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Soldier’s mother breaks silence, accepts minister’s apology

 By Kevin Werner, News Staff

 The mother of a dead Hamilton soldier hopes the pain the family has gone through the last few weeks will prompt improvements to how returning veterans are treated when they re-enter civilian life.

Denise Stark, mother of Cpl Justin Stark, 22, who took his own life in 2011, broke her silence March 6 and publicly accepted the apology from federal Defense Minister Rob Nicholson after the federal government had sent the family a one-cent cheque Feb. 28 identified as CF Release pay.

“He acknowledged the sensitivity and agreed to look into (how it happened),” said Stark, who read a short statement in the constituency office of Hamilton East-Stoney Creek NDP MP Wayne Marston. She was accompanied by her husband Wayne, and Keven Ellis, president of the local chapter of the North Wall Riders Association, who has been fielding media questions.

Stark was surrounded by cameras and media, but she declined to take questions.

Marston said Nicholson’s conversation with the mother was “short and to the point” and only lasted a few minutes.

“I would like to know that something positive can come from it and other families don’t have to go through this,” said Stark. “I thank Mr. Nicholson for his phone call.”

Justin Stark was an infantry soldier with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada, and served a seven-month tour inAfghanistanin 2010. Since his death, the family has been dealing with military tribunals to determine whether his death was work related. The corporal killed himself in the John W. Foote VC Armouries inHamilton.

Stark said Nicholson has agreed to investigate the tribunal’s decision about her son’s death.

“There is no financial gain from Justin’s death,” said Stark, adding the family it looking for a recognition that their son’s pain was caused by the conflict overseas.

“Justin, wherever you are, who knew your cheque for a penny would have the brought the attention of so many,” she said.

Marston said there are many other families fighting the federal bureaucracy over post-traumatic stress syndrome diagnosis, as the bureaucracy try to wash its hands of the problem.

“A person takes his life in advance of a diagnosis then you can see what (the federal government) is trying to do,” said Marston.

The NDP MP raised the issue in Parliament a few days ago, which provoked an outpouring of concern from people across the country.

Marston said he was contacted by Ellis, who had met the MP at various memorial events, and suggested Stark make a comment at his Centennial Parkwayoffice.

Marston said Nicholson has also committed to making sure that nothing like this will happen again. And in the computer age, it really shouldn’t, said Marston.

“I trust no bureaucrat sent a cheque for one cent out,” said Marston. “I presume to be some kind of mechanized method of delivery. We should flag these to ensure they don’t happen.

 

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