POLITICS

Canadian Forces Failed Cpl. Stuart Langridge's Family, Report Finds

03/10/2015 01:45 EDT | Updated 05/10/2015 05:59 EDT
OTTAWA - For seven years, Sheila and Shaun Fynes fought against a military police bureaucracy that the commission probing their complaints now says had been systematically ignoring, disrespecting and misleading them.

That fight is far from over, Sheila Fynes declared Tuesday as she promised to keep digging into the suicide of her son, Cpl. Stuart Langridge — and to press the military into fixing the way it handles sudden death.

"We sincerely hope that this is not the end of our journey but rather the beginning of a fitting legacy for Stu," Fynes told a news conference on Parliament Hill.

Langridge, 28 — a veteran of Canada's war in Afghanistan — hanged himself in the Edmonton barracks in 2008, just days after being discharged from a military hospital despite having told doctors he'd rather die than return to the base.

Langridge, who was described as an asset to the military, struggled with addiction and potential post-traumatic stress disorder ever since his return from Afghanistan and had tried in the past to end his own life.

Three investigations were held after he died, but — frustrated by what they saw as incompetence and bias on the part of investigators — the Fynes filed a formal complaint to the military police complaints commission.

They sat through nearly every one of the resulting 62 days of public hearings into their complaints, travelling between Ottawa and their home in Victoria, B.C.

In his report released Tuesday, commissioner Glenn Stannard found that some of events the family cited didn't happen the way they remembered. He cleared military police of any bias or lack of independence on their part.

But they family still deserved better treatment, Stannard said.

"From the beginning of the 2008 investigation right through to the written briefing three years later, the Fynes were not treated by the (Canadian Forces National Investigations Service) with the respect and consideration they were entitled to receive," the report concluded.

"They were often ignored and the information provided to them was at best inadequate and at worst potentially misleading."

Among the issues raised were the fact the military didn't disclose that Langridge left a suicide note until 14 months after it was found. It said, among other things, that he wanted a family funeral rather than a full military funeral, which is what was held.

The military should have personally delivered the note, provided an immediate apology and made a concerted effort to find out what happened, but none of those things were done, the report said.

On Tuesday, there was an apology from the Canadian Forces provost marshal.

"On the matter of the suicide note, again, that was a mistake on the part of us that is unforgivable," said Col. Rob Delaney. "And I again offer a sincere apology to Mr. and Mrs. Fynes."

But until that apology is delivered personally — and there is evidence of real change in military procedure — Sheila Fynes said she has no hope of closure.

The military dismissed many of the report's recommendations; Delaney said Tuesday he continues to review others.

Meanwhile, the family still awaits the report on the first investigation into their son's death.

"My fear is we go home in a couple of days and they do what they always do — pull the covers up over their heads and wait for the story to disappear and move on to the next one and nothing really changes," Fynes said.

"And that's been the pattern so far. Our job is to make sure that doesn't happen."