed Langridge had been under a "suicide watch" prior to his death. But a fellow soldier who attended him refused to describe it that way, saying it was only "a watch."
Witnesses also testified that the military consulted the family about the formulation of policy for dealing with loved ones, something Sheila Fynes angrily denies.
"What has surprised me the most is the levels Justice (department) lawyers have gone to try and paint a very damning picture of our son. And some of the things that have been said by witnesses are so contradictory, and some of the things are just plain, flat-out, vile lies," she said.
Just as the hearings recessed in June, complaints commission chair Glenn Stannard asked for partial access to documents that relate to the Langridge case but were written after military police investigators had been in touch with Defence Department lawyers.
MacKay, in a terse response, refused the plea and told the chairman not to talk to contact him again directly, but instead go through Justice Department lawyers.
That has galvanized one veterans group, which released a letter to MacKay demanding he waive solicitor-client privilege.
"I was quite disillusioned when reading your letter of response, Minister MacKay, not only from a sense of empathy for the Fynes family but to those military policemen who have been accused, our brothers in arms who have been subject to great stress and long-term concerns about potential disciplinary-career consequences," wrote Mike Blais, president of Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
"You have an obligation to those that serve, sir, an obligation to accord to those who have been accused the opportunity to defend themselves with the full truth."Are you in crisis? Need help? In Canada, find links and numbers to 24-hour suicide crisis lines in your province here.
Start of War: Oct. 7, 2001
<em>American soldiers hide behind a barricade during an explosion, prior to fighting with Taliban forces November 26, 2001 at the fortress near Mazar-e-Sharif, northern Afghanistan. (Photo by Oleg Nikishin/Getty Images)</em>
Number of U.S. Troops in Afghanistan: 88,000
<em>US Marines with the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit deployed from the USS Bataan's Amphibious Ready Group arrive December 14, 2001 at an undisclosed location with field gear and weapons. (Photo by Johnny Bivera/Getty Images)</em>
Number of Troops at War's Peak
<em>U.S. Marines begin to form up their convoy at a staging area near Kandahar, Afghanistan, as they await orders to begin their trek to Kandahar to take control of the airfield 13 December, 2001. (DAVE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan at the war's peak: About 101,000 in 2010. Allies provided about 40,000.
<em>U.S. President Barack Obama delivers a televised address from the East Room of the White House on June 22, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais-Pool/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Withdrawal plans: 23,000 U.S. troops expected to come home by the end of the summer, leaving about 68,000 in Afghanistan. Most U.S. troops expected to be out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, though the U.S. is expected to maintain a sizeable force of military trainers and a civilian diplomatic corps.
Number of U.S. Casualties
<em>American flags, each one representing the 4,454 American soldiers killed in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, move in the breeze at The Christ Congregational United Church March 17, 2008 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Number of U.S. casualties: At least 1,828 members of the U.S. military killed as of Tuesday, according to an Associated Press count. According to the Defense Department, 15,786 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action.
Afghan Civilian Casualties
<em>Asan Bibi, 9, sits on a bench as burn cream is applied to her at Mirwais hospital October 13, 2009 Kandahar, Afghanistan. She, her sister and mother were badly burned when a helicopter fired into their tent in the middle of the night on October 3rd, according to their father. (Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Afghan civilian casualties: According to the United Nations, 11,864 civilians were killed in the conflict between 2007, when the U.N. began reporting statistics, and the end of 2011.
Cost of the War
<em>An Iraqi man counts money behind a pile of American dollars in his currency exchange bureau in Baghdad on April 11, 2012. (ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images)</em><br><br> Cost of the war: $443 billion from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2011, according to the Congressional Research Service.
Number of Times Obama Has Visited Afghanistan
<em>US President Barack Obama speaks to troops during a visit to Bagram Air Field on May 1, 2012 in Afghanistan. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images) </em><br><br> Number of times Obama has visited Afghanistan: 3 as president, including Tuesday, and 1 as a presidential candidate.