Gregory John Matters, 1972-2012

For years, the former soldier had struggled with PTSD. Finally, last year, he sought treatment. He was better than ever.

Gregory John Matters was born on April 12, 1972, in Prince George, B.C., and grew up on a 160-acre farm in nearby Pineview, where his parents, George and Lorraine, raised cattle and other animals. Greg and his older siblings, Trevor and Tracey, helped tend to pigs, chickens and goats.

The Matters children didn’t have many toys, and spent all their spare time outdoors. Greg was an accomplished tree climber, and would fish for trout with a homemade rod and worms from the garden. As they got older, Greg, a rugby player at Prince George Senior Secondary School, “had all the girls swooning,” Tracey says; but he was bashful and didn’t like attracting attention to himself.

After graduating in 1990, Greg travelled to Australia, where Tracey had joined the civil service. As he was cycling near Tracey’s neighbourhood in Canberra, a kangaroo jumped in front of him, causing him to flip over the bike’s handlebars and break his collarbone. Greg underwent surgery, but his left arm never completely recovered; he never regained a full range of motion.

He returned to Canada to work on the farm, and, at 20, he decided he wanted to become a Canadian Forces peacekeeper. He was a “valiant and proud Canadian” and “wanted to make a big impact on the world,” says Tracey. But the Forces turned him down because of his bad arm. Greg was disappointed, but didn’t give up. After another surgery and a year of physiotherapy, he reapplied, and in October 1994, he joined the 4th Air Defence Regiment at CFB Gagetown, in New Brunswick.

In 2001, Greg was deployed on a seven-month mission to Bosnia, where peacekeepers were upholding the peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war in 1995. Greg was part of a NATO-led mission in Velika Kladuša, near the Croatian border; there, he witnessed rapes and murders. When he returned to Canada, his family noticed he was increasingly angry and withdrawn, but he refused to discuss what he’d seen. Gone was the “happy-go-lucky guy I had grown up with,” Tracey says.

Greg struggled with depression, and was posted to Gagetown until 2009, when the Canadian Forces deemed him “unsuitable for further service.” He moved back to his parents’ farm in Prince George, and in 2011, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“Who committed the genocide? It was your neighbours, the military, the people in power, the militia,” says Dr. Greg Passey, his psychiatrist at the British Columbia Operational Stress Injury Clinic. In addition to the atrocities Greg had witnessed, it emerged that he had been bullied and assaulted by fellow soldiers. Greg’s experience in Bosnia, says Passey, “cemented his fear of authority figures.”

But under Passey’s care, Greg thrived. Soon he became “an even better version of his old self,” says Tracey. He re-established friendships and spent time with his grandmother. When his mother was hospitalized with pneumonia, Greg stayed by her bedside through the night and bought chocolates for her nurses. Last Christmas, Greg went all out, covering the Matters farmhouse with tinsel and decorations. The family built an eight-foot snowman. Greg added the finishing touch—his own scarf. “Greg would have normally sat inside and smiled from the inside of the house,” says Tracey. But this time, “he was right out there with us.”

In September, Greg enrolled at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, and studied psychology. “He wanted to become a psychologist or counsellor to help other veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder,” Tracey says. He set up a study in a cabin on his grandparents’ property, a quiet place where he completed his coursework.

He was planning to visit Tracey in Australia over Christmas, and had started buying gifts in July—he was close to his nephew and nieces. He told his sister he was hoping to get married and settle down. He’d even agreed to let Tracey give him a makeover and a new haircut. Finally, he seemed to have moved past the trauma that had haunted him since Bosnia.

On Sept. 9, the RCMP was dispatched to the Matters farm after an incident between Greg and his brother, Trevor. Greg, who was unarmed, was refusing to come out of the cabin. On Sept. 10, after a 30-hour stakeout, Greg was fatally shot by police. He was 40 years old. His death is under investigation by B.C.’s Independent Investigations Office.




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Gregory John Matters, 1972-2012

  1. This needs a major clarification. I completed a SFOR tour in 2001, (Roto 7 SFOR) and certainly transitioned through VK as it was the support/supply base and hosted a helicopter squadron. There were NO rapes and murders being committed to witness there.

    I remember one mechanic posted with me in Kluge that wrote home to his mom at the time that he had prevented rapes and was a sniper, she called the paper in Calgary, and when we got a printed copy of her repeated versions of his stories in the paper, that guy was too ashamed to show his face the rest of the tour. It was a joke then because the county had moved so far past that, and we were all stopping at the cafes to mix with the locals, or going for runs outside the bases, certainly not witnessing killing or the like.

    Whatever this man told to his family, and what they repeated, his mental health issues couldn’t have been related to service, at least regarding what he “saw”. I obviously can’t speak to how he was treated by his peers. The claim that a young bird gunner posted to a Bosnian Admin Base in 2001, saw anything in the realm or nature of “atrocities” needs to be revisited.

