Pubdate: Tue, 14 Aug 2007
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Times Colonist
Author: Rob Shaw


Drug Use Widespread On HMCS Saskatoon, Court Martial Hears

A third of the crew on a Canadian warship based at CFB Esquimalt used
cocaine with regularity, according to testimony at a military court
martial. The ship's clandestine drug operation, which apparently
divided the crew into camps of users and non-users, is surprising and
disappointing, the navy says.

Jason Ennis, a former leading seaman on board HMCS Saskatoon, made the
cocaine revelation in court Friday, where he was found guilty of drug
use and fined $2,000. He was acquitted on charges of trafficking drugs.

Ennis, 24, was part of what appeared to be a widespread drug problem
on board HMCS Saskatoon, one of the fleet's 12 Kingston-class
warships, which are crewed mainly by reservists.

The military ran an undercover operation in January 2006 to gauge the
extent of the drug use.

Ennis told the court that as many as 12 people of the 31-person crew
used cocaine regularly at that time, CBC News reported.

"It's immensely disappointing," said navy spokesman Lt.-Cmdr. Gerry
Pash. "The Canadian Forces, like many public institutions, employ
people in a degree of public trust and drug use is incompatible with
service in the Canadian Forces."

Ennis is one of four officers to face courts martial proceedings as a
result of the investigation.

The most senior officer accused is former chief petty officer Robert
Carlson. Carlson faces drug possession and trafficking charges and is
scheduled to appear in military court in the fall.

Sonya Robert, a 27-year-old ship's cook, was fined $500 and handed a
30-day suspended sentence April 10. Robert sold half a gram of cocaine
to an undercover military officer at a private residence in Victoria
in January 2006.

Brenda Murley, a 28-year-old deckhand, pleaded guilty to trafficking
charges on Feb. 28. She was fined $500 and given a 15-day suspended

All four were reservists and have since left the Forces, the military
confirmed yesterday.

"There is an element of surprise that a very small group of people
would be able to maintain the level of secrecy that was here," said
Pash. But he said the navy dealt with it appropriately.

"The navy is not unlike any other organization. When there's good news
everybody cheers. And when there's bad news everybody feels badly and
everybody tends to wear it. And hopefully the system worked, the
investigation was made, people went to court, sentences have been
meted out and we can move on from there."

Pash said there's no evidence to suggest drug usage is higher among
military members than the public.

However, the force has been reviewing its policy surrounding random
drug tests for months, he said. The review occurred in the wake of
reports that between 16 per cent and 18 per cent of soldiers at CFB
Gagetown, N.B., had traces of illegal substances in their bodies when
tested in fall 2006.
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