Friday, November 29, 2013

Ron Francis, RCMP Corporal with PTSD, public whistle-blower...needs our support

While the whole "public" and "official" world of both parliament and the RCMP are outraged and scornful of a New Brunswick Mountie, Ron Francis smoking one of those 15 marijuana cigarettes in public, especially while wearing the scarlet (and presumed sacred) tunic, the iconic uniform of the RCMP, both his call for a public inquiry and his PTSD are being ignored.
Francis is allowed to smoke up to 15 joints daily to deal with PTSD symptoms that he developed while working in First Nations communities. (Daniel Proussalidis, Toronto Sun, November 28)
When are we, as a culture, going to get real, both with the medical prescription and the PTSD?
I recall listening to a now deceased family member, a respected professional health care worker of many decades, who had held a senior position in a large urban teaching hospital, and upon retirement had suffered some physical illness. Her physician had referred her to a psychiatrist, while she was in hospital, and our conversation occurred following that visit.
"Well, he was a nice man, but if he thought that I was going to give him any information, he was sadly mistaken!" ran her proud, and non--disclosing, and pejorative observation of the encounter.
And that encounter took place in the mid-1990's, not that long ago.
Today, an RCMP Corporal, placed on "desk duties" without being permitted to carry a fire arm, for a diagnosis of PTSD because of his work with First Nations, where he states on CBC, in an interview with Ian Hanomansingh, that he saw things most people in Canada would be appalled to witness, is now being ridiculed for his admittedly overt, even histrionic and attention-grabbing act in order to demand that the public both become aware of and acknowledge the full realities within the force, (paid for by public dollars and attempting to keep the peace and security in hundreds of communities across the country).
As the popular vernacular would put it, "Let's get real, Canada!"
If we treat this honourable RCMP Corporal of our most cherished police force, in a manner that depicts his plea for help for the whole force in such a contemptible manner, through our public embarrassment at his action, we are sentencing him and hundreds of Afghanistan veterans to more decades of silence, in their legitimate, and publicly "earned and acquired" illness, while also refusing to acknowledge that the medical profession has indeed found that marijuana is indeed helpful in relieving the stress of PTSD.
Are we not, in our own unique manner, once again proving Earle Birney's contention back in 1942 in a little poem entitled, Canada: Case History, that we are indeed an adolescent nation, who have not yet grown up, only this time our demons are drugs and psychiatric illness.
"Denial" is not only a large river in Egypt! It is an integral component of the Canadian public and official culture and it is time we grew up and accepted our full truth, fully disclosing and fully accepting responsibility for our public institutions and the people who have toiled for and in them for decades.
Corporal Francis has not brought dishonour either to his uniform or his force; he is and apparently has been a dedicated officer to that force, for which he has served proudly. He also retains a deep and passionate commitment to the improvement of that force, and has taken one step to attract public attention to the culture of repression, denial and avoidance that is clearly not in the public  interest.
And for public officials, both within the force and especially within parliament to condemn and judge his action, for the simple reason that it will send a bad example to young people who might be thinking about trying marijuana, or who have been prescribed marijuana by their physician, is more evidence of the ostrich that besets too much of public life, and the institutions that represent the public engagement in the lives of real people, with real needs and honest attempts to take the lid of secrecy off the public culture.
We all know that a family struggling with one or more members who suffer from an addiction is characterized by "secrecy" and "shame" because they do not want the community to know about their "elephant" in the room. And so long as that elephant remains a secret, the whole family suffers exponentially, from the illness of the individual and the self-imposed illness of the secrecy.
I lived in such a family as a young boy, and the secret that we knew we had to preserve was child abuse. And, from my experience, witnessing this spectacle of an RCMP officer suffering from PTSD, generated from his work with First Nations communities, in conditions that constitute another public "secret" of the cover-up of our own negligence and irresponsibility, and even what we have called in other places in this space, apartheid, it is not a family where healthy conditions will generate healthy children and adults.
We support Corporal Francis in both his illness and his public actions to shed light on the cover-up that inflicts too much of Canadian public life, and call upon both his senior officers and the national government to address the issues his action raises.

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