ARCHIVED - Minister Responds to Ombudsman's Call for Action

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August 20, 2010

Mr. Pierre Daigle
Ombudsman for the Department of
National Defence and the Canadian Forces
100 Metcalfe Street, 12th Floor
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1

Dear Mr. Daigle:

Thank you for your letter of April 9, 2010, concerning the treatment of families of deceased Canadian Forces members, and please accept my apology for this delay in responding.

I agree that dignity and respect should be the cornerstones of our involvement with military families, especially those who have suffered the loss of a family member.

Your 2005 report, When a Soldier Falls, has prompted many changes to the investigative process used when a military member dies. These changes have included the stand-up of the Administrative Investigation Support Centre, mandatory and standardized training for all Boards of Inquiry (BOIs) , the inclusion of family members in the BOI process, the provision of briefings on findings and recommendations to the families, and the provision of reports (severed as required) to the families once signed by the Approving Authority. However, as you can appreciate, this will be a continuous process of refinement and improvement in order to offer the best for families involved as well as to streamline the process overall.

Please note that the Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff (VCDS) has been tasked with investigating the specifics on each of the cases highlighted in your letter. Until I receive his final recommendations I offer the following points for your information:

Master Corporal Mark Allen

The original Summary Investigation (SI) at 19 Wing Comox was initiated on December 22, 2008, and submitted to 1 Canadian Air Division in June 2009. After this, new evidence was introduced, specifically that the member was receiving pension benefits before his death. As this information was not considered by the investigation team, the SI was returned to the Wing (April 8, 2010) to investigate if this new information could affect the determination as to whether or not the death was attributable to military service. This unfortunately caused delays in finalizing the investigation, but was required to ensure that the findings and recommendations accurately reflected the circumstances of the member’s death. The outcome may affect pension benefits granted to the spouse as a result of possible causal effects.

Colonel Michel Lalumière, Wing Commander of 19 Wing, recently met with Mrs. Allen and her appointed Assisting Officer in order to summarize the reasons for the delays and provide an update on the investigation. Further, Colonel Lalumière outlined his plan to provide additional monthly updates to Mrs. Allen until the file is completed. 

Corporal Steve Gibson

The BOI was reviewed by the Chief of the Land Staff (CLS) and approved by the Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) on December 21, 2005. However, due to the ongoing litigation at the time, a copy of the report was not provided until June 2008. Of note, copies of the annexes, including testimony, are not part of this release of information. Current direction on BOIs is to ensure that families get copies of the main report as well as briefings on the findings and recommendations, but this does not extend to all annexes and testimony. Although requests can be made for the information, these will be subject to the rules and regulations of the Access to Information Act (AIA) and the Privacy Act (PA). In this particular case, I will support the provision of information, but only as permissible under the AIA and the PA. As such, the Chief of the Land Staff/G1 staff will contact the family to discuss their request for further information.

Officer Cadet Joe Grozelle

In December 2007 the Commander of the Canadian Defence Academy directed that a BOI be convened and the Convening Order was signed on January 8, 2008. This delay resulted from the need to de-conflict with the other ongoing investigations (e.g., the Ontario Provincial Police and Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigations and the Ontario Coroner’s Inquest). As is practice, a BOI is not convened until such time as other investigations are complete. This ensures no conflict between investigations, and witnesses, and allows access to information from these other investigations.

In terms of treatment of the Grozelle family, Mr. and Mrs. Grozelle have very much been a part of the BOI from the start. They received numerous opportunities to participate in the process, opportunities considered unique to BOIs. They were informed shortly after receipt of the Convening Order as to what the process would entail, and they were invited to attend the proceedings (i.e., when witness testimony was being collected). The Board also took great care to schedule interviews to allow the complete participation of the family. Additional courtesies to Mr. and Mrs. Grozelle included the opportunity for them to submit interview questions to the Board prior to witness testimony as well as provide additional witness questions for consideration by the Board during interview breaks. The Grozelle family was also given, and accepted, the opportunity to provide a “family statement” to be included as an annex to the Board report. The family also had direct and unlimited access to all Board members to ask questions and seek clarification on any Board processes.

Recent and upcoming Board progress dates are as follows:

  1. The Board completed and submitted its report to the Administrative Investigation Support Centre for review on July 13, 2009; 
  2. The final Board report was submitted to the Convening Authority for review, and shortly afterward the report was forwarded to the Chief of Military Personnel (CMP) on October 16, 2009; 
  3. The Board received additional feedback from a CMP-level legal review on April 7, 2010; and 
  4. The Board has adjusted the report and re-submitted it to CMP for review. Officer Cadet Grozelle’s BOI was signed by the CDS in early July; however, when it was forwarded to the Office of the Minister of National Defence for review, it was sent back to CMP with questions. These questions were researched and the VCDS was briefed on July 23. The Minister’s office was re-briefed on August 3, and the Grozelle family was briefed on August 13.

Corporal Stuart Langridge

There were initial difficulties in the stand-up of the BOI that resulted in delays to the investigation. Once initiated, the report was completed and delivered to the Convening Authority on July 16, 2009. The report is now in the CDS office under review. However, as a result of the initial delays at the parent unit, a further SI was ordered by 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group to investigate the causes of the delays. This report, along with a current Canadian Forces National Investigation Service (CFNIS) investigation report, will be forwarded to the CDS office to aid in the final determination of the BOI report. Corporal Langridge’s file remains in the CDS office pending the results of the Land Force Western Area SI and the CFNIS investigation. The CDS does not anticipate resolution of the file for several months. Once there is approval, the family will be briefed and provided with a hard copy of the report, severed as required, by the Convening Authority.

Chief Warrant Officer Joel Sorbie

The Convening Order for this BOI was signed in November 2006. There were multiple administrative issues with the BOI, which resulted in a lengthy delay of the final report, issued to the Convening Authority on December 5, 2007. Further, the review at higher headquarters was a particularly lengthy process, which involved multiple communications with medical authorities. As a result, Mrs. Sorbie was contacted on August 12, 2009, and January 26, 2010, and provided with verbal updates. The BOI report has been finalized and is now with the Director Casualty Support Management for final approval for the CDS. Once the report is approved, the BOI team will provide Mrs. Sorbie with a briefing and hard copy of the report.

As seen in the updates, each case is unique and the diversity of units involved is high. This further cements the need to have national directives and standards for these types of investigations, which are currently under development. It is obvious that there is still work to be done to ensure equal treatment for all families, but with the continued professionalism of both of our staffs, I am confident that we will achieve this goal.

Thank you again for writing. I look forward to our working together for the betterment of all Canadian Forces members and their families.


Peter MacKay


General Walter J. Natynczyk, C.M.M., M.S.C., C.D. 
Chief of the Defence Staff

Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson, C.M.M., C.D.
Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff

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