I'm an journalist from Toronto and a writer for A Voice For Men. This is my blog, where you'll find a collection of my articles published on a variety of sites - as well as some pretty cool exclusive content. Share, comment - enjoy!
Well… it’s good to be back. It’s been too long – way too long. Life over the past ten months or so has been absolutely insane and has really screwed with my ability to put the hours in in the way that I’d like, in the way that I should.
Truthfully, things are still nutty but I missed writing about the MHRM; I missed the guys and gals at MHRO, MHRI, and at my home, AVfM; I missed pissing off feminists and SJWs and, of course, I missed my blog.
But I’m not writing this merely to tell people that I’m back with my regular gigs. I’m proud to announce that I am now also a regular contributor to MGTOW Magazine. Click the link and go check it out. You can make up your own mind but what I can tell you is that the guys behind this are absolutely amazing, and, from a professional point of view, a breeze to work with; in fact they’re a lot easier to work with than many of the folks in the MSM. They have a mission in mind, and are steadfast in their determination to make MGTOW Magazine a success. I’m thrilled and humbled that I was chosen to help to make that aspiration a reality by contributing my meagre talents.
Please support them in any way you can. Share the stories on social media, tell your buddies and hey, subscribe to the mailing list, post in the comment sections and help MGTOW Magazine grow.
This is a video put up by Jonathan Taylor, the man behind the brilliant A Voice For Male Students. This is what feminism is doing to young adults in university. We’re ending up with zombified, brainwashed, morons. It has to stop.
The mission to end violence against women received another boost last week with the news that White Ribbon Canada is to receive $300,000 in funding from the Canadian government. The money, donated by the Minister of Labour and Minister of Status of Women, Dr. Kellie Leitch, is to be used to fund the development of an “online toolkit” that will help men end violence against women. Todd Minerson of White Ribbon Canada and Minister Leitch made the announcement in front of assembled press in Ottawa.
The news comes as something of a fillip for the White Ribbon Campaign (WRC) amid increased scrutiny regarding its financial affairs, the accuracy of its claims surrounding domestic violence and rape, and the methods used to draw attention to its mission. Both White Ribbon Australia and White Ribbon Canada have recently had their financial records investigated, with the findings showing that the overwhelming majority of the WRC’s funding goes directly to staff salaries. In the case of White Ribbon Canada, this amounts to $528,101 from a total of $1,108,850, paid out to just 11 staff.
The next-largest tranche of funding is used for further fund-raising efforts, the net effect of which is that most of the money that the WRC makes goes into staffers’ pockets and most of what is left over is used to make sure that it keeps going there. Neither set of records shows how, or where, funding is spent on serious anti-violence efforts. For now, the WRC has two main campaigns—the most visible being “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes,” the purpose of which is to raise awareness through symbolic gestures of solidarity for women who suffer domestic violence. Yet, despite significant fund-raising, White Ribbon does not operate or offer any counseling services, helplines, or legal advice to those who are victims of sexual assault or domestic violence. According to White Ribbon organizers, their job is simply one of “awareness raising,” but if recent efforts in the Republic of Ireland are anything to go by, they’re failing.
White Ribbon Ireland is also taking fire for making grossly exaggerated claims on the prevalence of rape in Irish society. The Irish arm of the advocacy group has apologized for a recent “error” that inflated the Irish government’s Central Statistics Office (CSO) rate of 451 reported instances of rape in 2013 to a massive 3,500. White Ribbon Ireland made the claim in a press release prior to its official launch, stating that “[a]ccording to CSO statistics, there were 3,500 reported rapes in Ireland in 2013.” It is difficult to see how such an “error” could take place within a group whose expertise is supposed to be on these very issues. White Ribbon has not as yet fully explained how the number found its way into print or what it’s doing to ensure that such obvious falsehoods aren’t repeated—a worrying sign indeed. If White Ribbon’s mission is truly to raise awareness on issues such as rape and domestic violence, then it behooves them to ensure that data is accurate. Exaggerating data on crimes such as rape will only have one result—spreading fear.
But perhaps worst of all is White Ribbon’s insistence that domestic violence is an issue that only affects women. It is a well-established fact that men are just as likely to be victims of domestic violence. However, White Ribbon’s framing of the issue is one that ignores the male reality of suffering. This is completely unacceptable, especially so in an environment where the overwhelming majority of men do not feel able to speak out regarding their abuse. Police authorities are not trained to deal with male victims of abuse, and there are practically zero resources from which men can seek help. Tonight across Canada, and Australia, and Ireland, men will suffer their abuse alone, behind closed doors.
