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

Child falls down Bridal Veil Falls near Chilliwack, crews on scene

An 11-year-old boy fell over the falls about 25 to 30 feet and has suffered a head injury

LETTER: An unforgettable birthday

Grace Storteboom of Agassiz thanks everyone for an amazing birthday

Seabird Island community to recieve $2.1 million for community centre

Provincial, federal funding will contribute to local undertaking

Popular retired UFV therapy dog passes away

Mac the Therapy Dog consoled countless students and staff, as well as wildfire victims

Imagination Library Fraser Valley celebrating Christmas in July

Dolly Parton early literacy intiative looking for financial support to help with waitlist

Woman sexually assaulted, robbed near Surrey SkyTrain station: RCMP

Police say the incident happened July 10, just after 11 p.m. near King George SkyTrain station

B.C. Ferries increasing passenger capacity after COVID-19 restrictions

Transport Canada 50-per-cent limit being phased out, no current plans to provide masks

Once-in-a-lifetime comet photographed soaring over Abbotsford

Photographer Randy Small captures Comet NEOWISE in early-morning sky

Four-vehicle collision snarls eastbound highway traffic in Fraser Valley

Collision west of Lickman Road on Highway 1 includes three vehicles plus motorcycle

Amber Alert for two Quebec girls cancelled after bodies found

Romy Carpentier, 6, Norah Carpentier, 11, and their father, Martin Carpentier, missing since Wednesday

Bringing support to Indigenous students and communities, while fulfilling a dream

Mitacs is a nonprofit organization that operates research and training programs

B.C. man prepares to be first to receive double-hand transplant in Canada

After the surgery, transplant patients face a long recovery

Grocers appear before MPs to explain decision to cut pandemic pay

Executives from three of Canada’s largest grocery chains have defended their decision to end temporary wage increases

Most Read