Private Jess Larochelle has yet to receive an upgrade in military honours to the Canadian Victoria Cross but the ailing Restoule, Ont., resident has the support of thousands and the backing of Valour in the Presence of the Enemy, a non-profit formed to educate Canadians about the country's proud military heritage — and particularly — honour soldiers whose heroism has been overlooked.
"Let us be clear, Jess is sick. His health is deteriorating and time is of the essence," Valour in the Presence of the Enemy shares. "In July, the official government response to Petition E3636 put out by MP Brian May was 290 words and not one of them mentions Jess Larochelle by name. This kind of callousness is unacceptable and not indicative of the values of Canada."
Despite this summer's setback, the battle continues.
An email campaign open to the public and organized by Valour in the Presence of the Enemy touting the actions of Larochelle and 27 other Canadian military veterans — and their worthiness to be honoured with the Canadian Victoria Cross — is now being directed to the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament, the Minister of Defence, and the Minister of Veterans Affairs.
In June, a unanimous consent motion to that effect brought forward by Conservative MP Erin O'Toole received support from all parties except the Liberal Party of Canada and was defeated.
"We are greatly disappointed that such a cause would be denied," despite receiving indications of support across party lines, writes Valour in the Presence of the Enemy in a statement.
Following that vote, Nipissing—Timiskaming MP Anthony Rota explained in late June, "I did follow-up with the Minister of Defence, as well as Erin O'Toole. There was just a chain of events that caused it to be turned down. First of all, it got brought forward as a unanimous consent motion. If you look at their history, they don't often get accepted. It was a very long and well-thought-out plan and I have to give Erin O'Toole credit. But, it came up almost at the last minute...It was more the process."
Canadian Army infantry soldier Larochelle's actions while serving in Afghanistan over 15 years ago with the First Battalion of The Royal Canadian Regiment led to the year-long campaign to have the Star of Military Valour he received then upgraded to Canada’s highest military honour, the Canadian Victoria Cross.
Larochelle's ongoing and debilitating health issues are related to the injuries he suffered during the 2006 firefight in Afghanistan.
NDP MP Niki Ashton sponsored the petition that garnered more than 14,000 signatures in support and motions of support were passed by various municipalities.
Captain (retired) Mike Harrison, an Afghanistan War veteran and local brewer has advocated tirelessly on Larochelle's behalf through Valour in the Presence of the Enemy. High-ranking members of the military, including General (retired) Rick Hillier, have endorsed the quest for the Canadian Victoria Cross. See Hillier's interview with Larochelle below.
Valour in the Presence of the Enemy is calling for a Private Member's Bill to direct an independent review, beginning with Larochelle's case and the 27 other Canadian military heroes dating back to World War I the group has identified. The group says some of those soldiers "were denied immortality for their Race, Religious Beliefs and Gender. Others were not properly recognized for the stigma of Mental Health. We need to rectify these shortcomings so as to truly reconcile with our past. These soldiers gave all, and the least we can do is properly recognize them."