Canadian soldier defies military orders not to speak out
Updated: Sun May. 06 2012 17:34:33
A Canadian soldier is continuing to speak out and battle for veterans' rights, despite being ordered not to by his superiors.
Canadian Forces Corporal Steve Stoesz first spoke out about the lack of mental health resources in the Canadian military in an interview with CTV News earlier this week.
When he tried to get approval to do another interview on Sunday, he was ordered not to talk to the media.
Stoesz decided to disobey those orders. He appeared on CTV News' national program Question Period Sunday afternoon and spoke about the issue.
"This cause is more worthy than the cause in Afghanistan, and I was willing to die for the cause in Afghanistan," said Stoesz.
Stoesz was injured in Afghanistan and said he suffered depression and other mental health problems when he returned home to Canada in 2008 but resources to help deal with those problems were scarce.
"I have been blown up three times, and I have multiple injuries," said Stoesz. Stoesz also had significant mental health issues as a result of his time in Afghanistan, Stoesz said.
Stoesz said he had 14 of the 15 symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, but finding resources within the military to help him cope was difficult.
"At one point we had no physiotherapist on the base. No case management. I had to take my own case and manage it," Stoesz said.
Sean Bruyea, a military activist, said the problem is not uncommon.
"This is widespread across the entire population of veterans and soldiers that are trying to access benefits," said Bruyea.
Bruyea said conditions like PTSD get worse when there is a lack of social support for those suffering from the condition.
"When they encounter red tape – when they encounter a lack or resources – and encounter delays, this makes the situation worse," said Bruyea.
Stoesz decided to go public with his struggles after proposed job cuts at the Department of National Defence – cuts that could mean a loss of medical personnel that help soldiers deal with the aftermath of war, including PTSD.
The Tories said they've almost doubled mental health professionals for the military and won't cut benefits for front-line workers for veterans.
But Stoesz said he hasn't seen any evidence of that. "It was such a mess to try and keep your life straight and take these battles on and try to keep your appointments and try to get appointments for that matter."
Stoesz said he will turn himself in to his superiors on Monday. He said he's willing to take any punishment for speaking out, to help others just like him who might not be able to speak out.