MP and First World War Veteran had distinguished career cut short by tragic end
OTTAWA, July 30, 2015 /CNW/ - The Honourable Erin O'Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs, and the Honourable Andrew Scheer, Speaker of the House of Commons, today unveiled plans to install a bronze plaque to commemorate the life and contributions of Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Sharpe. The plaque will be placed in Centre Block of Parliament. The memorial will feature a relief of LCol Sharpe's face designed by Port Perry artist Tyler Briley.
Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe was first elected to the House of Commons in 1908 and was re-elected in 1911 as the Member of Parliament for Ontario North. He was sitting as an MP at the start of the First World War, and helped raise the 116th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. He commanded the 116th Battalion during its operations on the fields of Europe and was re-elected by his constituents again in December 1917, while he was fighting on the battlefields of France. His unit was present for the assault on Vimy Ridge and fought at Avion and Passchendaele. After suffering mental injuries on the front, he was hospitalized in England and subsequently returned to Canada. Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe died by suicide on May 25, 1918.
Minister O'Toole has sought to raise awareness of Veterans' mental health issues through the LCol Sam Sharpe Veterans Mental Health Breakfast, which he co-founded with Senator Roméo Dallaire.
- An accomplished lawyer, Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Sharpe was first elected to the House of Commons in 1908 in the riding of Ontario North (which comprised part of Minister O'Toole's current riding of Durham).
- Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe was recognized for his impressive service and courage in battle, for which he received the Distinguished Service Order.
- The carnage LCol Sharpe witnessed during the war, particularly the death of his friend, Lieutenant Thomas Walton, took a severe toll on his mental health. He was hospitalized and diagnosed with "general debility," but was likely suffering from what we now recognize as post-traumatic stress disorder.
- A respected public figure and community leader, Lieutenant-Colonel Sharpe was eulogized in the Toronto Globe with the following: "He gave up his life as truly 'on the field of honour' as if he had fallen in action." (May 27, 1918).
- The Government of Canada is committed to recognizing Canada's proud military history and the bravery and sacrifices of our men and women in uniform as the country approaches the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.
"Sam Sharpe was a remarkable Canadian. A small-town lawyer who was elected to Parliament in 1908, raised a regiment for the First World War and fought at Vimy Ridge as a sitting MP. His mental injuries from service and tragic end almost a century ago led to his disappearance from our history. Today, we revive the story of Sam Sharpe, honour his service and sacrifice, and forge a legacy of continuing to reduce the stigma associated with operational stress injuries."
The Honourable Erin O'Toole, Minister of Veterans Affairs
SOURCE Veterans Affairs Canada
For further information: Martin Magnan, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Veterans of Affairs, 613-996-4649; Media Relations, Veterans Affairs Canada, 613-992-7468