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This article was published 19/10/2009 (4631 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Soldiers killed in service-related accidents or suicides will now qualify for a newly created medal intended for military casualties, the Canadian military announced Monday.
The Sacrifice Medal was first unveiled in 2008 to recognize only those killed and wounded by hostile action.
The Department of National Defence said Monday it expanded the criteria to include all service-related deaths after concluding a review this month, which was launched in response to criticisms from the families of slain soldiers and peacekeepers.
Saskatchewan resident Ben Walsh, whose son died in Afghanistan, said he was pleased the military listened to the concerns from military families. Walsh's son, Master Cpl. Jeffrey Walsh, initially was excluded from the medal because he was killed accidentally by another Canadian soldier in 2006.
"I think the people of Canada said: Look, a lot of our young soldiers have died for our freedom and the least that Canada could do is give the young soldier a medal," said Walsh, in an interview from Regina.
Walsh said he received an invitation in the mail Monday to attend a ceremony to receive his son's medal on Nov. 9.
"I have always felt that all soldiers that have fallen in Afghanistan should receive it," he said. "It certainly means a great deal that this will be received."
Soldiers who commit suicide would receive the medal if the suicide is found to have been service-related, according to military officials hosting a media briefing Monday. Those officials abruptly ended the briefing after facing a third media question about the medal eligibility of suicides.
Ottawa isn't budging on the eligibility period, however. Only soldiers killed after Oct. 7, 2001 -- the start of Canada's formal involvement in Afghanistan -- will qualify for the medal.
Some former peacekeepers complained the medal's 2001 cut-off date excluded more than 100 Canadian peacekeepers who have been killed in operations around the world since 1948. Federal officials said the Canadian public and rank-and-file soldiers supported keeping the eligibility period in place.
"That is wrong," said James Sidel, a Victoria resident who served as a peacekeeper in Egypt in 1973. "If a person has forfeited his natural life expectancy in the aid of his country, recognition should still be there."
Veteran peacekeeper John Horvath disagrees. The medal should focus on those in Afghanistan for now, he said.
"We did our service, we had our day and we should not eat off the plate another," said Horvath of Howie Centre, N.S., who served four in Gaza tours in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The circular silver medal features an image of Queen Elizabeth II wearing a crown of alternating Maple Leafs and snowflakes. The other side of the medal displays a statue from the Canadian Vimy War Memorial and the word "Sacrifice."
-- Canwest News Service