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.
Some argue that combat is what defines a veteran. Think about that for a minute and you'll realize that such a definition overlooks all the logistics, support, medical, and other personnel. Think about all the aircraft mechanics required in WWII -- are they not veterans? Of course they are. Look around. Pay attention to the veterans walking among us every day.
Obviously, the Minister didn't intend that every person who dies or is injured in service to the public is a veteran. But what he did was imply that injury or death is required for one to be considered a veteran. That may be a convenient definition for a government intent on saving money on the back of our veterans, but it's a silly notion for nation that requires a military.
Imagine if the true prevalence of cancer in Canada was somewhere around 50 per cent, but the government of Canada estimated the prevalence to be approximately 20 per cent because they included in their estimate only a portion of all possible cancers. The medical community would be in an uproar because there are important implications drawn from such data.
The last time the Canadian Forces made a huge effort to integrate a minority, there were serious concerns. There was a demographic forming 28 per cent of the Canadian population, which was said not to fit into the traditional military mould. They were seen as too "different", too "rebellious", too contrary to ever enter the fold of the military elite. They were French-Canadians.
Rex Murphy helped shape the way I think. He was a shining example of the type of strong rhetorician that this country rarely produces. Now, he openly deals in hateful diatribes cast down from the pages of the National Post. This means he has become what his critics have incorrectly accused him of being all along: a shallow, reactionary demagogue. And his latest piece will only prove them right.
The Conservatives' latest casualty is the Maple Leaf rank designation. The ranks of non-commissioned officers will also be returned to the original British Army designations. Defence Minister Peter MacKay claims the changes don't strip away any Canadian identity. But that's exactly what it does. The Maple Leaf rank designation is as Canadian as poutine and hockey. Let's not throw away our uniqueness, eh.
If there's one thing I've learned during three years of working with veterans, it's this: Troops hate seeing military gear on civilians. Not dislike. Not have distaste for. HATE. The PM, if he is the huge supporter of the troops that he claims to be, over and over in the Commons, should have known that.