MP O’Toole Launches 1st Annual LCol. Sam Sharpe Breakfast On Veterans Mental Health
May 5, 2014 – Ottawa – Erin O’Toole, Member of Parliament for Durham, launched the first annual Lieutenant Colonel Sam Sharpe Veterans Mental Health breakfast today. O’Toole co-hosted the event with Senator Romeo Dallaire and it was held during National Mental Health week.
The breakfast provided an excellent opportunity for veterans, parliamentarians and veterans support organizations to dialogue on veterans’ mental health issues and to showcase veterans who have sought help for their operational stress injuries and are leading productive lives.
This year’s breakfast featured two guest speakers. Retired Lieutenant-Colonel, Chris Linford, the author of the book “Warrior Rising,” discussed his personal experience with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Corporal Tim Laidler also spoke of his personal experience with operational stress injuries and on his role as Executive Director of the Veterans Transition Program (VTP).
The breakfast is named in memory of Colonel Sam Sharpe who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1908. LCol Sam Sharpe was the sitting Member of Parliament for Ontario North (which comprises part of MP O’Toole’s current riding of Durham) at the start of WWI. While serving as MP, he helped raise the 116th Battalion and served on the battlefield of France. After suffering mental injuries on the front, he returned to Canada and took his own life on 25 May, 1918. This event is held in his honour to recognize the struggle of Canadian servicemen and women who suffer from operational stress injuries and to highlight individuals and organizations dedicated to assisting CF members, their families, and veterans.
“I’m happy to honour Col. Sam Sharpe’s memory by encouraging informed discussions on our veterans mental health challenges and the important role that both government and not-for-profit organizations can play in ensuring our men and women in uniform and our veterans receive the support they need.”
-Erin O’Toole, C.D
Member of Parliament (Durham)
- LCol Samuel Simpson Sharpe, D.S.O was first elected to the House of Commons in 1908, LCol Sam Sharpe was the sitting Member of Parliament for Ontario North at the start of WWI. He organized and raised the 116th Battalion (Ontario County), which he commanded during its operations in the field from February 1917 to December 1917. LCol Sharpe and his unit were held in reserve for the assault on Vimy Ridge and fought at Avion and Passchendaele. After suffering mental injuries on the front, he returned to Canada and took his own life on 25 May, 1918, at a Montreal hospital. His death saddened and shocked the residents of Ontario County, where he was a respected public figure and community leader. After his death, the Toronto Globe eulogized Sam Sharpe and wrote, “He gave up his life as truly ‘on the field of honour’ as if he had fallen in action” (27 May 1918)
- Erin O’Toole is the Member of Parliament for Durham, and represents part of the original riding of Ontario North, LCol Sam Sharpe’s constituency. Before he was elected in 2012, Erin served as an officer in the Royal Canadian Air Force for 12 years. He also practiced law and served on the boards of several charities including the Vimy Foundation and the Churchill Society. In 2009, Erin co-founded the True Patriot Love Foundation, a national charity focused on support for military families and veterans.
- Senator Romeo Dallaire The Hon. Roméo Dallaire had a distinguished career in the Canadian military, achieving the rank of Lieutenant-General and Assistant Deputy Minister of Human Resources. In 1994, General Dallaire commanded the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR). His experiences there became the subject of the book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda. Medically released in 2000, due to PTSD, Senator Dallaire has worked as an author, lecturer and humanitarian, conducting research on conflict resolution and child soldiers at the Kennedy School at Harvard. General Dallaire helped reform the assistance provided to the new generation of veterans particularly affected by post-traumatic stress disorder. He was appointed to the Senate effective March 24, 2005, and is the Vice-Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on National Security and Defence as well as President of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs. He was appointed with Bishop Desmond Tutu to the United Nations Secretary General’s Advisory Committee on Genocide Prevention in the spring of 2006 and is a Fellow at the Montreal Institute of Genocide Studies, Concordia University. He is an officer in the Order of Canada since 2002, a recipient of the Pearson Peace Medal in 2005, a Grand Officer of the Order of Québec in 2006.
- LCol Chris Linford served 25 years in the Canadian Forces Health Services and was medically released in 2014. On his first two missions he served as a Nursing Officer witnessing first-hand the terrible traumas endured in modern war zones. As a Health Care Administrator in Afghanistan at the NATO Role 3 Combat Surgical Hospital in Kandahar from 2009- 2010, he witnessed the aftermath of deadly improvised explosive devices (IED) that either killed or severely maimed friendly troops. This experience led him one more time to the depths of severe PTSD. His year and a half long treatment post deployment was one of the toughest experiences of his life, but he learned during this experience that his new calling and passion was to speak publicly and write about his experiences providing others the opportunity to follow his lead in getting back to good health to once again enjoy life and their loved ones
- Tim Laidler is both a Masters student at UBC and a corporal in the Canadian Forces. He was deployed to the front lines of Afghanistan in 2008, and after returning participated in and graduated from the VTP. Serving as a paraprofessional through multiple Program groups, he continues to work on the front lines of the program as Executive Director of the Veterans Transition Network, reaching out to and recruiting veterans who are struggling with Operational Stress Injuries after coming home.
- National Mental Health week, which has been commemorated by the Canadian Mental Health Association since 1951, is an opportunity to bring the dialogue around mental health to the broader Canadian community.
– 30 –