If White Ribbon is serious about its mission, then it’s time to acknowledge ALL victims of abuse.
It’s time to put all money into the direct provision of services. It’s time to stop manipulating figures. It’s time for honesty and transparency.
Unfortunately, Minister Leitch’s announcement may not prove to be as helpful as we’d hope, despite all of the fanfare. As long as Canadian taxpayer money goes to groups like White Ribbon, we will never be free of domestic violence and we will never, ever have a fair and equitable approach to these issues. The men, women, and children in our lives deserve so much better.
A CURIOUS thing is happening at the National Post right now. Over the past two weeks, the National Post has printed four articles on rape culture. Rape culture, for those of you who don’t know, is the idea that we live in a society whereby rape is an accepted reality. Evidence that we are living in such a culture comes from our apparent comfort with sexualizing and objectifying women, the prevalence of prostitution and pornography, victim blaming, slut shaming, and trivializing rape.
Quite often, statistics and facts accompany the theory – with feminists and activists quoting numbers that are, on the face of it, pretty terrifying. While there doesn’t seem to be a consensus as to exactly how many women are being raped or sexually assaulted (advocates of the theory never include data on male victims,) what is clear is that the numbers are absolutely huge. Indeed, they’re so big that they’re simply not credible. Many noted academics, critics, and commentators such as Christina Hoff Sommers have repeatedly argued this point but to little avail. While critics of feminism have been effective in ripping the theory to shreds, gender feminists plow on regardless – safe in the knowledge that neither politicians nor the mainstream media have any interest in confronting their claims.
That comfortable status quo, however, might be about to change.
Over the past fortnight, The National Post has aggressively challenged the concept of rape culture. Barbara Kay, long noted for her rejection of feminist thought, wrote two articles in which she critiqued the spurious tenets of rape culture theory. Brian Hutchinson penned a piece in which he investigated the origins and veracity of foundational ‘statistics’ that underpin rape culture and, just two days ago, The National Post Editorial Board threw their considerable weight behind the push to openly scrutinize the idea of rape culture.
Kay sees the recent coverage as part of a greater awareness, and skepticism about the claims made by feminists.
I am very pleased to see the Post’s editorial board taking a definite stand on this issue[.] I think perhaps it is a sign that there is only so much fear-mongering you can generate without adducing evidence for it before public skepticism takes hold. According to rape culture claims, the risks to campus women of sexual assault are higher than the risk of any other crime on earth. And yet women walk around the campus seemingly blithely unaware of the terrible fate in store for them or their girlfriends (based on the one in four/five figure). There is a cognitive disconnect here, and ordinary Canadians are puzzled by it.
As well they should be – the idea that we live in a rape culture clashes spectacularly not only with official crime stats, but also with the dim view that society in general takes of sexual assault and rape – a point that Margaret Wente of The Globe and Mail recently explored, saying that,“[the] manufacture of “rape culture” is a triumph of ideology over substance. It has inflated a serious but uncommon threat into a crime wave.”
The key word here is inflated. Feminists routinely buttress their theories with statistics that are not congruent with reality; they use definitions and methodologies that result in a hopelessly skewed picture. No reasonable person – even for a moment – would believe the ‘statistic’ that one-in-four women are raped on university campuses, yet that is the conclusion that Mary P. Koss came to in her now infamous (and repeatedly debunked) survey in 1987.
Amazingly, 73% of the women that Koss characterized as rape victims, did not share that view – they did not think that they were victims of rape. 43% of these supposed rape victims went on to date their ‘rapists.’
Clearly Koss’ definition of rape is just plain wrong and an honest scholar would address that. Koss chose not to address the problem, however, and so have the countless feminist academics who’ve since mimicked her methodology. What exists as a consequence is a strange form of hysteria across college campuses, and, to a lesser degree – across society. Kay believes that the success of the feminist propaganda machine, in popularizing the myth of a ‘war on women’ is directly responsible for promulgation of rape culture.
Once you accept… that the urge to violence against women is a chronic and unabating evil, situated in the hearts of men, and ready to spring out at any opportune moment, you have created a moral panic with no basis in evidence, just a theory that violence against women is a continuum from a child’s stolen playground kiss on the cheek to the calculated rapes of women in Bosnia-Herzogovina. No amount of vigilance, therefore, is too much, and no woman is therefore really safe. In fact, a very tiny percentage of women are at actual risk of violence from men in our society, and of those who are, much of it is avoidable.
