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Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs


Proceedings of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Issue 3 - Evidence - November 30, 2011

OTTAWA, Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12:05 p.m. for a study of the services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces; veterans; members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families.

Senator Roméo Antonius Dallaire (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: The meeting is called to order. Hello, everyone. In a few minutes, all the members of the committee will be seated, but I'll take advantage of these few moments to say that at present our study is focused on veterans' transition to civilian life. After discussions with our guests today, we will explain to you how we will proceed next year to integrate what takes place with the Legion and the commissionaires to help veterans become independent in civilian life, as indicated in the new charter.


I will speak to the introduction of the details of that at the end, so I will need about five minutes then. We will now go right into today's session with regard to The Royal Canadian Legion and the avant-garde role, at times I think, it has taken on in relation to assisting veterans transitioning into civilian life. We hope to hear more about that.

We have with us today Ms. Andrea Siew, Dominion Command Service Bureau and navy intelligence; is that right?

Andrea Siew, Director of the Dominion Command Service Bureau, The Royal Canadian Legion: That is correct, sir.

The Chair: Also we have Mr. Bradley White, Dominion Secretary, under the Chair of the Dominion Command, and cavalry officer of the past. We will not hold that against him. I am sure we will see the cavalry in his presentation. I believe you have a short presentation.


Then we will initiate a series of questions for clarification.

Brad White, Dominion Secretary, The Royal Canadian Legion: Honourable senators, we will give our presentation in English, but you will find before you a copy of this presentation in both official languages.


It is, once again, a great pleasure to appear before your committee. I am the Dominion Secretary of the Royal Canadian Legion. With me today is Andrea Siew, my new director of the Dominion Command Service Bureau, on the retirement of Pierre Allard, who is retiring on January 6. We welcome Andrea into the process.

On behalf of our Dominion President, Comrade Patricia Varga, and the 342,000 members of The Royal Canadian Legion, we offer our support to your continuing advocacy on behalf of all veterans, including still-serving members of the Canadian Forces, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and, of course, their families. The Legion has been asked to discuss the programs, services and support that The Royal Canadian Legion offers our veterans and their families in their transition to civilian life.

The positive transition to life after release is essential for all Canadian Forces members, whether they be regular or reserve, the RCMP and, of course, their families, because that is an important aspect as well. The experience of life after release is different and unique for each veteran. Some voluntarily leave after a short period of service; some are single; some have young families; and some are in need of employment. Others retire after 30 or 35 years of service, with grown families and with very good financial security. Some members who retire are injured in service to their country and they must make this transition under difficult circumstances. Therefore, it is important that the Department of National Defence, Veterans Affairs Canada and the RCMP put in place complementary policies, practices and programs supported by a sustainable research program with the goal of enabling that healthy transition of all veterans and their families through this change in their life course.

A recent Veterans Affairs Canada Life after Service study that measured the health and determinants of health of former regular force personnel after release from service concluded that 62 per cent of Canadian Forces regular force veterans who released from service from 1998 to 2007 reported a fairly easy adjustment to post-military life. Twenty- five per cent reported a difficult adjustment to civilian life. That 25 per cent highlights that there is an urgent and unmet need, that some programs do not reach all veterans and that there is still more work to be done.

The Royal Canadian Legion has been delivering programs to veterans and their families since 1926. The Legion is an iconic cornerstone of Canadian communities, at the forefront of support for military and RCMP members and, very much so, for their families. Today, a new generation of veterans is coming home. Veterans and their families will continue to turn to the Legion for support in affordable housing, representation, benevolent assistance, career-transition counselling, trauma relief and recognition.

As the only national veterans service organization, the Legion, through its extensive infrastructure, with 1,500 branches across the country, offers a range of programs to all veterans, including still-serving members of the Canadian Forces, regular and reserve, members of the RCMP, and their families. First and foremost, we offer camaraderie in our branches. This past summer, to celebrate the completion of the combat mission in Afghanistan, Legion branches across the country honoured over 7,000 Canadian Forces members, regular and reserve, who served in Afghanistan and their families with a dinner, reception, gifts or a parade. This program continues.

To ensure camaraderie continues after service, the Legion offers a one-year free membership as part of the release process for all veterans. This is a new program, and already nearly 1,000 members have signed on. Membership offers veterans and their families the opportunity to volunteer to help other veterans, as part of the community building that is an important value of military culture. Some veterans simply want to support a veterans service organization through their membership contribution. However, there are many programs offered by Legion branches, supported by thousands of volunteers. These are core Legion programs for veterans, and membership is not a requirement to attain these programs.

Ms. Siew: The Legion's advocacy program is core to our mission. The Legion provides representation to assist veterans and their families with obtaining disability benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada. Disability entitlement is key to accessing other health benefits and services and financial compensation from Veterans Affairs. The Legion Service Bureau Network has over 1,500 branch service officers and 25 command service officers across the country. They provide representation from first application to Veterans Affairs Canada through to appeal and reconsideration to the Veterans Review and Appeal Board. Through legislation, the Legion has access to the members' service health records and departmental files to provide a comprehensive, yet fully independent, representation, at no cost to the veteran or their family, irrespective of Legion membership. We are an active participant in Veterans Affairs Canada's transformation agenda in the transition to electronic data transfer, as well as in streamlining new business processes.

