Mulcair urges Harper to address military suicides amid word of another death


OTTAWA – The Canadian military is dealing with another case of suspected suicide, the third sudden death in a week.

The latest tragedy, which occurred Wednesday, involves a reservist belonging to The Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment, one of the country’s oldest military units, based in Kingston, Ont.

Several defence sources identify the victim as Cpl. Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez, 28, a veteran of the Afghan war.

National Defence confirmed the identity, but declined comment on the circumstances saying that Kingston Police were investigating after the soldier was found at home.

“The sudden loss of any soldier is devastating to the military community and our condolences go out to his family and friends,” said a defence department statement. “The loss of any of our soldiers is tragic and heartbreaking. The regimental family, the entire army family and community are mourning the loss of Cpl. Sanhueza-Martinez.”

He joined the army in January 2005 and served in Afghanistan between May 2010 and January 2011.

Over the last week, there have at least two other cases of apparent suicide involving serving members of the Forces, and that follows on a string of deaths last fall, including a spate of four in one week.

One particularly stark case from December was made public earlier this week when the husband of a former Canadian soldier who died in a Christmas Day car crash in southern Alberta told CTV that his wife’s death was a suicide.

Tom MacEachern said his 51-year-old wife, Leona, a retired corporal, was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and intentionally drove her car into an oncoming tractor-trailer on the Trans-Canada Highway near Calgary.

MacEachern says his wife had been locked in a long battle with Veterans Affairs over medical benefits for dental work she received while stationed in Germany during the first Gulf war.

The latest case involving the reservist from Toronto alarms veterans advocates.

While National Defence is able to effectively track regular, full-time members, it has struggled to deliver services to reservists, who serve part-time.

“One can only wonder just what level of mental health support DND is providing an individual at the reservist level or how many more reservists have taken their lives,” said Mike Blais, president of Canadian Veteran Advocacy.

“We can not underestimate this problem, thousands of reservists were called upon to serve in Afghanistan. Those who have sustained mental wounds are in our communities. They need our help. They need the help of our military and government.”

The alarming number of suspected suicides prompted NDP leader Tom Mulcair to make a direct plea to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday to take “urgent action.”

Mulcair sent a letter to Harper calling on him to “commit to taking urgent action” to properly address the mental health needs of those who serve in the military.

“I urge you to make addressing this issue a personal priority for you as prime minister,” the letter states.

“I am asking you on behalf of your government to honestly acknowledge the crisis, accept responsibility for the fact the status quo isn’t working.”

The issue of mental health needs in the military was brought before two separate House of Commons committees last month.

Former soldiers and veterans advocates said little attention is paid to helping physically wounded soldiers and those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder make the transition to civilian life.

And they said the perceived financial uncertainty created by the Harper government’s overhaul of veterans benefits is driving some soldiers to the brink.

The government’s New Veterans Charter largely converted the old pension-for-life system to a series of lump-sum awards and finite allowances — something the soldiers claim is far less generous.

Mulcair’s letter points out that there have been more than 50 boards of inquiry on military suicides, some of which date back five years and some of which haven’t been released.

“In too many cases, grieving families are left without answers or closure,” Mulcair writes.

“Canadians are left with grave concerns about whether the system put in place to help our armed forces is broken, or if we are learning from these tragedies in order to prevent future ones.”

Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Harper, said in an email that Canada’s military and Veterans Affairs take suicides and stress among current and former soldiers seriously and are making every effort to provide support.

“It’s irresponsible for politicians to assert that these services are not available,” MacDonald said.

The Harper government has said it the past that it has invested millions bolstering mental health services for the military.

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Mulcair urges Harper to address military suicides amid word of another death

  1. So sad to see this happening…

    The death toll of Canadian soldiers under Stephen Harper’s watch continues to climb as King Harper and his CONS have dramatically cut services to the Canadian military.

    Such a shame and so sad..

