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Hon. Terry M. Mercer:
Honourable senators, today I would like to ask a question we received from Victoria McFarlane of Halifax, Nova Scotia. She asks the following:
The Canadian Press recently obtained documents under the Access to Information Act that reveal the Department of National Defence ignored suggested strategies for easing the backlog of investigations into military suicides.
In 2012, the department’s director of special inquiries recommended changing the agency responsible for individual inquiries. Despite the fact that 75 cases remained incomplete at the time (in spring of 2012) — some of them dating back to 2008 — officials chose to ignore this proposed solution.
These special inquiries offer families a sense of closure; no one should be left waiting because of bureaucratic backlog or `smothering procedures.’ Where do the government’s priorities lie? As Murray Brewster mentioned in a recent published article, “The lack of urgency to clear the backlog of investigations looks similar to the dawdling that went on within the bureaucracy over the long-promised plan to hire more mental health staff at defence.”
Of the 75 cases that were incomplete in the spring of 2012, how many remain? Given that these inquiries are of the utmost importance to the families of loved ones who have taken their own lives, can you outline the protocol you currently have in place to ensure an expedient process?