March 13, 2019
An Open Letter To:
The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau, P.C., M.P., Prime Minister of Canada, Ottawa
The Honourable David Lametti, P.C., M.P., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Ottawa
The Honourable Lawrence MacAuley, P.C., M.P., Minister of Veteran’s Affairs, Ottawa
The Honourable Harjit Sajjan, P.C., M.P., Minister of Defense, Ottawa
The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health, Ottawa
The Right Honourable Richard Wagner, P.C., Chief Justice of Canada, Supreme Court of Canada, Ottawa
The People of Canada
My name is Derek Bodner, and I am writing this letter as a private citizen, residing in the city of Calgary, in the province of Alberta.
I am writing this letter to appeal to the Government of Canada to reconvene the Somalia Commission of Inquiry which was adjourned in 1997 with the final report issued in July of that year.
In the years since then however, a great deal of information has come to light regarding the anti-malarial drug mefloquine and its adverse effects. This evidence, had it been known at the time, would be exculpatory in a court of law, and at the very least would be sufficient to justify a re-trial if used as the basis of an appeal.
The problem here is that, unlike the court process, there is no mechanism for appeal or redress in a public inquiry. There is no means of introducing new evidence, no way of having another body independently assess the merits of the case, and no possibility for individuals or entities to rehabilitate reputations that may have suffered wrongly as a result of the decisions mad by the public inquiry.
In remarks to the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice at their annual conference on October 10, 2007, Mr. Justice Dennis O’Connor, then Associate Chief Justice of the Ontario Court of Appeal said:
The theme of this conference is “Doing Justice: Dispute Resolution in the Courts and Beyond,” and I am here to talk today about public inquiries. In Canada , public inquiries have played an important role in the delivery of justice, broadly defined. In this broader definition of delivering justice to the community, there is a spectrum of approaches. At the one, very familiar end, is the traditional trial, which is designed to determine what happened, and what ought to be done about it, in a very specific context – the Crown vs. the accused, plaintiff vs. defendant. Generally, courts are good at answering the limited questions posed in individual trials, through a transparent process that depends on fair and full procedural safeguards, a fair decision-maker, and an open court.
At the other end are alternative models of justice which this conference will examine – private courts, arbitration, mediation, faith-based dispute resolution, and so on. These models represent in part a triumph of choice – parties selecting their decision-maker, and designing models of decision-making appropriate to the circumstances, which may include efficiency, cost, responsiveness and specific expertise. Legitimacy does not flow from publicity, but from the concept of choice of procedures to meet the needs of parties.
If justice is to be truly served, then I would ask that the government reconvene the Somalia Commission of Inquiry. This matter is not over, and the people whose lives have been turned upside down because of it deserve to have their chance to testify, and to seek the justice that up until now has been denied them.
In Canada, and in countries around the globe, the number of veterans and active duty soldiers who are experiencing debilitating psychiatric issues as a result of taking mefloquine, is growing, and soon the matter will be litigated in those countries legal systems.
Although the government is not compelled to do so under the letter of the law, it must also abide by the spirit of the law, which I believe compels the government to act accordingly.