Our benevolent assistance program provides financial grants to meet the essential needs of veterans and their families who have limited financial means. The program is available at all levels of the Legion and is accessible to veterans, including still-serving members, and their families. We also assist allied veterans living in North America with obtaining benevolent assistance from a variety of resources. Our network of service officers, at all levels of the Legion from coast to coast, coordinates grants with other agencies, including the Canadian Forces Military Families Fund, to ensure that the veterans' needs are met.

The Poppy Fund is available at the Legion across branches across the country to assist veterans and their families in need. For example, in Calgary, the Legion Poppy Fund supports a food bank for veterans. We also contribute to non- government-funded programs provided by the Military Family Resource Centres. At the Edmonton Military Family Resource Centre, the Poppy Fund supports the Children With Parents Who Have Experienced Trauma program.

The Legion also maintains an extensive outreach program to inform all veterans and their families about health promotion, independent living, community resources, and healthy lifestyles. This includes information for the needs of both men and women. The Legion has a presence at most of the Canadian Forces Integrated Personnel Support Centres, IPSCs, on each base to assist veterans and their families, as part of the transition process.

We offer information on our programs and on representation and financial assistance, as well as on other programs and initiatives.

The Legion has been engaged in assisting homeless veterans for many years. Through Poppy Funds, we can provide emergency assistance, housing, food, clothing, bus tickets, et cetera. Across Canada, Legion Provincial Commands are working closely with Veterans Affairs, shelters and community organizations to get veterans off the street and into transition programs. For example, in Victoria, Cockrell House, sponsored by the Legion, is a transition home for approximately 12 veterans. The success of this program is overwhelming. Veterans receive addiction counselling, education and skills training to transition back into the community. In Ontario, through the Leave the Streets Behind Program, Ontario Command works with Veterans Affairs Canada and with various shelters in downtown Toronto to provide transition assistance to homeless veterans. The Legion will continue to build on these programs as a framework for the Legion's national Homeless Veterans Program.

The Legion has a national affordable housing program for seniors and veterans. We have an inventory of over 7,000 units across the country, and this continues to grow. We provide an affordable option to veterans and their families.

Some of the unique programs that we have are the following: In Vancouver, the Legion has been a partner in the development of Honour House, which provides free interim accommodation for the families of Canadian Forces members, as well as those of ambulance, fire and law enforcement services, while the members are receiving care. Honour House is a place of refuge, where families may enjoy a degree of normal family life, despite the stress of their circumstances.

The impact that military service has on our sailors, soldiers and airmen and women often makes the transition back to civilian life challenging. The Legion in Alberta has partnered with Outward Bound Canada to offer a specialized program to bridge that gap for veterans. The program involves one-week wilderness courses designed to help participants build a supportive community with other veterans and facilitate discussions on readjustment and transition challenges.

The Veterans Transition Program, the only program of its kind in Canada, assists former members of the Canadian Forces in their transition to civilian life. This program was developed to address the invisible wounds of our soldiers so that they can function and have healthy relationships with their families, friends, at work and with themselves. This program was established in 1999 with funding from BC/Yukon Command. It is a group-based program facilitated by the University of British Columbia's Faculty of Medicine. It is free of charge to former members of the RCMP and the Canadian Forces. This program is expanding nationally and is planning to offer sessions uniquely for women.

The Legion in British Columbia has also partnered with the British Columbia Institute of Technology to deliver the Legion Military Skills Conversion Program to help accelerate and advance the civilian careers of former and current reserve and regular force members. This program offers fast-track education, with accreditation at BCIT, through credits for military experience and assistance with developing your own business and finding a job.

Last year, to better understand the experiences and issues of service women, the Legion hosted a seminar with Senator Lucie Pépin, which included women who had served from World War II through to today. They were from all three environments, married, single, with children and without, and were at different rank levels. Some had served, and some were still serving. This was an eye-opening experience. Women do have unique needs, and there needs to be more quantitative research to determine the lifelong effects of military service on women.

While the Legion continues to deliver many programs to veterans and their families, to ensure quality of life after release and ease the transition from service, more research is required to determine the effects of service unique to the Canadian military demographic and unique to Canadian operations. There is a lack of dedicated, independent research in Canada on military and veterans' health. The Legion is currently engaged with the evolving Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research to ensure that this capability is implemented.

Mr. White: Our plans for the future include expanding programs to ensure their sustainability and accessibility across the country. We will develop a formal partnership with the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, to ensure that Canada has a credible and independent military and veteran health research capacity. We do not currently have that in this country.

