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After long refusing to disclose how many soldiers have killed themselves after serving in the Afghanistan war, the Canadian military released new figures late Monday that raises the suicide count to at least 59.
The updated tally includes 53 who were still-serving military members and six veterans identified through a Globe and Mail investigation. The new count is five higher than the number uncovered by The Globe and includes four suicides of active-duty members that have occurred this year.
The suicide count is more than one third of the number of military members who died in the war. There were 158 military deaths in theatre during the 13-year NATO-led combat operation that began in 2001 and ended last year.
The Forces also disclosed another figure that it had been keeping secret, citing privacy concerns as the reason. Of the soldiers who died in the mission, six took their lives.
The Globe began asking for the suicide number last year, but was stymied for eight months. The Canadian Forces tracks most soldier suicides annually, although its data on reservists are incomplete. But neither the military nor Veterans Affairs keep regular tabs on how many soldiers kill themselves after they are released from the military.
The newspaper's information request was processed, but no details were released. The Globe turned to the Access to Information Act, asking for all records created in response to our questions for suicide data. After several months of waiting, we received a CD with 162 pages of National Defence and Canadian Forces e-mail communications. A partial answer was contained in those documents.
The Globe identified additional deaths by scouring more than a decade's worth of death notices and media reports to pinpoint cases that appeared to be suicides and confirmed details with families and military members.