Photo: MP Rachel Blaney in Comox congratulating and addressing participants in last year’s Wounded Warrior Run to support armed forces members dealing with PTSD.
Randall Garrison, NDP Critic for National Defence and MP for Esquimalt – Saanich – Sooke, has tabled a bill in Parliament to address the serious issue of suicides and barriers to mental health within the Canadian Armed Forces. This new Private Members’ Bill would remove the section of the National Defence Act that states self-harm is a disciplinary offence. The bill was seconded by North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney, who also represents CFB Comox.
“I am proud to put my name in support of this important and needed change to the National Defence Act,” said Blaney. “It is very important that the people who serve our military are able to come forward when they have challenges, without risking a dishonourable discharge. We do not want to lose another member of the Canadian Armed Forces to suicide.”
“This section of the National Defence Act is a clear barrier to Canadian Forces members who have mental health issues from seeking the help they need,” said Garrison. “While testifying before the Parliamentary National Defence Committee on Bill C-77, military officials stated they rarely ever use the provision. But even having this still enshrined in the Military Code of Service Discipline still acts as a deterrent to those who need help but do not want to jeopardize their career.”
The NDP originally tried to include removing self-harm as a disciplinary offence as an amendment to Bill C-77 but the Liberal government chose to block this urgently-needed measure on procedural grounds.
“During the study of that Bill, the Minister of National Defence circulated a letter instructing Committee members to oppose our recommendation. The Liberals want another study, but the Canadian Forces are experiencing an epidemic and decisive action is needed now,” continued Garrison.
New Democrats will be calling on all Members of Parliament to do the right thing for our serving members by expediting this bill and passing it before this Parliament concludes in the summer.