Alberta military police investigators are under investigation after a complaint of serious mishandling in the case of a CFB Edmonton soldier convicted earlier this year of arson and trying to murder her three minor children after losing a bitter custody battle in 2015.
The case could have far-reaching implications, according to a new decision from Tammy Tremblay, the current chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission who reopened the complaint investigation.
“The allegations in this complaint are serious. If substantiated, they will amount to a failure to investigate a most serious criminal act, and one which had implications for the safety of young children,” she said in the decision posted online.
Despite a growing pile of evidence brought forward by her ex-husband, investigations in ensuing years were repeatedly concluded without charges and the woman had unsupervised visits with her children.
In August 2016, the woman’s ex-husband advised a member of the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, Western Region (CFNIS WR) that his son recalled that his former spouse had sent a letter and $10,000 cash to a friend. The letter was brought to the CFNIS WR. It was written on stationery from a local resort where the former spouse and the children had stayed during week prior to the fire.
“In the letter, the author wrote that, by the time the friend received the letter, she would either be dead or in jail. The letter was signed with the former spouse’s first name,” Tremblay wrote.
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The facts collected by the Military Police Complaints Commission of Canada (MPCC) in 2018 from the original Canadian Forces National Investigation Service’s Western Region investigations into the fire and the letter “presented a substantial and persuasive circumstantial case against the former spouse as having deliberately set the fire and having sent the letter and money to her friend as part of a murder-suicide attempt,” she wrote.
“Yet these original… investigations failed, respectively, to determine whether the fire was deliberately set by the former spouse, or that there was a connection between the letter and the fire despite the evidence.”
In November 2018, growing concern over the safety of the minor children led then-MPCC Chairperson, Hilary McCormack, started a chain of events that led to RCMP taking the lead on the case, and charges of arson and attempted murder being laid.
Tremblay said the seriousness of this case is aggravated by the alleged failure of the Military Police office of Professional Standards to notice any deficiencies when they reviewed the original CFNIS.
Court testimony showed the woman put her children to bed, then set fire to the home, telling the coughing children to go to sleep as the smoke was from wildfires. Only intervention by neighbours saved the children.
On Feb. 24, 2023, the 45-year-old soldier was convicted of all counts of arson and attempted murder.
In June, she was sentenced in Edmonton’s Court of King’s Bench to 10 years.
Public scrutiny of the eight-year case is one compelling reason Tremblay decided to take the investigation public, she said.
Sensitive personal information will be protected, in the interests of the children of the convicted member.