Chairperson's Final Report – MPCC-2006-038 Regarding the Military Police Treatment of Snipers

National Defence Act - Part IV
Section 250.53

FINAL REPORT

Following a Public Interest Investigation
Pursuant to Subsection 250.38(1) of the National Defence Act
With Respect to a Complaint
Submitted by Mr. Graham Ragsdale and Mr. Pat Ragsdale
Concerning the Conduct of Major L.J. MacEachern and Warrant Officer J.P. Bergin,
then serving with the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, and
Warrant Officer S.W. Mellett and Master Corporal D. Peterson
then serving with the 3rd Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Battle Group
in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

File: MPCC-2006-038
Ottawa, December 19, 2007

Mr. Peter A. Tinsley
Chair

CAVEAT
Portions of this document have been edited pursuant to
the Privacy Act.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Summary of the Incident
  2. The Ragsdales' Complaint
  3. Methodology of the Complaints Commission's Investigation
    1. Documentation Review
    2. Interviews
    3. Consideration of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal's Notice of Action
  4. Analysis
    1. Conduct of the CFNIS investigation into the incident on “The Whale
    2. Treatment of the snipers by the Battle Group MPs
    3. Other Issues
  5. Conclusion
  6. Summary of Findings and Recommendation

I SUMMARY OF THE INCIDENT

1. In January 2002, the 3rd Battalion of the Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry (3 PPCLI) Battle Group was deployed to Kandahar, Afghanistan. In February 2002, the American 101st Airborne Regiment requested sniper support for Operation Anaconda in the Shahikot Valley from the Canadian Commander, LCol (now Col) P. Stogran. This operation took place March 2 to March 12, 2002, and two three-man Sniper Detachments (Dets) assisted the Americans. These Dets consisted of then Master Corporal (MCpl) Graham Ragsdale (then in Charge of both Sniper Dets), MCpl Aaron Perry (then 2nd in command of the Sniper Dets) and Cpl (now Sgt) Rick Eason, who comprised Alpha Det and MCpl (now Sgt) Tim McMeekin, then Corporal (Cpl) Rob Furlong and Cpl Marty who comprised Bravo Det. During Operation Anaconda they came under heavy fire from the Taliban forces and reportedly acquitted themselves in an exceptional manner. Just prior to the commencement of this operation, former Capt Wilson (formerly CF liaison officer to the US forces) met with snipers Perry, Ragsdale and McMeekin over an issue regarding combat equipment.

2. From March 13, 2002 to March 18, 2002, these two Sniper Dets again returned to action in support of the American 101st Airborne Regiment during the Canadian led Operation Harpoon. Cpl Marty was replaced by Mr. Brian Dwyer (formerly Cpl) for this operation. The two Sniper Dets took a position high on a feature called “the Whale”. There were two bodies lying within meters of their position. During their deployment on “the Whale”, a cigarette was placed in the mouth and a note “Fuck Terrorism” was placed on the chest of one of the deceased. Upon extraction from “the Whale” on March 18, 2002, Sgt McMeekin reported this incident to his chain of command, stating MCpls Perry and Ragsdale had allegedly placed the note and cigarette on the deceased. Just prior to extraction, a digital photograph of one of the deceased with the cigarette and sign was shown to Capt McClure (now Maj) and the RSM, CWO Comeau. On March 18, 2002, at the request of the Commanding Officer (CO) Col Stogran, Maj Todd McClure spoke to MCpls Perry and Ragsdale, advising them this was unacceptable behaviour. Neither Mr. Perry nor Mr. Ragsdale admitted they placed the articles on the deceased, but stated it wouldn't happen again. This was acceptable to Maj McClure and the CO was advised.

3. Of even greater concern, Sgt McMeekin later reported that MCpls Perry and Ragsdale had allegedly removed a finger from the same deceased Al Qaeda member. This finger was said to have been placed in a baggie and passed amongst the two Sniper Dets. Col Stogran immediately referred this to Capt (now Maj) Jim MacEachern of the Canadian Forces National Investigative Service (CFNIS) who commenced an investigation.

4. When the two Sniper Dets returned to Kandahar they found their actions during Operations Anaconda and Harpoon both praised and scrutinized. The American Forces had recommended them for Bronze Stars, while the CFNIS investigators commenced an investigation into a possible charge of committing an indignity to a body, contrary to section 182 (b) of the Criminal Code. After numerous interviews of the members of the Sniper Dets and others, the execution of a search warrant on MCpl Perry's tent, and a subsequent RCMP Forensic Identification Services examination of the articles seized, the CFNIS investigation was concluded without charges on December 12, 2002.

5. Additionally, on March 29, 2002, MCpl Perry was arrested by the military police (MP) and placed in close custody for alleged insubordinate behaviour that had occurred the previous day towards the Canadian padre, [redacted text]. Sgt (now WO) Scott Mellett commenced an investigation of the incident. The MP investigation was concluded on April 14, 2002 as founded but not cleared. MCpl Perry was charged with conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline contrary to section 129 of the National Defence Act. In July 2002, MCpl Perry was advised that the charge would not be proceeded with.

6. The snipers felt they were alienated from the other CF members and that they were being unfairly picked on by their chain of command. This was a stressful time for the snipers as they had just taken part in two major military operations and come under heavy enemy fire.

7. Five of the snipers, MCpl Ragsdale, Sgt McMeekin, Cpl Furlong, Sgt Eason and Cpl Dwyer were subsequently honoured in a Welcome Home parade in Edmonton, received the South Western Asia Service Medal and were awarded a “Mention In Dispatches” from the Governor General in 2002. In December 2003, all six of the Snipers including MCpl Perry were awarded the Bronze Star by the American Ambassador to Canada.

II THE RAGSDALES' COMPLAINT

8. On September 20, 2004, the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Henault forwarded a package of documentation regarding several issues with respect to Mr. Graham Ragsdale to the National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman. During the course of the Ombudsman's investigation, some of those interviewed raised concerns about the conduct of members of the military police, specifically, the CFNIS. As noted in the Ombudsman's final reportFootnote 1, such matters fall within the mandate of this Commission, and as such, the relevant individuals were referred to the Commission. As a result, Mr. Graham Ragsdale and his father, Mr. Pat RagsdaleFootnote 2, submitted a conduct complaint to the MPCC on August 31, 2006. In April 2007, the Ombudsman's final report to the Minister on issues respecting the treatment of the snipers was released to the general public.

9. The complaint filed by the Ragsdales contains two allegations relevant to this Commission's mandate. These are as follows:

  1. Mr. Ragsdale and others were subjected to unprofessional treatment during the course of a CFNIS investigation conducted by Maj MacEachern and WO Bergin.
  2. Mr. G. Ragsdale and others were subjected to harassment by MP members of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group including WO Mellett, acting on orders of the Commanding Officer, Col Stogran.

