Wounded Canadian troops are required to sign an agreement that prohibits them from criticizing their superior officers or how they are being treated, Canada’s The National Post newspaper is reporting.
The form says that wounded warriors cannot “write anything that might discourage others or make them dissatisfied with their conditions or their employment,” the newspaper reported on Wednesday.
A senior Canadian military official said the form is meant to prevent mentally and physically wounded troops from writing something on social media that they may regret later, but he acknowledged the agreement also limits what they can tell news media, according to the National Post.
The Canadian military calls the agreement “guidance,” not a restriction, but the head of the Canadian army has vowed to punish any service member who speaks to the news media without permission following a string of leaked information about how budget cuts have harmed readiness, the newspaper reported.
“The troops themselves have said that they feel intimidated by this and they get a talking to if they don’t sign it,” Joyce Murray, who represents part of Vancouver in the Canadian parliament, told Military Times on Friday.
Of particular concern: The restriction on criticism is geared toward troops with mental injuries, Murray said.
“On the one hand, the government is saying we need to reduce the stigma of coming forward with mental injuries like PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder]; and the other hand, they’re singling out the Joint Personnel Support Unit, which is where troops with PTSD are assigned ... essentially muzzling their social media connections, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook — or even who they tag on Facebook,” she aid. “I think that that increases the stigma: It’s essentially that saying these are people that can’t be trusted to be aware of the protocols around communication.”
The Ottawa Citizen first reported about the criticism ban in September after Canadian troops felt it threatened their ability to talk about where their military and government are falling short in treating wounded warriors.
“Forces members have raised a lot of serious concerns about the government’s failure to provide enough support, especially for soldiers with PTSD and other operational stress injuries,” Murray told Military Times. “They’re also going to great lengths to keep those stories from the public, and that’s very concerning.”
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