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Proceedings of the Subcommittee on
Veterans Affairs

Issue No. 4 - Evidence - April 20, 2016


OTTAWA, Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12:03 p.m. to continue its study on the services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces; to veterans; to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families.

Senator Joseph A. Day (Chair) in the chair.

[Translation]

The Chair: Honourable senators, today we are continuing our study of the services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces, veterans, and members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and their families.

[English]

From the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, we're very pleased to welcome Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Commander, Military Personnel Command. She is accompanied by Brigadier-General H.C. MacKay, Surgeon General and Commander, Canadian Forces Health Services Group, Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as Capt. (Navy) Marie-France Langlois, Director, Casualty Support Management, Joint Personnel Support Unit, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Thank you, each of you, for being here today. We look forward to spending the next hour learning more about your activities and programs, as well as challenges that you may be facing. Your presentations and answers to our questions will be very valuable to us as we reflect on the services and benefits provided to veterans and their families.

Before we proceed, I wanted to let honourable senators know about a number of activities that are taking place. One is coming up rather quickly, on May 3, after we get back from our week of being in our constituencies. Throughout that day, CIMVHR, the Canadian Institute for Military and Veterans Health Research, is co-hosting, with the Canadian Armed Forces, a military mental health research symposium here in Ottawa. Lt.-Gen. Christine Whitecross is one of the featured speakers very early on in that particular seminar. We can circulate to everyone more information on that. It's very pertinent to the work that we have been doing, so if you can attend part or all of that, that would be good. It's at the University of Ottawa at Roger-Guindon Hall, from 8:30 to 4:30, on May 3, 2016.

There is also a bill, Bill C-12, that has now been filed in the House of Commons, and we nticipate that it will be coming to us in due course before the summer break, so we should put a watch on that one. Bill C-12 is An Act to amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. It looks like a rather extensive piece of legislation, and I have no doubt that we'll be asked to deal with that in our normal expeditious fashion.

Lt.-Gen Whitecross, the floor is yours.

Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Commander, Military Personnel Command, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, I am Lt.-Gen Christine Whitecross, and in my role as Commander of Military Personnel Command, I am responsible for the Canadian Armed Forces' military personnel management from recruitment through to training and education, benefits, health, health and spiritual services, career management to honours and history.

Joining me today are, as you've already indicated, Canadian Forces Brig.-Gen. Colin MacKay and Capt. (Navy) Marie-France Langlois, the Director of Casualty Support Management and the Commanding Officer of the Joint Personnel Support Group Unit.

[Translation]

I am very pleased to speak to you today on the topic of transition programs and services that are available to Canadian Armed Forces members who are moving from the military to civilian life. These services and programs are offered, often jointly, by the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada, assisted by third party not-for- profit organizations.

[English]

The Canadian Armed Forces approaches the topic of military-to-civilian transition through a holistic lens looking at the military community as a whole, inclusive of the military members both regular and reserve, the veterans and their families.

On average, 10,000 regular and reserve members transition out of the Canadian Armed Forces each year. Of that number, 16 per cent, on average, are medically-released based on statistics covering 2010-15. This is significant because members who leave the service with or for medical reasons often require unique services. There are a number of services available to our members, and I will highlight just a few.

Before I go on, I would like to say that the majority of the programs that I will mention today are available to all military members, regular and reserve, regardless of the reason for their release from the Canadian Armed Forces, and they are also available to our veterans.

[Translation]

Since 1978, the Canadian Armed Forces has been providing transitioning military personnel with a two-day Second Career Assistance Seminar, run through the Personnel Selection offices at each military base and wing. These second career seminars cover such topics as: pension and benefits, release proceedings, psychological challenges of transition, services and benefits administered by Veterans Affairs, financial planning, wills and estates, and second career opportunities, to name a few. An additional one-day seminar is provided specifically for members who will be released medically and the information and programs that are specific to their release are presented. The seminars are run in both English and French and the attendance of spouses is strongly encouraged.

[English]

Although these seminars are geared towards regular force members, there is value for reservists who have spent the majority of their careers on long-term reserve contracts, as their career paths most closely match those of regular force personnel.

On the other hand, the transition needs of reservists on shorter term contracts are different, and to that effect, in 2015 the Chief of Reserves and Cadets created an online portal to inform these members about programs and benefits available to them on release.

[Translation]

All serving members also have access to Career Transition Workshops covering resume writing, skills self- assessment, job search and interview techniques. In addition, they have access to individual career and educational counselling and various career-focused publications. These programs have been in place for many years and we continue to gather feedback and refresh content annually to ensure they are meeting the needs of the target audience.

