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Somalia Affair: The whistleblower

Canadian peacemakers were lauded as heroes when they went into an untamed land ruled by rebels. Their mission, Operation Deliverance, charged them with restoring order in Somalia. But in fact, the Canadian Airborne regiment was splitting apart at the seams, lacking both leadership and accountability. Murder after murder, the troops came home disgraced. Tracks were covered and responsibility shifted up and down the chain of command during an investigation that would dismantle the army and implicate the government in a high-level cover-up.

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Maj. Barry Armstrong has more secrets to tell. The recent revelations about misconduct and murder in Somalia are just the tip of the iceberg, he says in this CBC interview. Armstrong is the military doctor who challenged his superiors about the death of a Somali, Achmed Aruush, who had been shot in the back by Canadian Airborne troops.

Military reports said that Airborne soldiers were defending the base and that "everybody behaved exactly as they were supposed to." Sensing the incident would be swept under the carpet, Armstrong shared his concerns with his wife Jennifer. She took her husband's story to the press, triggering a public outcry for an inquiry.  Armstrong has since become the pivotal figure in the Somalia investigation, the reluctant whistleblower who wanted to believe only the best of his colleagues.
. Dr. Russell Brown, a Canadian anesthesiologist in Somalia, agreed with Maj. Armstrong that the shooting looked suspicious. He noted that the Somalis had gunshot wounds in the buttocks and it appeared as though they were injured while trying to run away.

. During the Somalia inquiry in 1997, Maj. Armstrong came under fire for his accusations of murder regarding the death of Achmed Aruush. Lt.-Col. Carol Mathieu described Armstrong as "certifiable." Others said that Armstrong had plans to sell morphine on the black market. Armstrong refuted these accusations.

. This CBC Television report followed the testimony of Armstrong who defended his findings. "This man was wounded. He was in a crippled state and then was finished off with this killing blow, intentionally inflicted, to the head and neck. I trust the soldiers I'm with. I would dearly like that there could be some wonderful explanation about how these things could be achieved - these wounds could be achieved in a nice way."

. A Canadian pathologist testified before the inquiry that he believed that Aruush hadn't been shot at from close range but rather from a discernable distance.
. The Somalia inquiry also heard testimony that Aruush and Sabrie were baited with food and water.

. The Somalia Inquiry found that Aruush never posed a threat to the Canadians. Except for a ceremonial dagger which was never pulled, Aruush was defenceless. The Somalia inquiry's report, Dishonoured Legacy, stated that "the evidence leads to the conclusion that the shooting of Mr. Aruush was motivated purely by the goal of completing the mission by preventing his escape, not by the need to respond to a threat."

. Armstrong had served for 20 years in the Canadian military. Six months after he returned from Somalia, he retired. As of 1998, he was practicing as a general surgeon in Dryden, Ont.
Medium: Television
Program: Prime Time News
Broadcast Date: May 5, 1993
Guest(s): Jennifer Armstrong, Barry Armstrong
Host: Peter Mansbridge, Pamela Wallin
Reporter: Brian Stewart
Duration: 4:29

Last updated: November 8, 2012

Page consulted on November 7, 2014

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