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Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs


Proceedings of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

Issue 9 - Evidence - December 5, 2012

OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12:06 p.m. for its study on the services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces; to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families (topic: Transition to Civilian Life).

Senator Roméo Antonius Dallaire (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: Honourable senators, I call this Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs to order. This is our final meeting on the study on the services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces; to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families, and whose specific topic is the transition to civilian life.


Today, we have our last witness in the panoply of witnesses we have had in the last months in studying this transition to civilian life. We are most pleased that a non-governmental organization, or NGO, like Wounded Warriors is here today. We have Philip Ralph, Secretary and Program Director, who is obviously the operator in this, and we also have Wayne Johnston, CD, Founder and Fundraising Chair, to cover that part.

Thank you, gentlemen, for responding to our invitation. We have a half an hour, as we indicated previously, in which we hope you will give us enough time for pertinent questions on your program.

If you would, please commence.

Philip Ralph, Secretary and Program Director, Wounded Warriors: Mr. Chair and members of the committee, on behalf of, we are truly honoured to have been invited to appear before this committee and to be part of the important discussion on the transition of Canadian veterans to civilian life.

We would like to thank the chair, who has long been respected as a champion for mental health of veterans, an issue that is very near and dear to the hearts of our charity.

As the chair has indicated, my name is Philip Ralph, and I am the secretary and program director of; I oversee the implementation of our robust and exciting slate of programming that benefits Canadian veterans.

By way of background, I currently serve our nation as the Regimental Chaplain to the 32 Combat Engineer Regiment in Toronto, a position I have held for just over two decades. In that capacity, I have been exposed to the challenges that are before today's veterans. In my spare time, I serve as a full-time pastor at a church of a busy congregation.

I am pleased to have Mr. Johnston, the founder of, present with me today. He has over four decades of service in the Canadian Forces, having served as an assisting officer to a wounded soldier, and he is most widely known as the repatriation officer for the fallen from Afghanistan, which is arguably one of the most emotionally stressful tasks that can befall any officer in the Canadian Forces.

Also, behind me is the executive director of our charity, Scott Maxwell. was founded in 2006 and is a non-profit charitable organization that helps Canadian Forces members, be they full-time or reservists, who have been wounded or injured in their service to Canada. We help find solutions for current and former members of the Canadian Forces where gaps have left them in need. While providing programs to all members of the Canadian Forces who have been wounded or injured, our primary focus is on reservists' mental health. Our secondary focus is on physical health support, and our tertiary focus is on life skills development for all members of the Canadian Forces who have been wounded or injured.

From our initial and continuing project of establishing a comfort fund for wounded warriors recuperating in hospital in Germany, to scores of individual support projects, the establishment of a Hand Up program, outreach programs to homeless veterans and current initiatives to address the explosion of operational-related stress injuries, we are committed to assisting and advocating for these Canadian heroes.

As our charity continues to grow and expand nationwide, so too has our programming and partnerships. In particular, 2012 has been an extremely robust year for Under the umbrella of our All the Way Home program, we took 20 Canadian Forces members battling with mental health on the Big Battlefield Bike Ride 2012 through the battlefields of France and Belgium. We hosted 80 reserve members at our Blue Mountain retreat and hosted more than a hundred Canadian and American soldiers injured serving their nations for a weekend of camaraderie and mental healing in Nipawin, Saskatchewan.

We renewed our funding for 2013 to the Vancouver homeless veterans program. This is in addition to the previously provided $31,000 to this project, and $45,000 previously committed to the Montreal VAC homeless outreach program. We have provided funding to OSISS peer support requests, provided a $100,000 grant to the University of British Columbia to expand their veterans transition program, and last Friday we were pleased to announce funding to support MSAR elite service dogs and their program of providing specially trained dogs to veterans suffering with PTSD, as featured recently on CTV's W5. I understand that this committee will hear from this organization some time this week.

