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Blue Blogging Soapbox
...rambling rants, thoughts and musings on mostly political topics - from your late night blogger.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Do the right thing 
(en francais)

This kind of crap needs to end. Former Military Ombudsman Andre Marin recommended compensation after investigating the matter. A year later we learn that two officers have been compenstated for their treatment, but the family continues to receive the bureaucratic shuffle.

I'm on the road with a slow connection right now, but I'll blog on this again later this evening with all the appropriate links.

Link to the original report is below, along with the recommendation for compensation.

It still stands and should be acted upon.
Soldier’s widow still fighting military for compensation(subscription only)

The Canadian Forces has determined the family of a soldier who was killed during a 1992 training exercise doesn’t deserve financial compensation for their suffering, despite a report last year that blasted the military for putting the man’s wife and
daughters through an emotional roller-coaster of “inattention and insensitivity.”

Christina Wheeler has fought with the military bureaucracy over 14 years, first to find out what happened the day her husband Rick was killed and then to clear his name after officers blamed him for causing his own death.

Master Cpl. Wheeler, 29, died in April 1992 when he was run over by an armoured personnel carrier during a training exercise in Alberta.

The Victoria woman thought the battle was largely won last year when an investigation by then Canadian Forces ombudsman Andre Marin blasted the military establishment for its treatment of the Wheeler family.

Marin recommended financial compensation for Wheeler and her two daughters for the pain and suffering the military put them through. He noted the military’s actions in the wake of the soldier’s death created “an aura of coverup, bias, partiality or impropriety.”

Mixed signals

The Forces has already compensated two officers, one of them retired, the other now a general, for how they were unfairly treated in the aftermath of Wheeler’s death. It also suggested last year that Christina Wheeler submit a claim for compensation, adding such a request “would receive the sympathetic consideration that any meritorious claim against the Crown would receive.”

But in an April 26 letter, the office of the Canadian Forces’ legal adviser told the Wheeler family they don’t deserve compensation. The letter noted errors and delays associated with investigations into Wheeler’s death were administrative in nature and did not make the military liable for any issues that arose from them.

A review of the evidence did not permit the Canadian Forces to determine whether “Mrs. Wheeler is suffering from the result of the death of her husband or her frustration with the process.”

Christina Wheeler said the letter is typical of the attitude the Canadian Forces has always had towards her and her daughters, who were three- and six-years-old when their father died.

“The military can do this because they can,” she explained. “They seem to keep thinking they can stall me or outwait me. I’m not sure why after 14 years they think I’m going to go away.”

From Military Ombudsman Andre Morin's report, When a Soldier Falls:

1506 I therefore recommend that:

1507 30. The Chief of the Defence Staff take action to acknowledge the unfair treatment that the immediate family of MCpl Wheeler received during the investigation of MCpl Wheeler’s death, and ensure that appropriate measures are taken to ensure redress so that adequate closure can be obtained by the family.

1508 The department’s response to this recommendation reads:

1509 Agree in principle. A family visit to the site of the accident and the erection of the memorial cairn, was greatly appreciated by Mrs Wheeler. LFWA continues to
maintain contact through a Liaison Officer.

1510 The DND/CF recognizes the trials that Mrs. Wheeler has endured during the entire process. The departmental OPI [office of primary interest] for compensation claims, DND/CFLA CCL [Department of National Defence / Canadian Forces Legal Advisor Claims and Civil Litigation], has no authority, however, to settle this matter without first receiving a claim from Mrs. Wheeler.

Were such a claim to be received by CCL from Mrs. Wheeler, it would receive the sympathetic consideration that any meritorious claim against the Crown would receive.

1511 Although the DND/CF response appears to indicate that legal advisors for the military would be amenable to making some offer of compensation to Mrs. Wheeler in response to a legal claim submitted by her, this does not in my view go far enough to recognize the harm which she and her daughters have suffered. I note that in accordance with the DND/CF response above Mrs. Wheeler has documented the extent of the impact of these events on her and her children and also provided statements from her daughters as to how they have been affected. This has been done at great emotional expense on all of their parts. It is manifestly unfair however, to place the onus on Mrs. Wheeler to jump through additional bureaucratic hurdles to make a case for compensation, especially given the findings contained in my Office’s report. The ordeal which she has suffered is well documented and the impact on her and her immediate family should speak for itself. It is also deserving of anacknowledgement at the highest level.

I am calling upon the Chief of the Defence Staff to formally acknowledge the impact on Mrs. Wheeler and to instructmilitary legal advisors to ensure not just that her claim receives “sympathetic consideration” but that she receive adequate and just compensation on a expeditious basis, sothat she and her family can put closure to this lengthy saga.
Cross posted to The Torch

WE Speak at 8:48 a.m.    | en francais | Go to Top|

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