Next to the desk that Glenn Stannard is vacating in the office of the Military Police Complaints Commission is a floor-to-ceiling shelving unit filled – and then some – with ringed binders of evidence about an inept response to the suicide of a young army corporal.
It is a collection of testimony and documents that the former police chief re-read two or three times while compiling his 1,008-page examination of the investigation undertaken by the military's police force after the discovery of Stuart Langridge's body in an Edmonton barracks in 2008.
Mr. Stannard's conclusions were blunt. He said that, in their handling of Cpl. Langridge's death, the military police "made unacceptable errors, reflecting lack of professionalism and/or lack of competence."
But obtaining the facts during the inquiry, which the commission says cost about $3.5-million over its multi-year span, was made more difficult by government roadblocks.
At one point, Mr. Stannard asked then defence minister Peter MacKay to lift redactions on material that would have shed light on the case. Mr. MacKay not only refused the request but suggested that any future communications from the commission should go through government lawyers.
As Mr. Stannard leaves the post he has held for the past five years to head back to his hometown of Windsor, Ont., and spend more time with his 10 grandchildren, he does not appear to have fallen out of government favour despite the occasional run-ins. And, in return, he is not overtly critical of the politicians.
"Not once has anybody from government interfered with [my work], or phoned me and said you shouldn't do this or should do that, or can't do this or can't do that," Mr. Stannard says when asked about his relationship with the men who have been defence ministers during his tenure.
In leaving on good terms, he is different from many of the heads of boards and commissions who have departed their jobs since the Conservatives came to office, including his predecessor, Peter Tinsley.
But obtaining the information he requires has been, and continues to be, a challenge, he said.
"I still think it's a problem," Mr. Stannard said. "I think there needs to be a better response to ensuring that oversight bodies get the documents that they need to do the job."
It is an issue that arose in 2010 when Mr. Stannard was heading another significant public inquiry, that one into the handling of Afghan detainees. When he asked a government lawyer to tell him when reams of documents requested by the commission would be received, the lawyer fired back: "Documents will be turned over to the counsel when they're good and ready."
And, even as Mr. Stannard leaves the job, he is embroiled in two additional disputes over the release of information.
Provost Marshal Colonel Robert Delaney, the head of the military police, initially refused to allow the commission to append the military police response to the findings of the Langridge inquiry, so the commission is taking the Provost Marshal to court. Mr. Stannard wants a Federal Court judge to decide whether the Provost Marshal has the right to right to control how and when responses of that kind may be included in the commission's reports.
Meanwhile, the commission is being denied access to the complete set of orders and procedures that dictate how members of the military police are supposed to do their jobs – information that would seem critical to a commission that determines whether military police officers are acting appropriately.
Mr. Stannard said he raised the issue with former defence minister Rob Nicholson and also with Jason Kenney, who currently has the portfolio, but, so far, his request for the documents has not been met.
In cases where the commission is investigating an allegation against the military police, the chair may ask for the small segment of the orders that apply to the specific details of the case. But, without the full set of orders, the commission may not even know what to request.
"I believe as an oversight body we're entitled to have a set of the MP orders and procedures," Mr. Stannard said. "I think it's absurd that we can't have a set of orders. I think it's ridiculous. I really do."
Despite the problems around the release of information, Mr. Stannard said independent commissions like the one he chaired are effective tools for keeping security forces in check.
As Parliament debates the merits of a bill that would expand the powers of security agencies, the Conservative government has rebuffed calls from the opposition and others to provide additional oversight. Some have suggested that parliamentarians themselves should do the job.
But Mr. Stannard doesn't believe that MPs, who must answer to their constituents and other interests, can provide the unbiased third-party supervision that is required.
Commissions like the one he chaired "can independently do what needs to be done to ensure that there's a transparency, an independence, an accountability of moving towards assisting an organization to be as professional as they can be," Mr. Stannard said. "That's obviously what the goal should be for an oversight agency."