Author Topic: MPCC Hearing Cpl Langridge suicide – Open letter to Minister of National Defens  (Read 4976 times)

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Mike Blais

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With all due respect...

MPCC Hearing Cpl Langridge suicide – Open letter to Minister of National Defense, Peter MacKay.

My name is Michael L Blais CD, I am the president and founder of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

I am contacting you today to express what I believe are very valid concerns about Commissioner Stannard’s ability to ensure justice is served in Military Police Complaint Commission’s hearing into tragic suicide of Corporal Stuart Langridge in 2008.  I trust that you might recall the brief conversation we shared about the MPCC Hearing on Anzac Day this past April, when Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney was kind enough to introduce us? As you know, the Canadian Veterans Advocacy has been providing ongoing humanitarian support to Mr and Mrs Fynes during what has truly been, I am sure that you will agree, a very traumatic ordeal. I have joined colleagues attending Mrs. Fynes over many sessions and when not present, keep apprised of the inquiry’s state through transcripts. While certainly not trained in the nuances of law, I have been nevertheless impressed at the level of professionalism demonstrated by Commissioner Stannard, the dedication of the commission’s legal staff and of course, Ms Richards and the Department of Justice contingent. After speaking with the commissioner and listening to preliminary arguments about client – solicitor privilege, I felt confident these issues would be resolved in good faith and unlike in past inquiries (Somalia- Detainee), the enormous expense of conducting inquiry’s at this level would be justified and corrective measures implemented to ensure this situation is never repeated.

I fear my confidence that justice will be served has been deeply shaken, Minister Mackay and now with your refusal to resolve the client-solicitor privilege issues that are plaguing the MPCC Hearing’s credibility, the elements essential for a qualified judgement have been unjustly suppressed.

Justice Suppressed, sir, is Justice Denied.

Commissioner Stannard, with what I believe is good faith, felt compelled to address this issue through a letter to your office this past June requesting that you waive client –solicitor privilege. His reasons have great weight, sir, the weight of jurisprudence, a sincere quest for the truth and a dedicated adherence to the course of Justice. I was quite hopeful that you would see the wisdom of the commissioner’s advice and with the same level of compassion expressed to me in our conversation in April, would take measures to resolve this justice-suppressing issue in a manner wherein the MPCC Hearing’s mandate could be attained in a dignified manner reflective of the somberness of the situation.

I was quite disillusioned when reading your letter of response, Minister Mackay, not only from a sense of empathy for the Fynes family but to those Military Policemen who have been accused, our bothers in arms who have been subject to great stress and long term concerns about potential disciplinary/career  consequences. You have an obligation to those that serve, Sir, an obligation to accord to those who have been accused the opportunity to defend themselves with the full truth, so that they might stand proud and true in defense, not muzzled and frankly, perception- discredited through refusals to answer questions that are so clearly relevant and/or crucial to the Hearings mandate. 

I would request, Minister Mackay, as a concerned Canadian who is sympathetic to a bereaved families extraordinary pain and need for closure, as a Canadian veteran who is cognizant of the sacred duty we have to those to whom we have passed the torch, to revisit this issue with an open heart and a willingness to seek a viable solution to this justice-denying impasse. I would encourage you, sir, to comply with Commissioner Stannard’s requests, to restore credibility to the MPCC by providing access to all the evidentiary materials he deems necessary to render true judgement.

Justice suppressed, sir, is justice denied. I fear that, as this time, under these circumstances, justice simply cannot prevail.

With all due respect.

Michael L Blais CD
President, Founder, Canadian Veterans Advocacy 

Mike Blais

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News Canada

DND’s shameful denials in soldier’s suicide

By Peter Worthington, QMI Agency

Thursday, September 13, 2012 9:29:21 EDT AM
Cpl. Stuart Langridge of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse armoured regiment in Afghanistan in an undated photo.

Cpl. Stuart Langridge of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse armoured regiment in Afghanistan in an undated photo.

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TORONTO - An added tragedy to the suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge in Edmonton barracks in 2008, is not that he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but that to the day he died he loved the army and relished being a soldier.

The statement in his suicide note that he could “no longer stand the pain,” probably reflected his emotional confusion of being an excellent soldier and liking the army, yet unraveling emotionally from what he’d seen and endured in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

To his mother, Sheila Fynes, this aspect “just breaks your heart.”