[English]

Currently we are also working with Veterans Affairs Canada on improving services to veterans offered by our organizations. Of particular interest to us in this endeavour is the Service Income Security Insurance Plan, SISIP, which offers the same benefits to all personnel leaving the military for medical reasons, regardless of whether or not the cause of their medical condition is related to service. These personnel receive income support for up to 24 months or up to age 65 if unable to return to work. Those who leave of their own volition are eligible for the same benefit if they are deemed to be totally disabled.

A component of this program is the Vocational Rehabilitation Program that enables participants to restore or establish their vocational capacity to prepare them for suitable gainful employment in the civilian workforce. This program focuses on veterans' abilities, interests, medical limitations and the potential economic viability of their chosen path to help establish their future. The SISIP Vocational Rehabilitation Program support can start up to six months prior to release and is often coordinated with the member and the Canadian Armed Forces Vocational Rehabilitation Program to ensure continuity after release. Engagement in a vocational rehabilitation program is not a criterion for receipt of SISIP income support; and VAC offers its own suite of social benefits.

[Translation]

Because we believe that successful transition to civilian life, particularly in the case of those personnel leaving for medical reasons, depends to a significant degree on the financial and psychological benefits of meaningful employment, we are also focused on assisting them with finding employment.

[English]

In July 2015, the Veterans Hiring Act amended the Public Service Employment Act, which was expanded to include statutory priority in addition to the existing regulatory priority. This has expanded opportunities for veterans exponentially.

As well, the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada are working jointly on a national career transition and employment strategy, which integrates information on employment, financial planning and investing, and government programs offered to veterans. This strategy takes a whole-of-government approach and anticipates expanding its focus to include other government agencies such as Employment and Social Development Canada, Service Canada, the Public Service Commission and others to leverage existing programs and resources that will support transitioning members and veterans.

Over and above the internal work I just highlighted, the Canadian Armed Forces works with third party organizations in assisting transitioning members, veterans and their families.

[Translation]

One example is its partnership with Prospect, a not-for-profit enterprise based in Alberta who has developed and operates the Forces@work program. This program follows a model based on rapid placement into the workforce with support offered for as long as needed. It targets medically releasing members and those who are facing significant barriers entering the civilian workforce. Forces@work continues to report a placement success rate greater than 85 per cent and a retention rate of 90 per cent for placements after one year. Additionally, the Government of Alberta has funded a separate program through Prospect called "Base to Business'' which educates and supports industry on how to understand, attract and retain veterans.

[English]

Another program, the national Princes Operation Entrepreneur program for transitioning CAF members and veterans interested in starting their own business, continues to expand its alumni. The program offers one-day workshops to introduce entrepreneurship to transitioning members and their spouses at bases across the country in addition to a seven-day entrepreneur boot camp. The program is funded through charitable contributions and provides the boot camps at four universities: Memorial, Laval, Dalhousie and Regina. The continued demand and successful businesses resulting from this program speak to the utility for Canadian Armed Forces members.

Additionally, the Military Employment Transition Program continues to grow, now reporting more than 200 military-friendly employers, over 5,000 registered members, and over 1,200 hires toward their goal of "10,000 jobs in 10 years'' campaign. This year saw the launch of the MET Spouse program, a partnership between Military Family Services and MET to leverage existing relationships with military-friendly employers in support of spousal employment.

Finally, the Helmets to Hardhats program continues to flourish, offering apprenticeship opportunities to achieve a journeyman qualification in the building and construction trades, as well as potential management opportunities in this industry. Work is ongoing with the Red Seal Program to recognize the qualifications for as many of our trades as possible to facilitate direct post-military employment in similar civilian occupations.

[Translation]

In addition, we are expanding relationships with multiple educational institutes across the country that have the desire to understand the qualifications and training of military personnel and map them into academic programs to offer advanced standing at their institutions. Notably, British Columbia Institute of Technology, recently supported by a grant through ESDC, has been a front runner in this area. We will continue to explore opportunities to ensure that members are provided with every possible opportunity to leave the Canadian Armed Forces with the knowledge and confidence that there is a wide array of opportunities available to them to launch their second careers.

[English]

They must understand that they have much to offer the civilian workforce.

Thank you again for the opportunity to appear, Mr. Chair. We would be pleased respond to the committee's questions.

The Chair: Lt.-Gen. Whitecross, thank you very much. There are many different programs that you are juggling to try to make work. You are presenting a very positive picture.

You said that on average 10,000 regular and reserve members transition out of the Canadian Armed Forces each year. That's 10,000 out of how many in total?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: We're a population of over 100,000 Regular Force and reservists. The 10,000 includes about 8 per cent of the regular force transitioning out of uniform.

The Chair: I was about to say 10 per cent, but it's 8 per cent.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: For the regular force, it equates about 8 per cent.

