Canada

Doctor who warned of contamination was court martialled

The medical officer behind the warnings of soldiers' toxic exposure in Croatia is alleging a set-up caused his 1995 court martial.

Dr. Eric Smith, who now lives in Elmsdale, Nova Scotia, says the controversy over the peacekeepers' health rattled Canada's military so badly, it struck back at him.

He was court martialled in the fall of 1995.

"I just felt like I was targeted and there was no way I could defend myself," he said in an interview with CBC News.

Smith was the military doctor who insisted the red dirt used by Canadian peacekeepers in 1993 to fill sandbags in Croatia was toxic. The military is investigating now, but at the time it rejected the warning.

Smith's letter detailing the risk to soldiers' health was removed from the soldiers' files.

Smith was transferred to CFB Goose Bay. In September, 1995, a military police officer came to see Smith, looking for stress-related sick leave. Smith says he granted it out of compassion. Later he bought the man's canoe for $300.

The officer tells a different story. He says Smith asked for - and received - the canoe in exchange for sick-leave approval.

The court martial verdict accepted the military police officer's version of events. The officer in charge concluded in his report that "Lt.-Cmdr.. Smith was not a credible witness ... I am unable to give any credit to his evidence in any important area."

Smith was severely reprimanded and fined $2,000. He left the Canadian armed forces soon after, with a medical discharge.

"I'm sure it was set up somehow," he says. Smith insists it was painful payback for his troublesome warnings. "I made the best of my life. I became a physician, and all of a sudden I threw it all away for what they're saying is a $300 canoe! It just doesn't make sense."

On Friday, the Department of National Defence, which is in the middle of an investigation into the health files controversy, did not want to comment on Smith's court martial.