    Stephen Harper has sent more Canadian soldiers to their deaths than at any time since the Korean War.

    It’s time for the Conservatives to actually support the troops for a change…

    • Harper withdrew soldiers from Afghanistan, Chretien and Martin sent them there. The new Veteran’s charter vote was passed by all parties 100%. I always wonder how many commentators who chirp on this site about Harper and the military have actually served overseas let alone served in the CAF? I remember Chretien’s time and moral was much worse then than now.

      • WRONG AGAIN BOB! Boy you conservatives just LOVE to get things wrong. I cannot believe that anyone who claims to support the troops could possibly defend Stephen Harper’s truly ABYSMAL and horrifying record on Canada’s military. Warmongerer and Zionist Stephen Harper has sent more Canadians to their deaths than at any time since the Korean War. You conservatives really do have to live in an alternate reality to believe what you believe don’t you? You bring up Chretien and Martin? Here’s a FACT for you. A grand total of 7, yes SEVEN Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan during the prime ministerships of Chretien and Martin. 4 of those I believe were that awful friendly fire incident with the Americans. How do you claim to be a supporter of the troops but not even have this basic information? Stephen Harper, in order to appeal and pander to the bloodthirsty right wing zealots in his party, sent our finest into the harshest, most dangerous parts of Afghanistan without the proper equipment and armor. Typical conservative. He wanted to prove how tough he was by sending OTHER people’s kids to die. I don’t see him signing up his son… We lost so many fine soldiers to IED’s because Harper wouldn’t even provide our vehicles with the proper armor. This is absolutely shameful. And now as our fine men and women are coming home with all sorts of mental health issues and the military suicides are adding up, Stephen Harper could not be more aloof, more uncaring towards our veterans. In fact he’s dramatically cut services to our military personnel that would help with these kinds of issues. It’s absolutely shameful and tragic. Shame on you for defending the worst leader of our nation’s military in Canadian history.

        • What kind of horse kaka is this. It is not helpful to any soldier to rake the PM over the coals. What you should do is find out the truth instead of guessing at ignorance. Why not sign your name so you can be informed where you live. What do you do for the military? How many in your family have served in combat?
          How many have actually volunteered and seen action in a fighting war? There are a few veterans of WW2 left that are not whining about what they can get. The DVA has been superb with what they have to work with. Pay more taxes then.

          • What the hell is the matter with you? How dare you disparage our Canadian Forces. I cannot believe you said this: “There are a few veterans of WW2 left that are not whining about what they can get.” This is exactly the problem with you conservatives. You want to stigmatize mental health issues and PTSD to the point where veterans are afraid to come out and open up about their problems. This Conservative chest beating needs to stop. STOP SHAMING OUR TROOPS. How dare you. Everything I just wrote is based on fact and reality. Please dispute any of my numbers with some FACTS. I encourage you to try. Stephen Harper has sent more Canadian soldiers to their deaths than at any time since the Korean War. FACT. Only 7 Canadian soldiers died in Afghanistan under Chretien/Martin. FACT. Stephen Harper is imposing drastic cuts on military services. FACT. Military suicides are on the rise, Stephen Harper and the conservatives don’t even want to talk about it. They seem to have the same aloof, uncaring attitude you just presented. Absolute disgrace. Conservatives are the first ones to want to send our troops immediately into harm’s way (Iraq War…), and the last ones who want to take care of our troops once they come home. I really can’t take much more of this nonsense. It’s really tragic when you make comments like this: “There are a few veterans of WW2 left that are not whining about what they can get.” Absolute shame and disgrace. I hope you find it within yourself to apologize.

          • We in the military are deathly afraid of Justin Trudeau and the Liberals winning an election, as we will quickly return to the “decade of darkness” (1990’s). While this government has made many errors, it’s typically the military bureaucracy that is to blame not the house of commons.

