NEWS

Soldier impersonations 'all too common,' group says

11/14/2014 01:57 EST | Updated 01/14/2015 05:59 EST
A Canadian group that looks into cases of military impersonation says it is investigating about 135 cases similar to the story involving a Quebec man who pretended to be a soldier on Remembrance Day.

Ian White, a spokesman for Stolen Valour Canada, said the volunteer group has been inundated with phone calls after Franck Gervais appeared on a special CBC Remembrance Day broadcast from the National War Memorial in Ottawa. Gervais claimed to be a sergeant.

The Department of National Defence confirmed Gervais is not a member of the Canadian Forces.

"I would really like to say that I was surprised, however, this is becoming an all too common problem," White told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning. "It is, on the one hand, really encouraging that people are so appreciative of the military that they want to imitate us. On the other hand, it is insulting to the people who have earned those medals and decorations."

Ottawa police launched an investigation into the Gervais case on Thursday. His employer said Friday he has been suspended from his job with pay.

It is against the law for someone to falsely impersonate a member of the Canadian Forces, under Section 419 of the Criminal Code of Canada. 

No charges have been laid against Gervais.

'Emotional issue'

White said there has been "a lot of outrage" in the military community.

"This is an exceptionally emotional issue for veterans," White said. "They are outraged. They would like to see some action."

White said it can be difficult to get police to investigate people who may be impersonating soldiers.

"We have had difficulty getting the police attention to charge these people under Criminal Code of Canada Section 419," he said. "We are encouraged Ottawa police are investigating this."

White said his group uses public sources to look into potential cases.

"We don't have access to the official sources, so we do use open and public sources so the investigation process is very long and very frustrating," he said.

Gervais's wife told CBC News on Thursday that she and her husband have received death threats since the story made headlines. Regional police in west Quebec said a formal complaint has not been made by the couple. 

White said his group does not condone threats.

"It is certainly not something that Stolen Valour Canada supports or encourages or wants," he said. "We actually spend a lot of time getting our membership to move away from that sort of thing and get them working on a positive track to stop the behaviour and deal with it through proper channels."
 

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