Much of our work, as our program highlights, is targeted towards ensuring our returning veterans suffering from a range of personal health and financial issues are supported in their transition to civilian life. We can provide many concrete examples of this, but on the way up today we received a phone call from one such individual who came on our bike ride, has now begun his training, has been accepted into training as a carpenter, and this morning on the way up we committed to providing tools for him to be able to do that — a concrete example of the types of programs we have.

The unique circumstances of military services, coupled with personal and environmental factors, affect and shape members of the Canadian Forces. It is obvious to all of us that everyone is affected by the world they interact with. When members of the Canadian Forces return home, they are changed by their services. For some, these changes are as obvious as the physical scars they bear. Some have learned to appreciate life all the more. For others, the scars are invisible. In some ways, it is as if they have left part of themselves over there. Friends and loved ones of these members affected by operational stress injuries often remark that the person who has returned is not the same person who deployed. The goal of our Wounded Warriors All the Way Home program is to empower members suffering from operational stress injuries and related conditions to return home in a holistic manner, psychologically, physically, financially and spiritually.

Those affected by operational stress injuries face a number of obstacles and challenges on their road to recovery and transition to civilian life. Within the Canadian Forces community, the challenges are particularly daunting for members of the primary reserve. They are the most vulnerable and often the most forgotten sufferers. Working in conjunction with those who provide care to Canadian Forces members, including Canadian Forces Health Services, OSISS, unit chaplains, DCSM and other interested partners, seeks to encourage members to avail themselves of the programs and services that are in place while providing a healthy environment to assist in their recovery.

Last Tuesday, Mr. Johnston and I were among those privileged to hear Senator Dallaire address the Canadian Military and Veteran Health Research Forum in Kingston. Senator Dallaire spoke out urging the nation not to allow the downloading of the unique needs of veterans and their families to get lost in the provincial system. We as a nation have a responsibility to care for those who have placed themselves in harm's way for our country and our security.

The often unspoken reality is that the members of the primary reserve, whom Canadian Forces leadership have spoken to as being essential to their ability to accomplish their mission, return home with little support that is requisite to managing their transition to civilian life.

Those who are providing 30 per cent of the effective deployed forces return to civilian society ill-equipped to appreciate, recognize or deal with their needs. Further, should they seek access to the programs that are already in place, they often feel abandoned due to the realities of time and space coupled with the pressures of trying to provide for themselves and their families.

What is more, members of the primary reserve face the real risk of losing their civilian jobs due to the injuries relating from their service. This is particularly true with respect to mental health injuries. In addition to this, they face a real challenge should they wish to get on the reserve force compensation, commonly known as "dis comp," when a mental health issue manifests itself after their final 30 days of Class C service post-deployment.

Financial stability is a very important aspect of a veteran's ability or inability to properly transition to civilian life. Honourable senators, we know that financial security often goes hand in hand with health care and well-being. The CF has a moral obligation to ensure that the injured member can look after his or her family financially. Finally, there is a real lack of family care benefits when on reserve force compensation. Unlike their regular force counterparts, reservist families have no health care benefits, nor can they get them by paying into the civil service health care plan. This continues to cause real angst and great pressure on the families. characterizes these issues and many more that I have raised thus far as gaps, both in services and in programs, which our veterans face each and every day. It is directly as a result of these gaps that we exist as a charity, and most unfortunately the demand for our assistance is very real today. As we look forward to 2013, we are well on our way to planning for the Big Battlefield Bike Ride 2013, which will go from Paris to London, a proposed horseback adventure and other initiatives while working collaboratively with those who seek to improve the lives of veterans and their families.

From our day-to-day interaction with our veterans and their families, we would be remiss if we did not offer some practical suggestions as to what CF and VAC could do to better address the needs that exist on the ground. For example, address the long administrative delays as people wait for awards and compensation. SISIP benefits need to be broader in their coverage definitions, particularly in the area of education, in terms of both programs offered and duration covered. Improve retraining and education by providing tools such as laptops and related tools for their chosen trade to enable them to complete their education and to transition successfully to civilian life.

