Making Re-opening of The Somalia Inquiry An Election Issue.
Note: This article was first published in July 2019
Some suggestion has been made to this Inquiry that mefloquine caused severe side effects, including abnormal and violent behaviour, among some Canadian Forces personnel in Somalia. We were not able to explore fully the possible impact of mefloquine. This would have required additional hearings dedicated specifically to the issue, which time did not permit. However, we report here our general findings about mefloquine and its possible impact on operations in Somalia. It is clear that mefloquine caused some minor problems in Somalia, as might be expected from a review of the medical literature. We learned of several incidents of gastro-intestinal upset, vivid dreams, nightmares referred to by soldiers as “meflomares”, and inability to sleep following the use of this drug. Side effects — or at least the minor side effects, and possibly also the major side effects — appeared to be most pronounced in the 24 to 48 hours after taking mefloquine. If mefloquine did in fact cause or contribute to some of the misbehaviour that is the subject of this Inquiry, CF personnel who were influenced by the drug might be partly or totally excused for their behaviour. However, for reasons described more fully in Chapter 41, we are not able to reach a final conclusion on this issue….
It is evident that further investigation is warranted before any firm conclusions about the role of mefloquine can be drawn.http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2015/bcp-pco/CP32-66-1997-eng.pdf
It’s quiet on Parliament Hill at the moment, save for the construction workers and the tourists that is. MP’s are on their summer break, hitting the bar-b-que circuit, meeting constituents, and in Calgary, they are flipping pancakes at a Stampede breakfast somewhere in the city.
They are also gearing up for an election that is expected to be held in the third week of October. The parties are in preparation mode, ensuring they have candidates nominates in ridings across the country (hint, hint, Andrew Scheer), and preparing the platforms that they will present to the electorate, in the hopes of convincing Canadians that they have the right plan for the country.
There are a lot of important issues that Canadians will have to weigh in the upcoming campaign, and it would be safe to say that the fate of the nation will hang on the result.
There is one issue that I would like to see mentioned in the upcoming campaign, and that is the matter of reopening the Somalia Commission of Inquiry.
The inquiry, chaired by Justice Gilles Letourneau, ran for 16 months between 1995 and the end of 1996 with the final report issued in the summer of 1997. It would be plagued by controversy.
There was tension between Letourneau and one of the witnesses, B.Gen (Ret.) Ernest Beno, which would lead to a series of legal actions by Beno. He claimed that Letourneau was biased against him, and petitioned to have his name blocked from publication.
The credibility of a number of witnesses came into question when they were evasive in their responses to questions during the inquiry. Standing out among these witnesses was then Chief of Defense Staff General (Ret.) Jean Boyle. In both his words and his actions, he came across as devious and appeared to be hiding something. He would later admit to altering documents that were released to the media and resign, less than a year after taking the job.
Perhaps the biggest controversy of all is the fact that the inquiry hadn’t fulfilled its mandate at the time it was ordered to an end. A number of politicians were complaining about the length of time the inquiry was taking, and shortly after Jean Chretien took over as Prime Minister he gave the order to shut it down.
Still a lot of questions to be asked.
TRUNCATION OF THE INQUIRY AND THE UNFINISHED MANDATE Under the revised terms of reference given to us in the aftermath of the Federal Court of Canada decision characterizing as unlawful the Government’s decision to curtail our Inquiry, we were instructed to report on the pre-deployment phase of the Somalia operation and were given discretion to report on all other matters in our original mandate to the extent that we deemed advisable. In compliance with this adjusted mandate, our report describes in detail all the many matters that we have been able to canvass in the time available. It also traces the outline of what we were originally asked to investigate but were unable to complete due to the truncation of our work. There is an obvious public interest in discovering the answers to questions about the Somalia affair that remain unexplored.
In Chapter 42 we outline further questions and issues we would have asked and explored, if the truncation of our Inquiry had not occurred, under the following general headings: the February 17th riot at the Bailey bridge, The incident of March 4, 1993, The March 16th incident, The March 17, 1993 killing of a Red Cross guard, The detention of alleged thieves, The actions, decisions, responsibilities, and accountability of senior officials, The Deputy Minister, The Chief of the Defence Staff, and the Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff ,The Minister of National Defence, The Judge Advocate General as well as further allegations of cover-up, and systemic issues.
