Russell Williams no longer a colonel - Macleans.ca

Russell Williams no longer a colonel

Convicted serial killer officially stripped of his rank

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Gen. Walter Natynczyk, Chief of the Defence Staff, issued a rally-the-troops message this afternoon to all soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen, outlining the administrative steps the Canadian Forces has taken against convicted killer Russell Williams. The disgraced air force colonel will not only be stripped of his rank, booted from the service, and forced to pay back his salary since the day of his arrest, but he is also the first officer in Canadian military history to have his commission revoked by the Governor-General.

The commander of CFB Trenton until his shocking arrest, Williams is now in a solitary jail cell at Kingston Penitentiary, serving the first days of a life sentence for a heinous string of sex crimes that included the brutal rape and murders of two women: Cpl. Marie-France Comeau, a 37-year-old corporal stationed at his base; and Belleville, Ont., resident Jessica Lloyd, 27. In his memo, Natynczyk described the ordeal as “deeply upsetting,” but reiterated that there are no legal grounds to either revoke Williams’ hefty pension or subject him to a court-martial.

“I wish to point out that under the CF superannuation act, there are no grounds to revoke his pension and a court martial would not have any impact on these accrued benefits,” the general wrote. “Some have questioned why Mr. Williams has not also been charged under the military justice system. I believe we need to understand why this is so. This is because there is no jurisdiction under the code of service discipline to try persons charged with murder where those murders took place in Canada. Mr. Williams was therefore tried and convicted of all of these 88 charges under the Criminal Code of Canada by a civilian court. Additionally there will be no further court martial on these matters because the National Defence Act specifically prevents an individual from being tried by court martial where the offence or any other substantially similar offence arising out of the same underlying facts have been previously dealt with by a civilian court. This basic principle sometimes known as ‘double jeopardy’ is fundamental within our civilian and military justice system. With his current convictions and sentence to life imprisonment justice has already been served.”

Below is a copy of the Natynczyk’s complete email, obtained by Maclean’s:

CDS Message: Mr. Russell Williams

1. On 21 Oct 10, Mr. Russell Williams, former Commander of 8 Wing, was sentenced to two concurrent terms of life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years for the first-degree murders of Cpl Marie France Comeau and Mrs. Jessica Lloyd.

2. The crimes committed by Mr. Williams are deeply upsetting to us all. Over the last few months, I have spoken with many of you in town halls across the country and on missions overseas. Like all Canadians, you and I have been shocked and repulsed by the crimes he committed.

3. During these conversations, you expressed your sympathy and compassion for the victims and the families affected by this terrible tragedy. I also listened to Canadian Forces personnel of all ranks as they expressed their bewilderment and anger at the betrayal of our institutional ethos of truth, duty, and valour. Because of his heinous crimes and his subsequent criminal conviction, Mr. Williams has lost the privilege of calling himself a member of the CF community.

4. With the conviction and sentencing completed, and following my recommendation, the Governor General has revoked his commission, an extraordinary and severe decision that may constitute a first of its kind in Canadian history.

5. Further, the following actions will now be taken:
A. Stripping Mr. Williams of his medals
B. Termination and recovery of his pay from the date of arrest
C. Denial of severance pay; and
D. His prompt release from the CF under “service misconduct” – which is the most serious release item possible.
6. As a consequence of his release from the CF for “service misconduct” and of the revocation of his commission, Mr. Williams no longer possesses a rank as a member of the CF.

7. I wish to point out that under the CF superannuation act, there are no grounds to revoke his pension and a court martial would not have any impact on these accrued benefits.

8. Some have questioned why Mr. Williams has not also been charged under the military justice system. I believe we need to understand why this is so. This is because there is no jurisdiction under the code of service discipline to try persons charged with murder where those murders took place in Canada. Mr. Williams was therefore tried and convicted of all of these 88 charges under the Criminal Code of Canada by a civilian court. Additionally there will be no further court martial on these matters because the National Defence Act specifically prevents an individual from being tried by court martial where the offence or any other substantially similar offence arising out of the same underlying facts have been previously dealt with by a civilian court. This basic principle sometimes known as “double jeopardy” is fundamental within our civilian and military justice system. With his current convictions and sentence to life imprisonment justice has already been served.

9. Now more than ever, this is a time for us to come together and heal as a community. We are doing everything we can to assist those in need of counselling or other support. I urge anyone who is feeling upset or concerned to seek assistance and to talk about it. While doing so, we will not forget Cpl Marie France Comeau, Mrs. Jessica Lloyd, and the many other victims and their families who will remain in our thoughts and prayers forever.

10. It is time to move forward, be strong and proud because the actions of Mr. Williams are not reflective of the values of the men and women who serve in the CF, whose integrity and self sacrifice come through loud and clear in words and deeds each day. Whether helping Canadians at home, abroad, or providing the hope of a better future to the people of Haiti, Africa or Afghanistan, I have seen our ethos of truth, duty, and valour at work and making a difference in the world. You have reason to hold your head high. Be strong and proud! I am proud to be your Chief of the Defence Staff.

General W.J. Natynczyk, CDS