ARCHIVED - THE THOMAS REPORT
This page has been archived on the Web
Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.
Backgrounder / January 17, 1997 / Project number: BG-97.006
As early as May 1994, there were allegations of misconduct and
poor performance by Canadian Forces personnel on assigned United
Nations peacekeeping duties at the Bakovici Hospital in Bosnia-Hercegovina.
A Military Police investigation was launched immediately, but
after two years, and numerous suspensions and re-openings, it
had still not reached any conclusions or closure.
On July 17, 1996, the Chief of the Defence Staff directed the
establishment of a separate, administrative investigation into
why it took so long to have the allegations fully and properly
examined. The investigation was to be conducted by a non-Canadian
Forces investigator because of a growing perception that internal
investigations were biased and being interfered with by the chain
of command. To carry out this important task, the Canadian Forces
engaged the services of Mr. Lowell Thomas, Assistant Commissioner,
Royal Canadian Mounted Police (retired) on July 22, 1996. Mr.
Thomas is a distinguished police officer who provided impartial
and credible scrutiny to the issues. As he states concisely in
his report, "[his] task in this administrative investigation
can be expressed quite simply: to seek the truth."
Mr. Thomas's mandate was to make specific findings as to: the
cause of the delay in investigating the allegations; whether the
delay was systemic or attributable to individuals, and if so,
whom; whether National Defence Headquarters was misinformed and,
if so, by whom and through which documents or communication; whether
or not there was any attempt made to cover up the allegations;
and, if there were such an attempt, identify the responsibility
for acts or omissions related to the cover up. Although there
had been a number of investigations into these allegations, it
was the long delay in properly investigating them, and the failure
of the chain of command to identify the need to investigate in
the first place, that caused the Thomas investigation.
The scope of the investigation was events that occurred between
May 7, 1994 - the submission of the initial military police report
and July 17, 1996 - the launching of the Thomas investigation.
The focus of the examination was the interaction between the
chain of command and the military police.
In the course of his investigation, Mr. Thomas collected and examined thousands
of documents, conducted scores of interviews, travelled throughout Canada, visited
Croatia and went to Bosnia to see the Bakovici Hospital for himself. An in-depth
analysis of events, activities, processes and structure was then carried out,
conclusions were reached, and recommendations were drawn up.
Mr. Thomas found no evidence, either in documents or interviews,
that would indicate intentional interference or cover up, or an
attempt to cover up, by the chain of command or the military police.
Neither was any evidence found to indicate that National Defence
Headquarters was misinformed by its subordinate headquarters.
However, Mr. Thomas did determine that information provided to
National Defence Headquarters was inadequate and the original
Bakovici investigation process had failed.
Mr. Thomas also found that the investigation into allegations
of misconduct and poor performance at the Bakovici Hospital was
flawed and unduly delayed. The major contributing factors were:
policies and structures, inadequate investigative processes, poor
communication between the participants, and a lack of trust and
confidence - in individuals, the investigative process or the
Mr. Thomas concluded that, in order to ensure military police
independence, military police should not be subordinate within
the same chain of command they serve, and that military police
investigations should not have to compete with operational requirements
for scarce resources. The quality review mechanisms failed to
keep the investigation on track and the structure of the military
police organization and jurisdictional problems inhibited initiative,
focus and a coordinated effort. A natural flow of information
to investigators is required and the role of the Judge Advocate
General in the proactive sharing of information needs to be clarified.
Policy should be reformed so that it is simple, clear and focused.
Finally, common sense, initiative, cooperation and leadership
cannot be legislated. Restoring trust requires action and a vision
that is shared by all. The aim is to reinforce values and ethics
in the military community in a publicly visible and effective
way while eliminating the perception of interference and favouritism.
Mr. Thomas made the following recommendations:
- A vision for providing police services be developed in consultation with the community served that ensures the independence of the investigative process;
- From that vision, policies, structures and processes be developed that demonstrate independence, fairness and impartiality;
- Alternate policing options that are available from both within the Canadian Forces and the public domain, or a combination of both, be explored;
- Aspects of the investigative process such as jurisdiction, priority setting and resources be examined; and
- Periodic audits of review mechanisms and an oversight commission be considered to ensure systems function as intended and people are held accountable.
The military justice system has been under review. The Thomas
Report is a keystone document contributing to the process. The
Minister of National Defence has accelerated the process with
the creation of a Special Advisory Group on Military Justice and
Police Investigative Services.
- Date modified: