Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs
 

Proceedings of the Subcommittee on
Veterans Affairs

Issue No. 2 - Evidence - February 17, 2016


OTTAWA, Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence met this day at 12 p.m. to study 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.

[English]

The Chair: I call this meeting of the Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs to order. Thank you all very much for being here on this day after the record snowfall in beautiful downtown Ottawa.

We're very pleased to welcome, from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Daniel Dubeau, who is Deputy Commissioner, Chief Human Resources Officer; and Steven White, Assistant Commissioner, Workforce Programs and Services. They are accompanied and well supported by Sylvie Châteauvert, Director General, Occupational Health and Safety Branch.

As you undoubtedly know, we have been studying occupational health and safety issues — in particular operational stress injuries — and we did an interim report before the last election. We have a mandate to study the services and benefits provided to members of the Canadian Forces, to veterans and to members and former members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and their families. That's one of our general mandates that we have been authorized to study. Our questions could be broader than your remarks, and if we stray too broadly you'll let us know, I'm sure, that someone else would be better qualified to answer. We're pleased that you have taken the time to be here, and I understand, Mr. Dubeau, you'll be speaking on behalf of your colleagues.

Daniel Dubeau, Deputy Commissioner, Chief Human Resources Officer, Royal Canadian Mounted Police: Mr. Chair and members of the committee, thank you for your ongoing examination of operational stress injuries affecting serving and retired members of the RCMP, and for your invitation to be here today. I'm the deputy commissioner and chief human resources officer for the RCMP. With me I have Assistant Commissioner Steven White, who is also assistant CHRO, as well as our newly appointed mental health champion for the RCMP. Sylvie runs our Occupational Health and Safety Branch.

[Translation]

As Canada's national police force, the RCMP provides frontline policing services at the municipal, provincial, territorial and international levels, working in urban, rural and remote communities.

[English]

In many communities the RCMP is the primary first responder. RCMP members are called upon to respond to a variety of duties, including criminal incidents, traffic accidents, fires, medical emergencies and search and rescue efforts.

By virtue of their duties, our members, unlike our Department of National Defence colleagues, are continuously deployed in operations and regularly exposed to highly stressful and traumatic events which put them other risk for operational stress injuries. These injuries may manifest themselves in the diagnoses of depression, anxiety or PTSD. Secondary health conditions, such as alcoholism, are also linked to operational stress injuries. It is, therefore, an area of primary concern for the RCMP in our efforts to support the health and well-being of our members, and all of our employees, to address this complex issue. Our work is focused on prevention, as well as on providing support for members who are injured.

[Translation]

Since our meeting of May 6, 2015, the RCMP has, through its mental health strategy, undertaken considerable work to reduce the stigma around mental health, and to implement concrete strategies to promote wellness within its workforce.

[English]

At the core of our efforts we continue to rely on our mental health champions, identified nationally as well as in every division. Since being appointed in July 2014, they have become leaders and supporters for rolling out our national initiatives, providing consistency and implementing local activities to respond to their distinct needs. Our approach of leading from the top — ensuring commitment and engagement from senior leaders — demonstrates to employees that mental health is a key priority for the organization. What we did not anticipate was the grassroots swell that saw informal leaders emerge throughout the organization. We have seen an evolution whereby employees are coming forward as true role models, sharing their stories of struggle and accomplishment. Simply stated, employee engagement has contributed significantly to the success of our strategy, advancing our efforts by reducing stigma and starting a conversation, demonstrating trust in the organization's capacity for acceptance and encouraging colleagues to benefit from programs and services available to them.

Another fundamental element of our strategy was to ensure foundational support for our employees experiencing challenges before starting the conversation, allowing our employees and their families to recognize that the organization supports them in their struggles, and to provide them a confidential, personal manner in which to handle their difficulties. As such the RCMP's offerings include a national informal conflict management program, a peer-to- peer system, access to 24-7 employee assistance services, and health services resources across the country.