We will expand our outreach to our traditional veterans, who are often isolated at home due to limited mobility, and to our modern veterans, including members of the Canadian Forces, both regular and reserve, and their families. We are also embarking on modernization of our service bureau network to ensure continued effective service to all veterans and their families.

This is but a brief snapshot of some of the programs that the Legion provides to support the transition to life after service. The Legion has been delivering these programs to veterans and their families since 1926. The Legion is very proud of the work accomplished and all that has been done to assist all of these people.

Our programs will continue to evolve to meet the changing demographics while still supporting our traditional veteran community. However, notwithstanding the capacity of The Royal Canadian Legion, we certainly believe that the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada have a responsibility to ensure that policies, practices and programs, supported through a sustainable research program, are accessible and meet the unique needs of all veterans, with the goal of enabling the healthy transition of all veterans and their families through this very changing and sometimes difficult life course.

The Chair: Thank you very much. That was a very complete review of your programs. I will now open the floor. I usually like to let the co-chair have the first questions, so I will go to Senator Plett.

Senator Plett: I want to express my absolute support for the Legion and its work. However, I will pass along the first question to my colleague, Senator Manning. I am asking him to ask my question.

The Chair: With that unusual precedent, we will proceed.

Senator Manning: I did not need to jump the queue. We will all get our time to ask questions.

I would echo the comments of my colleague, Senator Plett, and congratulate the Legion for the work it does right across our country. I am very close to a couple of Legions in my own province of Newfoundland and Labrador. A very close friend, Eugene Breen, was once president of the Legion in Riverhead, St. Mary's Bay, Newfoundland. He passed away a year and a half ago. He certainly taught me many things about the Legion and the service they provide.

I would like to ask a couple of questions in relation to the lessons you have learned from your involvement with the Veterans Transition Program. As we have heard from witnesses from time to time, it seems difficult to return to civilian life, to adjust and to find employment opportunities and to settle back in, especially for those who have been part and parcel of some of the involvement our country has had in other parts of the world.

I understand you have been involved with that for some time. Could you give us an idea of the challenges you face with that? Is there something we could be furthering here to ensure that the work you do is supplemented in some way by our support?

Mr. White: The transition to life post-military is sometimes difficult. If someone has received an injury or is suffering from a mental health issue, it is compounded and even more difficult. The military programs a person one way, and, at the end of their service, they sometimes have to be deprogrammed to be able to reintegrate back into what people would consider a normal community. The military community is sometimes a community that is set aside by itself.

We have sponsored the Veterans Transition Program since 1999 in B.C. This program has been extremely valuable for people suffering with mental health issues. They learn a lot, but they have also learned that peer counselling really helps the process along. That is really the aim of the Veterans Transition Program at UBC: to bring the individuals in, teach them coping mechanisms as part of a peer group, and eventually train the individuals to be peer counsellors.

Tim Laidler is part of the program, and he is becoming one of their chief spokesmen. He is a simple soldier who is having difficulty transitioning through some of the issues he has. He has learned those coping mechanisms and is now able to help his peers. This is the type of program that we want to help transition across the country.

Ms. Siew: If I understand your question, it is about where we need to go with the program and the help that is required. It has been in implementation since 1999, which is a long time, and it is primarily focused in British Columbia through UBC. We want to expand it nationally. We have been seeking additional support for the particular program through Veterans Affairs Canada, and we need to expand it nationally to increase the number of courses that are available. It needs additional support from other government organizations, such as the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada.

Currently the program is offered to those who have released from the Canadian Forces, and it is a valuable transition program. It has incredible success stories. So far they have put over 200 veterans through the program. There are no group counselling programs like this for female veterans to get together to discuss their unique needs. The Legion is funding the program, but the costs will continue to grow as a national program. We believe the need nationally will increase because of the number of veterans we see facing challenges in the UBC transition program.

Both departments, Veterans Affairs and DND, have done a tremendous job in providing the practical transition, including how to get a job, where to go for your pension, the Second Career Assistance Network, but those are the administrative processes needed to become a civilian. When you join the military, you go through a cultural indoctrination to become a soldier, sailor, airman or airwoman, to do as you are told, to do the right thing for that military life. You are in a military community. You are looked after. It is unique.

When you are released, there is no process to transition you to say that the next day you do not have that military community looking after you. This is where this program is really important in helping individuals to transition, particularly those who have challenges.

Senator Manning: I personally believe that transition of our military is one of the biggest challenges we face today. Am I correct in hearing you say that the project that is available now, mostly in British Columbia, is funded solely by the Legion? If not, then how is it funded?

Mr. White: Right now it is funded solely by the Legion. We have been sponsoring it since 1999 out of our BC/Yukon Command on the West Coast.

Senator Manning: In order to expand nationally, as you plan — and I certainly support that notion wholeheartedly — you mention the need for extra financial assistance from either National Defence, Veterans Affairs, other government departments or agencies, whatever the case may be. What efforts have been made to involve other levels of government and the provinces? What are you doing to move it across the national stage?

