Canadian soldier’s apparent suicide would be 4th in days

Defence officials confirm military police are investigating the death of a member of the Royal 22e Regiment at CFB Valcartier in Quebec.

Military already investigating recent suicides of 3 Afghanistan war veterans

Four Canadian soldiers have died in just over a week, with three of them being ruled suicides. The cause of the fourth soldier's death is still being investigated.

10 years ago
Duration 3:29
Military police are investigating the death of a soldier at CFB Valcartier in Quebec

Defence officials have confirmed that military police are investigating the death of a member of the 3rd battalion, Royal 22e Regiment at CFB Valcartier in Quebec.

Capt. Mathieu Dufour, public affairs officer at Valcartier Garrison, confirmed that Master Cpl. Sylvain Lelièvre was found dead in his home on Monday.

Dufour said military police are investigating the soldier's death and that suicide is one possibility they are looking into.

Master Cpl. Sylvain Lelièvre served in Kandahar from 2010-2011. (Facebook)

"Who is prepared for death? Even when we go to war we try not to think about it.... It's always a surprise," Dufour said. 

He said that Lelièvre's family would be supported by the community, and that counselling and spiritual guidance would be provided to anyone who needs it. 

"The family is not alone in this difficult time," he said.

A family friend, Vera Wall, told CBC News she had spoken with Lelièvre's sister. 

Wall said the family is in shock.

She said she met the 46-year-old Lelièvre last year when she organized a "Welcome Home" evening for Gaspé soldiers who had fought in Afghanistan.

"He was so happy that night, he was like a little clown that we had honoured him and his other friends. He was really glad, and I didn't expect this of him," she said.

Lelièvre had been with the Canadian Forces since 1985 and served in Bosnia twice (from 2001-02 and in 2004) and once in Kandahar, Afghanistan (2010-11).

His death marks the fourth involving Canadian Forces personnel in recent days, with the other three determined to be the result of suicide.

Military probes 3 suicides in under a week

The Canadian military has already said it would be investigating the deaths of the other three veterans, who served in the war in Afghanistan:

  • Last Wednesday, the body of Warrant Officer Michael McNeil was found at CFB Petawawa. 
  • A day earlier, Master Cpl. 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 Lelièvre's possible suicide come as Liberal Senator Roméo Dallaire, a retired general who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, nodded off at the wheel of his car and crashed into a lamp post on Parliament Hill.

Dallaire 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."

Gen. Thomas Lawson, chief of the defence staff of the Armed Forces, said in a statement that the stigma of mental health issues must end.

"Any, each, and every suicide is a tragedy, and the loss of any soldier is painful and heartbreaking to our men, women and families," he said.

"Although suicide is an international public health concern, for an organization built on leadership, built on camaraderie, and built on strength, it hits us especially hard. We have an expert health-care system to support us, but in order for us to help each other, it’s essential that all military personnel, like all Canadians, recognize mental health issues as they develop."

Figures released by National Defence show that 22 full-time members of the Canadian Forces committed suicide in 2011, and 13 personnel took their own lives in 2012.

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.

With files from The Canadian Press