In March of 1995, the inquiry into the actions of The Canadian Airborne Regiment in Somalia was given its mandate. Since that time, it has asked for two extensions and was about to ask for another when the Minister of National Defense, Doug Young, ordered that the inquiry finish up and report by June of this year.(Smith 13 Jan 97) What was to be a complete and thorough investigation into wrong-doings in Somalia will be cut short before the current government becomes too severely implicated. In March of 1995, David Collenette, the Minister of National Defense at that time, said, "This commission has a very broad mandate and has wide sweeping powers."(Mansbridge 20 Sept 96) In September of 1995, he added, "Any allegations relating to our deployment to Somalia will have to be laid before the commission, and they will decide, in their appropriate way, what is right and what is wrong."(Mansbridge 26 Sept 96) This was a lie. The commission will not be able to turn out a complete report because it has been prematurely halted. The questions must be asked, "Is this the best way to handle the situation?" "Will the commission be able to provide some solutions to the problems the forces are facing?" The Somalia inquiry should not have been ordered to finish up and report prematurely for the following reasons: too many questions will be left unanswered, rumors of a cover-up will never be put to rest, key witnesses will never be questioned, and all the time and money spent thus far will have been wasted because the inquiry will be unable to accomplish the task it was formed to execute.
The commission organized the questioning of witnesses in three phases, the pre deployment phase, the deployment phase, and the post deployment phase. All questions about pre deployment were to be asked first. During this time, no questions about deployment or post deployment were allowed; since the inquiry was ordered to shut down when it was midway through the deployment phase, many witnesses have not told their whole story. In addition, since lawyers were not permitted to ask questions about upcoming phases, many parts of the whole story are incomplete or misleading. Questions that would clarify these areas will never be asked. Perhaps the government does not want these questions to be asked, or these areas to be cleared up. Much of the public believes that a cover-up was perpetrated at some level during the Somalia scandal. The inquiry was just about to investigate allegations that some of the shootings in Somalia were "execution style killings." These allegations were brought to light by Dr. Barry Armstrong, one of the Canadian military doctors who served in Somalia. In addition, Dr. Armstrong was ordered to destroy evidence and remain quiet about the incident.(Armstrong CPAC 12 Mar 97) The governmental interference at this point in the inquiry makes no sense, unless someone is trying to hide something.
Major Bonamicci, the military police officer sent to Somalia to investigate these shootings, relates similar attempts to keep him from reporting his findings to the inquiry. He alleges that when he was about to tell the inquiry what he had found, he was ordered not to report to the inquiry. He was then fired from his position, and when he went to get his files from his office he found that they had been tampered with.(Bonamicci CPAC 3Mar 97) Once again, these assertions will not be properly investigated because the inquiry simply does not have time. In addition, documents were changed so that they could not be accessed by reporters using "freedom of information" requests. This tampering of defense documents occured while the Liberals were in power. Jean Boyle, a man the Liberals appointed Chief of Defense Staff, was put in the "hot seat" at the inquiry because of this tampering.(Smith 20 Nov 96) Many people speculate that he was asked to resign over his involvement in the tampering. However, before this can be fully investigated by the inquiry, they will close their investigation. The closure of the inquiry now also means that some very important witnesses, who may have been able to shed some light on the questions that need to be answered, will never be called to testify. Among these are Major Armstrong, Major Bonamicci, and, most importantly, former Prime Minister of Canada, Kim Campbell. There are, most certainly, others who would have been able to help the inquiry find the truth, but they will never testify. The total truth will never be known. Prime Minister Chretien tried to pass off the decision to close the Inquiry as a good idea that would save money. He said "Ask Mr. Young. I guess he gave some good reason on that. Two years and $30 million later, he has a job to do and they want to have another extension and another, and so on and so on."(Smith 13 Jan 97) The point here is that if the inquiry cannot answer the questions they were formed to answer, if they can't make useful recommendations that improve the way the Canadian Armed Forces does business, then all the time and money spent thus far has been wasted.
The general public feels that there is a leadership crises in the armed forces today. This is the impression being conveyed to them by the media. They see that, to date, the only persons who have paid for the wrong-doings in Somalia are junior members of the forces. It seems that senior officers were able to hide behind their rank while a Private, a Master-corporal, and a Sergeant were sent to jail. It's no wonder morale is low in the forces. If the Somalia inquiry is not allowed to finish its investigation in its own time, it will be unable to make recommendations about how to improve leadership in the forces.
The Somalia inquiry should not have been ordered to close down because many questions will remain unanswered, rumors of a cover-up will never be put to rest, key witnesses will never be questioned, and all the time and money spent thus far will have been wasted because the inquiry will not be able to properly do its job. For the Liberals, this solves a big political problem. If the inquiry had continued its investigation, there may have been damaging revelations about the Defense Department under this Liberal Government.
This is particularly important when we consider that the Liberals will probably call an election this year; now Mr. Chretien can blame the Tories for just about everything in the final report. Works Cited Armstrong, Barry. CPAC The Somalia Inquiry, 12 Mar. 97. Bonamicci, David. CPAC The Somalia Inquiry, 3 Mar. 97. Mansbridge, Peter. CBC-TV THE NATIONAL, Title "Swastika tatoos at Somalia inquiry." 20 Sept. 96. Mansbridge, Peter. CBC-TV THE NATIONAL, Title "Diary of a Canadian soldier in Somalia." 26 Sept. 97. Mansbridge, Peter. CBC-TV THE NATIONAL, Title "Drunk commanding officers in Somalia." 27 Sept. 97. Smith, Alison. CBC-TV THE NATIONAL, Title "Second senior officer charged." 20 Nov.96. Smith, Alison. CBC-TV THE NATIONAL, Title "Somalia inquiry commissioners speak out." 13 Jan. 97.