Abuse, humiliation occurred at bases across country, soldiers say


Nanah Potato
Mar 26, 2003

The alleged abuse of Canadian soldiers at the hands of their own military during training exercises was widespread during the '80s and '90s, according to former military members.

After a Go Public investigation into a 1984 training exercise at Canadian Forces Base Wainwright, which was described by some participants as "torture," we were contacted by about a dozen ex soldiers who had similar stories. They say the alleged abuses occurred not just in Wainwright, Alta., but across the country — from Gagetown, N.B., to Petawawa, Ont., to Chilliwack, B.C.

The training has been called an "embarrassment to Canadians," and has prompted calls for Canada's minister of national defence to apologize.

Former recruits say they suffered abusive treatment on "escape and evasion" courses, meant to teach soldiers how to avoid being captured by the enemy.

'We were tortured': Recruits speak out about military training
The courses were intended to simulate war, but the former military men allege the training crossed the line into abuse when instructors changed the program to "prisoners of war" scenarios.

The exercises included:

Waterboarding, an interrogation method that simulates drowning.

Deprivation of sleep and food for multiple days.


Electrical shocks.

Forced to crouch, kneel or stand at attention overnight.

Left with broken fingers or other injuries.

​Greg Alkerton, of Port Alberni, B.C., who was a soldier from 1985 to 1994, says he took part in two training exercises that included POW-type training that crossed into abuse.

The first was a basic infantry reconnaissance training course in 1987 at Canadian Forces Base Shilo, near Brandon, Man., and the second, was a sniper training course in 1990 at CFB Gagetown.

"On one hand, you really want this qualification so badly that you are willing to put yourself through anything for it, but on the same token, you're seeing your own leadership turn on you in a way that's damaging," he says.

Alkerton says drains were taken off urinals, and recruits were forced to lie on the bathroom floor, face down, as the urine of their instructors was flushed on them.

"The floor is basically flooded with this stuff," he recalls.

The soldiers also were forced to crawl through an open sewer, he says, left out in the rain naked, then brought into a tent where female military police officers would interrogate them, making derogatory remarks about their genitalia.

"In retrospect, it did teach you to be a harder individual but … what they taught me to do is be a person with PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]," Alkerton says.

"They taught me not to be able to relate to my family. They taught you to be hardened against all the things in life."

'Crammed into 2x2 boxes'

Another former soldier says after avoiding capture on one of the escape and evasion courses at CFB Wainwright in 1988, he witnessed what happened to fellow recruits who did not. The man asked CBC not use his name for fear of reprisals.

"It was –50 C with the windchill, there was no food, there was pails of water dumped on guys ... standing out there for hours," he says.

The next year, the man says he and others were tasked with building a prisoner of war training camp at CFB Wainwright and then witnessed what it was used for when new recruits were brought in.

"They actually dumped water on these guys crammed into two by two boxes with barbed wire. They poked at them with sticks, threw rocks at them, pails with muddy water dumped over them. They were left in there for hours," he says.

Go Public put the former soldiers' latest stories of abuse to the military.

In an email, a spokesperson for the Department of National Defence/Canadian Armed Forces says, "while we understand that individuals might feel wronged by the training they received some 30 years ago, we hope they come forward and contact us so that we may look into this further."

Investigation under review

Alkerton says he regrets never filing a complaint with the military.

But, as CBC News reported, after years of therapy and a depression and a PTSD diagnosis, another former soldier, Jeffrey Beamish, did file a complaint two years ago.

the rest:
'Embarrassment to Canadians': Abuse, humiliation occurred at bases across country, soldiers say - Canada - CBC News

Curious Cdn

Hall of Fame Member
Feb 22, 2015
The "hazing ritual" stories re-emerge periodically. Sometimes, hazing is just plain idiotic but sometimes, it's about "hardening" soldiers. That idea is neither touchy nor feely but that's what needs to be done when training soldiers. They're not social workers (even here in'Liberaland).


Hall of Fame Member
Feb 16, 2005
OK, clearly some folks don't know what E&E courses are.

To be honest, I am wondering why Canadians were even having these E&E Course. Everyone knows when sh*t gets real the Canadian Generals send other nations soldiers into the breech first just as they did with the Belgian soldiers in Rwanda.


Executive Branch Member
Apr 12, 2013
Some of the new reports we have seen here have misrepresented the truth. Or reporters, unfamiliar with military trng, take up the anti-war banner. Many certainly do not confirm the sources or their stories. The situation is similar in many ways to the US.

Some complaints of poor treatment came from recruits in basic training. These people DO NOT get anything remotely close to E&E trng. They just didn't think that being screamed at, made to run and do push ups is fair. They have issues with the DSes ordering compulsory extra drill, or performing back to back fire pickets. Poor babies.

We also have had problems with what constitutes 'a veteran'. The definition keeps changing. WWI, WWII and Korean vets said that to be classified as one, you had to have served in one of the aforementioned conflicts. As the years rolled on, getting shot at, mortared or attacked in places like Bosnia or the ME caused the Legion to change the definition. If you think that is silly, you have to remember that medical benefits/grants/loans were tied to what your classification was.

The problem with that sometimes works its way into the media. They have used the term recruit and veteran in the same para.

WRT the media reporting here, people ignorant of the requirements/trng of those wearing a uniform think that it should all be butterflies and flowers. They think that because you cannot be called 'an idiot' or made to work overtime while working at the bank, that carries over to wearing a uniform. The ignorance of the general public is crazy.

They cannot MAKE you work overtime.
You DON'T pay income tax!
You get fed and housed for free.
They wouldn't actually send you some place where you might be harmed!
Can't you just say, 'I prefer not to?'



Hall of Fame Member
Feb 16, 2005
The problem with that sometimes works its way into the media. They have used the term recruit and veteran in the same para.

Yes I have noticed that a lot too. Recruit sounds so much more innocent and helpless than Sergeant, Lieutenant, and Corporal.