Mr. White: At this stage, we are looking at it from our own national perspective as to how we want to transition this program and how much funding we are able to provide from the Legion to the program. We have also made the Minister of Veterans Affairs aware of the Veterans Transition Program by introducing it to Veterans Affairs. The program has also been introduced at the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, who have made a few presentations; so they will work within that network.

Similar to the health research network, the program is trying to bring together other universities to join this program. We are looking for a wide range of partnering to get this program in position so we can transition it across the country. It is a mobile program in that the individuals can be sent from B.C. to run seminars in local areas. That is what the overall aim will be as it spreads across the country and more people get involved. It will have that kind of transportability with partners to support and sponsor it.

Senator Manning: I would assume that you have had or are having conversations with National Defence and Veterans Affairs about being involved in the program across the country and assisting the Legion to deliver the program.

Mr. White: Currently, it is mostly focused with VAC. I do not think we have branched out to DND yet.

Senator Manning: Are you at liberty to tell us how those conversations are going at this time?

Mr. White: We have introduced the programs to Veterans Affairs Canada.

Senator Stratton: My questions revolve around these programs. I am always curious, when I hear about an association such as yours, to know whether you have links to other countries, such as Great Britain, Australia and the United States. They have legions as well, I am sure, that would have examples of what they do for their veterans. Do you have such links so that you are able to talk to those folks to get an idea of what they provide to their veterans and what programs they need?

Mr. White: Canada is a founding member of the Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League RCEL. We are in constant communications with members of the RCEL around the world, in particular the other founding nations of Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Great Britain. We meet every year to discuss veterans' issues. The Veterans Transition Program is trying to get into the University of Queensland in Australia to make a presentation on the program and how it could be used to assist Australian veterans. We are in contact with our fraternal associations through the RCEL. We also support all of the Commonwealth veterans in the Caribbean through the RCEL. We exchange a lot of information.

The one organization we are not connected to directly is The American Legion, which is a huge organization. We have established some fairly good contacts and are hoping that if we need information, we will be able to get it through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the legion.

Senator Stratton: I am interested in the fact that you have all these links, which is wonderful. I was aware of the RCEL, but I was a little concerned that you were not linked with the United States because they have a huge program, as you know.

Have you learned anything from those other countries that indicates they are ahead of us? Could we benefit from their experience and knowledge and bring something forward to this table? It is important that we have a clear understanding of what is happening across the board in all these countries.

Mr. White: I would say that Canada has a fairly well developed system to look after our veterans. We have transported that system to places like Australia and New Zealand. Through the exchange of information, we have been fairly successful.

As a primary example, two years ago we learned that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had accepted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis as a benefit symptom for their veterans. A complete research study by them produced the causal effects of military service and the preponderance of people with ALS to show that it was higher with people who had served in the military, given the environment and stressful conditions. We took that to our government through VAC. We brought the study and asked them to have a look at it. Unfortunately, that was not successful. We worked through the ALS Society of Canada to push forward the issue on ALS. Last year, ALS was recognized as a benefit symptom.

That is the type of work we try to do; we try to bring together the information that is out there, share that information not only with the legions but also with other veterans associations. We run a consultation group every October with all the veterans associations to try to bring all that information together and use it to advocate on behalf of veterans and change some of the situations.

Senator Stratton: How would Canada measure up as compared to these other countries, if you were grading us? It is critical that we know where we are relative to these other countries.

Mr. White: Relative to other countries, we are all in the same boat at this stage in the game. We are experiencing new things. We are discovering new things. We are recognizing PTSD, which was never done before; it was hidden away to the side. We still do not have the needed research in all of the countries that will tell us where we will go down the road and how we will transition. In terms of the latent effects of some of the conditions that will come forward after we finish our job internationally, we do not know when they will come forward. We have to be out there and ready to evolve and go forward.

Canada is doing very well at that. People knock the New Veterans Charter, but it has brought in a new sense of assisting a veteran to ensure that they are looked after as best we can to make them part of the community again. The NVC looks at the whole wellness of the individual, not just symptomatically from one condition to the next. Canada is doing well, but all veterans associations are still vigilant to ensure that we bring to the government those issues that must be changed.

On a par of one to the others, it would be difficult for me to give you a rating. We do a fairly good job, and we need to continue to do so and improve as we evolve to find out new things as they happen.

Senator Day: I notice two things from your presentation. One is the reliance on the Poppy Fund and the other is how many of your programs seem to have been initiated in British Columbia. Could you comment on each of those? Why are the programs out in B.C.? Do they raise more money from the Poppy Fund? How is it administrated?

Mr. White: The Poppy Fund is the result of the annual Poppy Campaign conducted by the legion branches from the last Friday in October through to Remembrance Day. That fund is a sacred trust with Canadians. It is held nationally, provincially and locally. Funds collected at legion branches through the offerings of poppies to the general public are kept at the branch level. If there is a veteran at a branch who needs assistance, all he has to do is go into his branch and ask for that assistance. The poppy committee at the branch is there to assist him. We hold funds provincially, and I hold funds nationally as well.

