The Canadian Forces have made two arrests and are investigating allegations of defamation from posts on a Facebook page that the spouse of a member at CFB Comox has left her and her partner threatened and scared.
Katherine Bickford, a retired Canadian Forces member whose same-sex partner works at 19 Wing Comox, explained the couple has been identified, mocked and threatened through a private military-related Facebook page called Cpl Bloggins.
Bickford said not only have she, her partner, and Bickford’s mother been mocked and threatened on the page, but other military members as well, with comments left by active members of the Canadian Forces.
“You put something on the Internet, and yes, it’s out there … this guy actually trolls Facebook, Twitter. … he trolls the Canadian Forces spouses and groups on Facebook and posts information,” she noted. “They’re making fun of when CFB Edmonton raised the pride flag, or making fun of a wounded warrior.
“I know this has damaged the careers of people. There’s a lot of people who are suffering from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). This kind of stuff doesn’t help them. It certainly doesn’t help me.”
The page, which was shut down previously, is now in its third incarnation, and Bickford believes it was created by a military member.
“When it became personal, that’s when I became really angry,” she explained, and added one post included derogatory comments about her mother.
“I thought something’s got to be done. Someone’s got to stand up and say no. I know this happened to me, it happened to my partner, it happened to my mom, and we’re not going to put up with it.
“Call the police, call the base, call your superior, call your padre, call your friends. Do something about it.”
Despite being identified on the page, Bickford said it gave her the motivation to take action.
“In my case, same-sex couple … big deal. Big deal — I don’t care. I’ve marched in pride parades, my partner marched in Toronto Pride wearing her uniform; no big deal, we’re not ashamed of it.
“I think that’s how bullies classically work. You’re ashamed, you’re embarrassed and you don’t want it out there. Guess what? You put my name out there, I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Bickford approached the military police and the Comox Valley RCMP, who explained to her there is not much that can be done, until someone contacts her or her spouse repeatedly with threats or shows up at their home.
She believes it will only be a matter of time until that happens.
“These people are looking for where we live. One of the things they mention on that group is that they can track us down because my (partner) is an amateur radio person and she has a licence and there’s a database of who’s there. So we checked that and fortunately it only has our post office box.”
She admits that both her and her partner are scared, and she’s resorted to carrying around softball gear and bear spray for protection. The couple have taken extra measures around their home, such as ensuring they park their vehicles away from their home in a secure area.
“If they get our address, we’ll move. It’ll just be a matter of time until someone shows up at our door … we’re scared.”
In a statement to media, the Department of National Defence said in early January 2014, the Canadian Forces Military Police commenced an investigation into allegations of defamation and inappropriate comments posted on the page. Two Canadian Armed Forces members were arrested Jan. 22.
In early February, military police commenced a new investigation after receiving a new complaint of alleged defamation and inappropriate comments posted on another Facebook page with the same name.
They note the investigation into the matter continues, and no further details can be released, but added the organization and military police take seriously all allegations of inappropriate conduct by Canadian Armed Forces personnel.
“In all cases, investigations are conducted to determine the facts, analyze the evidence, and if warranted, lay appropriate charges,” it reads.
Bickford said she was happy to hear of the arrests, but at the same time was disheartened, as the Canadian Forces could have sent out a clear message if they had announced the arrests.
“The site will go on in one form or another until the Canadian Forces makes it very clear that this is going to be treated as an offence, and that it will be eliminated.”