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.
Last week, the Prime Minister finally dropped Julian Fantino as Veterans Affairs Minister. Despite the shuffling of deckchairs at that struggling department, it is the Prime Minister who is wholly responsible for the government's failure with veterans. If the Prime Minister is committed to changing course, there are immediate steps he and his new Minister must take to show Canadians that they are finally responding to veterans' concerns.
2014 will go down as the year in which Canadians -- all Canadians -- truly became aware of the debacle that is Veterans Affairs. It was the year in which pictures spoke, in which talking points failed, and in which government reports were actually read. It was the year that Conservative misdirection drove increased awareness instead, thanks to Julian Fantino.
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.
I have gone so far to argue that my experience in Afghanistan fighting the Taliban was equally as damaging to me mentally as the fight I face every day on the home front in Canada, with Veterans Affairs Canada. The ineptitude that the department operates under led to my first blog post and I can attest that I am not the only soldier who feels they have not been taken care of when coming home. Documentation of these abuses will be our greatest asset, because as the system gets inundated with the claims for sanctuary trauma, along with them will come testimonies of veterans about the glaring deficiencies within VAC.
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?