Mental Health

Canadian vet confirms suicide offer

A paraplegic Canadian Armed Forces veteran told a parliamentary committee December 1 that a Veterans Affairs Canada counsellor offered her the opportunity and the means for a medically assisted death. “I have a letter saying that if you’re so desperate, madam, we can offer you . . . medical assistance in dying,” said Christine Gauthier, who had a training accident in 1989 and had had difficulty in getting a home wheelchair ramp. [node:read-more:link]

Rape victim belittled at symposium!

An RCAF veteran who was gang-raped while in service in 1981 and still struggles with PTSD was belittled and faced derogatory comments about her mental health during a November 30 virtual “restoring hearts and minds symposium” co-sponsored by National Defence. When Diane Rose, who advocates for other victims of sexual misconduct, posed a question, several other participants began questioning her involvement and didn’t stop until she pointed out that their microphones were still live. [node:read-more:link]

Government House attacker paroled

Manitoba resident Corey Hurren, a military veteran who rammed his truck into a gate at Rideau Hall in Ottawa in July 2020 in an attempt to confront Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, has been granted day parole under strict conditions. Hurren, who had told police he wanted to arrest Trudeau to make a statement about federal coronavirus restrictions and the government’s ban on “assault style” firearms, had been sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to weapons offences and public mischief. [node:read-more:link]

ISIS bride released on bail

One of two Canadian women repatriated last week after marrying Islamic State fighters and spending years in detention in Syria has been released on bail pending a hearing to determine whether should she be subject to a “terrorism peace bond.” She also has been ordered to wear an electronic tracker and get counselling. The other woman has been detained to face terrorism charges. [node:read-more:link]

Military Police procedures investigated

The suicide last January of an RCAF officer and Afghanistan veteran, Major Cristian Hiestand, has eventually prompted a DND investigation of a Military Police officer’s handling of a sexual assault complaint against him. Hiestand was charged days after he had ended a brief relationship with the female complainant. The lawyer representing Hiestand’s family, retired Lieutenant Colonel Rory Fowler, said Hiestand was not interviewed before being charged and relieved of duty. [node:read-more:link]

Army Run 2022 postponed

The death of Queen Elizabeth II has forced postponement of this year’s Canada Army Run, scheduled for September 18. The increasingly popular event in Ottawa, which raises funds for programs for ill and injured military personnel and their families, now is set for November 6. [node:read-more:link]

Vet advised to consider assisted suicide

A Canadian veteran seeking help with PTSD reportedly was advised last month by a Veterans Affairs Canada to consider medically-assisted death. The government has ordered a “thorough investigation” of the case and VAC says its case managers and other staff “have no mandate or role to recommend medical assistance in dying.” [node:read-more:link]

CAF urged to be more flexible with families

National Defence & Canadian Armed Forces Ombudsman Gregory Lick says the military must do more to accommodate disabled children or other exceptional family circumstances. With some one in four personnel are relocated every year for training or operational needs and can apply for exemptions, Lick, a former naval reservist and Coast Guard Officer, says current policy is riddled with problems. [node:read-more:link]

CAF personnel financially stressed

Gen Wayne Ayre, the Chief of the Defence Staff, says “the No. 1 issue that comes up as I travel around the country is cost of living and the challenges our people are facing in terms of finding affordable accommodations,” he said. Acknowledging that “while many Canadians are facing the same challenges, the impacts are particularly acute on members of the Canadian military, who are frequently required to move to different bases and locations.” [node:read-more:link]

Vets charity says Canada “risk averse”

The Vancouver-based Veterans Transition Network, having raised $3.6 million and helped to rescue 2,061 Afghanis since the Taliban took control, is refocusing its efforts to help veterans deal with mental-health issues. Among other things, VRN Executive Director Oliver Thorne blames “government policy that is very risk averse to the point of being selfish.” [node:read-more:link]

LGBTQ traumatized by VAC?

When Sgt Nina Usherwood joined the Canadian Armed Forces in 1979, she went by a different name and gender. After transitioning and a legal name-change, she applied for a medical discharge, but says it took “months” for Veterans Affairs Canada to reflect her new identify in its files. She says the bureaucratic process is potentially “traumatic” and has joined others in calling for a more inclusive process. [node:read-more:link]

Cadet’s uniform seized

The Canadian Armed Forces has confiscated the uniform of an officer cadet who, while on medical leave and pending his release from the military, called on personnel to disobey what he called an “unlawful order” to assist in distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine. Leslie Kenderesi was dressed in his uniform when he appeared at an early December anti-lockdown rally in Toronto and called the vaccine a “killer.” [node:read-more:link]

Military hazing a threat to readiness?

In a situation probably reflected in other countries’ militaries, hazing within the U.S. Department of Defense’s rank is likely understated. “The military services have a rich tradition of initiation ceremonies and rights of passage, but at times, they have included inappropriate or abusive behavior,” the Government Accountability says. “According to DOD, hazing jeopardizes readiness and weakens trust within the ranks.” [node:read-more:link]

Defence chief regrets comments

Gen Wayne Eyre, the Chief of the Defence Staff, is backtracking on a suggestion during an October conference that an exodus of personal had contributed to the military’s sexual misconduct crisis and the coronavirus pandemic. He sparked a largely negative response by saying that “we need our mid-level leaders . . . to put service before self, not to retreat into retirement.” He now admits that his comment “did not sit well with some current and former members” and that personnel must do what’s best for themselves and their families. [node:read-more:link]

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