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Langridge inquiry chairman tears up military investigator’s appeal for confidentiality

By Chris Cobb, The Ottawa CitizenJune 14, 2012

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/story_print.html?id=6784155&sponsor=


Canadian Forces ombudsman Pierre Daigle sent a lawyer to the Military Police Complaints Commission late last month to claim that forcing an investigator from his office to testify at the inquiry into the suicide of Afghan veteran Stuart Langridge could undermine the reputation of the ombudsman office.
Photograph by: Chris Wattie, Reuters


OTTAWA — In a scathing decision, the federal commissioner investigating the suicide of Afghan veteran Stuart Langridge has rejected an attempt by Canada’s embattled armed forces ombudsman to block testimony at the inquiry.

Ombudsman Pierre Daigle, who has been under fire over his travel expenses, sexist jokes and overall performance as ombudsman, sent a lawyer to the Military Police Complaints Commission late last month to claim that forcing an investigator from his office to testify could undermine the reputation of the ombudsman office.

The lawyer, Paul Déry-Goldberg, claimed the ombudsman had the legal right to solicitor-client confidentiality in the Langridge case. But in his decision, released Thursday, Complaints Commission chairman Glenn Stannard said the claim “makes no sense” and ordered investigator Patrick Martel to testify.

“This submission is entirely without merit,” he said.

The attempt by Daigle to prevent his investigator from testifying was a twist on the solicitor-client confidentiality that has figured prominently at the Langridge inquiry and resulted in Defence Department documents being withheld or censored.

Langridge, 28, hanged himself in March 2008. After receiving a complaint from his parents, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, about how the suicide investigation was being handled by military police, the ombudsman’s office sent Martel and another senior investigator to interview the couple at their home in Victoria.

The Fynes had waived all restrictions under solicitor-client privilege in their dealings with the ombudsman to allow Martel to testify, but Déry-Goldberg said that wasn’t enough.

Forcing the investigator to testify would “set a dangerous precedent, because all military ombudsman employees sign secrecy pledges to protect the confidentiality of people who come forward with complaints.

“It would be like putting them on Facebook,” he said.

Stannard disagreed.

“Such a conception of confidentiality privilege makes no sense,” he wrote. “By this argument, clients and patients could not consent to the release of confidential information without the independent consent of their lawyers or physicians.”

In a statement to the Citizen Thursday, Drapeau said Stannard’s decision would enhance public confidence in the inquiry.

“This decision speaks clearly to the steadfast quest for the truth guiding the Military Police Complaints Commission,” he said.

A spokesman for the military ombudsman said the decision had arrived late Thursday and was being reviewed by counsel.

A date as yet to be set for Martel’s testimony.

The inquiry continues on Monday.

ccobb@ottawacitizen.com

twitter.com/chrisicobb
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