In closing, and on a personal note, a great dear and old friend of mine, Colonel the Honourable William Kelly, served this upper house for many years and was a former member of this committee, a wonderful man whose personal friendship I cherish. I believe he would be particularly pleased to know that this committee is continuing to look after the needs of our veterans.

We thank the committee for their invitation and wish you every success as you work on behalf of our veterans. We remain at your disposal should you have any questions, particularly regarding veterans' stories, our programs and our fundraising initiatives.

The Chair: Thank you for staying in the timeline we discussed. That is most appreciated. You have raised a number of points that I am sure my colleagues and I are most interested in pursuing.

Senator Plett: Thank you, chair, and thank you, gentlemen, for appearing here today and giving us your report and your insight.

I have a few fairly basic questions. You are a charity, as you mentioned a number of times.

Mr. Ralph: Yes.

Senator Plett: How do you raise your funds for your organization?

Mr. Ralph: Right here.

Wayne Johnston, Founder and Fundraising Chair, Wounded Warriors: You are looking at one of the best slot machines in Vegas.

Seriously, though, I would say the core of our funding comes from what I call East York moms and dads — $20 bills. Having said that, we have started having great success recently with William Grant & Sons Ltd. distillery and Glenfiddich Scotch. We get a lot of money from unions, like CAW. At the end of the day, many of their children are soldiers in the Canadian Forces.

Contrary to popular belief, Bay Street does not write these massive cheques, and they certainly do not write them to us. However, we have been pretty successful. Since 2006, we are probably $3 million plus, primarily from everyday Canadians.

Senator Plett: You have no formal connection with any organization that funds you, do you?

Mr. Johnston: How do you mean that, sir, when you say "formal"?

Senator Plett: You mentioned, for example, the union. Is that an informal arrangement, or do you have some kind of a formal arrangement that they write you a cheque for $500,000 a year?

Mr. Johnston: I wish it was $500,000. No, every year we have things like golf tournaments. Bruce Power is a good example. Every year, we do a lot of golf tournaments, galas — essentially third-party events.

Senator Plett: How do soldiers come to you? What program do you have that attracts them to you?

Mr. Ralph: Basically, they come to us in two ways. One way is that they find out about us and contact us directly through the website or email, and I get dozens of emails a day.

We do work in collaboration with the DCSM, the Director Casualty Support Management. They will vet them and they will give us basically the information on their file but tell us, "Yes, this individual has deployed. Yes, they were injured in theatre." They will give us the basic facts about that person so we can check out their story and know their background. Then we examine the merits of their request and forward it to our programming committee. Then, if it is of a significant amount, because we have already budgeted throughout the year, we will come to the board for approval to fund a particular item.

We have two major streams of programming, as I mentioned. The first one is called the All the Way Home program, which is focused 100 per cent on mental health with a particular emphasis on reserve members' mental health. They are the ones who so often get forgotten. For instance, in the 2012 Big Battlefield Bike Ride were 20 veterans of Afghanistan who all had mental health issues. They were all referred to us through Canadian Forces Health Services with the recommendation that this would be beneficial to them. On that bike ride, they were all serving soldiers. I would say all but four or five of them were reservists. The rest were regular force, so we have not forgotten our regular force brethren.

A lot of it is word of mouth, and then we check the facts and the background. We have a great network of people, and the people in casualty management have been very helpful in checking out stories and helping us.

Then we have our Hand Up program, which is basically for individual needs and usually in amounts less than $5,000 — for instance, the carpenter's tools we mentioned in our presentation. He is going for retraining and has a connection with the union. They have taken him on and will retrain him. How will he get money for the tools that he needs? We will buy him the tools.

Senator Plett: People apply to come into your program. What level of mental stress or disability does one have? What makes one soldier qualify versus another possibly not qualifying?

Mr. Johnston: Essentially, we will go with the recommendation of Director Casualty Support Management. It is best to do that. Occasionally you do it on your gut, but, generally, in 90 per cent of the cases, Director Casualty Support Management makes the recommendation.

