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

Axe throwing, road hockey among Salmon Arm food drive festivities

Fill the Pantry event wraps up on Monday, Feb. 17 with day of activities. 600lbs of food collected.

Shuswap artists come into focus for upcoming exhibit

Salmon Arm Art Gallery presents 20/20, an open community exhibition

RCMP report woman arrested after ramming police cruiser

Suspect wanted for crimes allegedly committed in Kelowna, Salmon Arm and 100 Mile House

Salvation Army’s Coldest Night of the Year fundraiser in Salmon Arm welcomes you

Make community connections while taking a walk and contributing to $35,000 goal

Letter: South Shuswap incorporation a foregone conclusion?

Writer overwhelmed with information at committee meeting

Protesters barricade Premier John Horgan’s home ahead of B.C. budget unveiling

Demonstrators from the Extinction Rebellion have blocked the Langford driveway

Ten poisoned eagles rushed to veterinary hospital in Nanaimo

Eagles stricken after eating flesh of euthanized animal at Nanaimo Regional Landfill

Trudeau says Wet’suwet’en crisis, rail blockades a critical moment for country

First Nations leaders suggest it may be time to peacefully end the blockades

Osoyoos Indian Band seeks support for casino

The 6000 to 7500 square foot casino would be located on Osoyoos Indian Band land.

B.C. budtenders become first private cannabis workers to unionize in Canada

Two of seven Clarity Cannabis storefronts vote to join UFCW 1518 union

Kids exposed to household cleaners as newborns more likely to get asthma: B.C. study

Air fresheners, plug-in deodorizers, antimicrobial hand sanitizers and oven cleaners were the worst culprits

Alleged drunk driver has licence suspended following Kelowna bridge crash

The 31-year-old Calgary man, was issued a 90-day immediate roadside prohibition

Kelowna RCMP seize illicit drugs from Lower Mission home

Four individuals were taken into police custody but were released pending further investigation

Play sparks curiosity through movement in Vernon

Hands and Feet invites theatre newcomers to fall in love with production

Most Read