The Chair: Oh, regular force. So total regular and reserve?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: Total regular and reserve is over 100,000.

The Chair: And 10,000 per year. Okay, thank you.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: I want to thank our three witnesses for their presentations. I would like to address the highly mediatized issue of sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces. We know that services are offered — correct me if I am wrong — and that a response centre was set up in 2015. I would like information on the services that have been put in place to date and on how they help veterans.

[English]

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: The Sexual Misconduct Response Centre opened on September 15, 2015, in response to Madame Deschamps' report on sexual misconduct in the Canadian Armed Forces.

It opened up with three objectives: One, to provide immediate assistance to those who are going through a significant sexual misconduct scenario; two, to facilitate getting them help in facilities, whether it's mental health or rape crisis centres throughout the country; and three, to provide information through the chain of command for either validating what they're doing when they're exposed to a particular situation or providing them with advice on how to work through it.

Prior to the opening of this centre, we didn't have a central organization that dealt with complaints from across the country, and, in many cases, people were either asked to go, through their chain of command, to our medical professionals, to the padres that are on the bases and wings across the country, to the military or civilian police forces, or to our national investigative service.

There were a plethora of organizations that they could go to. As you're aware, senator, many chose not to go to any of them for many reasons: stigma; being afraid for their careers; he said, she said; a whole slew of reasons.

We are trying to create the opportunity for all members of the Canadian Armed Forces to come forward if they have a complaint, to go to the centre, to get the services and the support they need, and, if they want to, to initiate an investigation.

In terms of veterans, we have taken many calls at the centre from those who were members of the military, and we are providing them with support.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: You said that people were encouraged to file a complaint if an incident occurred. Is it easier for people outside the forces than those who are in the forces to denounce this type of incident? I ask this question, because you stated that some people are afraid for their careers.

[English]

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: The answer is that there are a number of reasons why people don't come forward. In fact, the centre did get some calls from people who had been in a situation of sexual misconduct from 20 and 30 years ago that they did not feel encouraged or empowered to come forward about for a number of years. So they are seeking help now in terms of veterans and other populations.

What we are trying to accomplish — and we are only in the beginning — is to create the environment where all members of the Canadian Armed Forces feel confident enough in their chain of command that we're going to take care of them.

In the interim, we have a centre that's going to provide that nexus of help for all members, and they are today. They have had over 200 calls since September, half of them to the military chain of command and half by actual members or ex-members. But we need to create the environment where people feel confident that we're going to take care of them. That will take some time.

In the interim, we are providing people who have come forward with the help they need, facilitated locally, outside the chain of command, so that they can feel as though the Canadian Armed Forces has their six.

The anticipation is, as we've seen from our Australian and American colleagues, that, when we've created the environment where they feel confident that we're going to take care of them, they will feel confident enough to engage their chain of command when something happens and not wait.

The truth is, senator, we still have a while before that happens.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: With your permission, Mr. Chair, I would like to ask one last question.

As regards the services for those who require medical treatment, you mentioned a family support program. How do you foresee the future of this family support program, since most people have a spouse and children?

[English]

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: There is a lot of evidence out there that states that, when a military person, or anybody in fact, is going through some type of situation, whether it's an illness or an injury, their family's support is absolutely fundamental to their rehabilitation.

We have a number of Military Family Resource Centres across the country that provide support to military families in a wide variety of services, from children's support to programming and financial help and the like.

We're also partnering with Veteran Affairs to do a pilot to extend that support beyond life in the military, to veterans as well and their families, as we move forward. We have a number of services that are provided through that nexus, and I'm happy to provide those to you in some type of document.

The Chair: Perhaps you could. If you're happy to provide it, we would be happy to receive it. If could you send it to the clerk, we'll see that that gets circulated.

Senator Wallin: I have a couple of different questions here, and I'm going to start, if I could, with Lt.-Gen Whitecross. This is a little hobby horse of mine, but I think it does speak to the whole question of a) transition and b) the idea of literacy, both in the private sector and in the world of CF, about what the other can mean to one another in the future.

I'm going to go back and see if there's any update on the CNLP, the Canadian National Leadership Program, and whether the military has embraced that idea of getting back into the high schools, the universities, and talking to people about what the CF really is.

I know it's a little off topic. There are universities that have embraced it. If you don't have specifics, that's fine; I understand it totally.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: We can get back to you, senator.

Senator Wallin: Okay, that's good.

We've had discussion quite bit at this committee over the months on the question of defining the timeline, the prerelease assessments, of getting that information in a timely manner for current or outgoing CF members. Last week, former General Natynczyk talked to us about this, that the definition was getting a little bit clearer.

