Military Brings New Shame on Canada
Winsor, Hugh, The Independent (London, England)
When soldiers of the Second Canadian Battle Group in Bosnia were first assigned to protect the patients and staff of a mental hospital in Bakovici at the height of the ethnic conflict there in 1993, they were hailed as benevolent heroes, the stuff of which Canada's reputation for leadership in United Nations peacekeeping was made.
But the 7,000 pages of evidence from an independent investigation into incidents at the hospital, released in Ottawa last week, detail a story of drunken debauchery, black-market profiteering, sexual liaisons and physical abuse of patients that has dealt the already battered reputation of the Canadian armed forces another blow.
To make matters worse, the initial investigation into the incidents, undertaken by the military police and senior officers, was so badly done that by the time the Royal Canadian Mounted Police were called in to do an independent investigation, the three-year statute of limitations in the Canadian military justice code had come into effect. The result is that nobody can be court-martialled. The 47 officers and soldiers involved in the incidents who are still in the army will be subjected to a career review panel which can recommend demotions or dismissals, but it has no power to impose more serious penalties. Most of the soldiers' misbehaviour at the hospital involved excessive drinking and consensual sex with nurses and interpreters; the evidence showed that it was often nurses who supplied the black-market booze for the liaisons with soldiers. But in one incident, soldiers shaved the armpits and genital area of a 17-year-old female patient and in another they got into a fight with a male patient over a bottle of beer. Equally serious is what happened in the military chain of command. When the Canadian commander in Bosnia raised the initial military police investigation with his superiors in Ottawa, they told him they did not want to hear about it and that he should keep it in his locker for the future, if required. …