This week, we learned that the Toronto Police Service will be ordering C8 carbine semi-automatic assault rifles for front-line police officers. The assault rifles, produced by arms manufacturer Colt Canada for the Canadian Forces, will cost $2,500 each, and will be in patrol cars on the streets of Canada's largest city by May. Toronto becomes only the latest municipality to acquire a weapon described on its website as "battle proven in harsh combat environments."
Despite recent headlines, Canadian rates of suicide and attempted suicide have remained largely unchanged over the last several decades. What has changed is that we've seen increasing rates of suicide in the Canadian military recently, after stable rates for decades. The problem of suicide is not limited to the military in Canada; indigenous populations, especially in northern remote communities, have high rates of suicide. We need a unified approach across provincial and federal sectors to reduce suicides in the military, among veterans and civilians.
Just as the Conservative government committed, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should commit to passing the Victims Rights in the Military Justice System Act as soon as Parliament resumes. There is no reason not to do so. Equality before the law is good, common-sense policy, and supporting our troops is always the right thing to do morally and politically.
The Liberals have proven time and time again to be no friend to the soldiers. Chrétien wearing his helmet on backwards (then chiding soldiers as they tried to show him how to wear it properly) and the elder Trudeau's morale-killing reorganizations have made a lasting impression on generations of military men and women who have been burned by the Liberals one too many times -- by pandering to the veteran community, the Liberals are hoping that the memory of soldiers does not go beyond the year 2000.
This past week, the outgoing Chief of Defence Staff -- the man at the very top of that metaphorical hill -- unwittingly let us all have a peek at the highest levels of thinking around this problem. Why would we accept Lawson's mumbly assertion that the military is powerless to alter people's "biological wiring"? This is actually a huge part of what the command structure has always done. The military indoctrinates soldiers so that they do such things not just without question, but to the best of their ability. So why is it so hard to indoctrinate them into a reasonable understanding of why sexual harassment is unacceptable?
Being a soldier is a great career as long as you don't get injured or sick. Even when the military has cases of medical malpractice they do not take responsibility for their actions. If you don't believe me ask Robyn Young or the thousands of others like her who suffer at the hands of a company with no accountability. It is the only organization not obliged to take care of its injured employees.
There is simply no compatibility between humanitarian action and the use of military force in combat. One has as its singular objective the alleviation of human suffering, regardless of the sufferer's identity or affiliation; the other, by definition, involves taking the side of one group against the other. That's also why it is very worrying to hear that humanitarian assistance is being used as strategic tactic in military action.