Vet­eran’s sculp­ture still sit­ting in stor­age

National Post (Latest Edition) - - NEWS - Lee Berthi­aume

• Hid­den away some­where on Par­lia­ment Hill is the bronzed re­lief of Lt.- Col. Sa­muel Sharpe.

Fin­ished two years ago, the sculp­ture ap­peared des­tined for a spot in the foyer out­side the House of Com­mons to com­mem­o­rate the for­mer MP and rec­og­nize all Cana­dian vet­er­ans strug­gling with psy­cho­log­i­cal in­juries.

Yet de­spite mount­ing calls for the Trudeau gov­ern­ment to have it un­veiled, the sculp­ture re­mains in stor­age, rais­ing fears that Sharpe and other vet­er­ans suf­fer­ing with men­tal trauma won’t get the recog­ni­tion they de­serve.

“He was hos­pi­tal­ized and then sadly he died by sui­cide,” said Con­ser­va­tive MP Erin O’Toole, who oc­cu­pies Sharpe’s old seat and, as vet­er­ans af­fairs min­is­ter in 2015, first started the push to rec­og­nize the for­mer MP.

“Let’s use that sad le­gacy to help peo­ple to­day make sure they come for­ward to get help. It’s not a po­lit­i­cal project; it’s the right thing to do.”

Sharpe was a sit­ting mem­ber of Par­lia­ment when he helped raise the Cana­dian Ex­pe­di­tionary Force’s 116th bat­tal­ion and then headed over­seas to com­mand the unit dur­ing the First World War.

Not only was Sharpe in­volved in some of the big­gest and blood­i­est Cana­dian bat­tles of the First World War, he was re-elected in ab­sen­tia only a few weeks af­ter Pass­chen­daele, where he re­ceived an award for gal­lantry.

But Sharpe would never re­take his seat. The strain and trauma of Pass­chen­daele, where more than 16,000 Cana­di­ans were killed or wounded, in­clud­ing one of his clos­est friends, would be too much. Sharpe was hos­pi­tal­ized for “ner­vous shock” a few months later and re­turned to Canada. On May 25, 1918, he jumped from a win­dow at the Royal Vic­to­ria Hos­pi­tal in Mon­treal and killed him­self.

There is al­ready a sculp­ture in the foyer ded­i­cated to the only serv­ing MP to have died in com­bat; Lt.- Col. Ge­orge Baker was killed dur­ing the Bat­tle of Mount Sor­rel in June 1916, and his statue was erected in 1924.

But O’Toole, whose ten­ure as vet­er­ans af­fairs min­is­ter was dom­i­nated by con­cerns about vets suf­fer­ing from psy­cho­log­i­cal in­juries, felt it was time to honour Sharpe — and send a mes­sage of sup­port to those in need.

The ini­tia­tive re­ceived sup­port from the Lib­er­als and NDP. Yet the space orig­i­nally set aside for the re­lief, which was cre­ated by artist Tyler Bri­ley, who him­self has strug­gled with PTSD from his days as a fire­fighter, re­mains empty.

The sculp­ture’s fate cur­rently lies with Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’Re­gan. Spokesman Alex Well­stead said O’Re­gan’s com­mem­o­ra­tion ad­vi­sory group, which is com­prised of vet­er­ans and other stake­hold­ers, are re­view­ing the mat­ter and will come up with a rec­om­men­da­tion on where it should go. Well­stead would not say when a de­ci­sion will be made


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