Are you making progress? That seems to be key to the Career Impact Allowance. We need to know what's wrong in a timely manner and, therefore, what this person could potentially have been worth in a dollar sense so that we can try to give them some kind of future.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I'll let Marie-France take it from here, but we have done some work in the last year to embed Veterans Affairs officials within our line so that we can reduce the amount of time, certainly on the medical side, so that they can see some of the documents and be aware, prior to somebody releasing, what's going to happen and what their personal situation is.

In addition to that, certainly on the SISIP side, we can do six months of vocational rehab prior to release and then again as they are releasing members as well.

So we have made some steps forward, but we still have some work to do.

Captain (Navy) Marie-France Langlois, Director, Casualty Support Management, Joint Personnel Support Unit, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: We are working closely with Veterans Affairs Canada to align our programs and services. As soon as somebody has a condition, a medical employment limitation, and is coming to the Joint Personnel Support Unit, there is a group of partners looking at the situation to assist in the early transition, if it's the case, or to facilitate the return to duty. Working closely together makes a huge difference in how the process is facilitated.

There are also working groups to look at the different processes and ensure that we are aligned together.

Senator Wallin: I think that the statistics we have are that about 35 per cent of people who go through JPSU return to work in the CF. Is that true? Or is that counting their work in the JPSU? Is that what that means?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I believe that's a little high, senator. People who use the services of the JPSU are far higher than people who return to work, but people who are physically posted to the Joint Personnel Support Unit — my understanding is that it is about 25 per cent, not necessarily 35, of people who are able to return to duty, which means back in uniform.

Senator Wallin: For those exiting, and again we are coming at this from different angles, but that evaluation of what their CIA should be — I think that's the new term you are using anyway — where are we on that? Is that in place?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: CIA?

Senator Wallin: We were talking about this last week about the career impact allowance, which needs to be defined — the nature of their injury and value of what they might have been able to earn over the course of their lifetime had they stayed in. I'm trying to figure out where that fits in. We saw it from the veterans' side, and I'm trying to see it from this side.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: Marie-France will tell me if I have this right, but the actual determination of allowances is a Veterans Affairs responsibility. We provide them awareness of the member's medical files, medical situation, life situation and their career in terms of deployment history, so they can facilitate their determination.

Senator Wallin: That would be assessments about whether they were likely to go up or down the chain?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: In terms of promotions?

Senator Wallin: This is where we get into the subjective part of it. I know it's really difficult to discuss, but if you are trying to figure out what someone will have to live on for the rest of their life, it's important that we try to figure out how we assess that. Would they have become X, Y or Z? What could they have earned potentially, and therefodre what is a reasonable thing to give them to try to function on a life outside of the CF?

Capt. Langlois: There is an insurance that covers long-term disability for 24 months and up to 65 years old, once somebody is fully disabled. That's based on 75 per cent of the salary. But on the benefits, Veterans Affairs Canada would be in a better position to answer that.

Senator Wallin: I'm trying to come at it in a different way.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I can see where you're going in terms of their potential as a military member. We can take that on advisement, but I'm not aware of anything at this point in time.

Senator Wallin: That's done on the other side, okay. Thank you.

Senator Mitchell: Thanks to all of you. I would like to congratulate you, General Whitecross, on your work on sexual harassment in the military. I was at the seminar some months ago where General Vance and you spoke.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: Thanks, senator.

Senator Mitchell: It's very impressive how quickly you have jumped on it, and it is a big issue to change a culture like that.

I would like to pursue that. Maybe you don't have the stats and could get them, but let me start at a general level. Do you have statistics on the number of personnel who suffer PTSD because of sexual harassment or harassment in the military? How does that translate into the number who actually leave ± that 10,000 ± with that affliction?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: We do not have that in terms of a holistic number of those who are departing the military because of sexual misconduct and whatever issues come from that, PTSD being one of them. I know in my discussions with the Veterans Review Board that there is a percentage that they deal with. They would be better placed to provide you with those particular stats of people who have come forward.

The reality is that we are still looking at the minority of people who come forward with these allegations. We are trying to create, as I mentioned earlier, the trust and confidence in our institution that allows people to come forward in greater numbers.

We knew intuitively when we opened the centre that we would see an increase, and we did. We need to maintain that momentum going forward so that more people will come forward who are experiencing or have experienced any kind of sexual misconduct, currently or in the past. But whether they did not report it or they reported it for different organizations in and out of the military — we don't have that full number.

Senator Mitchell: Thanks. You are certainly focused on making an effort.

You have been quite public about 30 or 40 people — and it came down to six or eight people actually charged out of 29, or maybe it was 29 incidents, I'm not sure. But there is publicity around the fact that people have been charged, and that sends a message to the organization.