The recent debacle at Wellesley College in is a perfect example of this hysteria. American artist Tony Matelli’s temporary art installation – a statue of a fairly ordinary looking man sleepwalking in his underwear was deemed by students as an “inappropriate and potentially harmful addition to our community.” Admittedly – the statue is unusual – and at a stretch unsettling – but it’s a statue. It doesn’t possess agency and has nothing to do with rape. Yet, these staggeringly obvious facts did not deter Wellesley students from setting up a Change.org petition to have the ‘triggering’ statue removed from its location on campus grounds, which, depressingly, garnered some 988 signatories.
[T]hat is the point of it (rape culture) – to sow terror of men in order to convince authorities that women continue to need support, that the rape-crisis industry is not only necessary but in need of expansion, and therefore even more funding in this area is called for. The real beneficiaries are stakeholders in jobs created by the moral panic.
It is difficult to draw any other conclusion. Rape culture just doesn’t make any sense. It contradicts the general societal view of rape and sexual assault as a heinous crime; it contradicts how seriously the legal system views such crimes and relies on debunked, dishonest research. It also describes a picture that Kay says is completely at odds with crime statistics.
“The fact is that instances of rape have gone down in the general population. If they have gone up on campuses, there have to be other factors at work. Why has there not been more emphasis on facts and statistics around the phenomenon? Because the case for rape culture collapses when you start looking into the stats. Even if you multiply reported rapes by 100, you still don’t get figures that add up to a “culture.”
It is vital, according to Kay, to continue to put pressure on those that perpetuate such theories by asking questions, and demanding answers.
“[We should ask] the same questions we should ask of someone who promotes the idea that there are packs of stray dogs roaming the city and we are in danger of getting rabies from their bites: Show me the evidence. How many police reports of bites? How many hospital admissions for rabies? How many stories of bites and rabies turned out to be urban myths? Why are the rabid dogs only roaming around in this city and not in the nearby ones? Is “rabies” a misnomer in most cases for “infection”? Has “rabies” been redefined in this city and not in others? How is it that so many of the self-reporting victims were so drunk when they were bitten that they can’t remember feeling the pain of the bite?”
These are questions that feminists need to answer. There should be no more talk of ‘triggering,’ no more ad hominem attacks or appeals to emotion – if feminists want their theories to be taken seriously then they should be made to publically defend them. If they are not willing to do that then financial support should be withdrawn from programs that support such spurious theories. It is high time for a critical audit of rape culture theory, and the industry it supports.
AS REGULAR readers of AVfM are no doubt aware, the “Don’t be that Guy” poster campaign has once again raised its bigoted head. This time the campaign has made an appearance in Canada’s capital – Ottawa. However, while the posters did attract some media attention, it wasn’t nearly as much as previous occasions. What’s also of note is that for the first time the posters were torn down. It seems that someone at the University of Ottawa had had enough. While AVfM does not condone censorship, we certainly do understand the anger that motivates such action. Labeling an entire gender as potential rapists while simultaneously ignoring the realities of sexual assault and rape is clearly morally bankrupt. That is why we sent our tireless Director of Activism Attila Vinczer to Ottawa armed with glue, some “Don’t be that Girl” posters, and a gutful of FTSU attitude. AVfM spoke with Vinczer upon his return from Ottawa. Below are some excerpts from the conversation:
Hi Attila – so first off – how did you get to Ottawa?
Well, I drove to Ottawa. It took about four-and-half hours – got a nice present from the OPP on the way – a speeding ticket. I told the officer that I couldn’t accept his kind gift but, you know, he insisted.
What’s your take on the Don’t be that Guy campaign?
The Don’t be That Guy campaign is absolutely ridiculous. The message of that poster, of that campaign, is completely wrong. It paints guys in a way that men are like that – and they’re not. It goes hand-in-hand with the one-in-four nonsense. It’s a misleading campaign and stigmatizes men.
What happened when you got to Ottawa?
