moved for leave to introduce Bill C-203, an act to amend the National Defence Act (maiming or injuring self or another).
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill that I had sincerely hoped to see adopted in the last Parliament.
The bill aims to remove a significant barrier to members of the Canadian Forces receiving the mental health assistance they need. It would do so by repealing subsection (c) of section 98 of the National Defence Act. This is the archaic section of the National Defence Act that makes self-harm a disciplinary offence in the military code of conduct.
The problem of death by suicide of Canadian Forces members is not going away. We are still losing more than one serving member per month to death by suicide, 17 in 2019 alone. We have lost 212 regular members over the last 15 years and of course the number is much higher when we include reservists and veterans.
Again, I am arguing that removing this section would send a strong message that self-harm is a mental health issue and not something to be addressed by discipline.
This is a matter I first brought forward in the last Parliament as an amendment to Bill C-77, the military justice bill. When that amendment was ruled out of order, I offered this private member's bill as an alternative way of taking the actions necessary to send a positive message to Canadian Forces members struggling with mental health issues. Despite support for my bill by opposition parties in the last Parliament, the Liberals blocked it from moving forward.
Today, I am introducing the bill in a minority Parliament, once again hoping MPs will now listen to the voices of the hundreds of families that have lost loved ones to death by suicide, that MPs will join together in this Parliament to tackle the ongoing challenge of death by suicide in the Canadian Forces and that MPs begin by passing this legislation.
(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)