Recently, as part of Canada150 celebrations, Canada played host to the Invictus Games in Toronto. The Invictus Games provided an opportunity for us to celebrate our veterans and also our serving members from Canada and other nations for their courage and their determination not to be defined by their injuries. As I watched the opening ceremonies, some of the events and the closing ceremonies, I was struck by the strong emotions displayed both by spectators and participants in this event. I was also moved by the efforts of Prince Harry, who initiated this event as a way for injured veterans to demonstrate how they still have what it takes to compete at this level. First established by Prince Harry in 2014, the Invictus Games in Toronto included 550 ill and injured serving members and veterans and 1,100 family and friend spectators from 17 participating nations.
In addition to physically wounded participants, there were also veterans and soldiers who suffer mental disorders. Every year, more military personnel and veterans die from suicide than from any other cause, including combat. They also have difficulties transitioning to civilian life and feel isolated from the world. In addition to transitioning, they need the strength to fight depression, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse. They can also experience broken connections with family and friends, feelings of anger, sleeping difficulties, cognitive disorders, fear of public places or crowds of people, looking for the adrenaline rush they had experienced in dangerous situations.
There is a non-profit agency, the Veterans Transition Network, that works with veterans experiencing problems transitioning back to life at home. It delivers mental services to veterans from coast to coast. This organization was designed in 1998 by a team of doctors and their program is backed by 20 years of research. It also has a 98 per cent completion rate, one of the highest in the world. If you wish to find out more about this agency you can look online at https://vtncanada.org.
Another organization dedicated to the mental health of the uniformed services is Wounded Warriors – Canada. It has an innovative program aimed at battling the challenges of PTSD and bettering the lives of ill and injured veterans and their families.
In September, 2006, a suicide bomber detonated a bomb near Kandahar City, Afghanistan. The blast killed four Canadian soldiers and injured many others. As it turned out, three Canadian military engineers were seriously wounded. As they healed, it became apparent that our troops needed more backing to assist in their recovery and rehabilitation. In 2006 the Wounded Warriors fund was formally incorporated, to support Canadian Forces members wounded during operations and to improve the general morale of our soldiers and their families. To find out more about this organization, you can go to their website https://woundedwarriors.ca.
Canadians are celebrating Canada150 in a variety of ways. We are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the Second World War. One of the Canada150 projects deals with veterans. Kerri Tadeu and her brother, retired master corporal Colin Fitzgerald, discovered their own way to celebrate Canada150. They are travelling across Canada to thank 150 veterans for their years of service. They plan to make this an annual event. The event was inspired by Fitzgerald as a way to thank the Canadian Armed Forces for his 15 years of service. Fitzergerald has received the medal of military valour, given to a member of the Forces who has committed an act of valour or devotion in the presence of the enemy.
The siblings’ purpose is to inspire and motivate other Canadians to take the step to thank our veterans personally and not always leave this up to Veterans Affairs. At the end of May, they took their children with them on a portion of their tour. Part of Fitzgerald’s motivation for these visits was to help his own healing process. He has been struggling with PTSD for many years. This venture has helped his mental health, and he is ready to serve his country again as a veteran.
So on Remembrance Day this year, let’s remember all our veterans and serving members, and in particular those who are suffering as they make the transition back to life in Canada.
We live in the best country in the world, but when you are returning from a war-torn land, it can be difficult to resume the life you once loved. We can start by remembering at every opportunity to thank our veterans and serving members for the service and dedication they delivered to the people of Canada.
Hon. Myrna Driedger is MLA for Charleswood and Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.