That's for sexual criminal activity or accusations, but what about, more broadly, the idea of sexual harassment that may not elevate it to that level? How are you changing the culture? What steps are you taking beyond that visible initiative to change the thinking in that organization, and what's the success been?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I would say there are almost three groupings. There is the sexualized culture that Madam Deschamps has determined to be a big factor in the life we lead, and I would submit that this is resident regardless of where you are, but we are addressing it in the Canadian Armed Forces. So that's sexualized culture that we need to address on a day-to-day venue, and that's where the culture change needs to start; it's not allowing people to make inappropriate comments, even if they think it's funny or for another reason. In many ways, we are talking about it and making some gains, so we do have a long way to go still.

Then there is, as you have alluded to, sexual harassment and sexual assault — so, the whole gambit of the misconduct. On the sexual harassment, the CDS has made it clear that we need to empower the Sexual Misconduct Response Centre, which is not in the chain of command but works for the department side, to take the lead on defining what it is and providing not just the investigations but facilitating the help and all that in terms of harassment side. Because that really is in-house, and we need to deal with it at the local level.

Then there is the whole idea of the sexual assaults that are further at the right of the scope of treatment of people. The only people who can do the investigations there are the National Investigation Service, civilian police and organizations such as that. In fact, the centre, out of the 200-plus calls they have gotten, has now instigated 18 National Investigation Services investigations in the last number of months that have come out just because of the centre being adopted.

They are great stats for today. It is not as good as I want it to be, nor is it where the CDS wants it to be, but it is a starting point that we are bringing forward.

Senator Mitchell: I'm impressed by the programming. There is lots of it. That's great. I'm certainly impressed by Prospect from my province of Alberta. Maybe you could give us a bit of an outline on how Prospect specifically works. Who is involved, and how is it funded?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: It is an organization out of Calgary. I have had the pleasure of meeting the lead on Prospect. Her job, really, is to pair up our ill and injured, certainly starting with Alberta but hopefully going a bit bigger, with work that needs to be done in that province. Capt. Langlois will correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe there has been a pilot outside of Alberta, as well.

Their success rate is 85 per cent in terms of finding something for people who have come through the system desirous of employment, and out of that 85 per cent, 90 per cent of them still have employment in that area after a year.

They do a phenomenal job of pairing up the individual with the company and facilitating them coming together, but also working with both organizations as they go through the first months, which are very difficult for the transitioning member. They also provide what I would call a translation service of what a military occupation is into the civilian society. I'm just elated with the work that Prospect does.

Capt. Langlois: The pilot is in Calgary.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I think there is also one outside Alberta, but I will check.

Senator Mitchell: I'm interested also in the program Prince's Operation Entrepreneur, a national program, which sounds very interesting for a number of reasons. The other one would be the entrepreneur boot camp. Is that the same thing?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: It is, sir.

Senator Mitchell: It is charitably funded: How steady, stable and predictable is that funding, and is it a problem?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: Thank you. It started in the U.K., with Prince Charles, and it has expanded to a couple of other Commonwealth countries, of which we are pleased to be one. There is a de facto CEO on the Canadian side who has brought that program into Canada.

It is self-supporting right now, and it is a great opportunity for military members to get their foot in the door on starting their own companies. There is a plethora of documentation, and I'm happy to send you anything that they have.

Senator Mitchell: Sure, thanks very much.

Senator White: Thanks to all of you for being here. My question has to do with your earlier comments on the attritions rates, at 8 per cent; I think the chair said 10 per cent. A lot of studies look at 3 to 5 per cent being a good attrition rate. Are you concerned about that? Is it something that is not unexpected because we have had 14 years of more aggressive overseas work?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: In a regular military force, 7 per cent is actually what we would see as being a normal attrition rate. We have not been at 7 seven per cent for a number of years because of, as you have alluded to, our Afghanistan work. We still have a backlog of people from the Afghanistan days who are in the process of getting out. I think we will be at 8 per cent for at least another year, and then hopefully we'll be able to wind it down to what will be a more steady state of releases.

Seven per cent is good for us because we do have a CR age that is a little younger than the rest of civil society, and we do expect a lot, certainly, from our uniformed members.

Senator White: The second part of that is whether we have been able to recruit to the numbers we had previously targeted to meet, both from a number perspective, but also in terms of the targeted recruiting we were doing. I think it was 30-2010 for women, visible minorities and Aboriginals. I don't think we follow that any more, but can you give us an update on the recruiting numbers we're seeing from diverse communities?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: As far as recruiting writ large, we have a strategic intake plan of 5,000 for this year and we will make that 5,000; we may come up a few short, but we are pleased with the recruiting efforts.