I want to add one thing regarding setting guys up for work. We have started a lot of relationships with unions across the country, and we are finding many of these unions very much want to hire injured Canadian Forces members. Therefore, we basically facilitate it. It is starting to work very well.

Senator Plett: Do you have a percentage of people you would turn away or not accept?

Mr. Johnston: It would be very small.

Mr. Ralph: The number for those turned away would be very small. Turning away people would basically happen if the story that they have come to us with really does not make any sense and has not been checked out with the Director Casualty Support Management; or they are requesting something that is just so wild and strange it does not seem to fit anywhere.

We want something that will be genuinely helpful to them. We are filling a need rather than just a want kind of thing.

Senator Wallin: Thank you and welcome. You saw Mr. Johnston and me greeting each other; we spent some time in Nipawin and Afghanistan. It is good to see you.

To follow up on a point you just made about the unions wanting to hire these people, do you mean to work for the union organizations?

Mr. Johnston: A good example is a recent one. We army guys network like no one else. There is a gentleman by the name of Mike Humphries. He is one of the senior folks at Carpenters' Union Local 27. I believe it is the largest carpenters' union in the country. He used to be a member of the Royal Canadian Regiment. It is done by networking. I call Mike up: "I have an ex-Royal who needs help."

Senator Wallin: My question was around the fact you said the unions want to hire them. Employers hire for the company, so is this hiring to work in the union system — in the union's office?

Mr. Johnston: In a lot of these trades, like the carpenters, you have to be a member of the union. They have to be to get a decent job.

Senator Wallin: It is not to work for the union, then.

Mr. Johnston: No, it is to do your journeyman, et cetera. The plumber's union and others are all the same.

Senator Wallin: I want to explore what Senator Plett was talking about. As the notes and the chair indicated, we have spoken to many organizations, all extraordinarily well motivated and wanting to do something for our veterans. As you described yourself, you are here to find solutions.

People are coming to you from casualty support; they are being recommended to you. Some people are just picking it up. I am trying to see where you fit in the overall picture.

When I was in Nipawin, as Mr. Johnston knows, we had wounded warriors at each of the tables. There was a young woman sitting at my table — her fiancé had a mental injury. He was off having a cigarette outside, and so we asked her, "What is your fiancé's injury?" She said, "I do not know; it is a bunch of funny initials, all running together." A couple of us in unison asked if it was PTSD and she said that was it.

He had been home for several months at that point — maybe more than six. She did not appear to know that there was a department for veterans affairs, that there were military family support groups across the country, and that OSISS, SISIP and others existed. I am trying to figure out how she could go through so many processes, have access to so much information, including signing up for your weekend, and be sitting there at the table and not know what PTSD stands for.

Mr. Ralph: As I told you, I am a padre at a reserve unit. On the armoury floor, we get mandatory briefings, all of the briefings that soldiers get too. When soldiers go to those things, they go, "Oh oh, another briefing," and, many times, they just turn off the switch and do not hear it. These guys have received all kinds of briefings; they have gone through all the standard things. Similar to the Nipawin one, we took them to Blue Mountain. We had someone there from Veterans Affairs, from OSISS, from CF Health Services and all of those things. We sent them around and gave them a nice weekend. We said that their skiing, their room and everything else was paid for. That is why they came, I know, because it was free and a weekend to relax, but one officer commanding a reserve company came because he wanted to see what kind of information his soldiers were getting. He left the weekend — and this is a regular force captain — and said, "I did not know that all of those things were available." It is not that they are not given the information. It is just that they are not ready to receive it at that point in their life, so it is just more stuff, more baggage. They think, "I just need the stuff I need," so they do not quite hear it. That is the problem.

