Questioning the Minister on Canadian Forces Suicides

Ms. Irene Mathyssen (London—Fanshawe, NDP):  

    Mr. Speaker, Canadians who serve our country expect their government to be there for them in their time of need. Instead, the Conservatives are closing Veterans Affairs offices and failing our service men and women. Almost two dozen of our brave heroes took their own lives in 2011, and there were four more apparent suicides this past week.

    Instead of hollow words, will the minister acknowledge that more must be done and tell us what action he will take to ensure our armed forces have the support they need?

 

Hon. Rob Nicholson (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  

    Mr. Speaker, it was under this government that we created a joint personnel support unit to allow our ill and injured members to work with medical personnel, social workers, occupational therapists and others to help them transition back into civilian life. However, again, one of the things the member could do is start supporting the efforts we have made over the years to increase help to our veterans. That would be a first step, and I certainly would welcome that.

 

Mr. Peter Stoffer (Sackville—Eastern Shore, NDP):  

    Mr. Speaker, Dr. Martin Luther King spoke of the “urgency of now”; and the urgency of now is right now.

    One of the biggest problems men and women of the military have is that, when they come forward and admit they have a problem, if they get diagnosed, the clocks ticks toward their exit out of the military. In other words, they get booted out of the military.

    One of the problems is the program called universality of service. Will the minister now, today, rethink the universality of service program to allow the men and women, who do come forward, to stay in the military until they receive all the psychological rehabilitation and educational opportunities they need to then transfer over to another career?

 

Hon. Rob Nicholson (Minister of National Defence, CPC):  

    Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what they do. The Chief of the Defence Staff and the Chief of Military Personnel have assured me that members of the Canadian Armed Forces are not released until they are prepared for that transition. I remind the member opposite that every possible accommodation is made to ensure that soldiers are kept in the forces and provided with the best possible support before being considered for release.