Education and training are also important components of our strategy, allowing participants to better understand, recognize and cope with the psychological risks in their day-to-day work. After conducting successful research and a pilot project with RCMP employees in New Brunswick, we adopted the Road to Mental Readiness — the R2MR, as it is known — a well-established Canadian Forces program based on empirical data, modifying it for use in the RCMP. In August 2015, we began working in collaboration with the Canadian Forces and the Mental Health Commission of Canada to adapt and roll out R2MR training across the organization to all categories, groups and levels.

Master trainers from the Canadian Forces, as well as the Mental Health Commission of Canada, have trained RCMP facilitators — of whom there are about 90 — who are responsible for providing four- and six-hour leadership workshops. This evidence-based training, which provides awareness and education, tackles stigma, increases resilience and offers resource information, is mandatory with an expected completion by the existing workforce by April 2017.

Capitalizing on the experiences of the Canadian Forces and the expertise of the Mental Health Commission of Canada has been a valuable takeaway for the RCMP as we continue to maximize relationships with our federal partners. For serving members and former members with an operational stress injury, Veterans Affairs Canada provides assessment, treatment and support services through their operational stress injury clinic. The Department of National Defence also offers similar services to RCMP members through a network of clinics called Operational Trauma and Stress Support Centres.

[Translation]

Veterans Affairs Canada administers all treatment benefits, including psychological counselling and the use of operational stress injury — OSI — clinics, for former RCMP members with a pensionable OSI condition.

[English]

Under the occupational health care program, serving members experiencing a psychological crisis or who require addiction or dependency therapy can access psychotherapeutic services from psychologists who are licensed by a provincial or territorial regulatory authority for services they deliver. These services may be provided by other mental health professionals when deemed appropriate by the RCMP psychologist.

The RCMP's occupational health services offer a number of support services, including confidential psychological services in the undercover drug program, suicide prevention and post-mortem assessments, psychological interviews in attempts of suicide, psychological assessments and debriefings, preventive activities, short-term counselling and/or therapy, and psychological support services on an individual basis or on a group basis for psychologically traumatic events.

A few additional examples of support services that the RCMP provides to serving and former members include the following: Under our Supplemental Health Care Benefit Program, the RCMP provides serving members with personal, group, family and couples counselling by an approved psychologist; and former members are offered the option to become plan members under the Public Service Health Care Plan upon retirement. This plan includes coverage of psychological services.

Furthermore, all RCMP members and their families have access to short-term counselling services through Veterans Affairs Canada Assistance Services.

[Translation]

The RCMP is continuously seeking to improve its programs and support to decrease the incidence of mental injury and illness among its members and mitigate the impact this is having on families and the primacy of police operations.

[English]

There are many contributing factors to operational stress injuries that are within the scope of the RCMP's influence as an employer. The RCMP is proposing a longitudinal research study that examines the primary mental health diagnosis impacting its members as public safety officers, identifying the root causes and contributing organizational factors, and evaluating the effectiveness of evidence-based interventions. This approach would allow the RCMP to identify areas within its sphere of influence and control as an employer where it could adopt strategic and targeted interventions with the maximum potential to meaningfully and positively mitigate the contributing factors to PTSD and associated mental health conditions impacting public safety officers.

Additionally, where public safety officers do fall ill or are injured, it is critical to support their recovery. That means doing everything reasonably possible to help that officer recover and remain at work or return to duty as soon as it is safe to do so. This is not an easy undertaking. Case management activities for RCMP members must take into account the specific physical and psychological demands of their work as well as the variable nature of their work environment. Public safety officers must regain a physical and psychological level of functioning that exceeds that required of most members of the public. Strong occupational health and case management activities are therefore required to support their recovery. The RCMP is enhancing its disability case management activities, which are critical to supporting members' recovery and return to the workplace. A primary focus of our efforts is on early intervention, reaching out to members early on to ensure they are able to access services, maintaining a member's connection to the workplace, and facilitating the appropriate exchange of information required to accommodate a member's ability to remain at or return to work as soon as it is safe to do so.

