POLITICS

Five things to know about the military police watchdog's report

03/10/2015 01:37 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - On Tuesday, the military police complaints commission released a long-awaited report into a series of complaints from the family of Cpl. Stuart Langridge about how the military handled its investigations into the young soldier's 2008 suicide.

Here are five things to know about the report:

1) It is about what the military did after Langridge hanged himself in the Edmonton barracks, not before. The commissioner was looking into 33 specific allegations from Langridge's family about three investigations into the death. Commissioner Glenn Stannard did not have jurisdiction to explore what led Langridge to suicide nor even if it could have been prevented, but concentrated on how the military handles suicide investigations.

2) The report concludes military police botched the job. Three investigations were carried out into Langridge's death: one was to investigate the suicide itself and whether there was foul play, the second came from complaints about how the soldier's funeral was handled and the third from allegations the Canadian Forces could be held responsible for their death. In all three, the commissioner found problems in the way military handled the task because of inexperience, inadequate supervision and faulty assumptions.

3) But if they made mistakes, they weren't on purpose. The family also alleged that the investigations were done to exonerate the military. But Stannard said that in order to prove that, the commission would have to find a conspiracy starting with front line investigators and going right up through the highest ranks. The evidence wasn't there.

4) That doesn't mean there isn't room for improvement. The report makes 46 recommendations, ranging from improved policies to deal with suicide notes to how briefings for the families should be handled and how investigators are trained. As part of the process of the complaints commission, the military gets to respond. They reject or do not discuss most of the report's findings. Among other things, they suggest the RCMP could be called in to review the investigations and they also note their experience in reviewing sudden deaths has improved over the years.

5) The story isn't over yet. While there is no obligation on the part of the military to accept the commission's findings, initially they refused to even publicly respond, declaring the reply too sensitive for public release. The commission went to court, arguing that withholding the response challenged principles fundamental to independent civilian oversight. The military backed down, but the court case continues.