Also upsetting was that inexplicable errors were made in Langridge’s death certificate, his place of birth, the wrong next of kin, and other registration errors.

DND at first would not release the suicide note and absolved itself of blame or responsibility for errors made in the soldier’s death certificate.

In efforts to correct the record, Shaun and Sheila Fynes have sought the help of retired Col. Michel Drapeau, Canada’s top lawyer in military matters, who knows first hand the reluctance of DND to either admit or correct errors.

The Fynes have spent over $10,000 since 2008, in efforts to get DND to make corrections of original errors in their son’s death. They dropped a lawsuit, for fear it would look as if they were trying to profit from the death.

Instead, they want the record corrected — not much to ask, it would seem, since all the particulars about Cpl. Langridge would have had to come from DND, and not from the soldier’s girlfriend as DND has implied.

In life, the 28-year-old Langridge was a top athlete (Iron Man competitions) and a member of the Lord Strathcona’s Horse — arguably Canada’s best-known an armoured regiment.

PTSD is the mystery affliction of the military, both in Canada and the U.S. It can lie dormant in a person, to surface after the person has left the military. It can be triggered by something not necessarily related to military service.

That said, PTSD is still not well understood.

Drapeau notes that often there are symptoms, or signs of stress — drinking too much and, too often, taking various drugs — all of which were evident in Langridge when he returned to Canada. He sought treatment in hospitals and from the military.

Shaun Fynes, told the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) that his stepson “ping-ponged between provincial hospitals that didn’t want anything to do with him, and the (army) medical unit that didn’t know what to do with him.”

That’s the story of unknown numbers of PTSD soldiers.

Both Mrs. Fynes and Col. Drapeau note that there is almost a “tsunami of PTSD cases occurring, especially in the U.S.”

“In the army soldiers don’t dare talk about it, or seek treatment, for fear they’ll be identified as looney,” said Col. Drapeau. By its reluctance to be forthcoming in Langridge’s case, DND creates the impression that there was something shameful to hide.

To Sheila Fynes, the “pain” her son felt he could no longer live with, was that he loved the army “and he must of felt that he was not worthwhile as a soldier, and this was humiliating to him.” Suicide must have seemed his only option.

In fact, he was an excellent soldier and recognized as such in army assessments.

There’s since been suggestions by DND that he may have had mental problems before joining the army, some eight years before he died. That’s improbable. Anyone entering the army is screened before admission. Soldiers today are above average.

There are reports that the federal government has agreed to cover the family’s costs of legal representation before the MPCC inquiry.

One hopes so.


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Dear Mr. MacKay,

I write to you today with a profound sense of regret; you have chosen not to acknowledge my letter to you in which I, on behalf of the thousands of veterans I represent, asked you to cooperate with the Military Police Complaints Commission Chair, Mr. Glenn Stannard’s, request to waive the solicitor-client privilege obstructions which are, in the opinion of many, transforming the MPCC Hearing into multi-million dollar quagmire of injustice.

This is not acceptable, sir. Nor does it reflect the obligation to the truth that you, as a parliamentarian and the Minister of National Defence, have to the family Cpl Stuart Langridge and, equally important, the obligation you have to the military policemen accused.

I represent thousands of veterans, sir, and we too have a sacred obligation to those to whom we have passed the torch and the families who have sacrificed Canada’s sons or daughters during the war in Afghanistan. Mr. and Mrs. Fynes deserve the truth, not volumes of redacted evidence and witnesses muzzled from speaking through the ever-present, justice-obstructive mechanism of solicitor-client privilege.

Accordingly, Minister MacKay, we will be exercising our right to public assembly and plan to protest the disrespectful manner in which this government has treated this Memorial Cross Mother and Father and the restrictions this government has placed upon the defence of the military police.

On the mornings of September 19-20th, from 0800 to 0930 hours, we will assemble in front of the MPCC Building on 270 Albert Street to draw public attention to the severe consequences your refusal to waive solicitor-client privilege is having on the transparency and efficacy of the Commission’s proceedings.

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Michael L. Blais, CD
Founder & President

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Lead military investigator rebuked at inquiry into soldier's suicide
By Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press September 14, 2012 5:40 PM

OTTAWA - Piercing, uncomfortable moments of silence filled the air Friday as the chairman of a military watchdog agency rebuked and lectured the Canadian Forces investigator who probed the 2008 suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge.