III METHODOLOGY OF THE COMPLAINTS COMMISSION'S INVESTIGATION

10. Mindful of the amount of time that had already passed since these events occurred, on October 27, 2006, I declared this complaint to be one of public interest pursuant to section 250.38(3) of the National Defence Act.. I thereby opted to commence an immediate investigation by the Complaints Commission, rather than refer the matter to the CFPM for an initial investigation.

a)  Documentation Review

11. In the course of this investigation, the Commission reviewed relevant materials provided by the DND and CF Ombudsman, including his April 2007 report, entitled, “A Sniper's Battle: A Father's Concern”; copies of the related military police files (GO 2002-973 and GO 2002-15806); and relevant excerpts of the April 2003 CF Board of Inquiry with respect to MCpl Aaron Perry.

b)  Interviews

12. 12. The Complaints Commission interviewed the following individuals: Mr. G. Ragsdale (complainant), Sgt D. Eason, Mr. B. Dwyer, Mr. R. Furlong, Sgt T. McMeekin, Maj J. MacEachern (subject), WO P. Bergin (subject), WO S. Mellett (subject), MCpl D. Peterson (subject), Mr. R. Ror, MWO R. Primmer, MWO N. Rooker, Mr. J. Wilson, Mr. R. Latinovich, CWO A. Comeau, Maj C. Allen, Col P. Stogran and Maj T. McClure. The Complaints Commission also met with Mr. Patrick Ragsdale. Despite a number of attempts, the Commission was unable to arrange interviews with Mr. A. Perry and Maj (US) [redacted text] (American padre).

c)  Consideration of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal's Notice of Action

13. On December 18, 2007, the Complaints Commission received the CFPM's Notice of Action (dated December 18, 2007) in response to the Chair's Interim Report dated October 4, 2007.

14. In conformity with NDA section 250.51(1), the Chair has prepared this Final Report after having considered the CFPM's Notice of Action. In the Notice of Action, the CFPM is required to notify the Minister and the Chair of any action that has been or will be taken with respect to the complaint.

15. The Chair is pleased to note that the CFPM has accepted the Complaints Commission's findings and recommendations in relation to this complaint.

IV ANALYSIS

a)  Conduct of the CFNIS investigation into the incident on “The Whale

16. This aspect of the complaint focuses on the conduct of a search of then-MCpl A. Perry's tent on March 27, 2002 by Maj J. MacEachern and WO P. Bergin of the CFNIS, assisted by MCpl D. Peterson, a military police member of the Battle Group, as well as the conduct of subsequent interviews by Maj MacEachern and WO Bergin, both in Afghanistan and in Canada.

17. In respect of the search of MCpl Perry's tent on March 27, 2002, the complainant, Mr. G. Ragsdale, has alleged that Maj MacEachern and WO Bergin refused to provide information as to what they were seeking and why, and that they were rude (particularly WO Bergin) and non-responsive when asked by some of the snipers' superiors who were also present, specifically, MWOs Primmer and Ror and Capt Latinovich. In his interview with the Commission, Mr. Ragsdale indicated that he never saw the search warrant, though he acknowledged that he was not present at the beginning of the search. A US Army chaplain, [redacted text], who had taken an interest in the snipers' emotional welfare, had been passing by at the time of the search of MCpl Perry's tent. According to Mr. Ragsdale, WO Bergin put [redacted text] (American padre) arm behind his back and forcibly removed him from the snipers' tent lines. WO Bergin also allegedly took down [redacted text] (American padre) name and told him he did not have any right to be there as it was a Canadian camp. Furthermore, Mr. Ragsdale alleges that Maj MacEachern had to be repeatedly reminded to be especially careful with the snipers' equipment, but failed to acknowledge or answer such concerns.

18. After the search of MCpl Perry's tent on March 27, 2002, MCpl Ragsdale was interviewed by Maj MacEachern and WO Bergin. According to Mr. Ragsdale, the two CFNIS investigators were belligerent and insensitive to the snipers' emotional situation at that time (they had just returned from intensive operations in the field). He further alleges that the purpose and nature of the investigation was not adequately explained to him by the CFNIS investigators or by his own chain of command. On November 1, 2002, MCpl Ragsdale was re-interviewed by Maj MacEachern and WO Bergin in Edmonton in relation to this investigation. However, Mr. Ragsdale does not take issue with the manner in which that interview was conducted. Finally, Mr. Ragsdale alleges that he was never advised of the results of the CFNIS investigation.

19. The purpose of the CFNIS search of MCpl Perry's tent was to retrieve pens which may have been used to write the note which was placed on the Afghan deceased on “the Whale”, as well as a knife or other implement that might have been used to remove the finger from the body and, potentially, the finger itself. Some pens, a knife and some other items were seized; however, subsequent laboratory testing in Canada failed to tie any of the items to the note or to the body. The search was duly authorized in a warrant signed by MCpl Perry's commanding officer, Col Stogran, pursuant to the National Defence Act.

20. Sgt Dennis Eason, another sniper who witnessed the search of MCpl Perry's tent, supports Mr. Ragsdale's claim that the CFNIS investigators were rude in their responses to questions about what they were doing. He recalls [redacted text] (American padre) being present, but was not aware of any physical confrontation between anyone present. Sgt Eason was interviewed by Maj MacEachern and WO Bergin three days prior to the execution of the search warrant and then again on October 30, 2002, back in Canada. He does not feel that the CFNIS investigators were disrespectful or insensitive toward him, though he does not know why two interviews were required. He expressed the view that the snipers were being harassed for something they never did, although he did not specifically attribute this to the CFNIS investigators.

21. Ex-Cpl Brian Dwyer, another sniper detachment member who was present at the March 27 search, recalls that the snipers were very upset with the way the CFNIS members conducted the search. The snipers were swearing about how wrong the investigation was. He recalls the investigators indicating that the search was the result of the allegations which had been made. According to Mr. Dwyer, this made sense to him since MCpl Perry could still have the finger in his possession. He indicates that the investigators were neither physical nor abusive with MCpl Perry. He could not recall if [redacted text] (American padre) was there, but would have remembered if [redacted text] (American padre) had been physically removed. Mr. Dwyer, who is now a civilian police constable, indicated that he now understands why the investigators would not have given prior warning of the search to the snipers' superiors. In Mr. Dwyer's view, he did not believe that either he or the other snipers were harassed or badgered by the CFNIS investigators or other MP members.

22. Fellow sniper, ex-Cpl Robert Furlong, recalls that he was interviewed three times in connection with this investigation, once in Afghanistan and twice in Edmonton upon his return to Canada. His main objection was that the interviews, in his opinion, did not need to be done while he was still on leave and could have waited. Mr. Furlong recalls MWOs Primmer and Ror being present at the search of MCpl Perry's tent, but does not recall if Capt Latinovich or [redacted text] (American padre) were there. He does not recall seeing a search warrant produced by the investigators.

