A Defence Department report recently tabled in the House of Commons "showed a shortfall of nearly 900 regular force members and 4,500 part-time reservists at the end of March due to higher than forecasted attrition and other factors." To put that into perspective the 5,400 less troops equates to 135 less platoons. Or 45 less companies or even 15 less battalions. So what is the root cause of this? I think there are three major flaws that are contributing to this downward spiral.
Veterans' issues should be above politics. The men and women who serve our country, who are killed and maimed in its name and who bring their families into service with them (who serve in a different but substantial way) deserve more than to be the subject of political rhetoric and the object of electoral gamesmanship that is neither befitting our country nor helpful to our veterans.
Recently, Canada's military has come under deliberate, sustained attack. In fact, our Forces may already have been vanquished. Not by an enemy, but by the nation it defends. Faith in Canada's support is the one thing our Forces absolutely, positively must have to be effective. But that was taken away last year, bringing the days of selflessly charging into danger to a crashing halt.
Every day, women and men put on uniforms for the RCMP and RCAF, RCN, and the Canadian Army. Every day, those men and women set out to be the wall of flesh between us and harm. Every day, whether a major catastrophe affecting thousands or just one of us lost in the wilds, we know who to look for, who to trust in.
General, might I offer up that, at the heart of the problem of suicide in the Forces, is that soldiers feel trapped and with no way out? That the widespread stigma against mental injury and illness, that the attitude you present -- that helping is coddling, and that your condescending attitude exemplifies the problem which soldiers face?
There is a stark contrast between what Veterans want and need, and what the Harper Government is presenting. Veterans need benefits, pensions, enough money to live on, and assistance accessing programs. Veterans are in crisis across Canada -- mental health crisis, financial crisis, family crisis resulting from both -- and deserve help. Decorated Veterans are suing Canada for not providing for them; a shameful situation which decent people would settle quickly. What has Harper offered? No jobs, more expensive health plans, more emphasis on the depersonalized VAC web service.
In seven days, Canada lost four soldiers to suicide. They died of despair. Suffering mental wounds from their service, able to foresee the end of their careers but unable to see how they could survive after, they succumbed to their injuries and took their own lives. We might give it fancy clinical names, like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or Operational Stress Injury, but that doesn't change the condition: broken mind.
I am continually amazed at the speed with which Canadians abandon Veterans in the name of the holidays. We rush into the holidays like some people to drink, seeking obliteration of bad memories. We are trying to obliterate the stories of sacrifice we heard the previous week. It's not just the mall, it's everywhere. Even the media quickly drops Veterans' Day stories as if it is taboo after Remembrance to talk about how we treat those who stand on guard for us. The poppies are gone, the poinsettias are out, and here's to a white Christmas and a Happy New Year!
I hadn't planned on posting any sort of response to the Minister, as I've found it's best not to favour such accusations with comment. However, one of those individuals I referenced in my article wants to respond to the Minister's "corrections and clarifications" regarding how the Conservatives are supporting veterans.
The 11th was named Remembrance Day for a reason. The name was chosen to remind Canadians that we must remember the sacrifices our Veterans make for us. It was also named to remind us to remember the obligations we have to those who serve -- an obligation our Government is working hard to deny. Currently, a group of Veterans are suing Canada for failing them. Remembrance Day is more than saying "We Will Remember Them" -- You actually need to do it.
Forget the homeless Veterans. Forget the lawsuits, and how the Harper Government says they are not obligated to provide for Veterans. Forget the closure of VAC Offices, the cuts to staff and the consequent loss of service to Veterans. Forget the Veterans kicked out of the Forces before they are eligible for pensions. Forget the families of poor Veterans, denied funeral expenses.