Glenn Stannard, a former police chief, systematically ripped apart some of Sgt. Matthew Ritco's most important assumptions about the Langridge's death — perceptions that it turns out shaped almost the entire investigation.

"You're a police officer ... Stuart Langridge was counting on you investigating," Stannard told Ritco at the end of a 20-minute barrage of pointed questions and clarification that at times bordered on a stern lecture.

That observation prompted Langridge's mother, Sheila Fynes, to drop her glasses and burst into tears.

"In all of your training, did you ever hear the phrase, or hear the phrase from anybody — from your mother to police training — 'Treat others the way you want to be treated?' Stannard said, looking directly at Ritco.

"Do you think that happened here?"

Throughout almost two complete days of testimony, Ritco defended and apologized for some of the most egregious mistakes in the investigation, most notably his decision to withhold Langridge's suicide note from the family for 14 months.

Ritco explained he felt he was handling evidence and didn't want to rule out foul play too quickly.

He said he treated the March 2008 death as a possible homicide until he was convinced beyond a shadow of doubt — three months later — that Langridge, a troubled veteran of military action in Bosnia and Afghanistan, had indeed died by his own hand.

The repeated assertion left Stannard incredulous.

"The issue of suicide could potentially have been determined long before the date of June," the chairman said. "The issue of whether Stuart Langridge hanged himself could have been concluded much sooner."

Stannard led the rookie investigator through evidence at the scene, including a door locked from the inside, no signs of forced entry or a struggle, a suicide note, the coroner's statement that it was a "classic suicide," and the position and condition of the body.

When put on the spot by Stannard, Ritco had trouble recounting the textbook definition of lividity — post-mortem discolouration of the skin — and what it tells investigators.

"Given that it was my first suicide ... " the military cop began to say.

Stannard quickly shut him down. "I don't care if it your first or your 50th."

The uncomfortable, at times painful, exchange was punctuated by long moments of awkward silence.

"I did not intentionally try to do any harm to anyone here, sir," Ritco said at one point.

The Military Police Complaints Commission is examining whether military police conducted a biased investigation into Langridge's death, setting out from the beginning to smear the troubled soldier whose drug and alcohol problems had seen him in and out of hospital.

Inquiry lawyers separately delved into other aspects of how Ritco handled the case, questioning why he didn't interview Langridge's ex-girlfriend, who testified she'd been assured that Langridge had been placed on suicide watch.

Ritco said he and his case supervisor decided not to talk to her, even though she was initially listed as an important witness.

Ritco was also questioned about the fact his final report on the death was heavily rewritten and censored.

On Thursday, he said "direction that came down from higher" to create two case summary files — one written by him, and another rewritten version to be delivered to the chain of command, including Langridge's commanding officer.

The final draft removed all but one reference to the victim having been on suicide watch before his death, an important point in the question of whether the military was negligent in handling Langridge's case.

If Langridge had died while under such strict supervision, it would have obliged military police to open a criminal negligence investigation.

Ritco had earlier testified that he had "issues" with his name being on the second version of the report, given that two other people worked on it, but he backed away from his initial remarks as the inquiry resumed Friday.

He told the inquiry that he stands by both versions of the report as a fair representation of his investigation.

"My only concern was ... just by my name being on the top of that text box; not the content, just the name," he said.

Military police did not initially look at whether members of the Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians) regiment were culpable — something the family has insisted should have been done from the outset.

Ritco's confrontation with Stannard wasn't the only source of drama Friday.

A last-minute witness was added to the list of those scheduled to testify, prompting a flurry of objections from federal lawyers.

Mark Freiman, who represents the complaints commission, said Kirk Lackie, a personal friend of Langridge, came forward to declare he has something relevant to add to the investigation.

Justice Department attorney Elizabeth Richards said bringing in a surprise witness may not be fair to the military investigators who conducted the probe.

Richards said she's also concerned because the witness has a criminal record and the Crown knows little about him.

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Langridge suicide note could have been forgery, investigator says
CBC News
Posted: Sep 13, 2012 3:51 PM ET
Last Updated: Sep 13, 2012 10:50 PM ET

Military investigator pressed about Langridge suicide watch

The lead investigator examining the 2008 suicide of Cpl. Stuart Langridge says he kept a suicide note from Langridge's family because he considered it evidence that might have helped determine whether the death by hanging could have been foul play.

