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Tortured soldier regrets taking PTSD compensation
Posted on Nov 05, 2019
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In 2017, the Canadian government paid $31.3 million in settlements to three Canadian men – Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin – wrongfully accused of links to terrorism and tortured in Syria. That same year, it paid a $10.5-million settlement and apologized to Omar Khadr, who at age 16 threw a grenade that killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan. In 2007, it paid a $10.5-million settlement and apologized to Maher Arar, another Canadian arrested and tortured in Syria.

In 1968, while serving in the Canadian Armed Forces in Lahr, Germany, Corporal Jim Enright was tortured by Canadian Military Police. His severe injuries crippled him for life.

In 2013, after years of battling the bureaucracy at Veterans Affairs Canada, Enright was awarded $29,858.80 as compensation for the post-traumatic stress he suffered as a result of the torture. He appealed and in 2014 was awarded $75,318.82.

“But what about compensation for the torture and the other injuries?” he asked his case officer at Veterans Affairs. “That’s above my pay grade,” the case officer reportedly replied. “That would be up to the courts.”

In 2018, James Howard Enright, 85 and a resident of Parksville, B.C., appeared in Federal Court suing the government for $11 million, reasoning he should get as much as Almalki, El Maati, Nureddin, Khadr and Arar.

After all, the Canadian government had only played an indirect role in their cases. In Enright’s case, the Canadian government was his employer.

In the service, Cpl. Enright was a munitions expert, in charge of an Emergency Ordinance Disposal team, responsible for transporting and disposing of contaminated expired explosives. He was also head of a crack Cold War Quick Reaction Area team that could leap out of bed and arm an aircraft in minutes.

The morning of Sunday, Feb. 11, 1968, Enright was working on his car outside his apartment in Lahr, Germany, getting ready to ship it back to Canada as his tour of duty was coming to an end. Some friends arrived and cajoled him and his wife Rose into going with them to the Junior NCO’s club on the base, as it was traditional for the departing soldier to buy the drinks.

At the club, Enright went to the dimly lit bar area where he thought he was supposed to order the drinks. As he stepped up to the bar, an airman carrying a tray came rushing up to him and kicked him in the shin with his steel-toed boot.

As Enright doubled over in pain (he has a long scar on his shin to this day), the airman swung a right fist at his head. Enright ducked and hit him with a left upper cut to the jaw, sending the airman flying over a railing, crashing onto a table and then onto the floor.

Enright rushed over and picked up the airman, whom he recognized as Corporal Jim Smith from No. 4 Wing, and asked him why he’d kicked him. Smith, who was drunk, said people had been going into the waiters’ area at the bar all evening and he’d made up his mind to kick the next one in the shin.

When the Military Police came, the bartender pointed at Enright. When Enright turned to find Smith, he was gone. Six Military Police surrounded Enright and said they were taking him to the guardhouse to take a statement.

A friend took Rose home. At the guardhouse, the MPs told Enright to sit down and write out a statement. As he went to sit, an MP rushed at him shouting, “So you think you’re tough! I’ll show you what tough is!”

The MP shoved him backwards. As Enright was falling, he kicked the MP under the chin and knocked him out. Another MP jumped on his back and Enright threw him over his head. Five MPs rushed at him and he kept kicking and punching. He chopped a sergeant on the neck and someone shouted, “You broke his neck! You’re going to pay for that!”

The MP reached for his revolver, drew it and cocked it. The MP who had been knocked out came to, grabbed a 2x4, snuck up beside Enright and clubbed him on the head, fracturing his skull. Enright saw a flash of light and thought he had been shot. “I remember thinking: I’ll never see my wife and kids again.” Then he passed out.

When he came to, Enright was shackled to a metal torture chair. His wrists were bound to the metal arms. His legs were bound to the metal legs.

The senior security officer, a sergeant, was standing over him with a lit cigar. “What’s this?” he asked Enright, smirking. “You refusing to talk and make a statement? We have ways to make you talk, tough guy.”

He sucked on the cigar to get it glowing and then butted it on the back of Enright’s right hand, right down to the bone. Enright clenched his teeth and said nothing. Then, leaning in with a horrible smirk that haunted Enright for the rest of his days, the sergeant burned the back of the left hand.

