The Canadian military has been warned about a “culture” of stealing within its special forces after equipment, including gun parts and ammunition, was taken from its high security counter-terrorism base in Ottawa.
Military police are investigating several members of the Canadian Special Operations Forces Command, or CANSOFCOM, in the aftermath of the arrest and conviction of Cpl. Pedro Collier, according to court records.
Collier, a special forces member, was found guilty in August of possession of stolen property exceeding $5,000 and possession of a prohibited device.
Between December 2015 and March 2017 Collier took approximately $23,000 worth of equipment from the special forces, including jackets, a global positioning system, backpacks, watches, a tent, a solar charger, a fan, kitchen sets, hoodies, generators, saws, boots, and a pouch to carry magazines for firearms. He also took two C7 rifle magazines, capable of holding 30 bullets, as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition.
But the agreed statement of facts on record with the Ontario court pointed to allegations of a larger problem of theft at the special forces command. “Mr. Collier was handed these items (in some cases by more senior people) and told to just take them,” the statement noted. “He took them knowing that they did not belong to him.”
“Mr. Collier informed police that there was a prevalent culture within CANSOFCOM of simply taking items from the employer,” the statement added.
“Military police, including the National Investigation Services, are continuing to investigate several other members of CANSOFCOM for their participation in related behaviour,” the court statement noted.
In response to questions from this newspaper requesting further information, the Canadian Forces noted in an email that military police will not discuss or acknowledge ongoing investigations.
“Any statement alleging an environment whereupon even minor transgressions would be dismissed is inaccurate,” added CANSOFCOM spokeswoman Maj. Amber Bineau. “CANSOFCOM takes allegations of or suspicions of theft very seriously and holds its leadership and members to the highest standards.”
Collier was given a suspended sentence and put on 12 months of probation.
Military police charged Collier on Oct. 29, 2018. It’s unclear exactly how the corporal was able to take all of the equipment from the Joint Task Force 2 base at Dwyer Hill without being detected but as a supply technician he would have had access to much of the unit’s inventory. JTF2 is Canada’s secretive counter-terrorism unit.
The court statement, however, noted that Collier had little use for the equipment so he started to sell some of the items on EBay. In total he sold around $4,000 worth of gear.
The scheme started to unravel when on March 3, 2017 another member of CANSOFCOM discovered that someone was selling equipment on EBay that appeared similar to the gear being issued to Canadian special forces troops, according to the court document. CANSOFCOM says around that time its supply management personnel had noticed discrepancies in their inventory and had begun making verification checks to try to understand whether equipment was missing or had been misplaced or mislabeled.
After rumours started circulating among special forces soldiers that an investigation had been started, Collier confessed to taking the items from his workplace. He also revealed to police the location of the equipment he hadn’t yet sold. At no time did Collier sell or attempt to sell weapons, the court statement noted.
Collier paid back $4,000. In addition, he donated $1,000 to charity.
Over the last three years military police have conducted six other investigations into alleged theft at CANSOFCOM, which is made up of a number of special forces units. In two cases equipment had been misplaced; in three cases no suspects were identified or there was not enough evidence to lay charges; and in another case a charge was laid but not proceeded with as the individual left the Canadian Forces.
In addition, during the same period there were two investigations undertaken by units themselves within the special forces command. In one case there was an allegation a CANSOFCOM member took an item from another special forces soldier but no charge was laid. In another case, it was determined a CANSOFCOM member’s actions did not constitute an offence but administrative action was nonetheless taken against the individual.
The Canadian Forces said it is still reviewing the type of administrative action that should be taken against Collier. The corporal, who has been a member of the Canadian Forces since 2005, continues to serve in the special forces. He joined CANSOFCOM in 2015.
“The member’s duties continue to be significantly reduced,” said Bineau. “The member neither has access to any computer systems nor secure storage areas. His employment is best described as warehouse general duty functions.”
Bineau said the administrative review involving Collier began on Dec. 4, 2018. “Each administrative review is treated as a unique matter,” she added. “It is conducted in as timely a fashion as practical while ensuring the review process is in accordance with policy, is as thorough a review as possible, and respects procedural fairness.”
A DND source said the administrative review was halted while Collier’s civilian trial was underway.
DND spokeswoman Jessica Lamirande said CANSOFCOM has conducted a review of its practices with respect to keeping track of equipment and other material. The review indicated the special forces system of accounting was in line with established DND policies, she added.
“As an organization, we have further strengthened our materiel accountability and the process for all CANSOFCOM units acquiring equipment was adjusted to better reconcile the acquisition process with the materiel system of record,” Lamirande said in an email.
There are various rules for keeping track of equipment depending on the value and sensitivity of the specific gear. “Certain commodities are serialized and categorized as sensitive, which means the reporting mechanisms are immediate, through the chain of command and involve military police notification,” noted Bineau. Such equipment includes weapons, ammunition and explosives.
In Collier’s case, CANSOFCOM didn’t know the gear was missing until one of its members noticed the items for sale on EBay in March 2017.
The Canadian special forces leadership, however, was warned back in 2012 that it wasn’t properly tracking its equipment, according to a DND audit. At that time, one of the special forces units couldn’t account for $8 million to $10 million in gear and auditors warned more work was needed to ensure equipment was properly catalogued in the military inventory system.
After that audit, the special forces command said it intended to improve how it tracked its gear. The command’s equipment purchases are much smaller in quantity and cost than the regular Canadian Forces, but its units tend to acquire leading-edge technology.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019