I met with William Mullins-Johnson, Janice Fiamengo, and Stephen Bindman. I have worked with Bill for years, who talks about wrongful conviction stuff – Stephen teaches a class to law students about wrongful convictions. We had lunch and talked about Elizabeth Sheehy and agreed that her proposals are just ludicrous. Bill helped me poster – we put out fifty Don’t Be That Girl posters – one of them was the one about the woman hitting her child and the glass ceiling poster. We walked about for about an hour-and-a-half – and went into the faculty of law where we put up about five or six posters.
Was there any reaction?
The posters instantly drew attention. We got a few snarky looks from students – particularly women – but it was pretty peaceful. We got a few, what I’d call condescending stares. There was a sense of passive hostility although nobody bugged us or bothered us – even inside the university. That was probably because Bill is a huge guy – he’s 6’6, 200lbs. We got a lot of posters up really high thanks to him. But what we noticed is that people actually stopped and read the posters – the creators (Men’s Rights Edmonton) did a good job in that regard.
Did you see any Don’t be that Guy posters?
We didn’t see any – I heard that they were being torn down, so they were long gone by the time we got there.
How did it feel to put up the Don’t be that Girl posters?
It felt very good to put up those posters – I felt we were balancing it out so that people were seeing both ends of the spectrum and we need to be persistent – someone needs to put these posters up consistently. Every time I go to Ottawa from now on I am going to put posters up. Although I’m going to use rubber gloves – the glue is very sticky. The guys from Men’s Rights Edmonton gave me advice on that one – they’re professionals.
Editor’s note: The following is a press release from the good people at CAFE. If you can, you should get this event. Hey – I’ll be there – that’s reason enough right? JB
From the Failure of Family Court to Equal Shared Parenting:
Moving Beyond the Gender Paradigm
Friday, March 21, 2014, 8PM
Ramsay Wright Laboratories, Room 110
25 Harbord Street
This event will occur on the campus of the University of Toronto
Hosted by the University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society.
Dr. Edward Kruk, author of the new book “The Equal Parent Presumption” and newly elected President of the International Council on Shared Parenting will join us at the University of Toronto Friday, March 21
Short talk description
The family law system is broken. It is biased against shared parenting responsibility, its adversarial system fuels parental conflict and family violence, and it is particularly damaging to the father-child relationship. But there is hope. The public overwhelmingly supports a new paradigm: the equal shared parenting presumption. Dr. Edward Kruk will discuss his research, put forward a new legal framework for equal parenting in Canada and comment on current legislative efforts to change the system for the better.
This presentation will examine fathers’ and mothers’ perspectives on their children’s needs in the divorce transition, and their responsibilities in relation to those needs, as well as their views on the responsibilities of social institutions to support divorced parents. Fathers’ and mothers’ views of the salient issues regarding post-divorce parenting, with a focus on the process and outcome of child custody determination, are examined. It will be argued that both non-residential fathers and mothers experience the harmful effects of existing child custody laws and socio-legal policies, and speak strongly to the need for family law reform in the direction of an equal shared parenting presumption. Both women and men support the establishment of such a presumption in equal measure, as both mothers and fathers are at risk of becoming disenfranchised from their children’s lives via “primary residence” judgments. The need for inter-sexual dialogue on the matter of parenting after divorce is urgently needed, and divorce scholars, practitioners and policy makers are urged to abandon the dominant gender paradigm in regard to the legal determination of parenting after divorce.
About Dr. Edward Kruk
Edward Kruk is Associate Professor of Social Work at the University of British Columbia, specializing in child and family policy. He has practiced in the fields of welfare rights, child protection, school social work, hospital social work, and family services. He is currently teaching and practicing in the areas of family mediation and addiction.
Edward’s first book, Divorce and Disengagement: Patterns of Fatherhood Within and BeyondMarriage, was the first in-depth study of the experiences of divorced fathers and the phenomenon of father absence after divorce. His second book, Mediation and Conflict Resolution in Social Work and the Human Services, explores the application of mediation in eighteen fields of practice, with a focus on theory and practice relevant to each field. His third book, Divorced Fathers: Children’s Needs and Parental Responsibilities, examines fathers’ perceptions of their children’s needs in the divorce transition, and parental and social institutional responsibilities to those needs. His new book, The Equal Parent Presumption: Social Justice in the Legal Determination of Parenting After Divorce, based on emergent trends of egalitarian parenting and non-adversarial conflict resolution, outlines a “best interests of the child from the perspective of the child” and a responsibility-to-needs approach to post-divorce child and family policy.