In terms of our diversity groups, our target from the Canadian Human Rights Commission is 25 per cent for women, 11.8 per cent for visible minorities, and then 3.4 per cent for our Aboriginal colleagues. We are at 15 per cent for women right now. The CDS has tasked me to increase that at 1 per cent per year for the next 10 years, which means an intake of about 1,400 to 1,700 women out of that 5,000 on annual basis. It is not just the recruitment, as you can appreciate from your previous work, but it is also retaining them.

This topic speaks to the entire focus of well-being and the respectful environment we are trying to instill as an organization in the Canadian Armed Forces. If we create the environment in which people are respected, they feel they are valued members of a team and we value them for the differences and strengths that they bring, then we will retain them longer and the people will create an environment where people will come in. As you've heard from the last couple of questions, we still have some work to do on that, but as we make gains, we are anticipating to seeing a resultant number of people who want to be retained.

We are also looking at a number of older policies through the gender-based analysis lens and through unconscious biased behaviour to see how we can ensure our policies and procedures and behaviours are gender-neutral and allow people to have fulsome careers in the Canadian Armed Forces. There is a lot of work being done on a comprehensive look at where we are moving forward in terms of policies and services, and I would venture to say we are just at the start of that.

Senator White: Thank you very much for that. It was excellent, by the way. The numbers you just gave me suggest we will be recruiting 5,000, but we are probably looking at 7,000 to 8,000 exiting. Will we have a shortfall at the end of year, or was it anticipated that, because we are not as involved in theatre, we would be reducing numbers by now?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I'm sorry, senator. That is my fault. We are at 8 per cent attrition, and we are a force of 68,000, and that's reserve and regular force. My apologies. To grow our force up to our 68,000 — we are slightly below that at about 66,500 — between now and the next couple of years, we need to maintain a SIP, a strategic intake plan, of 5,000 for the next couple of years. That is a little higher than we've done in the past, in order to compensate for the people egressing at the other end.

Senator White: I ended up in a place deeper than I thought I would, so I wish to ask one more short question.

I know we looked at priority federal public service hiring, and I know some provinces had been approached. Have we seen a general uptake from provinces and territories on prioritizing getting veterans into the workforce?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I will ask Capt. Langlois if she has update, but I can give you an anecdotal comment, and that is that there has been an uptake, certainly, within the departments on civil service hires. Do you have any stats?

Capt. Langlois: Yes, I do. Senator, since 2007, there have been 2,326 applications that have been activated by military personnel, and of that, about half of those applicants — 1,200 — have been hired as personnel.

Senator White: Thank you for that. I know there was pressure on some provinces. and I think there have been initial agreements from some provinces that they would do the same thing as our federal government did. Have we seen any provinces actually make hiring veterans a priority as well?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I'm not aware of what has been done on the provincial side, sir, but we'll take that on advisement if we need to.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: I have a supplemental to Senator White's question. We are talking about public service jobs for veterans and retired CF members. I was under the understanding that that initiative was popular. Now, the program is working well; do you see ways to improve it or is it working well enough to leave it as it is? Are there ways of improving it to encourage people to apply?

[English]

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: We need to make sure that the communication is steady. We provide information through our portals, through our two-day seminars, about opportunities in the public service. A number of our people who are leaving the military are at CRA at 55 years of age or more. The percentage of people taking up those spots is not the 100 per cent of people releasing from the military. I would say that a number of people there take up the opportunities.

[Translation]

Capt. Langlois: We also have communications programs in the various regions of Canada to ensure that all of the programs and services are offered and injured military personnel are aware of them. That program is part of the communications program.

[English]

Senator Lang: Welcome to the committee. I have just a couple of follow-up questions, one from Senator White in respect of looking to the past and then forward to the future.

Obviously, members of the Armed Forces are not as involved or engaged in day-to-day combat and the conflicts today as we were over the past 10 years. Actually, we have had a couple of years of relative calm in respect of the day- to-day involvement of our Armed Forces.

In view of that, as you see looking forward, how will that affect your programming? Tthere will be fewer members of the Armed Forces adversely affected if we are not engaged in these fields of combat. Subsequently, some of these programs won't need to be accessed by some members of the forces, which would have been a normal course of events if these things had carried on. Do you have any comment on that?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: Senator, I certainly don't have an ability to foresee the future in terms of combat activity. I can say that we certainly are in a number of areas around the world today. Regardless, if a soldier, sailor, airman or air woman comes back ill or injured from deployment, we owe it to them to ensure that the programs stay extant.

Senator Lang: I don't argue that. Obviously, if we are not in combat, which was my point, there will be fewer. Are you looking ahead in terms of the numbers you have, which are pretty substantial? Looking ahead, do you assume the status quo? Obviously, there will be a difference in the number of individuals involved.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I would say that in terms of the actual structure from Joint Personnel Support Unit of the Afghanistan days and the time to develop the structure to serve our men and women in uniform as they transition, it took a while to learn and put in place. The fact that it's in place, even if it gets down-sized or the requirement gets reduced, is a step up regardless of where we are in the future.

