TORONTO — Canada’s armed forces says it’s looking into a recent spate of deaths involving students or recent graduates from the Royal Military College.
Four men have died since April, prompting officials to start probing the circumstances around the various cases.
Royal Military College spokeswoman Lt. Jennifer Fidler says the commander of military personnel command has convened a board of inquiry into the deaths of three officer cadets who were students at the school in Kingston, Ont.
Harrison Kelertas, 22, and 20-year-old Brett Cameron died within days of each other on the RMC campus, while 19-year-old Matthew Sullivan died earlier this month in Saint John, N.B.
Fidler says a separate board of inquiry is looking into the death of 39-year-old Sub Lt. Eric Leclerc, who died while serving at CFB Borden in June.
She says the causes of the deaths are under review, adding the boards of inquiry hope to prevent such tragedies in the future.
“A (board of inquiry) is an administrative process,” Fidler said in a statement. “It is not a judicial process. It does not seek to fix blame, but to find the facts and make recommendations to the CAF to prevent a recurrence.”
Little is known about the various deaths, the first of which took place on April 28 when Kelertas’ body was found.
Kelertas, of Hudson, Que., was described in his obituary as a keen student and recent winner of the most valuable player award on RMC’s fencing team. He was set to graduate this past spring and was posthumously awarded the prize for the top graduating student in the Faculty of Arts.
Cameron, a second-year student survived by a large family and a fiancee, died on May 7. His obituary said the military cadet program had helped him achieve his goal of becoming a pilot.
Leclerc died the following month while on a training course at CFB Borden. His mother has told at least one media outlet that her son’s death was a suicide.
Fidler said Leclerc had graduated from the college seven months earlier, and his death is being investigated separately by the Royal Canadian Air Force, since he was assigned there at the time.
According to the obituary for Sullivan, the 19-year-old had just been released from the Canadian forces to “begin a new educational opportunity in his home town of Saint John, N.B.”
Fidler said mental health is an increasing focus of the officer cadet training program at the school.
She said “resiliency training” to address mental health concerns will become part of the curriculum this September, adding staff are also receiving additional coaching on coping with “subordinate wellness.”
Fidler said the boards of inquiry looking into the various deaths do not have fixed end dates and declined to speculate on when their findings might be released.
The Royal Military College, founded in 1876, is the academic centre for those hoping to become commissioned officers in the Canadian Armed Forces.