    It is a tragedy that this mans mental health issues caused his life to end so soon, and as he was improving, but certainly the story needs appropriate fact.

  2. Maybe some one should ask a different family member other than Greg’s sister who lived on the other side of the world and did not see what Greg was doing locally on a daily basis the last year of his life. It is very sad that he has lost his life. It is very sad that he did not get the proper mental health he needed.

  3. I have to agree with Scoretz. I served in roto 6 for in 2000 as a combat engineer attached to 3ppcli stationed in Drvar. We proved most of the roads in that country going to many towns. The aftermath of war was there but definitely no rapes or murder. His reasons for PTSD seem suspect as far as military service goes.

  4. Just because you didn’t see it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen! As for the comment regarding his sister, maybe you’re not close to your family members, but if you are close to them and know them well, you can be on the other side of the world and still know what’s going on, by the actions, the tone of voice the emotion in a voice. How can everyone be so quick to judge. Until you have walked a mile in their shoes, exact walk in their shoes…

    • Well, maybe a third person that has intimate knowledge of that area during the times mentioned will possibly give you pause and time to re-think your opinion.

      I served there for a 2000-2001 tour in Drvar, not a lot of raping and pillaging going on at that time either, and I was lucky enough to travel all over the AoR.

      I can’t say either way what his problems were but I can most assuredly say that if they came out of that tour, there were most likely some extenuating circumstances beyond his military service that exacerbated it.

      • And one other point, his section and platoon mates would most defiantly be able to either corroborate or debunk these claims.

  5. I am just speculating but since the magazine article cant attribute a direct quote, i.e. with parantheses, perhaps they might be using journalistic license with the word “witnessed” and placing it out of context.
    Gleaned from the World Wide Web:
    “As of November 2012, Croatian authorities have received 6,390 reports of crimes committed in the area during or after Operation Storm (i.e. 1995) and have convicted 2,380 persons for looting, arson, murders, war crimes and other illegal acts.
    As of the same date, 24 more trials of war crimes related to Operation Storm were in progress.
    In 2012, Serbian authorities were investigating five cases of war crimes committed during Operation Storm.
    The military operation also allowed Croatian authorities access to areas where, as of March 2012, a total of 144 mass and 1,200 individual graves have been discovered, in which a total of 3,809 Croatian civilians and military personnel were buried.”
    - – -
    Kathryn Bolkovac, the subject of the film “The Whistleblower,” talked about her experience exposing human sex trafficking in Bosnia. A former Lincoln, Nebraska police investigator, Bolkovac joined the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in 1999 as a human rights investigator for military contractor DynCorp.
    In that role, she uncovered numerous cases of DynCorp employees and others who had used prostitutes from human sex trafficking operations. In 2001, she was demoted and then fired by DynCorp after she informed senior UN officials about her findings.
    The movie was released in 2010; the autobiographical book by the same name was published a year later.
    “The film is changing the lives of many people and the thinking of people at the highest levels,” Bolkovac said.

  6. I would urge Macleans to follow up on this as information currently being dispensed by IIO (Independent Investigation Office) (who have now concluded their investigation,)-,.. at least appear to be-,.. sending a contradictory message to news followers.
    On one hand, appearing to pander to the audience of TV camera feeds for supper time broadcasts that announce that since cleared of criminality that an investigation would still continue, but then disseminating in print and online media that the IIO has concluded it’s work. Perhaps Macleans could help clear this up for readers confused about the roles of Independent Investigation Office in B.C. and the difference between their work and the Commission for Complaints against the RCMP. (note: both offices located in Surrey BC)

  7. I was there for ROTO 1 Op Palladium in 1997. There were times where we assisted local authorities with searching for wrong-doers but never did we encounter raping and murders, or the direct aftermath of. There was certainly people falling victim to murder while we were there but the local police and the IPTF investigated, not us. There were occasions where we were required to watch over the excavation of known mass-grave sites and other security related activity, such as patrols. We were not in a stable environment and certainly not one where we were exposed to the incredible atrocities this young soldier is reported to have witnessed. Perhaps this occurred when he was on Leave or R&R?

  8. Very very disturbing!!
    I just watched W5 regarding this story. I feel so badly for this family, expecially Greg’s mother. This should not have happened. The police could have taken alternative measures. I feel that the 911 dispature escalated the situation by telling the officers that Greg was angry! Of course he was upset. If she had handled his follow up call more ethically perhaps she could have calmed the situation. It is a shame! And someone should be held responsible! Greg should not have been murdered over a simple domestic violence call. Once again my condolences to this family.

  9. Greg was a friend of mine when I was a soldier. We last met in 98 on good terms. I feel so bad for his family. Rest in Peace Greg, you didn’t deserve this.

  10. Whatever the cause of Greg’s PTSD, the cops had NO justification to shoot him IN THE BACK, NO ONE was in any danger at the time, NO ONE, and in most civilized countries that is MURDER

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