All the unanswered questions raised under these general headings were on our agenda and incorporated in the work plan provided to the Government on November 27, 1996 along with various scenarios for the completion of our work, one of which would have committed us to providing a comprehensive report on all matters in our terms of reference by the end of 1997. This proposal went into considerable detail, outlining a schedule of hearings and providing a list of important witnesses that we would call. We were confident that we could examine all the issues outlined here in a thorough and meaningful way, and complete our report by the end of 1997. We were fully aware of the need for economy and efficiency in public inquiries when we made this commitment. We had experienced extreme frustration when delays encountered in obtaining important documents and in investigating reports of the destruction of military records forced us to ask for more time. Had it not been for these unforeseen developments, we certainly would have completed our work in little more than two years from the date of our appointment.Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Deployment of Canadian Forces to Somalia http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2015/bcp-pco/CP32-66-1997-eng.pdf
The Letourneau Commission wasn’t finished at the time it was put to an end. There were still a lot of questions that needed to be answered, not the least of which would concern mefloquine. Had evidence about mefloquine, and its side effects along with testimony from those that took it, been heard at the hearings the outcome would be much different.
It would explain the behaviour of those whose actions were examined during the hearing. More importantly, it would go towards exonerating two men.
On March 18, 1994, a court martial in Petawawa, Ontario found Pte. Kyle Brown guilty of manslaughter and torture in the death of 16 year-old Shidane Arone one year before in Somalia. He was sentenced to five years in the Canadian Forces Detention Centre in Edmonton, Alberta and served one-third of that sentence.
On March 18th, 1993, M/Cpl. Clayton Matchee and Pte. Kyle Brown were charged with 2nd-degree murder and torture. Brown was found guilty of manslaughter and torture, however Clayton Matchee has not been tried. Shortly after he was charged, Clayton Matchee attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself in his cell. As a result, he was left with brain damage and requires around-the-clock care, leaving him unfit to stand trial. Despite this fact, he has already been found guilty in the court of public opinion.
Both of these men were suffering from the effects of mefloquine toxicity at the time of the incident in question, as were a number of others on that mission. Their testimony needs to be heard as does that of Dr. Remington Nevin, an epidemiologist and the world’s leading researcher of tropical disease medicine, in particular mefloquine.
He will present documented evidence of the effects of mefloquine toxicity, and can also explain what kind of damage the drug does to the brain in detail. Put together it overwhelmingly supports the argument that, but for mefloquine, these tragic incidents would not have otherwise happened.
It won’t do anything about the years that Kyle Brown lost sitting in “Club Ed”, but it will remove the conviction from his record, and will be a public acknowledgement that what happened to him was wrong.
The same can be said of Clayton Matchee, except for the fact that he is currently serving a life sentence from which he will never be paroled. Clearing his name and having the government admit responsibility is important to his wife, Marj. For over two decades she has been fighting an uphill battle on an icy slope, trying to get anyone to listen to her about the danger mefloquine posed, and about what it had done to her husband.
She was the driving force behind the very first Veteran’s Mefloquine Rally in Ottawa three years ago and is hoping to see rallies in other cities across the globe this year. She hopes it will pressure the government to start funding research for a cure or treatment and to make sure that every veteran who was ever given mefloquine is accounted for and warned of its danger.
She’d like the world to hear her message if it’s possible, but for right now, she wants Canadians to know what happened, and the only way to do that is to re-open the Somalia Commission of Inquiry.
This won’t happen before the election, so it’s important that you contact the leaders of all of the federal parties, including Justin Trudeau, and let them know that you want justice done and that re-opening the Somalia Inquiry will be the only way to get it. Tell them that as a Canadian, you deserve to hear the truth.
Be respectful but firm. Let them know that you would like to be heard and that you are asking for the Somalia Commission of Inquiry to be re-opened so that Canadians can finally learn the truth, and a number of injustices can be addressed.
If you live outside Canada, feel free to join in, and send an email to some Canadian politicians demanding justice. Let them know what people around the world think about this.
28 January 2020 – At this moment the Desmond Fatality Inquiry is hearing testimony in Guysborough, Nova Scotia, and in Australia, there is an ever-growing call for a Royal Commission to look into the large increase in the number of veterans who have committed suicide.
As well as re-sitting the Somalia Inquiry, I am calling for a similar Royal Commission to be held in Canada. A Royal Commission that will look into the number of Canadian veterans who are dealing with PTSD or other operational stress injuries, as well as looking into the increase in the number of suicides by Canadian veterans.
Contact Justin Trudeau and/or your MP and tell them you want a Royal Commission on Veteran Suicides.
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