All posts tagged Canadian Armed Forces

Canadian Forces can’t sweep sexual assaults under the carpet, again

National Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, right, and General Tom Lawson, Chief of Defence Staff

Two weeks ago, L’actualité, and its sister magazine, Maclean’s, broke a major story on sexual assault in the Canadian Armed Forces. The numbers were stunning: it estimated an average of five assaults every day. What was worse, the victims reported being intimidated into not making or dropping complaints, being harassed if they persisted, and assailants getting off scot-free. The Minister of National Defense immediately ordered an investigation. Senior officers claimed to be shocked by the report.

Even I was surprised. The figures must be too high, I thought. They mean that a little over 2.6% of members would be assaulted in any given year – a rate about two times higher than that estimated for the general public, depending what figures are used. But a review of statistics from the U.S. and a lengthy conversation with a journalist convinced me that it was accurate. I also recalled a conversation with a colleague who said that he believed every woman in the Forces deals with either serious sexual harassment or assault at some point.

The military brass cannot have been surprised – or, if they were, they were negligent.… Read the rest

Mental health care in Forces: Let’s clear a few trees to see forest

Sean Bruyea

When it comes to mental health and suicides in the military, the Canadian Armed Forces can do much to come clean and diminish the self-serving rhetoric.

Chief of the Defence Staff Tom Lawson claims the public focus on military suicides could be aggravating the crisis in having “brought a slight honour to the act of suicide.” This unfortunate attempt to closet away debate on an extremely serious issue has little basis in scientific research. The ‘suicide contagion’ effect has been validated amongst hyper-connected and highly self-conscious teens, with the greatest vulnerability amongst 12 to 13-year-olds. There is scant basis to believe that mature professional adults in the military may be subject to this contagion.

Even with unprecedented public attention on the issue, the military still drags its heels in both hiring sufficient mental health-care staff as well as completing outstanding suicide investigations. Nevertheless, the CAF’s director of mental health, Scott McLeod claims “no other organization in Canada, and probably the world, has got a program that intensive to learn from these suicides.”

One month later in January 2014, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson announced that the military was finally going to clear a backlog of 50 uncompleted suicide investigations.

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Closing VAC Offices, Closing Hope for Veterans

Sean Bruyea

Military veteran Alfie Burt recently questioned Minister Julian Fantino’s insistence on closing nine Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) offices, “What the frig is wrong with that guy?”

To be fair, the same question can easily be asked of various Ministers and the most senior VAC bureaucrats over the past eight years. However, closure of VAC offices has become another incendiary device condescendingly tossed into the national outrage as to how Canada’s veterans are mistreated by government.

At issue is Ottawa’s effort to balance the books irrespective of veteran outcry. Problematically, Veterans Affairs, unlike most other federal departments did not have a significant hiring surge when the Conservatives took power in 2006. In fact, VAC has not only experienced one of the largest employment cuts of any department but the assault on its frontline employees began in 2011, a year before the government-wide downsizing.

At its peak in 2009, VAC was authorized a mere 7% increase in employees from 2006 levels. Since that time, employee positions have been consistently cut. Today, the department has almost 10% less positions (3,370) than when Mr. Harper became Prime Minister. When the axe stops swinging in 2016, VAC will have lost more than a quarter of its work force or 1000 positions since the Conservatives took power, not including 800 further positions to be lost when Ste.Read the rest