Mr. Johnston: To add to that, having been a sergeant major myself and a few years in the army, soldiers, for all the talk and communication when it comes to our spouses, I think the younger they are the harder it is. I can tell you. I have been in a long time. My house is paid for. I have said this a couple of times. I have a classic car in the garage and a wife who, on most days, is my best friend. The hardest thing that I have ever done is mental health. The hardest thing that I have ever done is mental health, and my wife is a nurse. She is my best friend, but it is hard work to tell her. It almost brings you to tears. I look at some of these young guys who do not have the benefit of age and wisdom and an old head on old shoulders. I do not know how they do it. They are struggling with three children. They are being pulled by the army and by their wives. Senator Dallaire hit on something; we do not do families very well in the Canadian Forces, particularly when it comes to mental health. We have to get better at it. Mental health is really hard on families. I think, like in many relationships — and I know the one you are talking about; great couple — they are probably not comfortable talking about it.

Senator Wallin: She was literally at the stage where her children from a previous marriage were living with her mother, so she knew the symptoms. It was not even that she needed him to tell her; she was living it.

This is what we are trying to get at. We hear that you need to do more, and we need to do more. It is just trying to find the right way to do more. These programs exist. It is about connecting at some point, and maybe the timing of the connection is important. What do we do about that?

Mr. Johnston: This is just an opinion, but I am a big believer that mental health in the military is a leadership issue first. When I say "leadership issue," it is from the CDS downward. General Natynczyk, a man I have great respect for, started a great program, Be the Difference. I think it fizzled out at the battalion regimental level because an infantry battalion commander really cares about whether he has 800 howling, prowling commandos with fixed bayonets. We do not do families well. These young men and women who are the platoon commanders and company commanders in Afghanistan have seen soldiers die. They are dealing with this on an everyday scale. When they become the generals, maybe we will get better at it. I think we can get better at it. We need to make — whether on an armoury floor or in a regimental building like the RCR buildings in Petawawa — this comfortable. We need a comfort zone to talk about it. If you think about it, in the military, we have mandatory physical training. Every Friday, they go out and run 13 kilometres. We do not do mandatory mental health training, not even 30 minutes of it. That is just something we really need to think about in this profession.

Mr. Ralph: It is really the timing issue that is critical. As I said, supposedly my full-time position is pastoring a church. I can get up there every Sunday and speak eloquently and passionately about what I believe for 25 minutes, and I can have someone who has been sitting there for five or ten years and has not really heard the message. Then, they are in need. At the point of their need, you speak, and they say, "Why did no one tell me this before?" It is not that the message has not been there. It is not that we do not have enough fancy brochures. I will just say that, in the Canadian Forces — as we said about the challenge with the reservists — you can be far away from military family resource centres and all that infrastructure. If you are in an armoury in Flin Flon, Manitoba, or Weyburn, Saskatchewan, or somewhere, you are so far removed, but 10 per cent of your regiment deployed to Afghanistan. Where do they go? How do they connect?

We try to connect them with the help, et cetera, but we have a big country with a small population. We know that.

The Chair: There may be a bit of a breaking of the code, to Senator Wallin's question about whether the right time is when they feel the need, how they express that and how it is received, both for the family and the individual. It might be a question of searching it out.

Senator Day: Gentlemen, thank you very much for being here. Your opening remarks are very helpful in helping us to understand the good work that you are doing. We have heard from so many different groups that are all doing marvellous things. We first heard from Veterans Affairs and those within National Defence who are doing the same thing — trying to help returning soldiers who have some operational injuries. How did you find your niche? How did you decide to do what you are doing? How did this come about? Mr. Johnston, as the instigator of this, you knew there were many other organizations. How did you start doing what you are doing?

Mr. Johnston: When we started, there were not a lot of organizations. We started in 2006. There was a young fellow I recruited and enrolled, sapper Mike McTeague. I got called into the commander LFCA's office as a staff captain doing op connection, which was outreach in the province of Ontario. Mike was badly injured in a September 18 bicycle suicide bombing. We lost four young men, and there were 16 Canadians injured. Mike was in bad shape. Frankly, we were prepared to bring home a casket, but, thank God, our American allies did incredible work. They saved so many young men and women.

Like all good ideas, I can lie, but I will not. I will be frank; that first night I lay in bed crying because I recruited the kid. It is hard on your soul. Phil came with us; he actually went first.