He writes a popular monthly blog, “Co-Parenting After Divorce,” for Psychology Today, and he has been cited as “Canada’s leading child custody expert” by two national newspapers. He was recently awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for his service and research on the best interests of children of divorce, and was elected as the inaugural president of the International Council on Shared Parenting.
He is a founding member of the Bounce Collective, a group of progressive West Coast DJs known for their diversity of musical styles, and all-night dance parties.
For a full bio please see http://www.edwardkruk.com. For more on the International Council on Shared Parenting please visit twohomes.org/en_html
Note: This post is reprinted here from the good people at A Voice For Men. Tickets for this event are being snapped up pretty quickly so buy early to avoid disappointment. JB
On June 27 and 28, 2014, a first ever conference of its kind will be held in Detroit, Michigan. A Voice for Men’s International Conference on Men’s Issues will feature the most noted collection of activists, advocates, writers and thinkers of our generation ever gathered into one place to discuss the issues of men and boys.
Presenting at the event will be Dr. Warren Farrell, Robert Franklin Esq, Sen. Anne Cools, Dr. Paul Nathanson, Erin Pizzey, John Hembling, Karen Straughan, Carnell Smith, Mike Buchanan, Paul Elam, Tom Golden, Dr. Tara Palmatier, Barbara Kay and Dr. Miles Groth.*
Your master of ceremonies will be Vladek Filler.
On the evening of June 26, there will be a press conference and panel discussion headed by AVFM News Director Robert O’Hara, and including live AVFM News Department participation from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and India. AVFM News Europe’s Lucian Valsan will be joining that discussion live via Skype. Local media will be invited to attend, where they will hear the thoughts from our news people across the world on the treatment of men in news media.
Also, on June 26, Dr. Warren Farrell will be conducting a limited seating workshop. Details on this event will soon be available here.
For those traveling to Detroit for the conference, which is being held at the Doubletree Downtown Detroit, a special web page to book room reservations will soon be made available through this site, and will be emailed to all ticket purchasers.
Finally, the first 100 persons who purchase tickets to the event will be gifted with a free copy of Dr. Warren Farrell’s 21st anniversary edition the Myth of Male Power in ebook. Once your ticket it paid for, within 24 hours you will be emailed instructions on getting your complementary copy of what is still the most seminal work on men’s issues ever written.
Tickets are $219.00. Purchases are limited to six at one time, with a maximum of 300 tickets being sold.
I’ve decided to finally bite the bullet and publish a blog. For what seems like aeons, friends have told me, nay – urged me to put a blog together – ‘you’re so funny! You’re so clever! You’re a great writer – you should write a blog!’ they all told me. Well, not all of them; that’s perhaps an exaggeration on my part. Some of them told me that.
One of them.
In any case, since I was inundated with this request, I decided, finally, to do the decent thing and publish a blog. What you’ll find here is a kind of hybrid blog. In my work as a journalist for A Voice For Men (AVfM) and other equality organizations I write fairly serious, grown-uppy type articles that are of interest to equality activists. I intend to re-publish those articles here – kind of as a one-stop-shop for those who like my work.
What I’m also going to do is write exclusivecontent for those who visit here (the red font means I’m serious.) This content will be quite different to the content that I currently put out for AVfM et al in that it will be a lot more personal. I will write from my own perspective in a first person style with a focus on issues of importance to men and boys.
So – welcome – I hope you enjoy what I put out here and look forward to your feedback. Have a look around – although much like a new house, there are a couple of things that I’m still working on. You can expect to find some new sections in the next while – photo and meme galleries AND I’m going to put together a nice list of resources for those interested in really getting to grips with the issues.
Finally – a note to feminists. You are just as welcome here as anybody else and are just as free to comment, disagree, and voice your opinion as anybody else. But do bear in mind that there are no ‘trigger warnings’ here and that free speech, rational argument and LOGIC trumps how someone might feel.
I’ve always been skeptical of feminism. Always. I don’t think that there was ever a time in my life where I thought that feminism was an equality movement. My earliest thoughts on feminism reveal some vague recollections about women who were very shouty, very annoyed, very white, and overwhelmingly well-to-do. They weren’t poor. They weren’t ethnic minorities and they only seemed to shout on behalf of themselves. As such, I don’t think I’ve really considered myself a blue pill guy in the sense that I never believed that feminism was something good – or even that men, overall, had it better than women. If anything, where I grew up, it was patently obvious that this wasn’t the case. Where I grew up I saw young men overwhelmingly abusing drugs and alcohol; young men overwhelmingly as victims of assault; young men overwhelmingly dropping out of school; young men were overwhelmingly getting hassled by police. I managed to stay on at school despite the fact that I wasn’t very studious, and was bored to tears. I had every motivation in the world to do as many of my peers had done – to drop out and go on the dole. I didn’t do that though, and went on to college to study journalism – which was a massive relief. Going to college made me feel as though I’d dodged a massive bullet.