23. Another sniper, Sgt Tim McMeekin, who reported the incident on “the Whale” which led to the CFNIS investigation, was also present during the search of MCpl Perry's tent, though he indicated that he was somewhat removed from Perry's tent. He did not see a search warrant and only vaguely recalls [redacted text] (American padre) being present in the area. Sgt McMeekin recalls being interviewed three times by the CFNIS in the course of its investigation, both in Afghanistan and back in Canada. In his view, the investigators treated him in a professional manner and he did not feel harassed or badgered by them, though he noted that a few of the other snipers did feel this way. Neither the CFNIS nor any other MP advised him of the outcome of the investigation. Sgt McMeekin says he understood why the CFNIS immediately conducted their investigation in Afghanistan, as the incident could have had serious repercussions for the CF and its mission.

24. MWO (Ret'd) Robert Primmer was second in command of the Battle Group's Reconnaissance Platoon which, at least administratively, included the sniper detachments. Mr. Primmer was present during the search of MCpl Perry's tent. Mr. Primmer indicated that he had expected that he, and the rest of MCpl Perry's chain of command, would have been notified in advance of the execution of the search warrant. He stated that Maj MacEachern was cooperative with those present and answered their questions; on the other hand, he found WO Bergin totally rude and belligerent in response to questions from those present, especially the company sergeant-major, MWO Ror. When asked by MWO Ror what was going on, Mr. Primmer alleges that WO Bergin essentially told him to “shut-up” and threatened him with jail. Mr. Primmer did not recall [redacted text] (American padre) being present during the search, but indicated that he would have noticed any altercation between him and the CFNIS investigator. He felt that Maj MacEachern was acting professionally, but that WO Bergin was not. In his view, the CFNIS investigators were not mishandling any of the sensitive sniper equipment.

25. MWO (Ret'd) Rocky Ror confirmed to the Commission that he was upset at not having been previously advised of the search of MCpl Perry's tent. Mr. Ror states that he approached WO Bergin and asked what was going on and what were they doing in his tent lines. Mr. Ror indicated that he was merely told that they were doing an investigation and when he further questioned where this had come from, he was told by WO Bergin that it was not his concern and that he should back off. Mr. Ror went off to speak with the regimental sergeant major, CWO Comeau, who also advised him that it did not concern him. He returned to the snipers' tent lines. Mr. Ror felt those conducting the search were acting professionally and were not mishandling things. He noted that a lot of people had gathered around and that WO Bergin was keeping people back from the tent. Mr. Ror does not recall seeing [redacted text] (American padre) at the scene, nor does he recall an altercation between WO Bergin and anyone, other than the confrontation with himself. Mr. Ror felt he should have been briefed on the investigation as it affected his personnel and their morale.

26. Capt (Ret'd) Ryan Latinovich was also present during at least part of the search of MCpl Perry's tent. Mr. Latinovich commanded the platoon to which the snipers belonged, although while in-theatre the sniper detachments were considered a Battle Group asset and were thus placed directly under the command of Col Stogran. Mr. Latinovich felt the MPs conducting the search were acting professionally and were just doing their job. He was not offended by any of the MPs who were present. After checking with the operations officer, or possibly with Col Stogran, Mr. Latinovich ascertained the nature of the investigation and the purpose of the search. At that point, he recognized that it was a serious matter, but does think it was inappropriate for the chain of command not to advise him as to what was going on.

27. MCpl Dan Peterson, a military police member of the Battle Group, was requested to assist in the search of MCpl Perry's tent on March 27. At the time, he did not even know what the search was for. He recalled Maj MacEachern showing the search warrant to MCpl Perry and MWO Primmer. He only recalls a problem with MWO Primmer, who he says kept asking what was going on. He did not recall any incident involving [redacted text] (American padre) being forcibly removed by an MP, but he indicated that, given [redacted text] (American padre) substantial height, such an episode would have been hard to miss. MCpl Peterson recalls Maj MacEachern asking MCpl Perry to open some sensitive equipment for him. In his view, the search was conducted in a sensitive and professional manner.

28. WO Bergin recalls that, during the execution of the search warrant on March 27, several of the snipers were present and a crowd gathered, which included [redacted text] (American padre). He recalled there being a problem with [redacted text] (American padre) who insisted that he be allowed to see MCpl Perry. WO Bergin says he told [redacted text] (American padre) that was not going to happen and refused to allow him into the area of the search. WO Bergin denies that either he or anyone else physically removed [redacted text] (American padre) from the search area. He did recall pulling MWO Ror aside to advise him to stop reading the search warrant (which he had obtained from MCpl Perry) aloud and trying to incite the crowd, which he viewed as inappropriate. WO Bergin also recalls Capt Latinovich arriving and yelling that he had not been informed and wanting to know who was in charge. WO Bergin pointed to Maj MacEachern who briefly spoke to Capt Latinovich. After apparently checking with the CO, WO Bergin recalled Capt Latinovich returning to the search area and apologizing to the MPs. After being cautioned by MCpl Perry, Maj MacEachern was very careful in handling the sniper equipment. WO Bergin believes the search was handled professionally, even though he had to be firm with [redacted text] (American padre), Capt Latinovich and MWO Ror.

29. WO Bergin indicated that, following the initial interviews in Kandahar, Maj MacEachern approached Col Stogran and was instrumental in getting the snipers some decompression leave in Dubai. Some of the snipers were interviewed three times over a nine month period. WO Bergin did not believe that this was excessive. He did not specifically recall the reasons for the subsequent interviews, except the need to clarify certain points. He also mentioned that there had been a radio talk show in which certain statements attributed to some of the snipers raised further questions. The investigation concluded December 12, 2002. WO Bergin does not recall if MCpl Ragsdale was ever informed of the results of the investigation.

30. For his part, Maj MacEachern, the lead CFNIS investigator, says that he first learned of the incident on “the Whale” on March 18, 2002. It was at this point that he was informed by the Battle Group legal advisor, Maj Fensom, of the allegations made by Sgt McMeekin to his chain of command upon return from the mission. Maj MacEachern recalls that he dealt mostly with Maj Fensom in this matter, although he believed Col Stogran had been made aware of the allegations. He felt it was necessary to act quickly to investigate the allegations, particularly given the possibility that one of the snipers might still be in possession of evidence. Maj MacEachern arranged for a trip to “the Whale” to exhume and examine the dead bodies and to collect evidence. He also conducted interviews with some of the members of the sniper detachments, even prior to the execution of the search warrant on MCpl Perry's tent on March 27.

31. Maj MacEachern indicated that Col Stogran did not in any way direct him in the conduct of the investigation, including the search of MCpl Perry's tent. The search was limited to MCpl Perry's tent as Maj MacEachern felt he did not have sufficient grounds for a broader search. Col Stogran did express an interest in the results of the investigation, however, Maj MacEachern advised him that the investigation could take awhile.

32. Maj MacEachern recalls that he provided MCpl Perry with a copy of the search warrant and had him assist with the search. He had MCpl Perry move and clear his weapons. According to Maj MacEachern, MCpl Perry was cooperative and respectful and did not seem particularly upset.