When you see these young men and women, your heart goes out to them. For me, it was a patriotic thing and a guilt thing. I felt terribly guilty. I saw our young boys, they were all boys — they are all boys to me — wrapped in American throws. The Americans do patriotism so well. I said, "Darn it, we can do a better job."

There are some days I question who the fool was that started this charity because it is a lot of work. We got seven grand and it just kind of grew. We have matured. I am very proud of what the board did; we made a decision to make our main raison d'être mental health.

Senator Day: You selected mental health; you saw there was a gap there that needed some attention. You also selected reservists as being the primary focus.

Mr. Johnston: Special attention, not necessarily primary. We pay special attention to reservists.

Mr. Ralph: Part of it is obviously based on our background and what we have seen. Between us, we have six decades of service in the Canadian Forces; we see what the needs are. We are both still serving, so we can see it on the armoury floor.

Getting back to a couple of questions that have been asked about the number of programs out there, one thing I can proudly say about our organization is that soldiers trust us to do the right thing. They have heard from other soldiers that this is not a big, huge bureaucratic thing. If you talk to them, if it makes sense, they will help you.

There were questions about how you get some of these services. One problem, and I know this just from the armoury floor and my experiences, is that soldiers are not always trusting. The lower down they go, the less trusting they are of the system, the CF and the government. No matter what great programs they have and how well- intentioned leadership is, there is the trust factor.

With us, they trust us. They have seen what we have done. We can say, "You need to go to that program," and they would not have thought of that program because it is an official thing, but they will go.

Mr. Johnston: On the trust issue, we are meeting tomorrow with the Royal Canadian Legion. We are partnering with them on one message. We have many soldiers, sailors and airmen coast to coast, more who are sitting on claims — I say this tongue in cheek — than in 1849 in California. A lot of these kids have been diagnosed and they do not know where to go.

I have written a ton of claims. My mental health claim was the most difficult one I ever did; it took me four months. They are hard to write, particularly mental health claims. They are really hard. It involves looking in the mirror and talking about yourself. I was addicted to NyQuil; I did not like writing that down.

Young soldiers, for a bunch of reasons, it is fair to say the Legion is having a hard time resonating with them. We will partner with the Legion and tell these young soldiers that they have what I call an after-the-battle buddy. If you make a claim, walk into a Legion; they are there to help you, I think more by third-party endorsement. This is just one thing we want to partner with them on. There are great resources.

Particularly soldiers with mental health issues, I will say that we are like feral cats. By that I mean you have to work hard for us to come in the house, and even then we might snap at you. It is hard work. A feral cat, in my mind, is a good analogy. Some will never come in; they will eat the food but never come in.

Senator Day: What relationship do you have with other organizations? Do you receive funding from any other organizations that are raising money for the same purpose, to look after our veterans?

The second half of that question is your contact with Veterans Affairs and National Defence. Are you passing on lessons learned? The things you are learning and communicating, are they learning those as well?

Mr. Ralph: We are getting better. The short answer is I think we are getting better.

As far as partners go, we will work collaboratively. We have a meeting with the Legion tomorrow. After this meeting, later this afternoon we are meeting with Soldier On. A couple of members from Soldier On will have a couple of riders on our bike ride.

We are not in competition with one another; we try to work with one another. We view the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs, quite frankly, in the same light. We are not trying to do anything that they are doing or Veterans Affairs is doing. We are trying to help each other. This is a big issue, and we all need to get behind it.

As far as funding goes, when I tapped Mr. Johnston on the back about fundraising, all of us on the board have done our little share. Mr. Johnston has done the lion's share, but our funding to this point has been money that we have raised ourselves.


Senator Maltais: Welcome to our witness. Since I am here as a substitute, I am not an expert on this topic. However, at the beginning of your presentation, you said something that gave me the shivers. You stated that members of the reserve are not covered by Canada's health insurance scheme. Is that the case or did I misunderstand?