The monies collected through the Poppy Campaign are held specifically to support our veterans and their families. They do not go into the general ledger of the branches; they are not held that way. They are kept separately because that fund is designed specifically to assist veterans, ex-service people and their families. That is solely what those funds are designed to be used for.

Senator Day: How would you get funds nationally?

Mr. White: Through the distribution of wreaths and poppies. We coordinate the distribution of wreaths and poppies nationally with our supplier, Dominion Regalia, in Toronto.

Senator Day: For a local branch that promotes Remembrance Week and collects funds from poppies that they distribute, do you get a fee for providing the poppies to them?

Mr. White: No, they have to purchase those poppies from the central supplier. They purchase them at a certain level through their provincial command and then they distribute the poppies for donations from Canadians.

Senator Day: Does the supplier then provide you with some money?

Mr. White: No.

Senator Day: Do you do a national fundraising campaign?

Mr. White: No, we do not do it on a national level. From the distribution and sale of the poppies down through the provincial level, there is a fee in there for us.

Senator Day: That is where the funds come back to you.

Mr. White: Yes. On your second question about B.C. and Yukon, I guess it is typical if you live on that other side of the mountain range. We make fun of it all the time. BC/Yukon Command has been very progressive in how they are handling some of the veterans' issues and some of the programs they have brought forward.

The Veterans Transition Program is a good example of it. Cockrell House is another good example of the types of programs that they have instituted out there through their military community committee to support the military and the military families.

Now we are trying to take some of that programming and move it nationally. It has taken a while, but every individual is proud of the accomplishments they have made, and now we have to spread that sort of wealth across the country.

Senator Day: There are at least two programs that you referred to that you are hoping to spread nationwide that have started in British Columbia. What is holding you up — is it funding? Is that what you need in order to do that?

Mr. White: Every command we have — each is aligned generally on provincial boundaries — has different resources. B.C. and Ontario have good resources. Predominantly, that is where a lot of our membership is, in Ontario and B.C. They have resources to be able to commit to some of these types of programs.

What we are looking at from a national perspective is how we can assist in resourcing some of these programs. That is what we are looking at right now.

Senator Day: I hope you do find the funds to do this, because these programs sound like they are very complementary to other programs that Veterans Affairs, Canadian Forces and National Defence are doing. The Legion has always played a very important role in support of veterans. If these programs have been successful, which they clearly have been in British Columbia, we should do what we can to help you introduce them in the rest of the country.

Have you had discussions with Veterans Affairs and National Defence? Is that part of the ongoing efforts?

Mr. White: It is part of the ongoing, particularly with the Veterans Transition Program. The program out of Alberta with Outward Bound seems to be working fairly well and we are monitoring how that is going.

Senator Day: That one intrigued me because military people are already well trained in Outward Bound-type activities. Why would you be involved in that?

Mr. White: It is putting people together with like conditions.

Ms. Siew: It is something they like to do. They are comfortable in that environment.

Mr. White: It is also comfortable to take them out of uniform, to allow them to do it out of uniform so they do not feel any of the constraints that they may have felt in uniform when they have rank up. It is nice to get out of rank every once in a while and go into these programs and just be a person. That is what the Outward Bound program does.

The other really good program that we hope will be spread nationally is the one being sponsored out of Ontario — particularly in Toronto right now — with the Homeless Veterans Program. That is an excellent program. To date, they have probably coordinated with about four shelters in Toronto. There is a Veterans Affairs case manager who has been assigned down there as well.

What they are doing is coordinating resources, instead of infrastructure, to ensure they are going into the shelters and having the veterans identify themselves. A large issue is to ensure that they do self-identify and that they come forward for some of the assistance. At times they are reluctant to do so.

Then they are offering them the services of either a place to get better, or a place to get assistance, clothing, and all the other things we can offer them, including the counselling they need to start to take back control of their lives.

Senator Day: Did you have any dealings with the Veterans Ombudsman with respect to this particular aspect? That was one of his reports — that there were a good number of veterans who were on the street, homeless, and needing some help.

Mr. White: No, we did not.

Senator Day: That was one of the challenges there.

The other item I wanted to ask you both, and then I will go on second round, if I could, is that we have learned through other committees that Veterans Affairs Canada will be reducing the amount of funds they have available by $232 million over the next few years. That is because they are saying that they do not need as much money to service the veterans to the same extent because a lot of them are aging, but there are a lot of new veterans coming along under the New Veterans Charter.

Have you had some discussions in that regard, and what is your role with respect to the new veterans?

Mr. White: I will speak to the issue of the funding, and then Ms. Siew can speak to what we are doing for newer veterans.

People are playing with numbers between $220 million and $230 million. It is an issue of demographics. The veteran population is declining. We understand that these are statutory funds, that if they are needed and the demographics prove wrong, then the funds will be there to ensure that the programs, as legislated programs, will be there to support the veterans. We fully understand that.