33. After reading the search warrant, MCpl Perry handed the search warrant to MWO Ror, who started reading it aloud. Maj MacEachern told MWO Ror that he did not think this was appropriate as it was agitating the other soldiers. There were a lot of people around during the search. Maj MacEachern recalls Capt Latinovich attending and being very upset with the situation and yelling at WO Bergin. Maj MacEachern recalls that he stepped out of the tent and advised Capt Latinovich that, if he had an issue with the search, he should take it up with Col Stogran. According to Maj MacEachern, Capt Latinovich left and later returned and apologized to the investigators. Maj MacEachern does not recall [redacted text] (American padre) being present. Maj MacEachern indicates that neither he nor the other MPs present spoke to anyone at the scene in a disrespectful manner. He believes the search was conducted in a professional manner. Following the search, Maj MacEachern submitted a Return of Search to Col Stogran indicating the items that had been seized.

34. Maj MacEachern further stated that, in order to protect the integrity of the investigation, the standard practice in the CFNIS was not to inform a suspect's chain of command of a pending execution of a search warrant or other future investigative step.

35. During the first interview with MCpl Ragsdale on March 27, 2002, Maj MacEachern says he explained to MCpl Ragsdale that their investigation related to the offence of committing an indignity to a human body. He stated that he wanted MCpl Ragsdale to be able to make an informed decision on exercising his right to legal counsel. He further indicated that neither he nor WO Bergin were disrespectful to MCpl Ragsdale during this interview. Similarly, Maj MacEachern states that neither he nor WO Bergin were unprofessional, disrespectful or insensitive toward MCpl Ragsdale in their second interview of him on November 1, 2002. Maj MacEachern acknowledges that about ten minutes into the second interview, MCpl Ragsdale indicated that he did not want to say anything further and that he did try to convince MCpl Ragsdale to continue with the interview. He felt that MCpl Ragsdale knew his rights and that he was free to leave the interview at any time.

36. Maj MacEachern indicated that early in the investigation he became aware of problems with the snipers' emotional state following their intensive operational activity and their perceived reception upon their return. After the execution of the search warrant and the initial round of interviews with the snipers, Maj MacEachern met with Col Stogran to advise him of the snipers' emotional state and to recommend that something be done for them. Col Stogran apparently appreciated Maj MacEachern's advice and, while Maj MacEachern is uncertain if there is any connection with his approach to Col Stogran, he noted that the snipers were sent to Dubai on leave shortly thereafter.

37. Maj MacEachern believes that the number of interviews conducted with the snipers was justified and was not unreasonable. In addition to the two interviews with MCpl Ragsdale, the CFNIS investigators also conducted second interviews with Sgt Eason and Cpl Furlong. Three interviews were ultimately conducted with Sgt McMeekin; however, Maj MacEachern noted that the third interview was necessitated by comments about the incident which Sgt McMeekin made in August 2002 on a Winnipeg radio program. Maj MacEachern recalls that he did not interview Cpl Dwyer because he did not seem to be privy to as much information about the events on “the Whale” as the other snipers.

38. Maj MacEachern confirmed that CFNIS did not notify any of the snipers of the outcome of their investigation as this was deemed to be the responsibility of their chain of command.

39. Col Stogran's recollections support Maj MacEachern's evidence that he dealt mostly with the legal advisor, Maj Fensom, rather than with Col Stogran himself and that the chain of command did not direct the investigation in any way. On the contrary, Col Stogran indicates that he avoided face to face dealings with the investigators in order to avoid any perception of command influence. Col Stogran also confirmed Maj MacEachern's evidence that he expressed concern about the snipers' emotional state to Col Stogran.

40. A review by the Commission of the CFNIS investigation file, GO (General Occurrence) # 973-2002, indicates that the investigation was commenced as a result of Sgt McMeekin's report of certain troubling incidents in respect of the bodies of deceased enemy personnel during Operation Harpoon on or about March 17, 2002. Sgt McMeekin reported the matter to his chain of command on March 18. He was interviewed by the CFNIS investigators on March 19. The file discloses no intervention by the snipers' chain of command. The only involvement appears to have been the referring of Sgt McMeekin's report to the CFNIS and the signing of the search warrant for MCpl Perry's tent by Col Stogran. However, this latter step was a formal legal requirement and it was the CFNIS investigators who determined the necessity of the search.

41. The Commission also reviewed the audio-video tapes of the CFNIS interviews with MCpl Ragsdale as well as the other snipers, Sgt McMeekin, Cpl Furlong and Sgt Eason. The tapes reflect that the interviews were conducted in a civil, professional manner which respected the interviewees' rights.

42. The investigation was concluded on December 12, 2002, after it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to charge anyone, since it could not be shown that the snipers had exclusive access to the bodies on “the Whale” during the period in question.

43. There is no doubt that the launching of this investigation so close upon the snipers' return from intensive combat operations in the field had a significant negative impact on the snipers' morale. Some of them, including the complainant, Mr. Ragsdale, felt, and still feel, that they were unfairly made the subject of scrutiny upon their return from Operation Harpoon and that, as a result, their operational achievements were being unappreciated, if not denigrated. Such feelings no doubt affected how Mr. Ragsdale and some of the other snipers perceived the CFNIS investigation.

44. However, the incident in question was serious. Mistreatment of enemy dead would reflect poorly on the mission and on the CF and could potentially trigger retaliatory acts in respect of Canadian or allied personnel. Having received a timely and credible report from someone at the scene of the incident, the chain of command cannot be faulted for turning the matter over to the CFNIS. In so doing, Col Stogran selected the available mechanism which was the most insulated from any influence by him.

45. The CFNIS were deployed to Afghanistan as a formed unit with a separate chain of command from the Battle Group; the chain, comprised entirely of military police members, reported back to its commanding officer and the CF Provost Marshal in Ottawa. The evidence is clear, moreover, that the CFNIS investigators exercised the investigative independence that this command structure intended. The clearest example of this was the execution of the search warrant on MCpl Perry's tent. As their reactions revealed, MCpl Perry's superiors at the platoon and even the company level had no advance notice of the search. As the CFNIS investigators indicated, this was standard military police practice in the interests of investigative integrity. Col Stogran himself had been apprised in advance of the search only because he had to sign the warrant.

46. For their part, the CFNIS investigators appropriately decided that they needed to act quickly given the possibility that there might still be evidence of a perishable nature in the possession of a suspect. Thus, the timing of the commencement of the investigation, though unfortunate, seems to have been unavoidable. To his credit, Maj MacEachern did note the emotional problems of the snipers and brought these to the attention of their chain of command with a view to getting them some help.

47. As for the overall conduct of the investigation, the bulk of the evidence available to the Commission indicates that this was done in a fair and professional manner. As previously noted, the CFNIS interview tapes indicate that the interviews were conducted in a professional manner and respected the interviewees' rights. There is certainly no indication that the investigation was part of a campaign to persecute the snipers as a group. On the contrary, the evidence shows that the investigation was only launched as a result of a report by one of the snipers themselves and that the investigation was focused on the issues raised in that report. The CFNIS investigators only sought a warrant to search one of the snipers' tent and another of the snipers, Cpl Dwyer, was not interviewed by investigators.

