Minto Armoury bullying, response under investigation in soldier’s suicide

OTTAWA — Military police are investigating how bullying at a Winnipeg armoury contributed to a soldier’s suicide at CFB Shilo a year ago.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 17/12/2018 (1567 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

OTTAWA — Military police are investigating how bullying at a Winnipeg armoury contributed to a soldier’s suicide at CFB Shilo a year ago.

“It is essential that we… accept responsibility for our role in the death of this soldier,” Brig.-Gen. Trevor Cadieu wrote in a statement Monday, regarding the death of Winnipeg reservist Cpl. Nolan Caribou.

“I believe that the harassment (Caribou) faced and the failure of unit leaders to intervene contributed to his death.”

The military has publicly acknowledged Caribou died by suicide, only after media obtained court records showing he’d endured bullying and harassment at Minto Armoury in Winnipeg.

Caribou was found dead on Nov. 18, 2017 at CFB Shilo.

The military issued a press release the next day, writing that “the death took place during an exercise focused on basic defensive routines, patrolling and raids,” and that “the death occurred on DND property.” It did not mention a suicide, nor the fact Caribou had left that exercise.

Military police first investigated Caribou’s death, but opened a second, broader probe at Cadieu’s request in February, about issues at the West End armoury.

Cadieu, an army commander based in Edmonton, also ordered a board-of-inquiry, which, he wrote Monday, had found “deep administrative deficiencies and troubling recurring activities in the Minto Armoury” which “include bullying, unsanctioned fighting, inappropriate use of alcohol resulting in violence and initiation activities.”

The board report was completed in May, and is not publicly available. Cadieu said the report also found Caribou had reported to his superiors that fellow soldiers had harassed him at the Minto Armoury, and that they did not provide an appropriate response.

On Tuesday morning, the Canadian Armed Forces wrote to the Free Press that it withheld details it would have otherwise made public at the request of Caribou’s relatives:

“The family has been extremely private throughout the entire process and have asked the CAF to respect that privacy. They did not wish for the suicide to be made public at any time,” wrote Maj. Lena Angell.

In a statement to the Free Press, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan wrote Monday he was “deeply saddened” by Caribou’s passing and is “monitoring” the second, ongoing investigation.

The actual details of Caribou’s harassment, as well as issues at the Winnipeg armory, are described in the records surrounding an October search warrant — dating some 11 months after the soldier’s death — which only became public when obtained by CBC News.

The network reported that the search warrant, and affidavits, included a reference to a reservist writing over social media that Caribou should kill himself, and that the day of his death, Caribou had asked to be dismissed and never returned.

The court documents describing “ongoing ritual hazing” at the Minto Armoury and a “fight club” atmosphere.

While the second military police investigation into the Winnipeg facility is ongoing, Cadieu said the army has already taken “remedial action” against five soldiers — one of whom they kicked out of the military, and another who lost a promotion.

“I have met with and personally committed to Cpl. Caribou’s family that his death will not be in vain,” Cadieu wrote.

The military has now separated units of the Winnipeg Infantry Tactical Group into smaller groupings, which do exercises on separate nights to “develop their own positive identities and esprit-de-corps.”

Caribou had never been deployed abroad; soldiers based at Minto will have a chance to do so in the spring, just months after the Canadian Forces reorganized the Winnipeg armoury.

Cadieu also hinted that “our leaders must model the behaviour we expect of our soldiers.”

Sajjan wrote that “any kind of harmful behaviour and harassment is completely unacceptable” in the military.

“I want to assure Canadians that I am seized of this matter and am committed to ensuring that our leadership takes appropriate action to prevent future tragedies from occurring,” Sajjan wrote.

Tory MP James Bezan had expressed his condolences for the soldier, but his office declined to speak about the case Monday, citing the ongoing investigation.

Help available

If you are in need of help, please phone the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line toll-free at: 1-877-435-7170.


Updated on Tuesday, December 18, 2018 8:54 AM CST: Clarifies that military did not make suicide public upon request of the family, whom officials had informed.

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