A former Canadian military member is seeking $11 million in damages from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the federal government because of what he calls a “negligent investigation” into the attempted murder of his children by his former wife, according to a federal court filing.
The father, a now-retired CAF member from Alberta, alleges that his ex-wife purposely set fire to her home while she and the children slept inside in July 2015 after she attempted to sedate the children with cold medicine, according to a statement of claim filed by the father’s lawyer with the federal Justice Department in March 2023.
None of the family members can be identified due to a publication ban protecting the children as underage victims of crime. None of the allegations put forward in the statement of claim have been proven in court.
The separated couple have three children, who at the time of the fire were 10, 8, and 7 years old.
The children’s father and mother were living separately and he was granted primary custody in June 2015 by a CAF master corporal.
When the father was deployed to fight wildfires in Saskatchewan in July 2015, the children were scheduled to attend a summer camp during the duration of his absence, according to the statement of claim.
However, during the father’s deployment, his ex-wife “removed the children from the summer camp … without his knowledge or consent,” it says. The mother then allegedly withdrew $10,000 from her bank account and took the children to the West Edmonton Mall on July 19, 2015, where she paid for a number of activities and also for an overnight stay at the Fantasyland Hotel.
While at the hotel, the statement says the children witnessed their mother writing and mailing a letter to her friend. The letter allegedly said, “When you receive this I will be in jail or dead,” according to the children.
When the children and their mother returned to her home the following night, she “sedated” them with cold medicine and sent them to bed despite none of them being sick at the time, according to the court filing.
During the course of the night, the two eldest children told their mother they detected smoke and raised the possibility of a fire in the house, but she told them to go back to sleep.
The oldest child, who was 10 at the time, “did not succumb” to the cold medicine his mother had given him, according to the court filing, and he managed to escape the house when the fire worsened and summon help from neighbours.
All the children were rescued from the fire, which an insurance report declared later that month to have been caused by an act of arson.
The mother was later convicted of three counts of attempted murder and two counts of arson, but not until years of an “erroneous investigation” passed in which the father was at one point counted as a suspect for starting the fire despite being deployed at the time, according to the court filing.
Specifically, the statement of claim says that CAF military police “pursued” the father “in an erroneous investigation of starting the fire and attempting to harm or kill [his ex-wife] and the children.”
However, CAF duty logs and witnesses later proved that the father, being deployed at the time in another province, was not in the Edmonton area on the night of the fire.
“After eight months, and no efforts to confirm his whereabouts on the night in question, the [military police] closed the investigation,” says the court filing.
It adds that the mother then “attempted to blame the children and then [their father] for personally setting the fire,” but says her allegations weren’t consistent with either the evidence or the circumstances of her “loss of parenting” case that was in family court just shortly before the fire.
The filing also says the letter that the children had seen their mother write the night before the fire “was not investigated in the context of the fire.” It says no investigation or tests were carried out into the children being sedated the night of the fire.
In 2018, the mother sought unsupervised access to her children from a family court, but was denied and deemed a risk to the children.
The statement of claim says CAF military police did not bring “a thorough and complete investigation into the fire” until the summer of 2019.
In September of that year, the mother was charged with three attempted murder counts and two arson counts—of which she was not convicted until February 2023.
In the meantime, the father launched a lawsuit against CAF and the Department of National Defence for $5 million in damages arising from a “negligent investigation” into the matter by CAF military police and the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service.
The father is also seeking $1 million from the federal government for its “breach of statutory and common law duties” and another $5 million “in punitive and/or exemplary damages.”
The statement of claim says his children have undergone and continue to experience “psychological and emotional injury” as a result of the fire and adds that the father “will never be able to fully realize” his military career because the incident caused him to end it much sooner than he intended.
The father is also seeking damages for legal costs that he says resulted from the long investigation.
His lawyer, Catherine Christensen, said in April that the children will “need care for life” following their attempted murder in 2015.
“The kids are quite seriously suffering psychologically,” she said during an interview on the “Veterans 4 Freedom” Rumble channel on April 17.
“These kids and their dad have paid a big price, so now it’s time to compensate them for that,” she said.
The Department of National Defence declined to comment on the matter as it is still subject to litigation.