Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Canada's Afghan Vets Deserve More Help

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Editorial Exchange: Canada's Afghan Vets Deserve More Help

Article excerpt

Editorial Exchange: Canada's Afghan vets deserve more help


An editorial from the Toronto Star, published Nov. 11:

Canadians were dismayed by a spate of suicides in the military and among veterans even before our long tour of duty in Afghanistan wound down last year and the final contingent of the 40,000 soldiers who served there came home. The suicide toll prompted tough questions about whether we were failing wounded warriors.

And it's not only Afghanistan. Concern began building back in our active United Nations peacekeeping days 25 years ago. But as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals arrive in office we are still struggling for answers.

A new study from Brig.-Gen. Colin MacKay, the military surgeon general, sheds some welcome light on the issue. As the Star's Bruce Campion-Smith reports, the report's authors looked into the deaths of 225 men in the regular forces and 13 women who died by suicide in the 20-year period from 1995 to 2014. Of the 158 soldiers who died on the Afghan mission itself, six took their own lives.

Significantly, the report acknowledges -- for the first time -- that service in Afghanistan had a "powerful impact" on the mental well-being of a minority who were there. It concludes that army troops deployed overseas, particularly those who have seen combat, appear to be at higher risk than their counterparts in the air force and navy. That said, the overall military suicide rate has been stable, and is in line with the civilian rate.

While suicide is a complex issue, more closely associated with a person's mental health than with stress disorders caused by tours of duty, it's good to see the military zeroing in on overseas service and combat as factors.

To his credit, Trudeau promised during the campaign to spend $300 million a year to improve benefits, support and services for veterans, including those injured in the line of duty.

In that light newly appointed Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has asked Chief of Defence Staff Gen. …

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