48. Although not all those present at the time of the search may have seen it, the evidence indicates that Maj MacEachern did provide a copy of the search warrant to MCpl Perry and communicated the reasons for the search.

49. Despite there being numerous persons present during the search of MCpl Perry's tent on March 27, no other witness shares Mr. Ragsdale's recollection of a physical altercation between WO Bergin and the US Army chaplain [redacted text] during which WO Bergin would have physically removed [redacted text] (American padre) from the area of the snipers' tents. Unfortunately, despite the Commission's efforts, neither Mr. Perry nor [redacted text] (American padre) agreed to provide information in this investigation.

50. There is, however, some evidence to indicate that WO Bergin was being aggressive with some of the bystanders. On the other hand, WO Bergin was trying to ensure the security and integrity of the search in front of a significant crowd of individuals, some of whom were openly hostile towards the MPs' actions, while others challenged their authority, at times rather heatedly. Moreover, some of those challenging the investigators' authority, due to their rank or relationship with the snipers, were clearly in a position to undermine the legitimacy of the investigation in the eyes of the snipers. It is also clear by their reaction to not being given advance notice of the search that some of these platoon and company leaders were insensitive to the need for independence and integrity of military police investigations. This, in turn, may have coloured some of their perceptions of WO Bergin's conduct and of the search in general. At the same time, given the search of a confined area in front an unfriendly crowd and some of the specific reactions encountered from those present, a certain level of assertiveness by WO Bergin would not have been unreasonable.

51. With respect to the interviews conducted in the course of the investigation, again it is noted that the interview tapes indicate that the CFNIS investigators treated the witnesses in a professional manner. Moreover, there is nothing to suggest that the number of interviews conducted was unreasonable or was motivated by anything other than the perceived needs of the investigation.

52. When asked about the subsequent interviews of the snipers after their return to Canada, Maj MacEachern told the Commission that he wanted to clarify some points and also wanted to give the snipers the opportunity to revisit the facts with the benefit of the passage of some time and distance from the events. The Commission's review of the CFNIS interview tapes tends to support the second rationale more than the first. The tapes did not reveal any new issues being raised with the witnesses (apart from the third interview with Sgt McMeekin, which was motivated by his statements on a radio program). However, the Commission does not dispute that it is a legitimate police technique to re-interview key witnesses to see if there is a change in their perceptions or what they are willing to share with investigators. At the same time, it is recognized that the subsequent CFNIS interviews following the sniper's redeployment to Canada were, understandably, an irritant to the snipers.

53. However, the overall length of time taken for this investigation does seem to have been inordinate and was not satisfactorily explained by the CFNIS investigators.

54. Interviews of the key witnesses were completed within a few days of the incident being reported, as was the visit to “the Whale” and the search of MCpl Perry's tent to gather physical evidence. The results of lab analyses of items seized from MCpl Perry were received in June 2002. The investigators did additionally conduct inquiries into the sniper training programs, both of the CF and the British Army (as MCpl Perry had apparently done some training with British forces), in order to determine whether the practice of leaving some sort of “calling-card” on the body of dead enemy personnel was included formally or informally in such training. However, these inquiries appear to have been completed in June 2002.

55. It is accepted that the statements made by Sgt McMeekin on a radio show in Winnipeg in August 2002 might well have justified a further interview with him and possibly other witnesses. A pre-charge legal opinion by a legal officer was not received until December 4, 2002, however, the file suggests it was not requested until late November. The investigators did indicate to the Commission that their caseload and leave schedules in this period did prolong the investigation.

56. All in all, there seems to have been a disconnect between the initial sense of urgency with which the investigation was launched and its overall duration. This being said, there is no evidence to suggest that the delay was reflective of malice or any other improper motivation on the part of investigators.

57. Moreover, while it does appear that the snipers were not informed of the results of the CFNIS investigation until some time later, as the investigators indicated, this has indeed traditionally been the responsibility of the chain of command, rather than the military police.

58. It is, in any event, most regrettable that the complainant and other members of the sniper detachments were left feeling that they were under a cloud of suspicion for an extended period of time.

Finding # 1:

The Chair finds that the available evidence does not support the complainant's allegations that he was subjected to unprofessional treatment by Major MacEachern or Warrant Officer Bergin during their investigation of the March 2002 incident on “the Whale” during Operation Harpoon.

  • CFPM agreed with this finding.

59. While it may have been correct and in accordance with prevailing policy for the CFNIS investigators to have left it to the complainant's chain of command to inform him that the investigation had concluded and that no charges would be laid, this is no longer an appropriate stance for the CFNIS to take. Historically, prior to the creation of the CFNIS, military police submitted the results of their investigations to a suspect's chain of command and, as the decision to lay a charge rested solely with them, it was natural for the chain of command, rather than the military police, to take responsibility for informing the suspect of the decision taken. However, with the establishment of the CFNIS and the charge-laying authority granted to them under the Queen's Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Forces, it makes sense for CFNIS to assume this responsibility in respect of their investigations.

Recommendation # 1:

The Chair recommends that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service Standard Operating Procedures be revised to require that suspects be notified in a timely fashion as to the results of completed investigations, unless operational exigencies dictate otherwise.

  • In his positive response to this recommendation, the CFPM stated: “The issue of notifying suspects of the results of completed investigations requires careful consideration and further review. As such, I have directed my staff to review policies of, and procedures followed by, various police services on this issue. Based upon the results of this study, the MP policy will be reviewed to ensure that it is in keeping with widely recognized ‘practices’.
  • I am satisfied with the steps taken by the CFPM in response to this recommendation. For certainty, the intent of the recommendation is to establish a general rule. It is acknowledged that there will be legitimate exceptions to this rule, including, for example, the need to protect the integrity of other ongoing investigations.
  • It is requested that the Commission be informed of the results of the study directed by the CFPM.

b)  Treatment of the snipers by the Battle Group MPs

60. The complainant, Mr. G. Ragsdale, also takes issue with the conduct of MP members posted to the Battle Group. He feels that they were unfairly harassing the snipers, particularly MCpl Perry, at the behest of the chain of command. As specific examples, Mr. Ragsdale cites the arrest of MCpl Perry by two MPs following a stress debriefing conducted with the snipers by [redacted text], a US Army chaplain; the restriction of access by US military personnel to the CF camp; and an abortive investigation into the snipers' failure to wear certain standard equipment during Operation Anaconda.

61. In his interview with the Commission, Mr. Ragsdale indicated that he asked an MP, WO Mellett, about an alleged policy of keeping US soldiers from visiting with the Canadian snipers who had served with them. According to Mr. Ragsdale, WO Mellett indicated that this was pursuant to a direction from battalion headquarters (Col Stogran's office).

