Cpl. Clayton Matchee, left, veteran Dave Bona, right. Bona will join Clayton’s wife Marj at the forum in Saskatoon.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be in Saskatoon Wednesday night for an open forum town hall, and the wife of a soldier who was nationally disgraced in the early 1990s wants a word with him.
Meadow Lake woman Marj Matchee plans to inquire about a military-issued drug she believes caused a psychotic episode that led Cpl. Clayton Matchee to fatally beat a Somali captive in 1993.
At the time, high-level health bureaucrats and military officers had serious concerns about mefloquine’s side effects, but those concerns were never fully addressed by the federal government. The Somalia Inquiry into a series of incidents in Somalia was set to hear testimony on the drug in 1997, but it was shut down before testimony began.
Also, militaries across the world have either stopped using mefloquine, or started using it as a drug of last resort. The Canadian Forces have done neither. Officials say there is not enough scientific evidence to justify an end to mefloquine’s use, despite a change to Health Canada’s mefloquine warnings which now include permanent brain damages as a side effect.
Marj sees Trudeau’s event at the University of Saskatchewan as a perfect time to urge the PM to publicly address mefloquine.
“Let him at least say the word and hear it and speak it, and say that he’s going to look into it,” she said.
Marj will be joined by veteran Dave Bona, a veteran who was deployed to Somalia at the time as Clayton, and said he suffers long-term side effects of mefloquine.
Marj’s family has suffered greatly from the events that stemmed from Clayton’s time in Somalia. After he was charged with murder, he attempted suicide. Now Clayton lives with brain damage, alternating living with his family in the Meadow Lake area and in a care home.
“If anybody can make the change, obviously he (Trudeau) can. But he won’t be so quick to set it aside if he puts a face on it, is what I’m hoping. That maybe if he looks at us and sees that we are for real and that we just speak for the thousands, and hopefully get the message to him – I mean he is our leader – hopefully start there,” she said.
Still, Marj fears that she’ll be lost in the crowd of people. If she does get a moment to speak to Trudeau, she knows what matters most to her.
“I want him to open the Somalia Inquiry again. If I could ask for anything, it would be that. And he has got the power to do so. And I want him to encourage the Standing Committee and listen to the Standing Committee and actually hear the facts,” she said.
Trudeau’s town hall starts at 7 p.m. at The Dubé Theatre in the University of Saskatchewan’s Health Sciences Building.
Registration for the event is closed but walk-ins will be allowed at 6:30 p.m.