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

Commercial plaza proposed for Rocky Creek and Ludlow intersection

Town Council directed the application proceed for further consideration

Symphony pop-up concerts coming to Saltair

Only 40 tickets available so get them soon if you’re interested

South Wellington Elementary demolition not taking place next school year

Nanaimo Ladysmith Public School trustees vote against razing south-end school in 2020/21

One piper piping during the pandemic

Tribute to health care workers reaches the 100th performance

Town of Ladysmith receives $3.3 million grant for Arts & Heritage Hub

The funds will go to creating artist studios around the Machine Shop and maintaining heritage assets

B.C. sees 25 new COVID-19 cases, community exposure tracked

One death, outbreaks remain in two long-term care facilities

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

We’re asking you to lock arms with us, as we look to better days ahead

VIDEO: Vancouver Island cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Minivan driver’s speed a factor in fatal 2018 Malahat crash

Driver was travelling at 110 km/h in a construction zone

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

Most Read