Sgt. Matthew Ritco, of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, told a Military Police Complaints Commission inquiry Thursday the note could have had fingerprints or DNA, although the note was never forensically examined.

Langridge hanged himself at his CFB Edmonton barracks in March 2008.

In the note found near his body, Langridge asked for a simple funeral, "just family," but because the note wasn't disclosed, a decision was made to give him a large military funeral. The suicide note, addressed to his parents, Shaun and Sheila Fynes, was held in various lockers at the base for 14 months.

The inquiry is hearing a complaint brought by the Fynes that the military mishandled its investigation into Langridge's suicide.

Ritco said that the provincial medical examiner gave an opinion almost right away that Langridge's death was the result of suicide.

Ritco didn't come to his own conclusion that the death was a suicide until the end of May, two and a half months later. He said he doesn’t know why the suicide note wasn't given to Langridge's parents at that time, instead of more than a year later.
Decision to keep note from family

In a tense couple of moments, as MPCC Chair Glenn Stannard, a former police chief, listened intently, Ritco explained he had to consider the note might be a forgery, and so to reveal even the contents of the note to Langridge's parents was risky.

"What if he didn't write it?" Ritco said. "I'd feel really really bad, and horrible, if I told the family, 'yeah we found the suicide note, and this is what your son had said,' only to find out that my investigation showed that is was foul play and someone else had written that, and I'd have to go back to the family, and say, 'you know what, I made a mistake. It wasn't your son's writing, it wasn't your son's suicide note.'

"So, as a police officer, it's a judgment call."

Mark Freiman, the MPCC's lawyer, asked if any harm would have been done by telling the family the note could possibly be a forgery, but letting them know its contents so they could decide whether to follow the instructions for the funeral.

"Looking back at it in hindsight, no. But at the time during my investigation back in 2008 we didn't have a policy to state that that was one of my options," Ritco answered.

"What was the policy?" Freiman asked.

"The policy for suicide notes? There wasn't one," said Ritco. He said he understands that the military has since developed a policy about giving suicide notes to family members.

Ritco testified that he had never been involved in a sudden death case when he became the lead investigator in Langridge's suicide.

Ritco will testify for another full day tomorrow. He is one of 13 members of military police in CFNIS who are the subjects of the Fynes' complaint at the MPCC.

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‘Stuart Langridge was counting on you,’ inquiry chief tells military cop
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2012, 08:05:47 PM »
‘Stuart Langridge was counting on you,’ inquiry chief tells military cop

By CHRIS COBB, Ottawa Citizen September 14, 2012 8:01 PM

A handout photo shows Cpl. Stuart Langridge taking a break in Afghanistan during a 2004-2005 deployment with the Canadian Forces.
A handout photo shows Cpl. Stuart Langridge taking a break in Afghanistan during a 2004-2005 deployment with the Canadian Forces.

OTTAWA — The chairman of a federal inquiry into the suicide of Afghanistan war veteran Stuart Langridge told the chief military investigator in the case Friday that he had no valid reason to have kept the soldier’s suicide note from Langridge’s grieving parents.

“In all your training did you ever hear the phrase — or from anyone, your mother — ‘treat others as you would like to be treated?” Glenn Stannard asked military cop Sgt. Matthew Ritco.

“Yes, sir,” responded Ritco.

“Did that happen here?”

“I did not intentionally try to do any harm to anyone, sir,” responded Ritco.

Ritco had testified that he held onto the suicide note, and kept it from Langridge’s parents, because he was operating with “an open mind” and initially investigating the possibility that Langridge had been murdered.

But he also admitted that along with all but one piece of potential evidence, he did not have the note tested for fingerprints or DNA.

The suicide note, in which Langridge asked for a simple family funeral, was locked and forgotten in a CFB Edmonton locker for 14 months.

In the meantime, Langridge’s parents agreed that their son should receive a full military funeral, unaware that he had requested a simple family service.

“(Could) the issue of whether Stuart Langridge hung himself been concluded much sooner?” Stannard asked Ritco.

“Looking back now, yes,” replied the military police officer.

“Could you have then addressed the wishes of Stuart Langridge for a family funeral?”

Ritco replied that it was “hard to say.”

“Was there anything that prohibited you from making that determination (of suicide)?” asked Stannard.

“Not that I know of,” he said.

