He retired last week after serving roughly five years as head of the Military Police Complaints Commission. Stannard delayed his retirement to complete the commission’s inquiry into the 2008 hanging death of Canadian Army Cpl. Stuart Langridge.
His final report, issued earlier this month, delivered a sharp rebuke to the military and its handling of the investigation into the corporal’s death. Stannard determined military police botched three investigations through a series of what he called "unacceptable errors."
An entire bookshelf in Stannard’s office in downtown Ottawa is filled with documents from that inquiry. Sitting behind his desk on Friday, his last day on the job, Stannard reflected on the Langridge case and why he decided to see it through to the end before leaving his job for good.
“It was a matter that I had committed to finish,” he said.
“Obviously, not to do it would be a failure on my part.”
Before joining the Military Police Complaints Commission, Stannard served with the Windsor Police Service for nearly four decades, including eight years as chief. One of the criticisms he levelled at military police investigators in the Langridge case is that they lacked the experience necessary to carry out a thorough inquiry into a sudden death.
In his report, Stannard recommended the military allow civilian police to lead investigations into fatalities within the military, at least until military investigators could acquire the experience and expertise to do it on their own. It’s still an issue for Stannard as he leaves his role as commission chair.
“Military police don’t have the same opportunities for the breadth of experience on the bases that maybe some of the civilian police have,” Stannard said.
“Civilian police may have more opportunity to deal with more serious crime, more opportunity to deal with volumes of crime versus what happens on the bases.”
In the Langridge case, the complaints commission was highly critical of military police and the Canadian Forces provost marshal, Col. Rob Delaney, for rejecting many of the commission’s recommendations. Delaney at first tried to block the release of its official response to the report altogether. Stannard said he was able to meet with Delaney during his final week on the job to discuss his concerns. The results of the meeting, though, were inconclusive.
“The provost marshal has provided me with — I don’t know whether you want to call it assurances — but he’s provided me the comments that he is looking at the recommendations,” Stannard said.
While the inquiry into the death of Langridge was the last major investigation on Stannard’s watch, it is not the only high profile case he has overseen.
Stannard also led an inquiry into military police involvement in the transfer of detainees in Afghanistan. That inquiry looked at whether military investigators should have done more to prevent possible torture of those prisoners at the hands of Afghan authorities. Stannard’s final report found investigators acted appropriately. But it slammed the federal government for attempting to delay or block key evidence in the case.
As he retires, Stannard is underlining the importance of independent watchdog agencies like the one he led; a pertinent issue as parliament debates Bill C-51, the government’s anti-terror legislation. Stannard says oversight is always vital. He disagrees, however, with some critics of the bill who have called for Members of Parliament to watch over Canada’s security agencies, saying that role should be kept free of politics.
Stannard said he is returning to his hometown of Windsor, Ont., for his retirement.
The Military Police Complaints Commission has named Michel Seguin, a former member of the RCMP, as its new interim chair.