Canadian Forces Partners With BOLD

April 1, 2011

Mass casualties and disaster victim identification (also known as DVI) are chilling scenarios most of us would rather not think about. Add a military component—the Canadian Forces—and our minds may immediately conjure a collapse in society, even armed conflicts. How could it not, with the daily news-grind reminding us that Canadians are serving in military missions overseas?

Similarly grim circumstances, however, can occur anywhere in the world—including Canada. Earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, explosions, collapsed buildings and floods happen every day. If the consequences are massive, the Canadian Forces (CF), with its specially trained teams, could be the first national or international responders on the scene to identify human remains. Indeed, CF teams were key elements in the DVI responses to the 1998 Swissair crash in Nova Scotia and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. CF teams have also been dispatched by the Government of Canada in recent years to assist in identifying remains of fallen Canadian WWI soldiers in France and WWII airmen in Burma.

The CF has traditionally received standard DVI training from the US Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Washington DC, completing an iterative suite of programs, including the use of WinID, the US DVI database computer application. Given their potential for deployment into a variety of international jurisdictions, however, the CF is now seeking to also hold credentials reflecting international police organization Interpol’s DVI standard, and to train with Canadian civilian colleagues they may one day be working alongside on major DVI missions at home or abroad.

The Bureau of Legal Dentistry (BOLD) lab, under the aegis of UBC Dentistry, and core members of the BOLD-sponsored BC Forensic Odontology Response Team (BC-FORT), are providing dental personnel from the Canadian Forces with formalized, advanced training in post-mortem and ante-mortem data collection and handling. The training will establish familiarity with the Interpol DVI standard, including use of DVI System International—Interpol’s DVI database computer application manufactured by PlassData. The course will also include responding to a simulated mass casualty incident.

Achieving interoperability between CF and civilian DVI partners, matched with professional competencies and credential equivalency of CF dental officers to civilian DVI colleagues, takes planning and preparation—a task well executed by Dr. David Sweet OC, director of BOLD. Sweet is currently chief DVI scientist at Interpol (Lyon) and a forensic advisor to the International Committee of the Red Cross (Geneva).

Colonel James Taylor DMD 1984, the Canadian Forces senior ranking dental officer, remarks: “I very much appreciate Dr. Sweet’s leadership and sustained effort to support the Canadian Forces with this advanced training. I consider the BOLD institute and its approach to be a very appropriate Canadian benchmark for training in forensic odontology and DVI.” The training, according to Taylor, is part of an ever-evolving inter-institutional relationship that enables the CF to better serve Canada and Canadians.

Sweet has pioneered techniques that have become global industry standards in forensic odontology, including techniques for disaster response. He founded BC-FORT, one of the most highly trained groups of responders capable of handling a mass disaster in Canada or acting on behalf of Canadians who perish outside our national borders. BC-FORT members were recognized as world leaders in DVI during the response to Thailand’s 2005 tsunami. Sweet was appointed as an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2008 for enhancing Canada’s reputation as a leader in forensic odontology and for his contributions as a teacher, researcher and consultant.

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