A Canadian soldier eyes a compound of interest during an operation in the village of Khenjakak, Afghanistan. Canadian troops quietly stopped handing captured Taliban fighters over to Afghan authorities in mid-2011. Steve Rennie/Canadian Press
Defence officials confirmed Tuesday that military police are investigating the death of a member of the Royal 22e Regiment at CFB Valcartier in Quebec as the fourth apparent Canadian Forces suicide in a week.
The Canadian military had already said it would be investigating the suicides of three veterans from the war in Afghanistan in less than one week.
Last Wednesday, the body of Warrant Officer Michael McNeil was found at CFB Petawawa. A day earlier, Master Corporal William Elliott died at his home near CFB Shilo in southwestern Manitoba. Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast died in a Lethbridge, Alta., hospital after a suicide attempt in a jail.
Reports of this latest apparent suicide come as Liberal Senator Romeo Dallaire, arguably Canada's highest-profile military victim of post-traumatic stress, nodded off at the wheel and crashed into a traffic barrier on Parliament Hill.
The retired general later admitted that the news last week that three Canadian soldiers had killed themselves, coupled with the coming 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, have left him unable to sleep, even with medication.
Defence Minister Rob Nicholson implored those who are struggling to seek help.
"My thoughts and prayers continue to be with those who have been affected by these recent suicides," he said in a statement.
"We all have a role to play in reaching out to those who are hurting and encourage them to get help. I want to remind those may be going through difficult times that you are not alone and there is support available to get you through this."
Figures released by National Defence last summer reported that 22 full-time members took their own lives in 2011. The numbers for 2012 have not been made public.
Some have questioned the data because the figures apply only to regular force members, excluding reservists whose part-time designation means they fall under the jurisdiction of civilian agencies in their home provinces.
The Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program has a confidential 24/7 toll-free telephone advisory and referral service for all military personnel and their families. The number is: 1-800-268-7708.