Harper urged to address soldier suicides as another death is reported

Stephen Harper and Thomas Mulcair
Opposition leader Tom Mulcair is urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to make soldier suicides a personal priority. Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

TORONTO – The Canadian military is investigating another suspected suicide involving a reservist belonging to The Princess of Wales’ Own Regiment based in Kingston, Ont.

The investigation comes as opposition leader Tom Mulcair calls on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to do more for Canadian Forces personnel amid a spate of soldier suicides.

In a letter addressed to the prime minister Mulcair asks him to acknowledge a mental health crisis among Canadian soldiers and “commit to taking urgent action that properly addresses the mental health needs of the men and women who bravely serve this country.”

READ MORE: Soldier suicides prompt concerns about military mental health support

National Defence said they’re investigating the death of 28-year-old Cpl. Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez, a veteran of the Afghan war.

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The defence department said the incident occurred Wednesday but wouldn’t elaborate on the circumstances of the death except to say Kingston Police are investigating.

“The sudden loss of any soldier is devastating to the military community and our condolences go out to his family and friends,” said the defence department in a statement to Global News. “The loss of any of our soldiers is tragic and heartbreaking. The regimental family, the entire army family and community are mourning the loss of Cpl Sanhueza-Martinez.”

READ MORE: A timeline of recent soldier suicides in Canada’s military

The incident follows several other cases of suicide including retired Cpl. Leona MacEachern, a 20-year veteran with the Canadian Armed Forces, who died on Christmas Day in a head-on collision west of Calgary.

While initial reports indicated MacEchern’s death was an accident, her husband Tom MacEachern said she was in treatment for post traumatic stress disorder and intentionally drove her car into an oncoming transport truck.

READ MORE: Veterans’ advocates issue warning over recent soldier suicides

Five other soldiers have committed suicide in the last six weeks, prompting veterans’ advocates to demand action on what they say is a mental health crisis, including more resources being made available to the Department of National Defence.

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Mulcair said in his letter there are over fifty outstanding boards of inquiry on military suicides,  including  a still-unreleased report on the 2008 death of Cpl. Stuart Langridge.

“In too many cases, grieving families are left without answers or closure,” Mulcair said. “And Canadians are left with grave concerns about whether the system put in place to help our armed forces is broken, or if we are learning from these tragedies in order to prevent future ones.”

The scope of mental health problem reaches beyond just the recorded suicides, as documents obtained by Global News  found that for every suicide reported in the Canadian Forces in 2012, there was at least one attempted suicide reported.

*With files from Heather Loney and the Canadian Press

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