"Canadian Armed Forces Suffering From Underfunding" - DUH!
Every morning, I get up, have two cups of coffee, play Angry Birds on Facebook and head to the Toronto Star to do the crossword. Very rarely do I see something so blatantly obvious that I feel the need to write about it, but today, there was one such exception.
"Canadian Armed Forces Suffering From Underfunding."
I nearly spat my coffee out, not from disbelief, but from disgust that it actually took this long to get a story.
I grew up as a child of the Canadian military. Many of my friends are somehow involved with the Canadian armed forces, whether it's through one of the branches of the cadet organization, the Reserves, or because they are regular members. I was once a reservist myself. My husband just retired after nearly 30 years of service. My father was in for 24 and a half years. The military is something I've known well for my entire life.
To say that the Canadian military is suffering from underfunding is like saying the sky is blue (under the cloud cover that we in Ontario have been getting for a good long while, mind you, but you get my point). I've written stories when I wrote for the Cold Lake Sun about international military exercises like Maple Flag, deployments of personnel to Italy as part of the Kosovo mission in 1999, and looked into stories about how the aging F-18 fleet desperately needs replacement. That last one was back in 1999, and the government seems to discuss replacing the F-18s every so often and nothing seems to gets done.
There have been people saying that our men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces are receiving declining medical care for decades, and that there continues to be a minimal amount of focus on a member's mental health when they return from overseas missions. I know a guy who, in his nearly three decades of service, has served overseas at least seven times. SEVEN. He's the kind of guy who just basically soldiers on, because he's supposed to, but even now he's starting to admit that there was a bit of a toll taken each time he went over.
I know of at least two or three members who have suicided as a result of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and they may well have been able to get help IF they hadn't had to wait months for support.
Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has come under fire recently because he said he was the architect behind Operation Medusa, but he's also just recently released a plan for long term spending for the military. The plan seems to be a result of Washington's call that Canada boost its defence spending, and seems to earmark funds "for “multi-mission aircraft” to replace the CP-140 Aurora surveillance aircraft; a mid-life upgrade for the Cormorant helicopter; future aircrew training program; bulldozers, forklifts and other equipment for the army, and logistics vehicles such as tank transporters."
But who the hell will run these vehicles, with roughly one half of members meeting the criteria for mental health disorders?
What's Needed More?
Does Canada's military need an equipment upgrade? Absolutely. 100 percent, and without a doubt.
However, there has been, for years, high numbers of people who are struggling with mental health challenges in the Canadian Armed Forces, and they're having to wait months for help that they need far sooner than the military is able to provide.
According to Statistics Canada, the rates of military members dealing with a recognizable mental health condition is almost double that of regular Canadians. These members don't always get the help they need right away, and that's partly because of the stereotype that if you're in the military, you should be tougher and "man up" if you're thinking that you're experiencing challenges. Military members also feel that they're not getting the help they need right away, or that their cases are not being treated as unique to their individual situation.
“It’s up to the military to help people identify that sooner than later. There’s an intelligence assessment that needs to happen by supervisors. You need to be able to read your people and maintain a conscious effort into their well being,” said a retired member interviewed by Global News.
“Unless you’re willing to do that there will be more problems there will be more things that will happen. Divisional systems need to step up and look after their people. Follow up care is something that needs to happen.”
The military is insistent that there continues to be support available for those who need it. However, there appears to be a disconnect between what members say they're getting and what the upper military personnel feel is being delivered.
Here's a thought. Instead of devoting however many millions of dollars strictly to upgrading equipment, how about upgrading the treatment our soldiers are getting, as far as mental health treatment goes and how patients are ultimately treated?
It will be money well spent.