We are going through a Joint Personnel Support Unit review in terms of best structure and the number of people to support. We're focusing on that in the next 18 months.

Senator Lang: I will follow up on one other area. I'm from the North, being a senator from Yukon,; and Senator Wallin is from rural Saskatchewan. My question is for those individuals living in rural Canada and in the North and their access to these programs. What do you have in place to ensure that those individuals have the opportunity to participate?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: We have an Integrated Personnel Support Centre in Yellowknife; and Gen. MacKay can speak to this. We provide some mental health assistance through technology such as Skype. We provide some type of help in that way. In terms of other support services, when people are going to wherever they are from, they are still assigned an IPSC to provide them support, even from a distance.

Brigadier-General H.C. MacKay, Surgeon General and Commander, Canadian Forces Health Services Group, National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces: Senator, if you're talking about health care services, most of our regular force personnel are cared for on our bases. We may have reserve forces in rural communities. If they suffer from illness as a result of their military service, we will provide them with care. Where possible, we like to bring them into our established military clinics because of the expertise that we have been able to build over the years. Where geography gets in the way, as Lt.-Gen. Whitecross pointed out, we have tele mental health capability that allows us to extend our caregivers a little bit further as well as an extensive network of civilian caregivers that have registered through our third-party billing agency, currently Medavie Blue Cross, to provide care where they are located.

Senator Lang: Being a little more pragmatic here, if I am a veteran in Whitehorse, do you have the ability under those programs, if I'm deemed serious enough and meet the criteria, to invite me to go down to one of the bases and the medical facilities? Do you have the ability to do that, or do I have to stay strictly in Whitehorse and be part of the public system?

Brig.-Gen. MacKay: I don't want to speak for Veterans Affairs because Veterans Affairs would be responsible for veterans. We have agreements with Veterans Affairs Canada, though, such that if they have a veteran who needs care and we can provide it from one of our clinics, then we would accept that veteran into one of our clinics to provide that care.

The Chair: I'm trying to put my arms around all these different programs. It's referred to somewhere as a "suite of programs'' that you have for veterans. Let us exclude for the first part of my question the ill and injured and the special programs developed for those personnel and refer only to general, retiring Armed Forces personnel.

You don't have control over all of these different programs that seem to be popping up: Helmets to Hardhats and Prospect and the Prince's Operation Entrpreneur Program. Capt. Langlois talked about communications, but I guess a big part of your role is to understand those programs, how they fit in and whether they duplicate other programs. How do you handle of all of that? Do you have people on that? Is this all done through the Joint Personnel Support Unit?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: In fact, the harnessing of the tremendous support we are getting from Canadian society and entrepreneurs across the country is done through the Director General Morale and Welfare Services organization. Their staff help us to reach out to charities, not only to find out what they are doing. as you've implie.d but also to engage them. to get support for some of our men and women in terms of some of their programming that you alluded to. We have an organization that tries to rally around.

The Chair: Does that director general report to you?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: He does, yes.

The Chair: You keep this together somewhat —

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I try to, yes.

The Chair: — and these people talk on a periodic basis. We passed some legislation about a year ago that might have been part of a budget implementation bill, or maybe it was stand-alone. It expanded the authority of Veterans Affairs to deal with still-in-uniform Armed Forces personnel for a period of about six months to sort of move into transition before release. I'd like to know how that is going and what has changed since we passed that legislation. The legislation was a result of recommendations that we needed to do something to bring you together with Veteran Affairs to better serve the transitioning Armed Forces retiring personnel.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I'm going to pass that to Capt. Langlois, but I'd like to state first that we are working very closely with Veterans Affairs to close the gap that exists for members going from one to the other so that it can be as seamless as possible. I'll just pass it off to Capt. Langlois.

Capt. Langlois: At the regional levels, the IPSC, the Integrated Personnel Support Centres, Veteran Affairs Canada and DND personnel are working together with the partners. As soon as possible, six months prior to release, DND works closely with Veterans Affairs to facilitate the release. They are involved in discussions with health services, as well to make sure that the needs of the ill and injured are met and that they are looking forward to their transition in a smooth way. So it's done already.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: Brig.-Gen. MacKay will be able to speak to the case management and how we're coming together with that.

Brig.-Gen. MacKay: Mr. Chair, we've undertaken a lot of work, together with Veteran Affairs Canada, to try to fill the gap that existed in that transition process. We now are working very closely with the Veterans Affairs case managers and our case managers.

As soon as we have allocated a permanent medical category that is looking like somebody is going to be transitioning from the military, we engage with those Veterans Affairs case managers. They start the planning for the care that's going to be required as they transition from the Canadian Armed Forces.

