National Defence closer to hiring much-needed psychiatrists

A bureaucratic, budgetary turf war that has stymied the hiring of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals at National Defence may be finally coming to an end in the wake of a suicide crisis that’s gripped the military.

OTTAWA — A bureaucratic, budgetary turf war that has stymied the hiring of psychiatrists and other mental health professionals at National Defence may be finally coming to an end in the wake of a suicide crisis that’s gripped the military.

Eighteen months after the Harper government put up $11.4 million toward a chronic staff shortage, the department says it’s just now in process of hiring up to 54 individuals to fill a need first identified a decade ago when the country’s war in Afghanistan began to heat up.

And the department’s lingering inability to fill the desperately needed positions has the taint of deficit-fighting politics as much as it relates to a nation-wide dearth of mental health workers, say a series of defence sources intimately familiar the file.

Defence spokeswoman Marie-Helene Brisson would not say when the hiring process would be completed, nor how soon those staff might be available.

But a series of defence sources told The Canadian Press some long-standing obstacles may have been removed. A ceiling on the total number of staff has been increased and the downloading of hiring decisions closer to the front line are among allowances being made as the military struggles with a sweeping number of suicides.

Both opposition parties say the fact soldiers have had to take their lives to prompt the government to start moving on hiring is “deeply shocking.”

Both New Democrat MP Jack Harris and Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray say it’s unconscionable, especially in light of stories they’ve heard from soldiers and their families who sometimes wait between up to two years for access services like counselling.

A report by the Canadian Forces ombudsman, in the fall of 2012, underscored that the department had never reached its goal of employing 447 mental health workers, a benchmark established in 2003.

As of last month, there were only 388 positions filled. The number has barely moved since Pierre Daigle’s report and has actually remained constant since about 2008.

The question is: Why? Money has never been an issue.

Each of the positions has been fully funded as part of the baseline budget for the military’s medical branch since the early 2000’s. In fact, the Harper government’s injection of an additional $11.4 million — on top of a previous $98 million — left military officials in a quandary, said defence sources.

Just Posted

Shots fired in Riverside Meadows

Red Deer RCMP believe public not at risk

Royal close shave: Prince William opts for dramatic buzz cut

LONDON — The hair on the heir is no longer quite so… Continue reading

Border wall models thwart US commandos in tests

SAN DIEGO — Recent assaults by tactical teams on prototypes of President… Continue reading

Man charged in presumed deaths of two missing Toronto men set to appear in court

TORONTO — A man charged with first-degree murder in the presumed deaths… Continue reading

Nova Scotia ‘seriously considering’ banning plastic bags: environment minister

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia’s environment minister says he’s ”seriously considering” enacting a… Continue reading

WATCH: Alberta Party leadership candidates in Red Deer

Three people vying to be the leader of the Alberta Party were… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month