The sergeant put the cigar down and kicked Enright in the testicles so hard it ruptured his left testicle. Then he choked him until he almost blacked out. “Take this asshole and throw him in the cells!” the sergeant commanded. With revolvers drawn, the MPs unlocked the irons and marched Enright into a cell.

Enright, his shin and head bleeding, his left testicle swollen to the size of a melon, asked to see a medical officer. The MPs went away and came back five minutes later, saying the medical officer wouldn’t come.

They ordered Enright to stick his hands through the bars but he refused, figuring they wanted to scrape the ashes off his hands to get rid of the evidence. “I told them: If you come in my cell, I’ll kick your heads in,” Enright recalls.

They pulled their revolvers and told him they were going to shoot him. “I thought I was done for,” Enright says. “I was sure they were going to kill me.” Instead, they got a fire hose and turned it on him full force, slamming him against a wall. “I don’t know how long they kept the hose on me,” he recalls. “I had a hard time breathing.”

When they turned off the hose, he heard them fumbling with the lock on his cell. He told them that if they came in they’d regret it, so they went away and left him for the night, shivering in his cell.

In the morning, an MP came and let him out of his cell, telling him there would be a court martial and that the Station Warrant Officer would inform him of the charges.

Enright painfully made his own way to the base infirmary.

The medical officer seemed to be in a bad mood. When Enright asked if the MPs had called him last night, he didn’t answer. When Enright showed him his hands, the doctor agreed the wounds looked like cigarette burns with ashes. Enright corrected him that they were cigar burns and asked him to record that because he would need the records for evidence. The doctor refused to bandage the wounds. He gave Enright 292s for the pain.

Enright left, saw his sergeant, told him what had happened, bandaged his own wounds and went home to rest. The MPs had already been there harassing Rose while she was trying to get the kids ready for school. They’d tried to tell her he’d been “crazy drunk last night.” She knew that wasn’t true because he’d been working on his car all day and hadn’t had anything to drink at the club.

Enright couldn’t sleep and so drove to the base to see the Station Warrant Officer, a WO Blackwood, and told him what had happened. A furious Blackwood vowed to get the names of all the MPs and to charge them. He also told Enright the MPs had laid 27 charges against him.

The six MPs were charged.

They began harassing Rose at home, telling her Enright would get a year in prison and then would be kicked out of the military. If Enright dropped the charges, they said, they’d drop their charges. Rose pressed him to do that, but he refused. “Why should I?” he recalls telling her. “I’d done nothing wrong.”

His armament officer, Major Quincy Whyte, also told him he was at risk of being court-martialled and discharged, meaning he wouldn’t get a pension for his 18 years of service.

Enright, still suffering from a severe headache from his untreated fractured skull, a sore neck, burned hands and swollen left testicle, agreed to drop the charges. “It was a cover-up,” Enright says. “They didn’t want it to get out. I was confused. I didn’t know what to do.”

Soon after, he was transferred to the base at Cold Lake, Alberta, 434 Squadron, where he worked as a load crew leader.

After a few months, his boss told him, “Ottawa wants you released from the service for medical reasons.”
Enright had kidney stones and they had decided he was unfit for duty.

“They kicked me out,” he recalls. “Looking back, I guess they didn’t want me around because I was a threat to them.”
Enright went on to have successful careers as a contractor, rancher and mechanical and safety engineer but he continued to suffer, at one point falling into financial ruin due to his PTSD.

He had severe headaches. He had nightmares, blackouts and episodes of rage. Because of the damage to his groin, he had trouble functioning sexually. He was married six times, three “official”, three common law.

“I had trouble maintaining personal relationships,” he says. “I never knew when something was going to set me off into one of my flashbacks. Sometimes I would disappear from work for days.”

He also suffered two heart attacks, a stroke, high blood pressure, nightmares, anxiety attacks, angst, sadness and bruxism (teeth-grinding; he shattered all of his teeth).

Despite these and other obstacles, Enright began a decades-long fight with the government bureaucracy to obtain his records and get compensation.