62. It was also WO Mellett, along with another MP, who arrested MCpl Perry following a stress debriefing with the US padre, Maj Paul Madej, on March 29, 2002. Mr. Perry was arrested for insubordination toward the Canadian Chaplain, [redacted text] . Mr. Ragsdale did not witness the incident, but he and the other snipers found MCpl Perry's arrest very upsetting. Mr. Ragsdale recalls being interviewed by WO Mellett around the same time. He thinks the interview may have been about the incident with [redacted text] (Canadian padre), but he also recalls being cautioned about a possible charge of disobeying an order.

63. Mr. Ragsdale recalled that, after MCpl Perry's arrest, Col Stogran met with the snipers and indicated that he was sending them (less MCpl Perry) to Dubai for teambuilding in an effort to get them functioning again. Col Stogran also mentioned that he had been having difficulties with MCpl Perry since he took over command of the battalion and added that, “it might seem like I'm on a ‘ hunt’ for [Mr. Perry], cause I am, I want him out of here,” or words to that effect.

64. Another member of the sniper detachments, Sgt Eason recalls that, at the time they were preparing to go on Operation Anaconda with the Americans, there was some issue with the chain of command over the snipers' refusal to wear “dog-tags” and flak jackets.

65. Sgt Eason says he was with MCpl Perry at the time he was alleged to have threatened [redacted text] (Canadian padre), but Sgt Eason claims he did not see Mr. Perry threaten anyone. He also recalls the meeting the snipers had with Col Stogran after MCpl Perry's arrest and that the words “witch hunt” were used at this time.

66. Sgt Eason said he was not aware of any order restricting the access of the Americans to the snipers at the time, but that the existence of such an order would explain why the Americans seemed to stop coming by after Operation Harpoon.

67. Another member of the sniper group, ex-Cpl Dwyer recalls that they met with Col Stogran after MCpl Perry's arrest, but he did not recall anything specific being said about MCpl Perry at that time.

68. Mr. Dwyer was present during the confrontation between MCpl Perry and [redacted text] (Canadian padre). As the Padre walked by, he heard MCpl Perry say something to the effect of “You better not come in here and try to talk to me or I will fucking kill you or rip your head off.

69. Mr. Dwyer recalls that he was interviewed in Afghanistan by WO Mellett on March 30, 2002. He does not recall the details of the interview, but believes he was treated fairly.

70. Mr. Dwyer does recall something about the Americans not being allowed in to the Canadian camp, but does not remember exactly what that was about.

71. Another of the snipers, ex-Cpl Furlong, recalls that they had an issue with the logistics officer, Capt Wilson, over their refusal to wear helmets and flak jackets, which they deemed inconsistent with sniper operations. He recalled that they went over Capt Wilson on the matter and he does not recall hearing of any repercussions from that.

72. Mr. Furlong states that he was present during the incident with [redacted text] (Canadian padre), but says that he did not hear MCpl Perry being insubordinate.

73. Like Sgt Eason, Mr. Furlong was not aware of any orders to the MPs to restrict US forces from the Canadian camp, but that such an order now made sense to him as when he would subsequently visit the American camp they commented that, when attempting to visit him and the other Canadian snipers, they had been told that the snipers were unavailable for one reason or another. However, he also recalls that occasionally some US forces members did continue to visit the snipers.

74. Mr. Furlong does recall that there was a meeting of the snipers with Col Stogran, but does not recall any exact words or the content of the meeting.

75. Another of the snipers, Sgt McMeekin, who reported the incident involving the dead bodies on “the Whale” during Operation Harpoon, also believed the timing of the arrest of MCpl Perry - which occurred immediately following a stress debriefing with the US Chaplain, [redacted text] - was bad and adversely affected the snipers' morale. Sgt McMeekin was not aware of the incident involving [redacted text] (Canadian padre) and did not know the reason for MCpl Perry's arrest at that time.

76. Sgt McMeekin did not recall any meeting with Col Stogran during which the term “witch hunt” was used. Generally, he felt that Col Stogran gave the snipers a lot of support.

77. Sgt McMeekin vaguely recalls being interviewed by WO Mellett on March 30, 2002, but believes he was treated professionally.

78. Sgt McMeekin says he had heard rumours that US forces were restricted from visiting the snipers in the CF camp, but never saw any evidence of this.

79. MWO (Ret'd) Primmer, second in command of the Canadian Battle Group's Reconnaissance Platoon, who had administrative responsibility for the sniper detachments, does not recall any orders to restrict access by US troops to the snipers. He recalls that there were always US soldiers in the CF camp. He does not recall hearing about any “witch hunt” against the snipers.

80. Similarly, the Reconnaissance Platoon commander, Capt Latinovich, indicated no knowledge of any campaign by the chain of command or the MPs to “getMCpl Perry or the snipers generally and was not aware of any effort to block access to the Canadian compound by US personnel.

81. The Officer Commanding the Battle Group's Administration Company, Maj Chris Allen, had previous experience in commanding snipers (though no personal experience with these snipers), and was asked by Col Stogran to speak with them after Operation Harpoon and to accompany them during their rest leave to Dubai. Maj Allen never got the impression that Col Stogran was using the CFNIS or Battle Group MPs in any sort of personal campaign against the snipers generally or MCpl Perry specifically. If anything, he felt that Col Stogran was frustrated at having no visibility with the investigations due to the independence of the MPs.

82. At the time of Operations Anaconda and Harpoon, Mr. (formerly Capt) Charles Wilson served as Canadian Liaison Officer with the 3rd Brigade, 101st US Airborne Division. Mr. Wilson confirmed that the refusal of the snipers to wear certain standard items of military equipment did cause some problems, both with the US commander and with the snipers' Canadian chain of command. He indicated that while snipers from both detachments had issues with using some of the standard items in the context of sniper operations, MCpl Ragsdale's detachment, and specifically MCpl Perry, were more difficult over the matter. The issue was eventually resolved and Mr. Wilson does not recall any lasting repercussions arising from it.

83. Maj Todd McClure served as “Battle Adjutant” to Col Stogran during this period. Maj McClure recalls hearing about the search of MCpl Perry's tent and the incident involving [redacted text] (Canadian padre). He recalls speaking with MCpl Perry while he was held in close custody to see how he was doing. MCpl Perry seemed calm to him and felt that the MPs were treating him with respect. Maj McClure's sense was that while some of the snipers were angry about MCpl Perry's arrest, others were somewhat relieved as MCpl Perry had had somewhat of a disruptive effect on the sniper detachments. Maj McClure was unaware of any order restricting US access to the Canadian camp and denies that Col Stogran conducted any personal campaign involving the MPs against MCpl Perry or the snipers.

84. The regimental sergeant-major for the Battle Group was CWO Alain Comeau. CWO Comeau was directly involved in the decision to arrest MCpl Perry in connection with the incident involving [redacted text] (Canadian padre). On March 28, 2002, CWO Comeau recalls that Col Stogran asked him to sit in on a meeting regarding a complaint initiated by the Padre, [redacted text] . During that meeting, it appeared to him by [redacted text] (Canadian padre) body language that he was afraid for his life. He also seemed afraid for his family's safety. A statement was requested from [redacted text] (Canadian padre) so that they could proceed with an investigation. [redacted text] (Canadian padre) reluctantly complied. At this time, CWO Comeau advised Col Stogran that they needed to act immediately to address the situation and that MCpl Perry should be placed in close custody to protect the Padre. Col Stogran agreed.

