January 13, 2014. Hill Times publishes an article written by Professor Michel W. Drapeau and Joshua Juneau titled “A National Strategy needed for 700,000 veterans; And, it’s time Canada created a federal veterans commissioner as an Officer of Parliament.” The authors wrote in the wake of the recent rise of suicides of Afghan veterans, which should have been predictable, and which has focused national attention to the despair and neglect faced by many of them.
Recent media reports have also drawn attention to the likelihood that the suicide rate among CAF members is many times higher than the Canadian statistical norm.This is supported in a Statistics Canada report which found that, among CF members, 26.6 percent of the male deaths and 14 percent of female deaths were the result of suicide. This same Report states that individuals with some military career experience are 45 percent more likely to die as a result of suicide than those in the general population.
These numbers, though, may be underinflated, as some retired military suffering from depression or other form of service-related injury, both physical and mental, are unaccounted for because they are currently outside the reach of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). In other words, bad as it is, the problem is likely even worse if we consider that at present the VAC clientele only accounts for less than 30% of the veteran population.
The authors propose the establishment of a Veterans Commission which may save the taxpayer money as the costs of Commission-initiated investigations may be lower than paying a barrage of Department of Justice lawyers, paralegals and other professionals to proceed with the current and expanding civil litigation. It would also herald a long standing and legislated recognition by Canada of the unique service and sacrifices of those who serve and have served in the armed forces. This would provide Canada with an ability to examine and develop, in a non-partisan basis, a pro-active, fair and comprehensive national strategy to address and coordinate the nation’s welfare support and obligations towards our serving and retired military personnel.
Part of that strategy would be the examination of the budgetary allocations made by Canada for the care and support of its veterans. The following table compares Australia and Canada:
One such strategy would be to examine whether or not Canada is spending it fair share for the care and support of Veterans. A comparison with Australia may indicate that Canada has a long way to go in that regard: Veterans Budget
A translated (English and French) of the article is shown here: A NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR SERVICING 700,00 veterans (Bilingual