The Canadian Armed Forces had no idea about the violence, alcohol and drug abuse going on in the home of a Canadian Ranger and his spouse before a murder-suicide in 2015, the N.W.T Coroner's office has found.
Vanessa Marlowe shot and killed her spouse Tobie Marlowe at their home in Lutselk'e, N.W.T., in February 2015 before turning the gun on herself, according to the coroner's report issued Tuesday.
The report details a violent relationship, marked by alcohol abuse, sexual jealousy, calls to the RCMP and convictions related to domestic assault charges. At the time of his death, Tobie Marlowe was under a court order prohibiting him from owning firearms.
- Deaths of Canadian Ranger and spouse involved military rifle
- Nearly 50 Canadian Rangers have died between 2011-2015
- Canadian Rangers lack support and healthcare access, military ombudsman says
"These convictions were accumulating without the knowledge of the Canadian Rangers," Coroner Cathy Menard told CBC News.
"There was no follow-up or criminal checks or self-reporting by the Ranger himself to notify the military."
Known as the "eyes and ears of Canada's North," Canadian Rangers are part of the Canadian Armed Forces Reserve. They patrol in sparsely-settled areas and are responsible for reporting unusual activities, collecting data to support military operations and conducting surveillance when required.
All Canadian Rangers, unless disciplinary action has been taken against them, are issued a rifle. They are allowed to store their weapons at home, but must follow provincial and territorial laws.
Despite his record, however, Marlowe was able to store a military-issued .303 Lee-Enfield rifle and military ammunition in his home.
"He wasn't even supposed to have a rifle," Menard said.
The Forces issued Marlowe his rifle in 1997 when he enlisted. He qualified to keep his rifle in 2012 and was issued 400 rounds of ammunition, which is standard military practice.
Self-reporting system in place
Though the Forces do not conduct regular independent criminal records checks on Rangers, members are required to notify their commanding officer whenever there is a major life change, said Brig.-Gen. Rob Roy MacKenzie, the chief of staff of the Army Reserve.
There is also a checkup every 10 years, which relies heavily on information the member provides to his commanding officer. In the case of Tobie Marlowe — he never told anyone in the military about the violence in his home and his convictions.
"My understanding from the unit chain of command is they weren't aware of those [convictions]," MacKenzie said.
"It is incumbent on the member to report any arrest or conviction that they have to the unit chain of command. That's the responsibility of every member of the Forces.
"But in the Army and the unit level we want to work with local services and police to have awareness of our personnel and support them in any issues that they have."
Two Ranger reviews underway
MacKenzie said the issues regarding how firearms are tracked and the well-being of Rangers would be addressed in a wide-ranging internal review of the Rangers program.
That review is separate from another review underway by military ombudsman Gary Walbourne.
"If a member doesn't self-report as they should, we want to make sure we support them as best we can," MacKenzie said.
Menard is calling on the Department of National Defence to instigate a full review into the handling and storing of firearms in the North, as the Rangers roll out a new C-19 rifle over the next two years.
"There seems to be a lot of questions and no answers, a lot of concerns," Menard said.
"There needs to be something so we can monitor it."