Canada

DND stalled sniper investigation with roadblocks: ombudsman

The Defence Department dragged its feet in an investigation into the case of a Canadian sniper team that complained it was ostracized by commanders, Canada's military ombudsman said following a three-year inquiry.

The Defence Department dragged its feet in an investigation into the case of a Canadian sniper teamthatcomplainedit was ostracized by commanders, Canada's military ombudsman has concluded.

Yves Côtéconcluded that the snipers were treated fairly, butsaid the military prolonged his investigation by putting up constant roadblocks.

"Unfortunately, this investigation took much more time than it should have," said Côté , who onWednesdayreleased the results of his three-year inquiry."Our team faced considerable resistance in obtaining complete documents from the department and from the Canadian Forces in a timely manner."

Côté's office looked into how the military treatedagroup of sharpshooters deployed to Afghanistan in 2002.

The snipers from the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry were among the first Canadian troops sent to Afghanistan in 2002.

They served with distinction and were awarded the Bronze Star by the U.S. military.

But there was controversyfollowing allegations the team desecrated the body of an insurgent killed in battle. There was an investigation but no charges.

Still, team members complained from then on that they were ostracized by their unit, denied access to stress debriefings and treated unfairly by the chain of command.

After conducting nearly 150 interviews, Côtésaid the snipers were treated fairly.

"Although we found that there was room for improvement— particularly regarding the military's approach to critical incident stress debriefings, and its honours and awards program— we believe the snipers were treated fairly given the circumstances in which they were operating."

But Côté also scolded the military for the way it handled the complaint of Patrick Ragsdale, the father of a sniper who left the forces with post-traumatic stress.

Ragsdale went to the ombudsman to complain about the way his son was treated.

'Bureaucracy took over:' ombudsman

The ombudsman found officials did not treat Ragsdale's concerns in "an appropriate manner or in a way in which any other concerned family member of a soldier injured in operations would legitimately expect to be treated.

"When Mr. Ragsdale started to inquire about his son, bureaucracy took over. And it was a blind and uncaring bureaucracy that took over," Côté said.

"We have come across a number of cases where family members are treated like administrative problems and handled in an uncaring, bureaucratic way and this is fundamentally wrong," added Côté.

Côté said the Canadian Forces must improve the way it communicates with families and speed up the release of information during investigations.

Ragsdale saidhe's satisfied with the investigation.

"I think that things are different now. The current military are doing more for the troops than was happening back then. And I think that's a positive thing."

With files from the Canadian Press