Under intense questioning from the former Windsor police chief, Ritco agreed that he had completed all the interviews and had all the evidence necessary to determine Langridge hanged himself almost a week before the soldier’s funeral.

Ritco also agreed that there were no signs in Langridge’s room of homicide — no forced entry, no sign of trauma to his body, no sign of disturbance inside the room — and he had a suicide note, a statement from a coroner that it was ‘classic suicide’ and statements from those familiar with Langridge that he had attempted suicide before.

Ritco previously testified that he had to consider whether the suicide note was forged and the possibility that 28-year-old Langridge was murdered and hanged in his barracks room to cover up the crime.

Despite the need to determine whether the note was genuine, he said he did not have it tested.

“If you tested that note and found that only Stuart Langridge’s prints were on that note what would that tell you?” asked Stannard.

“That he possibly could have written that note,” replied the police officer.

“You’re police officer,” said Stannard. “You’re the last guy. You’re it. Stuart Langridge was counting on you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“You are an investigator,” continued the commission chairman. “You are challenged to look at evidence. Was there anything there that led you to believe that Stuart Langridge did anything but hang himself based on what you saw?”

“I’m not going to make that assumption.”

Ritco said all the major decisions he made — including withholding the suicide note — were done in consultation with his superiors.

“I can make a decision but I wouldn’t make a decision unless I cleared it through my chain of command,” he said.

Langridge hanged himself on March 15, 2008 at CFB Edmonton after a long struggle with alcohol and drugs. He was buried 10 days later.

A psychologist testified earlier this week that Langridge was likely suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder but the military insist his problems were caused by his drug and alcohol abuse.

Ritco — on his first sudden death investigation — completed his report by the end of May 2008 but agreed that he could have separated the definite determination of suicide from the remainder of his investigation.

Langridge’s parents claim the NIS investigation was biased in favour of the military and have lodged complaints against 13 NIS investigators.

In shocking testimony Thursday, Ritco confirmed that his initial case summary had been slashed and censored by his superiors who eliminated some observations that would have proved troublesome for Langridge’s superiors at the Edmonton base.

The policeman also apologized for his role in withholding the suicide note — the first and only member of the military, so far, to do so.

“As the lead investigator I have to bear part of the responsibility on that. It should have been returned but it wasn’t. It’s not that we intentionally didn’t return it, it fell through the cracks and for that I’m sorry,” he said.

“There is no family that should have to grieve the death of their son along with not knowing there was a suicide note written by their son.”

Stannard told Ritco at the end of his testimony that he appreciated he was inexperienced at the time of the investigation.

“I accept that nothing you did was done out of any malice,” he said. “I accept your word.”

The inquiry continues Tuesday.

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Mike Blais

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Bear in mind, there is no need for Client -Solicitor privilege as the Fynes have formally waived their right to sue in order that justice may be served. There is no, as I understand it, legal reason to support this restrictive mandate. I would also note that the response came AFTER the hearings last witness had spoken. How can justice be served when the commissioner, who is to decide, is being deliberately denied access to the information he needs? 

Lest we forget.


Dear Mr. Blais:

Thank you for your email of August 31, 2012, concerning the Military
Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) Fynes Public Interest Hearing.

You refer to my letter of June 21, 2012, to the MPCC Chairperson, which
responds to his request that I waive solicitor-client privilege in
respect of legal advice provided by departmental legal advisors in
matters relating to the unfortunate death of Corporal Stuart Langridge.
In my letter to the Chairperson, I explain why I must decline his
unusual and exceptional request for a waiver. I have attached a copy of
this letter for your information.

You suggest that a failure to waive solicitor-client privilege in the
Fynes Public Interest Hearing may impede justice. As I indicate in my
letter to the Chairperson, the protection of solicitor-client privilege
is of fundamental importance to the administration of justice in Canada.

I am truly concerned about our veterans, and I am deeply sympathetic to
Mr. and Mrs. Fynes's loss. Nevertheless, as a Minister of the Crown, I
must remain guided by principle. The protection of solicitor-client
privilege is of fundamental importance to the administration of justice.
As I indicate in my letter to the Chairperson, it is the intent of
Parliament that the MPCC can and should accomplish its mandate without
access to privileged communications between lawyers and clients.

I trust that this is of assistance, and thank you again for writing.


Peter MacKay
Minister of National Defence