Stéphane Beauchemin, Canadian Forces officer, commits suicide

The Canadian Forces is dealing with another suicide after Lt.-Col. Stéphane Beauchemin was found dead at a home in Limoges, Ont., last week.

Lieutenant-colonel found dead in Limoges, Ont., home last week

The Canadian Forces is dealing with another suicide after Lt.-Col. Stéphane Beauchemin was found dead at a home in Limoges, Ont., last week.

Beauchemin's cousin, Yannick Beauchemin, confirmed the cause of death to CBC News on Monday.

The Department of National Defence (DND) had earlier confirmed Beauchemin died Thursday in the town southeast of Ottawa, but would not confirm that he took his own life.

The department said Beauchemin was a member of the joint personnel support unit, or JPSU, at the Integrated Personnel Support Centre in Ottawa. He was a member of the regular forces posted to JPSU on a return to work program.

JPSU is a Canadian Armed Forces unit that includes 24 support centres across the country, where DND, the CAF, Veterans Affairs Canada and other groups provide support to ill and injured CAF personnel, serving and retired, their families and the families of the deceased.

Lt.-Col. Stéphane Beauchemin was found dead at a home in Limoges, Ont., southeast of Ottawa, on Thursday. Relatives have confirmed that he took his own life. (Courtesy of Beauchemin's family)

"The loss of any member is devastating to the military community and our condolences go out to his family and friends," a Canadian Forces statement emailed Monday reads.

"The death did not take place on DND property and is currently under investigation by the Ontario Provincial Police. As such, it is inappropriate for us to comment on the investigation or cause of death."

Ontario Provincial Police said Beauchemin was found dead in his home and that no foul play is suspected.

Beauchemin was a veteran of two operational deployments, deploying to Haiti in 1997 and Bosnia in 1999. 

He later served as commanding officer of 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron in Valcartier, Que., from July 2011 to October 2012. For three months he served with the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force's staff before being posted to JPSU in January 2013.

His family has been assigned an assistant "who is dedicated, full time, to assisting the family through the various administrative processes that take place such as funeral logistics, a range of financial benefits and referring the family to the various support mechanisms available to them according to their desires," according to the statement.

Veterans advocate worried

Michael Blais, founder of Canadian Veterans Advocacy, said the number of suicides in the Forces is too high — he says Beauchemin's death marks the eighth in just over two months, but DND has not confirmed that number — and his advocacy group continues to call for more mental health treatment.

"This is clearly indicative of a problem, a serious problem that exists within DND, and this problem is not being addressed effectively. It's as simple as that. If it was being addressed effectively, we wouldn't have this many suicides," Blais said.

"We have men and women who have served. In this case he [Beauchemin] was in Haiti, he was in former Yugoslavia. Our men and women have seen the curse of genocide, we have seen the curse of war, and we can provide help. [Post-traumatic stress disorder] is not a death sentence by any means."

The advocacy group wants more trained mental-health professionals at DND.

"We can step up if we provide the resources that these men and women need to deal with the mental trauma that they've experienced in war and peace, and frankly, this government is not stepping up to the plate on this issue."

Parliamentarians respond

Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson issued a statement offering his "heartfelt condolences" to the family and friends of Beauchemin.

"We expect and have received assurances from the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs that they take operational stress injuries and member suicide seriously, and that every effort is being made to identify at-risk individuals and to provide them with support," said Nicholson.

"While support services are available and improving, the government is reviewing whether further enhancements are needed to ensure that they are responding to the needs of members and veterans."

NDP Leader Tom Mulcair also offered a statement of condolences and said the number of Canadian Armed Forces personnel who have taken their own lives "is deeply distressing."

Mulcair urged Prime Minister Stephen Harper "to acknowledge and take immediate steps to address the suicide crisis; increase investment in mental-health services for Canadian Forces members; and fast track the outstanding military suicide inquiries."