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

Vancouver Island 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

Just Posted

Ferry riders say lower fares are what’s most needed to improve service

Provincial government announces findings of public engagement process

The secret life of tadpoles

Vancouver Island photographer Maxwel Hohn’s documentary traces the ‘big little migration’ of western toad tadpoles

Nanaimo country singer releases new music video

‘Adrenaline’ is the second single from Joel Lee’s upcoming debut EP

From Nanoose Bay to the bookshelf, Howard the Gnome now a children’s book

Vancouver Island author explores Howard’s move down-Island

Exploring the mystery of a scooter-free YYJ

Victoria should be a ‘no brainer’ for e-scooter program, say company executives

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Water supplies declared safe in wake of major tire fire near Ladysmith

Concerns about water quality arose after Sept. 10 scrap yard fire at Schnitzer near Nanaimo Airport

Hundreds march against location of Duncan safe injection site

A Voice for Our Children opposes centre being near schools, recreation sites

Suspect robs store, stabs clerk in Courtenay

Comox Valley RCMP are looking for suspect in Ryan Road incident

Metchosin inmate sentenced to 12 months in jail for escaping custody

Sentence to be served concurrent to a life sentence he was already serving

Accused in Makayla Chang’s murder sees next court date in October

Steven Michael Bacon faces first-degree murder charge in killing of Nanaimo teen

Conservation officers free fawn stuck in fence in Nanaimo

Fawn was uninjured after getting caught in fence in Hammond Bay area Wednesday

Nanaimo senior defrauded out of $14,000 in ‘grandson scam’

80-year-old victim was told her grandson was out-of-province and in legal trouble

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

Most Read