BRITISH COLUMBIA

Greg Matters, RCMP Shooting Victim, Was Veteran With PTSD

09/13/2012 11:20 EDT | Updated 07/04/2013 06:13 EDT
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PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. - A man fatally shot at his home in a confrontation with RCMP in Prince George, B.C., was a veteran of the Bosnian conflict who was finally getting treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, says his family.

Greg Matters was a soldier for 15 years, his sister, Tracey, told reporters on Thursday.

He left the Canadian Forces in 2009 and after he returned to his home town in northern British Columbia it became clear to those who loved him that Matters was suffering from PTSD, she said.

"There was a delay in him getting treatment," said his sister, who returned to Canada from Australia after learning her brother was dead.

"We actually, as a family, suspected he had post-traumatic stress disorder and we sought treatment independently."

About a year and half ago, he began treatment at the Operational Stress Injury clinic in Vancouver, one of nine across Canada funded by Veterans Affairs.

"He was just back to the good old Greg that I knew 20 years ago," Tracey Matters said in a telephone interview with reporters. "He was an absolute riot. I loved him to bits.

"He was a decorated veteran suffering from PTSD but was making amazing success; he was improving dramatically."

But on Monday, an RCMP emergency response team was deployed to a rural property near Prince George, about 750 kilometres north of Vancouver, where a confrontation ensued, and 40-year-old Matters was fatally shot by police.

His family said there are many questions they want answered about his death, including why police used lethal force on a man on his own property when the family has been told Matters was not armed.

"Why wasn't my brother allowed to talk to his doctor, his mother or family friends during the standoff when this was requested?" she asked. "Why was an emergency response team deployed in the first place?

"And most importantly, why is my brother no longer with us?

Tracey Matters said her brother's doctor never considered him a threat to anyone.

In the hours before the fatal confrontation, Greg Matters sent a series of emails to the local newspaper, the Prince George Citizen, that mentioned his mental health struggles and his military service. He wrote of a dispute with his brother at his mother's home on the weekend, and a belief that RCMP were out to hurt him.

"This all goes back so much — the police wishing to hurt me — why do people want to hurt me — I did nothing wrong but protect myself and more importantly my mother and property," Matters wrote to the Citizen in an email time-stamped 11:04 a.m. on Monday.

Matters said her brother was taking university courses via correspondence and was planning a trip to Australia to visit her this Christmas.

British Columbia's new Independent Investigations Office is looking into the shooting, and Matters said she has confidence in that investigation.

The issue of post-traumatic stress within the ranks has been a struggle for the Canadian Forces, and has only grown worse with the return of soldiers who served in Afghanistan.

It's a central theme at a Military Police Complaints Commission review currently taking place into the 2008 suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

Two days after Matters was shot, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced $11.4 million to hire 51 additional psychiatrists, psychologists, mental-health nurses, social workers and addictions counsellors at bases across the country. The funds are in addition to the $38.6 million spent annually on the mental-health needs of personnel.

- By Dene Moore in Vancouver

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version contained a statement wrongly attributed to Tracey Matters.