85. CWO Comeau says he decided to personally effect the arrest of MCpl Perry, as he felt the arrest would cause less conflict that way than if it was done just by the MPs. The Adjutant, however, requested the assistance of the MPs given that MCpl Perry would be armed, and CWO Comeau also wanted someone to witness the arrest. WO Mellett was tasked to assist CWO Comeau. Apart from subsequently speaking with MCpl Perry a couple of times prior to his repatriation, CWO Comeau indicates that this was the extent of his involvement in the matter.

86. CWO Comeau denies that there was any “witch hunt” for MCpl Perry and asserts that Perry himself was entirely responsible for what happened to him. He further denies that there was any restriction placed on access by US troops to the Canadian compound, adding that the Americans were continually in the Canadian camp.

87. For his part, Col Stogran indicated that, in retrospect, it was a mistake for him to have allowed MCpl Perry to deploy to Afghanistan because of his attitude and personality, which had previously come to his attention in Canada. However, Col Stogran states that this view did not affect his opinion toward the snipers as a whole. He admits that he did direct his subunit commanders to carry out discipline in a timely fashion, and that MCpl Perry was certainly part of the motivation for this direction; however, he denies that he singled out MCpl Perry or the snipers in this respect.

88. Col Stogran does not recall ever issuing an order to restrict American access to the CF camp and would have been surprised to hear this had happened, as it would seem to him a needless act.

89. Col Stogran recalls that [redacted text] (Canadian padre) was very shaken by the incident with MCpl Perry. The Colonel was conducting an Operations Group meeting at the time [redacted text] (Canadian padre) came to report the matter, so he directed him to CWO Comeau to follow up on the matter. Col Stogran then met briefly with CWO Comeau to discuss the matter. They determined that if there was any substance to [redacted text] 's (Canadian padre) allegations, MCpl Perry should be put in close custody. Col Stogran says he was worried about MCpl Perry's stability and whether he would now become physically aggressive with the chain of command. However, he adds that he left the ultimate decision, regarding the arrest of MCpl Perry and the investigation of the matter, to CWO Comeau. Col Stogran denies directing any disciplinary action against MCpl Perry.

90. Col Stogran denied there was any “witch hunt” against MCpl Perry, though he thinks it is possible he used the phrase in his meeting with the snipers after MCpl Perry's arrest. Col Stogran also insists that his approach was to let the MPs do their job and never sought to pressure or influence them and went out of his way to avoid the possibility. He states that, while he occasionally saw Maj MacEachern (the CFNIS officer), he does not recall ever seeing WO Mellett, the Battle Group MP who conducted the investigation into the incident between MCpl Perry and [redacted text] (Canadian padre).

91. MCpl Dan Peterson, one of the Battle Group MPs, specifically recalled an order to restrict Americans from entering the CF camp if their purpose was to visit the snipers, unless there was an operational purpose. MCpl Peterson recalls, however, that a specific exception was made for [redacted text] (American padre) at the latter's request. He recalls the order having been given to him verbally through his chain of command. However, he is not aware if the order originated with Col Stogran or the US commander.

92. WO (then Sgt) Scott Mellett recalls that, on March 29, 2002, he was verbally tasked by his MP superior, WO (now MWO) Rooker, with investigating a complaint of insubordination involving the unit Padre, [redacted text], and MCpl Perry. WO Mellett recalls that, while [redacted text] (Canadian padre) wanted the situation addressed, he seemed uncomfortable with making it an MP matter. WO Mellett recalls that in his investigation of the episode he was unable to identify any other witnesses to the incident. He states that he concluded his investigation report on March 31, 2002, but does not recall if any charges resulted.

93. WO Mellett insists that no one in any way influenced or interfered with his investigation of this incident and that, despite being in-theatre as part of the Battle Group, the MPs retained their investigative independence. He notes, however, that it would have been normal for either him or WO Rooker to have briefed Col Stogran or the Adjutant on the status of the investigation. WO Mellett states that, while he did hear rumours of a “witch hunt”, he is unsure of their origin and adds that it did not affect how he handled the investigation. He adds that, because of the two separate MP investigations involving members of the sniper detachment happening so close together, this may have created a perception that the snipers were under closer scrutiny than the others.

94. WO Mellett indicated that the CF MPs controlled access to the CF camp through a main gate; however, he does not recall any order about restricting US troop access to the Canadian camp generally, or to the snipers specifically.

95. MWO Norman Rooker was WO Mellett's superior in Afghanistan and also commanded the five other members of the MP detachment which deployed to Afghanistan as part of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group. On March 29, 2002, MWO Rooker recalls that CWO Comeau requested the assistance of the MPs with the arrest of MCpl Perry. MWO Rooker tasked WO Mellett to assist with the arrest and possibly Cpl (now MCpl) Peterson as well. MWO Rooker recalls a conversation he had with [redacted text] (Canadian padre) after the incident with MCpl Perry. From this conversation, he learned that [redacted text] (Canadian padre) was very frightened of MCpl Perry, but was experiencing an internal struggle about reporting the matter to the chain of command. MWO Rooker does not recall [redacted text] (Canadian padre) receiving any external pressure to lodge his complaint.

96. MWO Rooker does not recall any interference from Col Stogran or the chain of command in any of the MP investigations in Afghanistan, nor does he recall any complaints from his subordinate MPs to this effect. He thinks the notion of Col Stogran using the MPs as part of a personal campaign of harassment against the snipers to be ludicrous.

97. MWO Rooker confirms that the MPs were responsible for monitoring the gate and controlling access into the CF compound, but does not recall any order restricting US soldiers from entering the Canadian camp.

98. For his part, the CFNIS officer, Maj MacEachern states that, in his view, WO Mellett is a man of integrity and that if he thought anyone in the chain of command was trying to influence his investigation, he would have asked the CFNIS to take it over.

99. As already indicated, Mr. Perry declined to be interviewed by the Commission.

100. As part of its investigation into this matter, the Commission also conducted a review of the MP file on the incident involving MCpl Perry and [redacted text] (Canadian padre), which resulted in MCpl Perry's arrest. This file (GO # 2002-15806) and the included MP Investigation Report reveal the following. The MPs were engaged by CWO Comeau on March 29, 2002. CWO Comeau provided the MPs with a written statement from [redacted text] (Canadian padre) describing an incident that took place the previous day in which MCpl Perry allegedly made a threatening gesture toward [redacted text] (Canadian padre) and said “Fuck him”. On previous occasions, MCpl Perry is alleged to have made similar comments, such as “I hate padres”. [redacted text] (Canadian padre) expressed a genuine concern for his safety and fears of retribution from MCpl Perry. Later that day (March 29), then-Sgt Mellett and then-Cpl Peterson accompanied CWO Comeau and located and arrested MCpl Perry. He was cautioned, informed of his right to counsel (which he declined to exercise) and escorted to the MP section where he was processed for close custody. The report then outlines the various interviews that were conducted and written statements taken in the course of the investigation. The investigation report notes that on March 31, 2002, MCpl Perry refused to accept conditions of release offered by the Battle Group Adjutant, Capt Mills, and thus remained in close custody. The report closes with the observation that no witnesses were identified to the incident between [redacted text] (Canadian padre) and MCpl Perry. The investigation report is signed by then-Sgt Mellett as the author and by then-WO Rooker as the reviewer. The file indicates that the investigation was concluded on April 14, 2002 as “founded/not cleared”.