Mr. Johnston: For a reservist that goes on dis comp, reserve force disability compensation, I was a Class B reservist, I got sick, my contract ended and they put me on dis comp. It is great. It looks after the financial end, but it does not look after the family. On Class B, my wife could get her teeth done and so on. When my wife needed something done with the dentist, unfortunately I was on dis comp. We are financially fine, but for some of these younger families with three kids, two who need braces, when they go on dis comp, the finances are looked after — and this is something I believe could be fixed very easily. The finances are looked after, but for a soldier on dis comp, their family does not get the CF benefit suite.


Senator Maltais: Forgive the interruption, but I really want to understand this. There is a regiment based in my senatorial district of Shawinegan and I am getting ready to send Christmas cards to twelve members of the reserve who are currently serving in Afghanistan. But I am not about to wish them a merry Christmas and a happy New Year and, by the way, they are not covered by Canadian health insurance and neither are their families.

Is that really the case? I would like this to be clear.


Mr. Johnston: No, the soldiers who are deployed on Class A service have a limited level of family benefits. Class B service would be basically the same benefits a regular force soldier gets for their family, and Class C service is the very same.

When you get sick, your contract ends. They then put you on what is called reserve force disability compensation, commonly known as dis comp. You get no family health benefits. By that I mean dental benefits. Obviously you have the provincial benefits, but dental benefits, glasses, particularly braces are a great example, which are probably five to six grand a pop. For a young corporal with a struggling family, that is a chunk of change.


Senator Maltais: I understand what you are saying, but the wife of one of the soldiers in that group is going to have a baby sometime around Christmas. Is the baby covered by the scheme? That is the question I would like you to answer.


Mr. Johnston: Absolutely, and that is a fair question. If that soldier, God forbid, comes back with a mental health injury that manifests itself, for example, in 60 days and his unit manages to get him on dis comp, his child will not be covered. However, while they are on tour or contract, absolutely, if the soldier were to get sick. It generally tends to happen with mental health issues because they manifest themselves when they do, but that child and mother would be covered, absolutely.


Senator Maltais:I would like to go back to the mental health problems. When young soldiers come back from Afghanistan, before they are discharged, do they, or do they not, undergo a medical examination proving that they are fit? Or does the problem come from the fact that the armed forces' psychiatrists are not skilled enough?


Mr. Johnston: Sir, understand that, in the best of cases, mental health issues can manifest themselves in five minutes, five weeks or five months. It is my experience with soldiers, and I am sure it is the general's as well, that no one likes to say, "I have a mental health problem." These soldiers know exactly what to say. They go in and check the boxes.

If I were a lieutenant-colonel I would be extremely proactive with my soldiers. They have 30 days after tour to say that they have a problem. If it is within those 30 days, then their class C contract is extended.

If, for example, they came back in April and by June the kids are afraid of him and all the mental health issues come up, it becomes a problem. It becomes a problem first for the unit just to get him on dis comp.


Senator Maltais: I understand. Now, when that young soldier gets his discharge, is he given a brochure informing him that your organization exists and that he can use your services if he feels the need? Because hell is filled with good intentions, as you know, but it is still hell.


Mr. Ralph: That is a great point.

The Chair: What are the instruments of communication that you have at the unit level when people are being released or are coming back from operational theatres?

Mr. Ralph: We rely on word of mouth and the JPSUs, the Joint Personnel Support Units.

The Chair: They are aware are of your capabilities?

Mr. Johnston: Absolutely.

Mr. Ralph: Yes.

The Chair: Gentlemen, I am afraid we are now out of time. Your programs are quite extensive. Although you have given us a short briefing, we can get more information by simply going to your website; is that correct?

Mr. Ralph: Yes, you can.

The Chair: We will do that to acquire more depth on your program.

You cannot be congratulated enough for this initiative and for the personal efforts you are putting into this as an NGO and your willingness to work cooperatively with so many other agencies to fill some of the gaps that seem to exist, certainly in particular with the reservists who are often isolated from the big bases and so on.

On behalf of my colleagues, thank you very much, gentlemen.

We will take two minutes to go in camera, if you please.

(The committee continued in camera.)

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