            As far as deaths under this government are concerned. The mission had only just begun under Martin, that is why there were so few casualties. We in the military have no regrets whatsoever, and we don’t blame any combat deaths on any government unless it’s an issue of horribly outdated equipment (for which the Liberal party is constantly to blame for, not the Conservative party)

            Finally, in response to your self-righteous “how dare you disparage our Canadian Forces” –> How dare you speak for us. You misrepresent us. Cease and desist. Thank you.

          • I really don’t see why you’d differentiate between any of the parties on this, except in terms of honesty about their intentions. They’ll swear up and down that they are putting money into the CF and then they won’t. Harper and Co have had 10 years to get the standard military truck sorted out and have yet again cancelled it. If you can’t organise the purchase of military trucks for everyday use then it’s unsurprising that the other projects have also been such a clusterfk. Again at least the Libs back then honestly and openly told the CF to go whistle.
            The one thing that bugged me about the present muppets in office is how they disingenuously manage to twist any criticism of their handling of defence issues into an attack on those in uniform. Using the CF as a human shield to mask their own malfeasance is a particularly low tactic by the CPoC and it’s one I can never forget or forgive.
            You also have some nerve chastising anyone for what they say about the military if you are willing to give Harper a pass on his record. You don’t represent the military either, just you and your views.

          • I have to agree with Morgan. Unless you have served you have no place here talking to us. Specifically, I’ve served overseas four times in the Gulf, Kosovo, and KAF, what about you?

          • The entire population elects politicians to oversea the military and their actions, that’s the democracy that I and the previous three generations of my family put on a uniform in service of. The vast majority of those voting in MPs and the vast majority of MPs have never served. So that would mean most of parliament and the country would not be allowed to get involved in your world.
            You, like me, chose to serve knowing what the system is and how it works, your whining now is at the least unseemly and frankly quite embarrassing.

          • While I’m loath to defend this “Liberal Democrat” fool, VAC (Veteran’s Affairs Canada – “DVA” is incorrect) has NOT been superb. They battle with EVERY claimant and do whatever they can to DENY benefits. This is absolute fact. To state otherwise is a blatant lie.

          • That is a particularly sad argument. If involvement in the field is the requirement needed before anyone can comment on it, then surely voters and their parliament have no right to control the military as the vast majority of both haven’t served either. I mean how dare the PM who was a mail clerk and a rightwing welfare recipient think about ordering soldiers to do anything??
            Or is it only commenting on internet comment boards where your little law applies?
            Sometimes I despair at what passes for joined up thinking in Canada today.

        • All of those “vehicles without proper armour” were a direct result of Liberal Party cuts in the 1990’s and had nothing to do with the current government. Stop defending the military, you have no idea what you’re talking about. We can speak for ourselves, the problem is nobody listens.

          • But one thing you have to admit is that the Liberals never hid their ideas and plans for the military back then. This current bunch of clowns have professed undying love and attention for the military and that they would respect service personnel and their needs.
            I can handle a situation where my enemy stands before me declaring their intentions, but I find it somewhat treacherous when someone who claims to be an ally stabs me in the back while saying they’ll watch it..

          • Including Harper.

        • “, most dangerous parts of Afghanistan without the proper equipment and armor.”

          Kind of like the liberals sending them in wearing green uniforms and using vehicles like the G-Wagon?

      • Harper withdrew them only because he was forced to!

  2. Harper is full of lies & deceit. I really dont like what he has done & is doing to us.

    • You serve overseas Harp? You ever serve in the military?

      • You keep on harping on this and it is a stupid point to keep bringing it up. Stop embarrassing yourself.
        Next you’ll be insisting that only drug addicts can comment on drugs legislation etc.

        • then stop speaking on behalf of the CAF and veterans. Many in the military still remember what the liberals did to us.

          • I don’t claim to speak for veterans as you and Cpl Bloggins do or even the CF.
            I can only speak on one person’s behalf and that is me.
            You might like to try and do likewise.

  3. Hate to say this, but they are collateral damage!