Red Pill 2
After a few years I decided to return to education. I attended Trinity College Dublin, where I studied feminism as part of my English literature degree. It was mandatory as part of critical theory. I read feminists like Luce Irigary and Helene Cixous. I read about queer theory and rape culture and patriarchy and all sorts. While doing this I was also reading (or attempting to read) Wittgenstein, Kant, Sartre, Russell, Nietzsche, Plato, Hume et al as my minor was in philosophy.
I loved philosophy; it was truly liberating to learn of so many world-changing ideas – to make the not-very-obvious-now – but-amazing-then discovery that you can think about the world in such amazingly different ways. Studying philosophy was one of the smartest moves I ever made. I was always something of a thinker (which is probably why I was so bored / lazy at school) but philosophy made me realize that there was an entire universe out there to be discovered and that my previous ‘thoughts’ were at best daydreams. I wouldn’t say that philosophy put structure to my thoughts per se but it certainly enabled me, empowered me, if you will, to apply logic and reason to arguments in a far more efficient manner than before. It gave me the tools to see through bullshit.
So – back to feminism…
Studying philosophy alongside feminism is illuminating. When you’ve spent hours trying to criticize, say, Paley’s argument from design for the existence of god – it becomes a lot easier to see how nonsensical something like rape culture is; feminist thought is simply not rigorous at all. It can become difficult though –not because it’s well argued but because it’s either mired in some awful postmodern nonsense or because it’s willfully obtuse.
Either way – once you get into untangling the stylized language, neologisms, PoMo garbage and get to the nuts and bolts – the logic – you see, to coin a British phrase, that it’s all mouth and no trousers.
Red Pill 3
Yet, despite this, you can forget about trying to debate with most feminists. Usually, feminists come in two flavours – the one who self-identifies as a feminist – but knows absolutely nothing of feminist theory and the one who knows everything and will defend it to the hilt, usually because her livelihood depends on it. I had an argument a while ago with a feminist friend of mine. Now, this friend of mine is an educator and holds a PhD. So – not a dunce by any stretch. However, when I tried to talk to her about how feminism has historically ignored issues of importance to men and boys – and how things are getting worse – she dismissed the notion and immediately sought refuge in patriarchy theory.
I was gobsmacked.
I knew she was a feminist. I knew that. But I’d hoped that her feminist beliefs stemmed from an ideal of egalitarianism. In other words, I was hoping that she was one of the first types of feminists – the types that just thought feminism was great but didn’t quite know why. Seeing her attempting to hide behind such a flawed, ludicrous theory such as patriarchy theory settled it for me.
I’d had enough.
That was the final red pill for me. That was what ultimately drove me to the movement – the understanding that not only was feminism a bunch of bullshit, not only was it damaging to society (a society that didn’t resemble the simplistic black and white version peddled by feminists) but that those that hawked the idea will never be convinced of this simple fact – or at the very least, the vast majority won’t.
So those are some of the reasons, as least as far as feminism is partly concerned, why I came to the movement. There are other reasons but I just wanted to give a simple, chronological account of the three major periods in my life that led to this choice.
Being an equality advocate – particularly in the face of misrepresentation and blind hatred can be difficult – but it’s worth it. Winning little battles and getting the message out makes all the nonsense worthwhile.
IF YOU’VE EVER wondered what value the Canadian government places on the lives of its servicemen, you can wonder no longer for today, we finally have an answer. Canadians now know how much each of those lives are worth. We now know what the government thinks of those men who put their lives on the line in countries like Afghanistan and Iraq. We now know what the government thinks of those men who return from foreign countries having experienced the horrors of armed conflict. We now know what the Canadian government thinks of those men who’ve had their arms and legs ripped from their bodies, or who’ve returned home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD.) We now know what the Canadian government thinks of those men who, with nowhere to turn, take their own lives in a last act of hopelessness.
That value is one shiny new penny.