We do also believe that if there are surplus funds, why not turn them over to other programs that have maybe been held in abeyance or some of the new programs that might be out there to assist not only the older veterans, but some of the newer ones as well? If Canada has committed that money to support our veterans, then why not use it to support our veterans? If it can be evolved, rolled over into different programming, I do not think you would have anyone at the Legion standing up and saying do not do that.

Ms. Siew: I think Veterans Affairs needs to proceed very cautiously with their plans and priorities with the estimates for the decreased funding as a result of the changing demographics. We do not know what the long-term impact will be with the Canadian Forces veteran in terms of how that client will evolve or if there will be increased numbers as a result of the number of deployments we have done over the last 20 years. We do not know that yet.

What we do know is that we have Canadian Forces still serving and veterans in communities across the country. Veterans Affairs must ensure that they have the staffing levels, so that the storefront where the veteran approaches us for services is not a 1-800 number, that it can answer the questions.

Sometimes the veterans or their family do not know what questions to ask. If you are calling in to a line that has a list of answers, depending on which question the veterans ask, my comment is sometimes they do not know which question to ask. If they ask the wrong question, they will not get the answer they are looking for or the help they need.

As Veterans Affairs are looking at cutting staff, they also have to ensure they have the right staff in the right places — on bases, in the Integrated Personnel Support Centres where the veteran is transitioning out of the Canadian Forces, where they need the care.

Within the last year, Veterans Affairs has hired 25 new case managers across the country. That is not a lot of case managers to meet the complex needs of the Canadian Forces veteran. I know that on some bases, they are not seeing case managers until they have a release message in their hand.

Sometimes there is a long time between when you know you will be released with a medical category until the time you get your release. You are in limbo, wondering what services are available and where you need to go for help.

The services and the resource need to be available at the IPSCs. They still need to be available at the district offices. The staffing levels of case managers, area counsellors and disability benefit officers are still very important. Yes, there is a declining demographic with the traditional veteran, but the Canadian Forces veterans need to have the services available where they need them.

Mr. White: We are also finding that veterans who are releasing do not know what they are entitled to and are not being told what they are entitled to from case managers. That is a real problem. If they are going in to see someone who is supposed to be counselling them on what is available to them in their programs, they should get the gamut of programming and benefits available to them explained to them, instead of maybe just symptomatic issues. That is a big issue; case managers do have to explain the complete availability of programs to the individuals as they are counselling them.

The Chair: You, by legislation, have a responsibility for advocacy. I put it that way. I know that 15 to 20 per cent of cases go through you or make their way back to you. I am wondering why, unless you have seen the new demands, and we are looking at the transition program that you have initiated. We also look at the Legion Military Skills Conversion Program for reservists through the B.C. Institute of Technology. Why not give you more responsibilities than under legislation to advance those programs versus them purely being handled by Veterans Affairs Canada? Why not give you that mandate and have you pursue it?

The second angle to that is, who are these people who are doing it? What are the qualifications of those who are in the transition mode? Why are they linked to universities? What is your link with industry to make that work?

Mr. White: We are a not-for-profit organization, a volunteer organization. Our monies are raised by our members. We are a members' dues-based organization. We would love to be able to expand our programming, but we are hindered by the amount of money that we have from dues and the amount of money we can raise. If we had the financing, we would also love to be an advocate and be independent. I tend to look at the corporate one card that says we do not want to have the hands in our pocket. We would love to have the independence as an organization so that we can go to government and not be hindered by any of the programs we may be assisting government with or having government funding coming to us. There is an issue there. We want to maintain our independence, and we want to have some very fulfilling programs to use and transition and involve, to be able to assist the range of veteran out there, from World War II veterans all the way through to those coming home from Afghanistan and Libya.

We need to maintain our independence. We need to raise funds to do it. We also need to advocate to the government and say, "Maybe it is your responsibility, government, to be providing those programs to these individuals. They served the country." There is a responsibility of the government to make sure they look at the programs, conduct the research needed to justify the programs, and then have the programs implemented on behalf of the individuals.

We do not know where the programs will evolve to. We know how we can evolve our programs, but through our first application process, and what Ms. Siew does with the service bureau, we are seeing more and more modern veterans, if you want to call them that, than we are the other veterans. We are assisting first applications of more and more modern veterans than we ever have before. We are busier than we have ever been before.

We are also getting some of the older veterans coming back and saying, "I think I have been suffering from this all these years," particularly some older veterans who have been suffering through PTSD; now that it is out in the open and public and acceptable to discuss it, they are coming forward and saying they need assistance as well. Their families are bringing those veterans forward and saying, "Our family has suffered all these years from that time, and we really do need some assistance."

The Chair: You are answering that you do not need more legislation, you want more independence, but you need independent funding to support you and you have to find a way to do that, including more members from the Canadian Forces or veterans to be part of the Legion and increase your recruitment base.

