William H.A. Willbond MSM, CD

DITHERING THE WOUNDED

Dither and Yawner’s party have nothing to say?
I think that they should hurry and quietly pay
Wounded Matt Stopford of Medac Pocket fame
Testimony could ruin their new wee Army’s name?

What’s a million here and a million there?
like Gomery if it helps, to perhaps clear the air
pay the poor guy who lost an eye,
or give him now his deserved day in court
then you must all listen to the bad report?

or issue him now an apology
pay for his meds and his PTSD
give him 4 million – pay out of court
or be humiliated as a last resort –

In the end Canadians we’ll have to pay that dough
‘Cause the team is now talking to Colonel Drapeau
He knows where the Headquarters skeletons are
being ever so successful, when he stands at the bar!

Author’s Note: Thanks to the Toronto Sun Article by Peter Worthington below and to the Korean War Veterans Newsletter that keeps Veterans informed – be well my friends

Red faces for Forces

Embarrassment awaits if suit proceeds

Peter Worthington
By Sun News Columnist,
Peter Worthington
Ex-Warrant Officer Matt Stopford has had another day in court – an encouraging day in which the judge lambasted the Crown for its attitude.

A trial date starting Sept. 5, 2006 was set for Stopford’s suit against the DND and the army, but in a rare display of irritation and passion, Justice Richard Mosley warned, if the case proceeded, it would result in enormous embarrassment for Canada, and be devastating to the army.

He’s asked another judge to assist in mediating the case, hopefully to reach a settlement in December.

Stopford’s suit hinges on being told in 1999 by Provost Marshal Brig.-Gen. Patricia Sampson, the military’s top cop, that in 1993 while on UN duty in Croatia, soldiers in his Princess Pats platoon were trying to poison him because they feared he was too aggressive.

Ironically, in the Medak Pocket fight with Croatians, Stopford was decorated for his cool leadership and getting all his troops out safely.

He has since suffered from a variety of crippling ailments, is blind in one eye, has internal bleeding and constant joint pain which he attributes to toxic soil in Croatia, but the army thinks it is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The army has spent years denying responsibility and tried to prevent Stopford from suing. Former defence minister John McCallum ordered the army to settle the case quickly, but when McCallum changed portfolios, bureaucratic foot-dragging began again.

Reservists

A military police inquiry headed by RCMP Insp. Russ Grabb (since promoted superintendent) found that at least 30 in the chain of command knew about the poison attempts, but no one told Stopford.

All the soldiers were reservists attached to the Pats.

They discussed planting land mines at Stopford’s and the company commander’s tents, and dug symbolic graves for them. None has been punished. Stopford says all but four of 35 men in his platoon in 1993 were reservists, not regulars.

While heartened by Judge Mosley’s indignation at the Crown’s attitude, Stopford says the issue is not money, but dignity and decency.

Judge Mosley seemed to consider the Crown’s offer of around $300,000 for Stopford to drop his $7.5 million suit was insulting. Stopford would likely settle for half of that now.

Clearly, Stopford’s health has been ruined, his life-expectancy reduced. Why DND just doesn’t give the poor guy a few million and apologize is puzzling. But flexibility and Stopford’s lawyer is Paul Champs of the Ottawa legal firm of Raven, Allen, Cameron and Ballantyne. “We planned for war in this case, and it’s encouraging that the judge wants mediation speeded up,” says Champ.

‘I trust him’

Stopford would like retired Col. Michel Drapeau to join his legal team as co-counsel. Drapeau once was a key figure in the inner workings of DND, and has since become a lawyer specializing in access to information and dealing with the military.

“I know Col. Drapeau, I trust him, and he would be invaluable in explaining to my lawyers the workings of the military,” says Stopford.

Drapeau, on his part, is eager to help. “Stopford’s is one of the worst cases of injustice to a soldier I’ve ever seen, and I’d be glad to help his defence counsel, pro bono,” says Drapeau.

Paul Champ says the firm is looking for assistance from lawyers familiar with the military. I’ve urged Champs to tap Drapeau’s expertise with the Ottawa legal firm of Luc Barrick. I know of no one with more integrity and knowledge of the military bureaucracy than he.

Drapeau entering the case would cause alarm and despondency in the bureaucracy.