At least, that’s how it might appear to Denise Stark, mother of Cpl. Justin Stark, who took his own life in a Hamilton, O.N. armoury in 2011 following a 7-month tour of duty in Afghanistan. Stark’s mother received a cheque addressed to her deceased son, marked ‘CF (Canadian Forces) Release Pay’ on February 28 of this year to the value of one cent. Stark’s mother, according to New Democrat MP Wayne Marston, was left in a ‘fragile state’ because of the incident. It is not yet clear exactly why the Public Works department sent the cheque, but its issuance has caused widespread outrage.
Canada’s Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson made a public apology to Stark’s family, and described the cheque as an “insensitive bureaucratic screwup.” In fairness to Nicholson, it is exactly that and it is unfair to lay the blame squarely at his feet for this mess. As defence Minister, Nicholson would likely have very little input into the more mundane aspects of the force, such as payroll administration.
Yet, while Nicholson has promised to look into the matter, it is all-too-easy to view the incident as symptomatic of governmental indifference.
In March 2013, the Department of National Defence (DND) published a report comparing male suicide rates within the Canadian military, with those of Canadian society generally. The report offers the conclusion, based upon ‘crude data’ that CF suicide rates are actually lower than those found in the general population, and that military deployment is not a risk factor for suicide. It is a conclusion that is extremely difficult to reconcile with recent events, especially given the breathtaking paucity of data and limited research present in the report.
Part of the problem is that CF reporting on suicide does not include those who have retired from the military, nor does it include reservists. The Canadian military regards these as civilian deaths and tracks female suicides separately. There doesn’t seem to be any practical justification for this approach; in fact, given the extremely dangerous and sometimes horrific nature of military service, all suicides, whether they are vets, reservists, females or male regulars should be included in the report. To do otherwise offers an incomplete picture of the reality of suicide and in this regard, the Canadian military has its head planted firmly in the sand.
Indeed, the report is noteworthy not only for its restricted scope, but also for its utterly dismissive tone. It’s easy to forget while perusing the numbers and comparing deployed with non-deployed, solider with civilian, that these are human beings. Yet, nowhere in the report is this simple fact mentioned. Nowhere in the report are there any recommendations to help reduce suicide rates. Nowhere in the report does the reader derive any sense that suicide is an issue that the Canadian military is taking seriously. The term Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) does not feature anywhere in the report.
Last January, opposition leader Thomas Mulcair wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging him to take “urgent action” to address the “crisis” of suicide in the Canadian military. Mulcair, describing attempts to improve veteran’s access to mental health services said “it is clear that these efforts have not been sufficient.” In response, the government issued a press release saying it was working with the Canadian Armed Forces to address the issue.
Yet, the clock is ticking. Last week saw the suicide of yet another CF vet, dispiritingly – the tenth solider in recent months to take his (or her) own life.
Sgt. Ronald Anderson, 39, died of an apparent suicide at his home in Doaktown, N.B. Anderson was deployed seven times overseas with two tours of duty in Afghanistan, serving 21 years in the Canadian military. Anderson, who is survived by his fiancé and four daughters, had been diagnosed with PTSD, according to his father, Peter Anderson. Indeed instances of PTSD seem to feature in almost all cases of soldier suicide. Another common factor in soldier suicides is that the overwhelming majority are male. In fact, of the last ten Canadian solider suicides that took place – two were women – a number that mirrors closely the male-to-female suicide ratio of 3:1 in Canada generally.
If more suicides are to be avoided in future the Canadian military must begin by addressing the problem honestly. To regard veteran suicides as civilian deaths is little more than a transparent attempt to deny the devastating impact that military service can have on an individual’s psyche. The disproportionate impact of suicide on male soldiers requires an approach that is sensitive to the needs of male soldiers. Male-centred counselling and psychiatric services should be a top priority.
Currently, the DND is struggling to fill vacancies for mental health professionals. Jacqueline Rigg, the director general civilian for Human Resources Management Operations at DND claims that the remote location of many Canadian military bases creates difficulties in attracting and retaining staff. While there is no doubt that the DND faces challenges in filling these vacancies, the time for excuses is over; the DND is facing a crisis and must do everything in their power to make sure that all Canadian soldiers receive adequate mental health services.
To do otherwise is to reinforce the message expressed by the penny paycheque sent to Denise Stark – ‘your sacrifice is as good as worthless.’ This is a message that the Canadian public will not abide.