Film uncovers isolation felt by soldiers’ spouses while raising family alone



Photo courtesy of Lucie Laliberte


Retired air force Maj. Larry Richardson and Lucie Laliberte hold their wedding photo at their home yesterday. Richardson, who graduated from now-closed Royal Roads Military College in Victoria, stood by his wife when she started a support organization for spouses of military members.


“How do I choose between the man I love and the life that I don’t?”

It can be a lonely life, that of a Canadian military wife.

They dutifully wait for their husbands when they’re deployed, their friendships are interrupted every two to three years when they’re moved to other bases, and career ambitions are often unfulfilled.

Lucie Laliberte, 58, was a military wife for 27 years. Her husband attended the now-closed Royal Roads Military College in Victoria and the two lived at CFB Esquimalt, on Vancouver Island in the 1970s.

“You’re young, you’re raising your family and you have to give up your jobs frequently,” she said yesterday. “I only had a Grade 13 education (from Ontario) and I knew we’d be moving soon, so I couldn’t start anything. I ended up underemployed.”

Laliberte said she lived “on the hill with all the navy wives.” Their husbands were gone for six months at a time. “I know that almost every single one of them was taking antidepressants,” she said. “I wasn’t yet.”

In 1986, Laliberte returned to school at age 37 and became a lawyer. Today, she lives with her husband in St. Catharines, Ont. She shares her experiences in a National Film Board documentary called Les Epouses De L’armee (Military Wives). It debuts later this month in Montreal.

Filmmaker Claire Corriveau was also a military wife for 20 years until her husband retired. Filming the documentary helped her make sense of her life, she said.

“How do I choose between the man I love and the life that I don’t?” She asked. “I learned to become numb.”

In 2003, while living in Winnipeg and with her husband deployed to the Persian Gulf, Corriveau sought out other military wives who wanted to share their story. The response was overwhelming.

“This film provided me a good way to understand what I was going through. I really hope that it will do the same for other women,” she said.