Saturday, February 8, 2014

Ottawa bungles while veterans burn

PTSD, the latest spike in veteran illness following tours of duty in both peacekeeping and actual combat, going back as far as the Korean War, and including many equally violent events while serving as UN peacekeepers, continues its invasion of the psyches of veterans for decades after their specific tour of duty.
Unfortunately, government lip-service to "support the troops" makes only a few politician-friendly headlines, without the actual steps to implement that support. In a background piece for CBC (excerpted below), Brian Stewart writes what could become a manifesto for either or both of the opposition parties in the coming federal election of 2015.
According to Stewart, bureaucratic turf wars, budgetary feuds have delayed, if not de-railed, the hiring of psychiatrists and mental health workers that Defence Department called for eleven years ago, and  after the Canadian Forces ombudsman told the government two years ago that some 447 mental health specialists were needed. And even more hypocrisy is evident in the government's setting aside $11 million for the Defence Department needs, while imposing a mind-set of deficit-slaying as the political culture. We used to call that 'speaking out of both sides of the mouth' when we heard such a story in our youth.
  • Saying one thing, while doing the precise opposite, and
  • claiming to be "making the streets safe" while crime rates are falling, and
  • spending $50 million on job-creating programs that simply do not exist and
  • generating headlines on the purchase of Fighter Jets that simply wont work and Ottawa's procurement practice failed
  • transforming a balanced economy into a petro-dollar economy while strutting the world stage lecturing others on how to run their economies
  • claiming to be protecting the privacy of Canadians by discontinuing the long-form census, when there were literally no complaints and professional planners needed that information
And the list could go on for chapters and books, of how this government is failing both itself and the people of the country. Read Mr. Stewart's analysis, and weep for the families of the veterans who have suffered needlessly under the negligence of the Harper government, and then ask yourself if these people deserve another  mandate. We clearly believe they do not.

Why Ottawa ignored the military's PTSD epidemic
By Brian Stewart, CBC news February 6, 2014
Most ominous still is the finding nearly buried in the same study that notes that the incidence of mental injuries can double with passing years — meaning that  fully 30 per cent of those involved in combat operations may need significant psychological and other support over many years.
Canada's former Chief of Defence Staff, general Rick Hillier has now called for a public inquiry into the mental health problems affecting Canada's veterans.  
Add to that the fact that we have only belatedly acknowledged that many of the 120,000 soldiers who served as UN peacekeepers in atrocity-ridden conflict zones have trauma rates as high as Afghan vets.
At the same time, while the number of those needing help has grown, bureaucratic turf wars and budgetary feuds seem to have delayed the hiring of needed psychiatrists and mental health professionals.
The government is only now scrambling to hire an extra 54 specialists that the Defence Department called for almost 11 years ago.
According to a recent Canadian Press report, the government was reminded by the Canadian Forces ombudsman two years ago that the overall goal of 447 mental health specialists was far from met. Still, by last month the shortfall persisted.
The delay in so critical an area seems due not to a shortage of funds, for the government set aside $11 million, but rather a reluctance to hire during a period when deficit-fighting ruled the bureaucratic mindset.
For several years now, DND has, to please the government, spent several billion dollars less than it has been granted by Parliament. The whole bureaucracy has underspent $10 billion over the past three years to help meet deficit reduction targets.
It's a vicious cycle as those who go to war feel extra mental stress when they sense their sacrifice is unappreciated, and their cause diminished by post-war indifference.
And it doesn't help when Canadians talk a bold game about "supporting the troops" but don't deliver.
Only three months ago, the military ombudsman reported that many military families were still housed in dilapidated, too-small mould-infested base housing and were feeling huge stress because of worries about constant family moves and its effects on their children.

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