The second part of the question is the actual structure of that institute and the transition program. Who are these people who are doing that?

Mr. White: It is Dr. Marv Westwood and Dr. David Kuhl, who are in the psychology research environment at UBC. They were approached many years ago, before 1999, to look at some of the issues of transitioning people and to talk about PTSD. I met them two years ago when I was in B.C. They are two very dedicated and involved individuals. The program is sponsored through them at UBC, so UBC is the house for it right now.

The Chair: Is funding part of it?

Mr. White: No, we do the funding ourselves from the Legion.

The Chair: Can we say that that has been a pilot program that is mature enough now to be expanded across the country?

Ms. Siew: I would not say it is a pilot project. I would say it is a project that developed out of British Columbia, and there is a need now to expand it across the country.

The Chair: It is mature enough to do it?

Ms. Siew: Absolutely.

Mr. White: Absolutely.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Senator Plett: I want to again express my appreciation for what you do. Congratulations to British Columbia and the Yukon. Clearly, we need to move some of that east and get some of the expertise that the people in British Columbia have in developing these programs.

You answered my first question in part, but I do want to ask the question, and I want you to elaborate a little bit on it. You said that many of the older vets are now coming back, people who say they have had PTSD for all these years when people did not want to talk about it, and it is now becoming more open and people can.

Is your homelessness problem also larger now with the new veterans than it has been? What is the demographic of the veterans who are homeless? Is it the older vets or the newer ones?

Mr. White: I could not give you exact numbers on the demographics of the homeless program. We have probably assisted over 70 people to this stage in the game. From my very brief knowledge of what the program is all about, I am not sure we are seeing older veterans in the program, but we are seeing people who have served in Bosnia, in some of our more modern-day deployments, Rwanda, everywhere. They span in age, from what I have been told, anywhere from their fifties down through to their thirties. That is the demographic we are looking at right now. There will be others out there.

Senator Plett: Is the PTSD a large reason for the homelessness, or is it people who just did not have high education who are coming out of the military and cannot find work?

Mr. White: There is really a mix of it all. PTSD is definitely there, because that does have some issues about how individuals are able to cope with certain circumstances. I could not identify a number for you that would say such-and- such a percentage is due to PTSD. An older veteran's family sent us a letter and said, "Thank you very much for helping my father because we have been suffering for this long with him in this condition. We have never had a name to put to it or an explanation."

I still maintain that the Legion was the first PTSD treatment centre in the country, starting in World War I, where individuals gathered together as comrades and when people were suffering the effects of shell shock, PTSD, whatever it was called in those days, they took them into the Legion branch and they self-medicated. They looked after individuals until they were ready to come back out on the street.

My grandfather did that for people who were in his battalion in Dieppe. They looked after each other in the Legion because there was nothing else in the community that was able to assist them.

It was not a badge of honour. It was a badge of shame. Now it is open and acceptable. I think the Legion has been there for quite a while on PTSD.

Senator Plett: We are celebrating and were just given lapel pins. Thank you for them. I am not sure where they came from.

Ms. Siew: They are from Mr. White.

Senator Plett: I have put it on and will wear it proudly. Since we are celebrating 70 years of service of women in the military, tell me, with some of the issues that you folks deal with that we have already been discussing, is that largely men? Do you see the same type of mixture in women coming back with some of these issues that you need to assist as well?

Ms. Siew: With regards to women, we are seeing both. Women are coming back with post-traumatic stress disorder and with depression. We are absolutely still seeing operational stress injuries. It is about 10 per cent of the total veteran population that are female and have self-identified, which is consistent with the number of women in the Canadian Forces.

We do not have any research or knowledge base on the understanding of what issues affect women's health that is related to their military service. No studies are being done in terms of the stress that males endure during their military service, as well as women. We know women typically are mothers. Of course, the wife does all that work and has responsibilities in the majority of households in Canada. Yet they serve their country, deploy and work in a non- traditional environment. Still, it is 11 per cent of women who are serving in the Canadian Forces and has been since I joined in 1983. It has not changed. There are very few senior female officers. You are working in a very male- dominated environment, and there are unique stresses associated with that. There has been no research to determine the effects of that.

Mr. White: Senator Pépin came to the Legion and asked us to host a meeting where Ms. Siew was involved. It was an eye-opener for us all to listen to comments from the meeting. Some of the issues we had not, from our male- dominated environment, considered or even thought about. It was a good eye-opener for us to think we need to look down the road at some of these issues.

Ms. Siew: I served 28 years in the Canadian Forces. I sat around the table and was the moderator. I was really surprised. We had a WWII veteran and women who were still serving — from a corporal right through to naval captain — making comments regarding equipment that did not fit right. Women just wore that equipment because they had to. It did not matter how much it hurt, and that should not be there. Then they have these injuries and disabilities. How does that translate to the future and to the musculoskeletal conditions that will develop later on. There was abuse of authority for young women. If you are 22 years of age, you will just stand there, listen to the comments and take it. Some will not. Some will just leave and say, "The Canadian Forces is not for me."

