Canada’s military is under pressure to do more to look after the mental health of its soldiers after new statistics show the armed forces have lost more personnel to suicide than those killed in combat in Afghanistan.
NDP MP Jack Harris said the “shocking” numbers should prompt the Conservative government to “redouble” its efforts to assist soldiers in need of help.
“It underscores the complaints that soldiers have been making, that families have been making, that this is a real problem that is not being fully addressed,” Harris said Tuesday in an interview.
The latest statistics from the defence department reveal 160 personnel have committed suicide between 2004 and March 31, 2014.
That compares to the 138 soldiers killed in combat between 2002 and 2014, when Canada’s Afghan mission formally ended.
The new numbers count not only suicide deaths by male regular forces members (118) but also suicides by female regular force personnel (10) and reservists (32). The department cautions that numbers can change year-to-year, as investigations conclude and the cause of death is formally determined.
Still, the new data came as a surprise to opposition MPs, who accused the government of “lowballing” past numbers to downplay the problem.
And they said the new statistics are evidence that the government should be doing more for military personnel, especially those Afghan veterans who have returned home suffering an operational stress injury.