EDMONTON — Canada’s military justice watchdog has decided that questions raised by the suicide of a soldier are so serious that a public hearing is needed to untangle them.
“The allegations in this complaint put into question the very ability of the military police to conduct independent investigations into the behaviour of members of the (Canadian Forces), particularly when decisions made by the chain of command are involved,” said an announcement Tuesday from the Military Police Complaints Commission.
Cpl. Stuart Langridge — who once said he would rather die than return to his unit — hanged himself in the Edmonton barracks on March 15, 2008.
He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan with the armoured regiment Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians).
It was his sixth suicide attempt that year. He had been hospitalized several times and had resorted to alcohol and cocaine.
The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service initiated several reviews into Langridge’s death. But his parents, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, raised concerns about those efforts.
Sheila Fynes said her 28-year-old son was never properly treated for his disorder and suggested that decisions made by military medical staff during the last weeks of his life were “thoughtless, humiliating and destabilizing.”
After Langridge’s death, military mistakes added to the family’s suffering, including a mixup in the next of kin.
A board of inquiry into the death wasn’t held until a year later. And last September, the Defence Department told his mother that inquiries about her son’s pension would have to be made through her lawyer.
The Fynes made a complaint to the commission in January. They accused investigators of bias and being more interested in absolving high-ranking officers than in understanding Langridge’s death. They also said the investigation report was inaccurate and deliberately undermined Langridge’s character.
The commission, which is independent of the military, ruled in April that a deeper look in Langridge’s death was required. Tuesday’s decision was an extention of that decision, said commission spokesman Michael Tansey.
“If they feel that it’s warranted, they conduct an investigation. In this case, they’ve taken the next step to conduct a public hearing, which is basically a continuation of the investigation in public.”
Tansey noted that Langridge was ordered out of a psychiatric facility shortly before his death.
“He had commented that he would rather kill himself than return to his unit.”
No timeline has been set for the hearing.