Alas, the original doctor’s report, the list of charges against the six MPs, and much else, seems to have been “lost.”

The doctor’s report has been replaced by a brief statement which says only that Cpl. Enright was in a fight and suffered injuries. At the bottom, it’s signed by “J. Enright.”

“It’s clearly a forgery,” Enright says. “They’ve lost documents. They forged documents. The cover-up goes on to this day.”

In Federal Court, all of this was uncontested and accepted by the government’s lawyers: the torture, the cover-up, the forgery — all of it.
However, in a ruling dated July 31, 2018, Justice Luc Martineau ruled in the government’s favour.

The reason? Enright had accepted the $75,318.82 as compensation for PTSD. (When his compensation was increased from $29,858.80 on appeal, the reasons were expanded to include PTSD, the scarring on his right hand, degenerative disc disease, erectile dysfunction, and the loss of 10 of his teeth.)

In 2002, in Sarvanis v. Canada, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that, “the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act establishes Crown immunity where the event of death, injury, damage or loss that forms the basis of the barred claim is the event that formed the basis of a pension or compensation award.”

“In other words, no double-dipping,” says Enright. “If you take compensation for something, you can’t turn around and sue for more money based on the same set of events.

“I don’t think too many people know that. Nobody at Veterans Affairs told me that if I took their money I wouldn’t be able to sue.”

Enright appreciates the good things he has in life — a cozy home, an abundant garden, good friends, and lots of kids and grandkids from all those marriages – but he can’t help but feel a little bitter. “Those guys get $11 million and, even though I was serving my country, this is what I get,” he says. “It may be the law but it isn’t fair and it isn’t just.”


Corporal (retired) Jim Enright attends a 2013 Remembrance Day ceremony in his home town of Parksville, B.C.

Postcript
When Cpl Enright was given a medical discharge for his kidney stones May 28, 1970, he was told he would receive a medical pension. In 2013, he applied to Veterans Affairs for compensation for his kidney stones, noting that he had never received a medical pension despite his medical discharge.

During a 2016 telephone conversation with his Veterans Affairs case officer, he asked why everything took so long. “She said: Oh Jim, they’re waiting for you to die,” he recalls, “and then she started to cry.”

His claim was denied and he appealed, this time using a lawyer and filing a letter of support from a doctor. In 2018, a three-person panel formed by the Veterans Appeal Board ruled he was entitled to four-fifths of full compensation. They deducted a fifth after looking up causes of kidney stones on the internet and deciding they could be caused by a variety of things, not necessarily just what happened to him in the military.

The VAB rules in fifths of entitlement. The amount was up to Veterans Affairs. Enright began contacting Veterans Affairs in Victoria and they told him such things as, “We’ve mailed your documents. They must have been lost by Canada Post.”

By now, Enright had cancer in the area of one of his kidneys, ureter and bladder. One of his doctors told him the aggressive melanoma was likely caused by the years of constant irritation and bleeding.

After one of his cancer treatments in Victoria, Enright decided to drop in on Veterans Affairs. “You wouldn’t believe the place,” he says. “There was bullet-proof glass everywhere.”

The receptionist told him he couldn’t see anyone. She said the case managers don’t see people who just drop in. He insisted and she went to get a manager.

The manager invited him in beyond the bullet-proof glass to an office, where she gave him pages of application forms he needed to fill in: military service, medical history and so on.

“But you already have all this information,” Enright protested. “It’s all in the ruling from the Veterans Appeal Board.”

The manager replied: “Oh, they have nothing to do with us.”

No longer able to write legibly, Enright had to have help filling out the forms, detailing almost half a century of suffering from his kidney stones, including 146 hospital admissions.

Months later, he was told he would receive $37,500. “I was shocked,” he recalls. “Thirty-seven thousand dollars for a lifetime of suffering and no medical pension?”

He appealed, again using a lawyer, but by now his cancer had spread. Before his appeal could be heard, Enright died May 21, 2019.

Case closed.

– Brian Wilford is a journalist and author of Rise of the Jellies. He lives in French Creek, B.C.

 

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