101. Other documents reviewed by the Commission indicate that a charge of conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline contrary to section 129 of the National Defence Act (Code of Service Discipline) was laid against MCpl Perry and, on April 1, 2002, MCpl Perry elected to be tried by court martial. Accordingly, the matter was referred to the Director of Military Prosecutions (DMP) within the Office of the Judge Advocate General for review. On July 15, 2002, the Deputy DMP concluded that the charge should not proceed due to the lack of a reasonable prospect of conviction. MCpl Perry was served with notice of this decision on July 29, 2002.

102. Finally, a review by the Commission of the audiotapes of the interviews conducted by WO Mellett in this matter reveal that, while conducted under difficult conditions, the interviews were done in a professional and non-confrontational manner.

103. The evidence provided by witnesses and a review of relevant documents and materials, as summarized above, indicate that there is no basis to conclude that the Battle Group MPs, including WO Mellett, were improperly influenced by the chain of command in the performance of their policing duties, or were otherwise unprofessional in discharging their responsibilities vis-à-vis the snipers generally, or Mr. Perry specifically.

104. Specifically, with respect to the arrest of MCpl Perry for insubordination, it is clear that the actions of the MPs in this respect were the result of a complaint received by the chain of command. Moreover, the chain of command appears to have been reacting to an episode which they genuinely believed to be serious and warranting decisive intervention, on the basis of the information provided by the complainant, [redacted text] (Canadian padre), of his own accord, as well as awareness of previous incidents. Reasonable grounds to believe that a service member has committed a service offence provide the necessary legal grounds for arrest under the National Defence Act, and these would have been present on the basis of [redacted text] (Canadian padre) statement. In addition, [redacted text] (Canadian padre) apparent fear for his safety provided a legal basis for keeping MCpl Perry in custody post-arrest. It is noted that MCpl Perry declined certain release conditions that would have shortened his period in close custody.

105. It is evident that Col Stogran had concerns about MCpl Perry which pre-dated the deployment. However, these were ultimately not sufficient to keep Col Stogran from taking MCpl Perry to Afghanistan. Moreover, the matters which resulted in MP involvement with MCpl Perry were the result of complaints lodged by other individuals of their own accord. Col Stogran and the MPs were merely reacting to complaints by others. It should be noted that, unlike the investigation conducted by the CFNIS, for the incident involving MCpl Perry and [redacted text] (Canadian padre), the decision to lay a charge belonged by law to MCpl Perry's chain of command and not to the MPs, so the issue of command influence does not even arise as far as that is concerned. There is no indication that the MP involvement in the arrest of MCpl Perry or in the investigation of the complaint of insubordination was improperly motivated or influenced by the chain of command.

106. The Commission found no evidence of any action taken by the MPs in respect of the issue surrounding the snipers' refusal to wear certain equipment during operations.

107. With respect to the question of whether the MPs were ever asked to restrict US troop access to the snipers in the Canadian compound at Kandahar, the evidence of the various witnesses was inconsistent, though most did not believe there was such an order. It should be noted, in any event, that even if such an order had been issued, it would have originated with the Battle Group command, not the MPs, and as such, the MPs would have been obliged to enforce the order, but would not bear any responsibility for it.

Finding # 2:

The Chair finds that the available evidence does not support the allegations that Military Police members of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group, including Warrant Officer Mellett, allowed themselves to be utilized to harass any of the snipers at the behest of the chain of command.

  • CFPM agreed with this finding.

c) Other Issues

108 The complainant raised a number of other concerns, such as the snipers' absence for the presentation of the Bronze Stars by the Americans and the general delay in receiving official recognition for their performance on Operations Anaconda and Harpoon in Afghanistan in March 2002. These types of issues do not relate to the actions and responsibilities of military police members and, as such, do not fall within the mandate of this Commission. It is also observed that the DND and CF Ombudsman has addressed these matters in his report.Footnote 3 I will note, however, that at least some in the snipers' chain of command, such as CWO Comeau, were well aware of the delays to be anticipated in approving the granting of the medals and honors in question, particularly in the case of a foreign honor, such as the US Army Bronze Star. Unfortunately, it does not appear that this was adequately explained to the snipers (e.g. Maj Allen recalled mentioning to one of the snipers while in Dubai that the process would take awhile). As a result, an impression may have been inadvertently created that the chain of command was discounting their achievements and focusing solely on the negative aspects of their mission (i.e., the incident on “the Whale” and the episode between MCpl Perry and [redacted text] (Canadian padre)). This impression was clearly another irritant in a stressful environment which would likely have adversely affected the snipers' perception of, and attitude towards, the military police investigations which are the subject of this report.

V CONCLUSION

109. While I have determined the allegations in this complaint regarding the conduct of the military police not to be founded, the very significant stress under which the snipers, and all Canadian personnel, were operating in Afghanistan is clearly recognized. While the disciplinary interventions by the chain of command, which led to the military police actions at issue in this complaint, were found by the Commission to have been justified and initiated in good faith, it is unquestionable that the stresses of the exigent circumstances, compounded by the unavoidable irritants of the investigative process, would seriously impact any perception of the events in question. Moreover, having limited, and sometimes incorrect, information regarding such matters as the American medal presentation would, as noted earlier, only serve to exacerbate an already negative perspective. In the end, however, such perceptions, though no doubt very real in the snipers' experience of them, were not objectively verifiable. It is hoped that the Commission's examination of these matters and the explanations provided herein will mitigate the lingering effects of an obviously very troubling experience.

VI SUMMARY OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

Chairperson's Final Report – MPCC-2006-038
Regarding the Military Police Treatment of Snipers

Finding # 1:

The Chair finds that the available evidence does not support the complainant's allegations that he was subjected to unprofessional treatment by Major MacEachern or Warrant Officer Bergin during their investigation of the March 2002 incident on “the Whale” during Operation Harpoon. (AGREED)

Finding # 2:

The Chair finds that the available evidence does not support the allegations that Military Police members of the 3 PPCLI Battle Group, including Warrant Officer Mellett, allowed themselves to be utilized to harass any of the snipers at the behest of the chain of command. (AGREED)

Recommendation # 1:

The Chair recommends that the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service Standard Operating Procedures be revised to require that suspects be notified in a timely fashion as to the results of completed investigations, unless operational exigencies dictate otherwise. (ACCEPTED)

Ottawa, December 19, 2007

Peter A. Tinsley
Chair

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