There’s a disturbing story coming out of Ottawa concerning the issue of family violence and post-traumatic stress in returning veterans. The CBC is reporting that incidents of family violence were being reported by the military police at five times the normal levels for those members returning from serving in Afghanistan. These numbers are also consistent with reporting by the local detachment of the OPP in Petawawa.
What is the Canadian Forces response?
"We found, unfortunately, some methodological flaws in the way some of that military police data was collected and analyzed," said Col. Jean-Robert Bernier, Deputy Surgeon General with the Canadian Forces.
"… this is new research that needs to be investigated," said Col. Suzie Rodrigue, head of social work with the Canadian Forces.
While any increase in domestic violence is disturbing, what is most outrageous about this story is the military’s cavalier dismissal of the problem. This is not a new issue. It’s been recognised with returning veterans as far back as the First World War, and probably earlier than that. The Americans first started to really study the phenomenon of post traumatic stress and its impact on “normal” relationships when the Vietnam vets started returning home and domestic violence incidents spiked. We saw it again after the first Gulf war, and then the second, and now Afghanistan. In fact it was an issue with returning peacekeepers as well, but the numbers were much lower and so didn’t tend to hit the radar so to speak. No, this is a very old issue.
And Col. Rodrigue says “… this is new research that needs to be investigated”!
The time for research is over. This is a problem that needs action. Now!
Surely if the Canadian Forces can afford billions for new jets, a few hundred million dollars to restore the mental health of those who we send into harm’s way cannot be an insurmountable financial challenge. To do anything less is, in my opinion, nothing less than a breach of trust by those in the senior ranks of the Canadian Forces and the government of the day.