Anti-ribbon campaign runs into a fight

Mayor Brad Woodside plans to keep his yellow support-the-troops ribbon in his front window."My ribbon is up, it's going to stay up and the yellow ribbon on my lapel is going to stay on, too," Woodside said Thursday afternoon.

Fredericton Peace Coalition members say they will press local businesses to take down any signs of support for soldiers serving overseas. But Woodside stood by the troops in words and actions Thursday. He spent the early part of the day greeting members of HMCS Fredericton.

Woodside said the coalition is misguided. "Don't come knocking on my door, go knock on the door of your federal politicians," he said.

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Dan F. said...

Canadian soldier charged in shooting of comrade to face court martial

Oct 12, 2007

FREDERICTON - A Canadian soldier charged in the shooting death of a fellow soldier in Afghanistan will face a court martial on charges of manslaughter and negligent performance of duty, the Canadian Forces director of military prosecutions confirmed Friday.

Master Cpl. Robbie Fraser will face a military trial on charges related to the death of Master Cpl. Jeff Walsh during a patrol on an Afghan road on Aug. 9, 2006, said navy Capt. Holly MacDougall.

The decision comes despite the fact members of both the Walsh and Fraser families have expressed doubt about the need for prosecution. The families say that the two men were friends, as well as comrades.

Fraser was originally charged in March. Under military law, several subsequent stages had to be completed before a decision was made on whether to go ahead with a military trial.

"Military prosecutors consider two main issues when deciding whether to prosecute a charge at court martial: whether the evidence is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction and whether the public interest requires a prosecution be pursued," MacDougall said in the statement.

The charges against Fraser were reviewed by his battalion commander and the prosecution service. Both could have halted legal proceedings if it was deemed in the interest of the Canadian Forces and the public.

Kevin Fraser of South Rustico, P.E.I., Robbie Fraser's father, said it is his understanding the shooting was the result of an accidental discharge of a weapon.

"I'm very disappointed with the decision and very disappointed that they (military investigators) dragged it out so long," he said in an interview.

"It has been over a year now. My son is off on a course now and they couldn't even wait until Monday to break this."

The Canadian military considers the accidental discharge of a weapon an inexcusable error for a soldier, and charges of this type usually proceed to trial by court martial.

The victim's father, Ben Walsh, relayed his support to the Fraser family on Friday.

"Our sympathy goes out to all of the Fraser family," Walsh said in an interview from his Regina home. "I guess two wrongs don't make a right."

Robbie Fraser, 30, is a member of the 2nd Battalion, Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Regiment, based at Canadian Forces Base Shilo in Manitoba.

Walsh was also based at Shilo. He was married with three children.

Family members say they were told Walsh was seated beside the driver of a cramped, G-wagon armoured vehicle patrolling a bumpy road near Kandahar when another soldier's gun discharged inside the vehicle.

Walsh, 33, died from a single gunshot.

No date for the court martial has been set, but it will be held at CFB Shilo.

It was not immediately known how many soldiers have been convicted of negligence in accidental discharges of their weapons since Canada first sent regular troops to Afghanistan early in 2002.

Some have been fined, others have been sentenced to labour, and a few have received both penalties, usually meted out during summary trials in-theatre.

The Canadian military follows the civilian Criminal Code in defining manslaughter as "culpable homicide" that falls short of murder. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.

Negligent performance of duty is a violation of the National Defence Act with a maximum penalty of disgraceful dismissal from the Canadian Forces.

Walsh's widow, Julie Mason, declined to be interviewed Friday, but she has said in the past that she doesn't agree with the action the military has taken.

"Rob was a good friend of Jeff, and what is taking place right now I don't agree with," she said in an interview several months ago.

Ben Walsh said that while he doesn't want to see anyone prosecuted for what happened to his son, he does want to see accountability.

Earlier this year, another Canadian soldier was killed by an apparent accidental discharge, this one inside his tent on the base in Kandahar.

Cpl. Kevin Megeney was a 25-year-old reservist from Stellarton, N.S.

Weapons are usually fully loaded when soldiers are on patrol in Kandahar province, the scene of many insurgent attacks on NATO forces, including suicide car bombings.