Thursday, February 4, 2010

Alcohol, Violence Part of Canadian Soldiers' R&R

The Toronto Sun

When Canadian soldiers head home from Afghanistan, they are first given a week to "decompress" on the island paradise of Cyprus. But for many soldiers, this "decompression" is filled with alcohol abuse, arguments and violence, according to information revealed in military documents obtained by QMI Agency.

During the 150 days military members have spent on the island since the fall of 2006, Canadian soldiers have been involved in more than 100 incidents that required the intervention of military police. About 30 of these incidents were of a violent nature and at least 50 were caused by soldiers that were "intoxicated" by alcohol.

The military police reports, obtained through Access to Information laws, show that the soldiers, as soon as they arrive in Cyprus, quickly take advantage of the freedom they are given, opting to go drinking in groups at bars or heading off in search strippers or prostitutes.

These nocturnal escapades often land soldiers in locations where their presence isn't always appreciated by the locals. At least four times, Canadian soldiers were attacked or threatened by local groups that are often armed with pistols. In one July 2007 case, a soldier found himself with a 9-mm pistol pointed at his face after he had tried to locate reinforcements in a bar to help one of his comrades who was fighting with street bouncers.

The report indicated that the majority of incidents are directly linked to the consumption of alcohol by soldiers. Many soldiers abuse alcohol to the point where they fight each other over insults or they fight Cyprus locals that they have insulted or pushed around.

The most publicized case is that of soldiers Louis Pelletier and Guillaume Simon, who violently struck a British citizen living in Cyprus after having insulted and spit on his wife in March 2008.

The reports also showed several cases of misdemeanour crimes caused by drunken soldiers.

For example, one drunk and unhappy soldier broke down the door of a five-star hotel where the soldiers were staying.

Another broke into a Cyprus resident's home in the middle of the night for reasons that haven't been revealed.

Last March, a drunken soldier fell off his room's balcony on the first floor of the hotel but managed to escape with only a few injuries.

Drunk, soldier fights and breaks a window Feb. 12, 2007. At around 6 p.m. in a local bar, a soldier, very intoxicated by alcohol, fought with a Cyprus local. After being subdued by military police, the soldier punched the glass protecting a painting on the wall. He was injured. Many people tried to calm him, but he eventually lost consciousness. The report indicates that he was "strongly intoxicated". He was required to pay for the painting. Perhaps it may behoove the Canadian military to take action and institute a 'dry-out' alcohol rehab program.

Unwinding soldiers can create trouble

Threatened with a gun
July 28, 2007

A soldier was involved in an altercation downtown. He was hit by a street bouncer while he was trying to help a colleague who had been attacked in the street. He then wanted to get help from inside the unidentified establishment. Another street bouncer prohibited him from entering the establishment by showing him a 9mm pistol and asking him "if he had a problem". The reported indicated that there is "a group of street bouncers ... that patrol outside of district X." The report also said that the group has other groups (whose identity was blacked out).

A soldier taken hostage
July 31, 2007

Two roommate soldiers, during the decompression week, visited a Cyprus establishment to drink alcohol. Inside, one soldier fell asleep on a couch. Unable to wake his colleague, the soldier found himself alone and without money, with bar employees that demanded payment. "Accompanied by an escort armed ... with a pistol", he was asked to pay if he wanted the sleeping soldier to be released. He then returned to the hotel to get money.

Six against 50
Mar. 1, 2008

A group of Cyprus residents tried to stir things up in a bar by name-calling and pushing around Canadian soldiers. "When they exited the establishment, a group of people, more than 50, named the XXXXXs, were waiting to beat them up outside. The Canadian soldiers would have had no chance because of the number of assailants," said the report. The soldiers were forced to flee after the fight started.

Fight for a cigarette
Sept. 21, 2008

At midnight, a fight broke out between a Cyprus resident and a Canadian soldier when the soldier told the person to "pay attention with his cigarette". The Cyprus resident replied by hitting the soldier in the face. The two men fought on the ground and other residents and soldiers got involved until bar employees separated them. The soldier was treated for his injuries but didn't file a complaint.

Soldier attacked taxi driver
Oct. 4, 2008

At 4 a.m., a soldier, returning from a night out by taxi, was seen by other soldiers trying to hit a taxi driver while he was holding onto him through the open window of the vehicle. The soldier didn't want to pay the total amount for the ride, maintaining that he already done so and owed the driver nothing. Another soldier paid the amount asked for by the driver, who left without making a complaint.

Soldier called a "fag"

At about 10 p.m., two groups of soldiers in a bar got into a fight after a soldier from one group refered to another soldier as a "fag". The fight started inside the bar and then moved outside into the street. Military and local police were forced to intervene. A soldier was injured and treated in hospital.

More fighting
Mar. 27, 2009

At about 1:30 a.m., two soldiers involved in a fight the night before needed to be separated after they began to fight, again, in a bar. One of the soldiers was holding his colleague by the head and was repeatedly hitting him in the face. The military police believe that the two men arranged to meet up to finish their fight from the night before. However, the victim said he had hadn't consented to fight and had simply gone to talk outside of the bar.

And again...
Mar. 27, 2009

At around 3 a.m., three soldiers involved in the previous night's fight decided to confront one of their opponents hotel room, as a group. They knocked on the door, forced their way in and pushed one soldier to the ground before jumping on the other, who was held down while another soldier hit him repeatedly in the face. The three attackers fled and were then interrogated by military police.

Drunk, he falls from the first floor
March 27, 2009

In the middle of the afternoon, a soldier suffered a one-story fall from the balcony of his hotel room to the ground floor. He was injured. The report stated that he was so "intoxicated" that he either fell by accident or on purpose. He also lost his wallet.

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