Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in 2016. (Jeff McIntosh/ The Canadian Press)

B.C. MP wants to decriminalize self-harm in military

NDP’s third attempt to improve mental health assistance within the military

Suicide was decriminalized for Canadian civilians in 1972, in 2020 self-harm remains a disciplinary offence for members of the military.

Randall Garrison, MP for Esquimalt-Saanich-Sooke and NDP Critic for National Defence, has reintroduced a bill to remove self-harm as a disciplinary offence for members of the armed forces.

Garrison’s Bill C-203 addresses issues of suicide in the military and barriers faced by those seeking mental health assistance.

READ ALSO: Supreme Court of Canada says military’s no-juries justice system constitutional

This is the NDP’s third time tabling the issue. In 2019, Garrison first tabled a bill asking that the “archaic” section of the National Defence Act designating self-harm as a disciplinary offence for members of the military be removed. At the time, the Liberals blocked the bill.

The NDP also attempted to remove self-harm as a disciplinary offence by adding an amendment to Bill C-77 which sought to enshrine a Declaration of Victims’ Rights in the National Defence Acts which governs the military justice system. This was blocked by the Liberal government on procedural grounds, Garrison explained.

“The problem of death by suicide of Canadian Forces members is not going away,” he said.

Over the last 15 years, 212 serving members ended their lives, he said. In 2019, 17 members of the military were lost to death by suicide – “more than one serving member per month.”

While military officials have testified that “the self-harm offence is rarely enforced,” Garrison feels the fact the offence remains in the Military Code of Service Discipline discourages service members from seeking mental health assistance.

READ ALSO: Soldiers of suicide to be remembered at Victoria candlelight ceremony

Garrison explained that currently, members who come forward about self-harm are often “confined and subjected to administrative punishments” rather than given mental health assistance.

He pointed out that punishing those who “put their lives on the line to defend Canada” because they reach out seeking mental health assistance is wrong.

With the reintroduction of Bill C-203, Garrison is hopeful that his fellow MPs will “listen to the voices of the hundreds of families that have lost loved ones to death by suicide” and work together to improve the response to self-harm within the Canadian Armed Forces.

In the next two weeks, Garrison plans to ask the Defense Committee to start a study looking at mental health and death by suicide among serving members.


@devonscarlett
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Armed Forcesmental healthMilitaryMilitary Suicides

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Schools get creative to provide food to students

Initiatives underway include providing gift cards

UPDATE: First presumptive case of COVID-19 in Prince Rupert

Doctor says it was a visitor, Northern Health won’t confirm

Schools ramp up contact efforts with students

Efforts of school district employees called “extraordinary”

North District RCMP see massive spike in domestic calls

Connection to COVID-19 pandemic likely for reduced call volume, increased severity

Northwest mines lengthen crew rotations in response to COVID-19

Northern Health confident precautions sufficient enough to keep work camps open

UPDATE: Canadians awake to extra COVID-19 emergency benefit money, feds clarify changes

The CRA and federal officials are working to clarify the confusion around payments

B.C. sorting medical equipment sales, donation offers for COVID-19

Supply hub has call out for masks, gowns, coronavirus swabs

B.C. records five more deaths due to COVID-19, 45 new cases

A total of 838 people have recovered from the virus

Major crimes investigating sudden death of North Okanagan child

The 8 year old was flown to Kelowna General Hospital and died hours later

Easter Bunny added to B.C.’s list of essential workers

Premier John Horgan authorizes bunny to spread “eggs-ellent cheer” throughout province

Travellers returning to B.C. must have self-isolation plan or face quarantine: Horgan

Premier John Horgan says forms must be filled out by travellers

More than 400 animals have been adopted amid pandemic: B.C. SPCA

People are taking this time of social distancing to find a loyal companion through the animal welfare group

B.C. secures motel, hotel rooms for COVID-19 shelter space

Community centres, rooms reserved for pandemic self-isolation

Most Read