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Complaints body to probe military's handling of soldier's suicide

The Military Police Complaints Commission is launching a probe into the way the military investigated a soldier's suicide at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton.

Cpl. Stuart Langridge hanged himself in the base barracks on March 15, 2008.

He was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan with Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians), an armoured regiment.

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It was his sixth suicide attempt.

His parents, Sheila and Shaun Fynes, have raised issues about investigations conducted by the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service following their son's death.

They claim the initial investigation was not impartial or independent and sought to exonerate the military chain of command of responsibility for the suicide.

They also complain about delays and difficulty in obtaining information, and about the way they were treated by military police.

The chief of defence staff, Gen. Walt Natynczyk, apologized to Cpl. Langridge's family in October, acknowledging the military could have done a better job of handling their son's case.

All of Cpl. Langridge's suicide attempts came in the last year of his life. He was hospitalized several times and had resorted to alcohol and cocaine.

Ms. Fynes has said her 28-year-old son was never properly treated for his ailment and says the decisions made by military medical staff during the last weeks of his life were "thoughtless, humiliating and destabilizing."

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After his death, military mistakes added to the family's suffering, including a mix-up in the next of kin. The military took more than 14 months to deliver Cpl. Langridge's suicide note to his family.

It was eight months before the Defence Department realized his parents, not his girlfriend, were the designated next of kin. His parents did not receive the flag that draped his coffin.

A board of inquiry into the death wasn't held until a year later. And in September, the Defence Department told his mother that inquiries about his pension would have to be done through her lawyer.

Commission chairman Glenn Stannard said Monday he was launching the public-interest investigation because the complaint relates to an alleged lack of independence and impartiality.

"The commission believes that independence and impartiality are central to military policing, as it is essential that MPs be able to police Canadian Forces members without bias," said a release.

"An immediate investigation by an independent body was also viewed as warranted to engender confidence in the process."

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The commission will issue a report on its findings and recommendations.

The Military Police Complaints Commission was established in 1999 to provide independent civilian oversight of the military police.

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