Manitoba-based soldiers speak out about federal cuts to military services
Published Thursday, May 3, 2012 6:43PM CST
Some soldiers in Manitoba fear that government cuts to mental-health services in the military will make a large problem even worse.
Shilo soldier Adam Cyr, 33, lost a leg while serving in Afghanistan during an enemy attack in 2008.
Four years later, he said the military still isn't providing him with adequate care.
"When you can see somebody, it's generally pretty good but getting in to see somebody is the hardest part," said Cyr.
Now he and fellow soldier Steven Stoesz, who suffered severe injuries in three separate attacks and bombings in Afghanistan, fear things are going to get worse with federal cuts.
The union representing medical professionals said the federal government is slashing 25 jobs within the Department of National Defence in a unit that oversees issues of suicide and post-traumatic stress disorder.
"This is totally unacceptable," said Stoesz.
"I had a pretty positive outlook on life and other guys don't have that. I'm wondering how many guys gave up, how many guys have committed suicide because of this?" he asked.
The military said Monday that suicide rates were up last year, with 20 soldiers taking their own lives, compared to 12 in 2010.
But the government said that's still lower than the Canadian average and they've taken steps to address the issue.
"When compared with our NATO allies, Canadian soldiers have the greatest ratio of any mental health workers than any of our allies in NATO," said Peter MacKay, defence minister.
Cyr and Stoesz said they don't buy it.
"We're losing that now as we're being released from the military. We're losing that close connection where you go everyday and talk with somebody about what you're dealing with," said Stoesz.
Despite what they've been through, Cyr and Stoesz said they don't regret becoming soldiers.
They hope by speaking out, it will shed some light on a problem they say many others who have served overseas are facing as well.
DND is also slashing a number of civilian positions, ranging from cooks to secretaries to weapons technicians and mechanics.
As many as 1,000 jobs are expected to be eliminated.