I had my career. It was a wonderful career. However to sit around a table — and consistently every woman that was there that had the same comment — I was shocked. I think Mr. White was shocked as well.

Not to criticize the Canadian Forces, but I think the research needs to be done to see what the impact is. It is not anecdotal or qualitative. It needs to be quantitative so it is credible and valuable so that we can develop the programs to move forward.

Senator Plett: Thank you, and keep up the good work.

The Chair: I want to remind you that we did mandate Senator Pépin to look at women veterans. Contrary even to the Americans, we have them in infantry battalions, artillery regiments and so on, which they do not have, except some artillery. She studied that, and we will have to look at that again. She was the first one to tell us that there are women veterans now in combat and the impact of that. We will follow up on that.

Senator Day: I have two questions. First, tell me who the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research is.

Mr. White: It is a group started by Brigadier-General William Richard (Ret'd) out of Queen's University and RMC in Kingston. They have come together and are working to put together a research institute that will look at issues for veterans and serving military. We do not have an institute like that. They are trying to bring in all the other universities across Canada. It has been happening for the last two and a half years. They just had their forum, and Senator Dallaire was there. Ms. Siew was there as well.

Senator Day: I did not know the name, but I was aware of the activity.

Ms. Siew: Twenty-two universities have signed MOUs and partnered with this organization.

Senator Day: Our chair just made a statement in the Senate on that a couple of days ago.

I would like to expand. You said with respect to homelessness, you had no contact with the Veterans Ombudsman. On an ongoing basis, do you deal with the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman and the National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman's office?

Mr. White: We have contact with both. The homeless project in Toronto was not created because of the ombudsman's office. It was created because there was a need in Toronto. The people in Toronto looked at it and said, "We need to do something about this." They moved forward to get it done. We have good contact with both the Veterans ombudsman and Canadian Forces Ombudsman. We share information, talk, have agreements and, at times, disagreements on issues. However, we do discuss the things we are concerned about. Mr. Parent was actually part of our veterans consultation group. He attended at the end of October and it was a pleasure to have him there. He could listen to what the other 15 or 17 groups in the room were talking about. It is a good information-sharing process.

Senator Day: Thank you. I am glad to hear that.

Senator Stratton: I golf with an 80-year-old veteran from the U.S. forces who fought in Korea. How many older vets are we losing each year? He is 80 and he still plays golf. We have to be losing significant numbers of them.

Ms. Siew: I do not know what the exact number is, but it is a large number. I have heard 15,000 a year.

The Chair: There is an estimate from Veterans Affairs of close to 2,000 a month.

Senator Stratton: That is 24,000 a year. Thank you.

The Chair: Thank you. As chair, I would like to bring conclusion and request the following for our work: We need the details of your transition program, its status, and structure and probably the report you have. We cannot bring in the professors, but we want to know the nuts and bolts of it.

You also mentioned research, certainly on women's matters and the institute for mental health. If you have a listing of other research areas that should be launched for veterans, we would be very keen on that. Although VAC has a research capability, it may not be as versant as your area. I am not asking for something sophisticated, but for point forms of areas.

I am surprised that you do not have a much tighter link with the U.S. legion. I hope you could tell us either why or how you plan to do that. Although we are on side with the British and the Australians, we are North American, and there might be an angle we are not maximizing in Canada as they might be down there. We would appreciate if you would provide us with that feedback.

With that, thank you very much for being so clear and concise. Thank you for your handout as well. It is an excellent reference for us, as is the other work you are doing. There must be a way to increase not only the recruitment of new veterans but also your funding. I hope many of these other things, such as true patriot love, might be keeping you in their crosshairs to support into the future. Thank you very much.

Just to conclude, honourable senators, as you are aware — I will read it to ensure I have the right words — the committee has an order of reference that enables it to study different services and benefits provided to veterans and also allows it to study other fields related to veterans. Since the return of Parliament in October, Senator Plett and I have been discussing a way to encompass the different areas of our mandate in one focus study.

Senator Plett has suggested a study, and together, with the help of our analysts, we have developed a new work plan for this study. The study is entitled Transition to Civilian Life of Veterans. We are still in discussion about the family dimension of that, between what the Veterans Charter says for spouses who are replacing veterans for those veterans who cannot be retrained. We will not need to receive a new order of reference in the Senate, so we will be able to move forward.

We believe it is an essential focus, and we will commit resources into the New Year, as we will integrate the work we have already completed with the commissionaires, today with the Legion, the civil servants that appeared last week and with DND and VAC representatives who will be appearing in two weeks' time.

The steering committee will then do a final review of it. We will then send it to you for comment, and then we will approve it hopefully by December 14 in order to bring in what we have completed so far and structure future witnesses to implement this program, which I believe will probably carry us through most of the next session.

With that, thank you very much for being here. Thank you to the witnesses for their presentations and answers.

(The committee adjourned.)

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