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January 30th, 2019

NDP Tables Private Members’ Bill to Address Suicides and Mental Health in the Canadian Armed Forces

OTTAWA – Randall Garrison, NDP Critic for National Defence and MP for Esquimalt – Saanich – Sooke, has tabled a bill in Parliament to address the serious issue of suicides and barriers to mental health within the Canadian Armed Forces. This new Private Members’ Bill would remove the section of the National Defence Act that states self-harm is a disciplinary offence.
“This section of the National Defence Act is a clear barrier to Canadian Forces members who have mental health issues from seeking the help they need,” said Garrison. “While testifying before the Parliamentary National Defence Committee on Bill C-77, military officials stated they rarely ever use the provision. But even having this still enshrined in the Military Code of Service Discipline still acts as a deterrent to those who need help but do not want to jeopardize their career. In no way should we be subjecting those who put their lives on the line to defend Canada to disciplinary measures or have them risk a dishonourable discharge simply because they need access to mental health services.”
The NDP originally tried to include removing self-harm as a disciplinary offence as an amendment to Bill C-77 but the Liberal government chose to block this urgently-needed measureon procedural grounds.
“During the study of that Bill, the Minister of National Defence circulated a letter instructing Committee members to oppose our recommendation. The Liberals want another study, but the Canadian Forces are experiencing an epidemic and decisive action is needed now,” continued Garrison.
New Democrats will be calling on all Members of Parliament to do the right thing for our serving women and men by expediting this private members’ bill and passing it before this Parliament concludes in the summer.