OTTAWA — The Military Police Complaints Commission is investigating the way officers handled allegations of sexual assault against a soldier who took his own life, the commission announced Thursday.
Military police charged Maj. Cristian Hiestand, a flight instructor in a Royal Canadian Air Force flight training squadron, with two counts of sexual assault in November 2021.
The complainant came forward shortly after the pair had broken up, and alleged that Hiestand had sexually assaulted her twice during their relationship.
Hiestand died by suicide two months later, and his parents and sister filed separate complaints with the military police, saying they "rushed to judgment" and didn't take a statement from the accused before laying charges.
A military police officer has also filed a complaint alleging the investigating officers didn't record the woman's interview even though they could have, and that an off-duty sergeant tried to help with the investigation while intoxicated.
The commission denied the initial request for a public interest investigation in 2022, the interim chairperson Bonita Thornton said in her written decision Thursday. She considered the regular conduct complaint process would be adequate in this case.
Since then, the case has received media attention and two more complaints have been made.
"Due to these new circumstances, I have decided to revisit the issue of public interest with respect to the original complaint and the other two related complaints," Thornton said in her written decision to launch an investigation.
The commission decided to launch a public interest investigation last November, but because the case is also the subject of an internal review, it delayed a public announcement of the probe until Thursday.
The alleged victim reported Hiestand to the local military police detachment and gave an initial statement two days after their relationship ended on Nov. 25, 2021.
The case was referred to the Canadian Forces National Investigation Service, and Hiestand was arrested five days later. He was charged with two counts of sexual assault.
Hiestand's parents and sisters allege the investigation by the military police was inadequate, and that the service failed to take his statement before he was charged. The investigation service also failed to accept text messages between Hiestand and the alleged victim that could have proved the allegations false, the complainants claim.
The commission also received a complaint from Muhsin Warsame, an officer who served at the local military police detachment at the time and claims to have been present when the alleged victim reported the assaults.
He made several allegations about how the case was mishandled, including that a sergeant tried to assisted with the investigation while off-duty and intoxicated.
Warsame told the commission the warrant officer who interviewed the alleged victim didn't record it, even though the equipment was available to do so, and that the officer complained with frustration about the victim's choice to come to the military police instead of the local civilian police.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 28, 2023.
Sarah Ritchie and Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version stated that the alleged sexual assaults occurred after Maj. Cristian Hiestand and the complainant had ended a relationship. A previous version also misspelled Hiestand's surname.