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Military reports 15 suicides in 2018 despite new prevention strategy

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Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan has promised to redouble efforts to prevent suicide in the Canadian Forces after new figures showed more than a dozen members of the military took their own lives last year.

The deaths coincided with new services and supports aimed at preventing such tragedies, underlining the complexity of the challenge facing the military and government.

Fifteen Canadian Forces members killed themselves in 2018, according to the Department of National Defence.

That was one fewer than the previous year and represented the fourth year in a row in which the number of military suicides declined since a rash of suicides in 2013 cast a spotlight on the issue.

It nonetheless fell short of a breakthrough after the National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada unveiled a new suicide-prevention strategy in late 2017.

The strategy included promises to improve the services and support available to current military members and veterans in the hopes of increasing awareness and reducing the number of suicides in both populations.

Defence Department spokesman Derek Abma said there has been « an impressive amount of work » done to better support the mental health of military members and their families since the strategy was launched.

That includes adding more medical staff, training personnel on how to respond if someone shows warning signs for suicide and introducing new measures to ease the transition to civilian life for those leaving the Forces.

Sajjan: we must do better

Sajjan, however, admitted in a statement on Wednesday that « we must always strive to do better, » adding: « Every time we lose a member of our Canadian Armed Forces to suicide, it is felt by us all. One suicide is too many.

« While there is no simple solution or easy answer, we will continue to evolve and improve the strategy as we expand our understanding of suicide and mental health and move forward on implementing solutions. »

Of the 15 military personnel who died by suicide last year, 13 were full-time members while the other two were reservists. The figures do not say how many were men or women.

While the Canadian Forces for years resisted suggestions service members were more at risk of suicide than the general public, a landmark study from Veterans Affairs Canada last year suggested the opposite.

155 suicides since 2010 

The results, based on a comprehensive review of records from 1976 to 2012, showed that the risk of suicide among male veterans of all ages was 36 per cent higher than in men who had never served in the Canadian military.

Even more worrying was that the risk was significantly higher among younger male veterans, with those under 25 being 242 per cent more likely to kill themselves than non-veterans of the same age.

The risk among female veterans was also found to be alarmingly high: 81 per cent greater than for women who hadn’t served. Age was not found to be as significant a factor when it came to female veterans.

At the same time, more than 155 active service members have taken their own lives since 2010. That nearly equals the 158 killed while serving in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014.

National Defence’s suicide-prevention strategy was endorsed by a variety of groups, including the Canadian Psychological Association, the Canadian Mental Health Association and the Mood Disorders Society of Canada.

Some veterans’ groups and advocates, however, remained unsure at the time about how it would be implemented.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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