We've come a long way in the last several months, since we've had this ability to work more closely together with Veterans Affairs, and it's starting to work now, I believe.

The Chair: We'll be asking you that question a year from now as well.

Do you refer transitioning personnel to one or other of these various programs that exist out there, that are non- military but university? We talked about the one in the University of Calgary and Helmets to Hardhats. Do you refer the personnel to various facilities? "This one is closer to you. You should try this guy rather than another one.''

Capt. Langlois: The transition group, which is working closely with Veterans Affairs Canada, is developing an employment strategy. Under that, all the different third-party organizations, such as the ones you mentioned, senator, are involved, and we are in discussion with them.

This is part of a whole package. That information is being circulated with the different centres across the country. There is discussion, and it's collaborative work that is being done with the third party organizations and Veterans Affairs. It's under the umbrella of the transition program under CAF and VAC.

The Chair: Does the transition program involve a psychological assessment that this person has entrepreneurial skills and, therefore, we should send them to the entrepreneurial boot camp for a week, with their family, to see how they fit in? How does this happen?

Capt. Langlois: The medical assessment, senator, is a health services piece. Really, for the transition programs, it's administrative support that we are providing.

The case management for VAC — and the General can answer that — and DND, at regional levels, when they're working with the actual ill and injured for transition purposes —

The Chair: I'd ask you just to exclude ill and injured for a while. I'm retiring from the Armed Forces. There's a plethora of different programs, all kinds of them. While this person is still in the six-month transition, what are you doing to bring these different programs to the attention of the retiring Armed Forces person so that he or she will understand where he or she best fits and would get the most value?

Capt. Langlois: Again, career seminars, senator, are open to all military personnel, not just for medically released personnel. These are a portion or component of the transition program cell that we have in DND and Veterans Affairs. It's not only for medically released personnel but for all personnel.

The Chair: I understand that. That's the one I'm focusing on, the non-medical release group. It's quite a group of them. There are a lot of the programs out there for them.

Capt. Langlois: The communications, senator, is done through portals, through the Web, through outreach, through second career seminars.

The Chair: You're satisfied that there are not a lot of the gaps there?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: I am not satisfied. There are gaps in terms of getting the information out, and certainly, when you imply identifying a member to a particular program, of which, as you know, there are quite a few, to actually marry them up, we don't provide that one-on-one service for people that are retiring at the end of their military career or for other personal reasons that have nothing to do with the medical.

We do have a lot of the work involved in that. Our employment personnel selection officers, or PSEL, do have an input into it, but I think that, as we're going through a more comprehensive transition for all members, we're going to have to do a lot of more work involved in that.

The Chair: First is to recognize what you have to do and then get out and do it, I guess.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: Exactly.

The Chair: I have one other question, Lt.-Gen Whitecross, and that's in relation to another piece of legislation that we passed that moved priority for military personnel. I believe we're into the injured category now. There was a regulatory priority. We had the president of the Public Service Commission in to talk to us, and that wasn't working very well, so we changed it to make it a statutory priority and gave it a much higher level. That's the first people to be looked at if you need to do any hiring in the public service, whereas regulatory wasn't that high priority.

In your presentation, you used the term "exponentially improving this situation.'' Is that a hope, an expectation, or have you, in fact, in the upwards of a year that that legislation has been in place, seen a very significant increase in the hiring of injured or handicapped personnel retiring from the Armed Forces?

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: It's a good question, senator. I don't actually have the statistics on that one at my fingertips. There has been an uptake, for sure. In terms of the numbers, I don't have them right now.

In terms of our ill and injured going out on an annual basis, even though we have an egress of about 8 per cent — I said 10,000, but certainly, in the military, it's about 8 per cent — out of that 8 per cent, the vast majority of them are retiring due to CRA and other reasons, not necessarily on the medical side. The ill and injured component of that, of course, is smaller, at the 16 per cent.

We can look it up.

The Chair: That would be helpful. We passed the legislation because we were told that it wasn't working as a regulatory priority. It was an attempt by the legislature, by the House of Commons and the Senate, to improve the situation for retiring Armed Forces personnel by making it a statutory priority. We need to be able to track that and find out if it's working, if we've achieved what we wanted or if we have to do something else.

Lt.-Gen. Whitecross: Right, senator.

The Chair: So that would be helpful.

Are there any questions, honourable colleagues, that arise out of that line of questioning? No other questions?

On behalf of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, I'd like to thank you, Lt.-Gen. Whitecross, Capt. Langlois and Brig.-Gen. MacKay. Thank you very much for being here, and thank you for the work that you're doing for the Armed Forces. We very much appreciate it.

(The committee adjourned.)