Military chaplains losing programs that help them cope

This is a repost of news on CTV. Because everyone is focused on the election, the Harper Government hopes this latest callous act against the military goes unnoticed. Please repost, and repost it again. The government’s actions (under Stephen Harper) are reprehensible. BONNIE 


— Some chaplains in the Canadian military say they are losing the very programs meant to help them cope with the suicides, marital breakdowns and combat-related stress they face in their work.

The casket containing the remains of Lt. Justin Boyes is carried from the aircraft past a military chaplain during a repatriation ceremony at CFB Trenton on Saturday Oct. 10, 2009. (Peter Redman / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Monthly reports prepared for the Chaplain General highlight concerns over funding cuts that are affecting some chaplaincy training courses, retreats and meetings that address the strain of tending to Canadian Forces personnel.

One branch of the chaplaincy in Halifax reported concerns about the loss of these programs at a time when staff are heavily affected by the ongoing combat mission in Afghanistan, post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers and increasing workloads.

“This is particularly disheartening given that many of these programs were put in place to ensure chaplaincy resilience after so many chaplains were lost to PTSD,” states a report from last July that was obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.

“Nearly every chaplain in the (Canadian Forces) has felt the effects of the Afghanistan deployment. Yet we are heading into a period where we will be unable to provide chaplains with the very programs that were developed to mitigate these effects.”

The document from last July states that funding for Maritime Forces Atlantic was reduced to $79,000 for that fiscal year, down from $105,000 for the previous year.

It adds that staff are being asked to project the impact of greater cuts in the future.

A Defence Department spokeswoman said no one was available to comment on the issue.

The reports, which run from last July to this February, suggest chaplains across the country are struggling with heavier workloads, a dwindling workforce and increasingly complex issues among military members.

The February report said one chaplain at 8 Wing Trenton in Ontario was dealing with six families “that are being affected by family breakdowns following a recent deployment.”

Chaplains at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont., also said in November’s report that they were being called on to help families deal with marital stress, with most of those seeking help 16 months after returning from Afghanistan.

It also said they had the stressful task of assisting in the burning of Russell Williams’ uniform after the former commander of CFB Trenton was convicted of murder and sexual assault last October.

The same document says chaplains were facing an increase in cases of domestic violence at Ontario’s 22 Wing North Bay, while others say they were called on to provide pastoral care after several suicides on Canadian Forces “establishments over the summer.”

Other chaplains complain of being tasked with too many competing responsibilities, making it difficult to complete their work.

A chaplain at Canadian Forces Base Valcartier, Que., said he was asked to do more management rather than clinical work because mental-health services at the base were functioning at 50 per cent.

Chaplains on two other bases in New Brunswick and Quebec said they were being stretched due to staff shortfalls.

“Both Gagetown and Saint Jean report significant chaplain shortages, leaving the remainder of the team stretched very thin and working excessive hours and weekends,” states last October’s report.

The documents also suggest morale is suffering among chaplains.

Some in the navy reserve, who have been tending to families of fallen personnel and notifying next of kin, said they were frustrated with the decision to cut their involvement in a navy command chaplain conference.

“This action was seen as punitive,” the report states, without providing further details.

The reports list training conferences chaplains did attend, with some focusing on military stressors and caring for the wounded.

A survey done almost three years ago on the morale among the 225 padres in the Forces at the time found all were experiencing burnout and compassion fatigue.

The survey found that 52 per cent of chaplains were at medium to high risk for anxiety or depressive disorders.

The questionnaire identified a handful of causes for the strain, such as work overload, poor work-life balance, lack of training, ineffective leadership and being pulled in different directions by the chaplaincy, the Forces and churches.


About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
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4 Responses to Military chaplains losing programs that help them cope

  1. Three Bears says:

    The Saddest thin about this is that the Forces are not reaching out to other faiths, such as the First Nations, and civilian churches, synagogues and mosques. Many times this issue has been raised but no one seems to want to take the iniative..That is sad. Even Chaplains need support

  2. So true. Chaplains bear everyone’s pain plus their own. Time to repost this message to raise everyone’s awareness that chaplains also fall under “one veteran, one standard.”


  3. Liam says:

    True, perhaps the ability for the Forces to reach out and get the support needed, one may be amazed at how many will be willing to volunteer their time in support of the Forces. I work with the American Forces on a volunteer basis, it helps a lot.

  4. Thanks, Liam. Sounds like a terrific idea, but it also seems from what Three Bears says above, that our forces don’t reach out for civilian help from interdominational faiths because no one is willing to co-ordinate such a program. How is your volunteer help initiated?

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