Canadian poisoned by fellow soldiers awarded $625,000

A Canadian soldier poisoned by his own men in Croatia in 1993 was awarded $625,000 in a deal with the federal government, records show.

A Canadian soldier poisoned by his own men in Croatia in 1993 was awarded $625,000 in a deal with the federal government, records show.

Matt Stopford was poisoned by tainted coffee while serving with the military in Croatia in 1993. ((Tom Hanson/Canadian Press))

Matt Stopford's out-of-court settlement was not disclosed when the agreement was reached in June 2006, but the figure was contained in recently released public-accounts records.

It was listed as an ex-gratia — or kindness — payment, which recognizes no legal liability.

The Defence Department and Stopford's lawyer refused at the time to discuss the matter. Only a terse news release was issued saying the details were confidential.

Paul Champ, the Ottawa lawyer who represented Stopford, said Tuesday he couldn't discuss details of the settlement, but indicated his client was satisfied.

Stopford, a former warrant officer, sued the Defence Department for $7.5 million in 2001, claiming the department failed in its duty to warn him about the poisoning attempts. He also blamed the military for not providing quick and effective care when he became ill after his return to Canada.

The lawsuit was settled just before the case went to trial.

Soldier now blind in one eye

"An injured soldier is under the control of the Canadian government. They often can't go and see civilian doctors," Champ said.

"The Canadian government is in possession of all the information that led to the injury in the first place. We argued that surely they have obligation to act in the best interest of the soldier."

Stopford was informed by a military leader in 1999 — six years after his return from overseas — that his own men in Croatia tried to poison his coffee with boot blacking, battery acid and eye drops.

The soldiers, several of whom reportedly confessed to the crime, considered him too gung-ho and hoped to make him too sick to function.

Stopford is now blind in one eye, has joint pain, suffers from internal bleeding and has lost several teeth.

He was told about the poisoning in a letter from Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Patricia Samson.

A military police investigation found about 30 people in the military chain of command knew of the poisoning attempts, but did nothing until the matter was raised in public.

Six soldiers were apparently responsible, but the alleged poisoners were never charged because the statute of limitations had run out.