Finally, we are in the early stages of assessing general duty constable tasks for hazardous exposure with the intention of identifying corrective measures to eliminate or mitigate those hazards. Given that we have implemented the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace into our health and safety program, this project will include psychological health and safety hazards.

Prevention, support and care are key to advancing our work to support our workforce. While the organization is cognizant of the direct cost due to absenteeism related to mental health issues, the focus remains on the human cost. As a police service, we need to ensure that our members are healthy and fully operational to deliver on the important mandate to keep Canadians safe.

[Translation]

Thank you for allowing the RCMP to participate in your discussions on operational stress injury. We look forward to answering any questions you may have. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you very much, deputy commissioner. We appreciate your broad view. Primarily your focus has been on psychological services for members and retired members. That fits in nicely with our work. In your answers to various members' questions, you may want to expand into other areas of support for your members who are outside your normal training that you have found to be necessary. Because of the changing world where you police and the peculiar and unique situation with so many of your officers operating in small units across the country as opposed to many of them together, the peer support may not be the same way as it might be for other organizations. I'll let colleagues delve into some of these questions that are of interest to them at this stage, beginning with Senator White from Ontario.

Senator White: Thank you for your presentation, and thanks to all of you for being here. We heard from the previous Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs, a former general, and I don't know who you have there now, who talked specifically about RCMP access to their programs. My concern at the time and now is that it was literally, "We will never turn them away.'' It was not, "We have a responsibility to always provide'' when it came to PTSD access. Do you believe "we will never turn them away'' is enough for the tens of thousands of current or future retirees in the RCMP to actually have access when they need it rather than hoping they will continue to receive it without being pushed back? Do you think we need to make a change so that RCMP members have guaranteed access, as we have for veterans of National Defence?

Mr. Dubeau: I know no one has ever been turned away from Veterans Affairs. We have a close working relationship with our colleagues. We are exploring expanding our MOU with Veterans Affairs on the programs they deliver on our behalf. It ensures that we encapsulate everything we need, including services to ensure none of our members are ever turned away. That's how we approached it internally — through the MOU structure. There seems to be openness at Veterans Affairs to looking at different types of services we may want to leverage in the future.

Senator White: In the second part of the question, I asked at that time, when he talked about never pushing them away, about whether they had been approved and had received access through a disability pension. My first concern was that the process takes, in some cases, years to get through — the process of actually being approved for a disability pension. My second concern was that it may not be a pensionable issue; it may be an access issue. In other words, I'm concerned about somebody retiring in British Columbia and moving back to Nova Scotia realizing that they are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or an OSI and needing access. I want them to have access immediately and not have to go through the application process for a veteran's disability pension. I want them to see someone right away. He could not tell us that would occur. I never was told that anyone was pushed out the door, but I do know that unless you have the disability pension card, you'll not be getting access because they have to be able to bill it back to the Mounties. Don't you believe that we should be telling our RCMP officers as they retire that they will have the same access as National Defence retirees have because they are served by the same group?

Mr. Dubeau: In the Government of Canada update, if they choose to go that direction with the program, it's for their own good. All I can tell you is that, working in my context right now, historically, we have not had any occasions where we've had people turned away. As you know, we have very good relations with our veterans association, so they are out there too gauging this. Should they find any occasion where we have to get involved, they advise us through Sylvie's shop, as well as through our VAC liaison person. We have somebody sitting with Veterans Affairs in Charlottetown, so there are conduits to us quickly so that we can get help for our people. That's where we are with our world. The MOU is really to try to nail down and to ensure that they do have that access. What we can do internally is our MOU and how we can ensure that that happens.

Senator White: That's only if they have a Veterans Affairs card, right? They have to have that number, that card to present, to get access, and you only get that if you have actually gone through the disability pension process.

Sylvie Châteauvert, Director General, Occupational Health and Safety Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police: Correct, but what we have found is that the process will catch up with them. As Mr. Dubeau has mentioned, we've never had anyone turned away, and our VAC liaison officer is quickly apprised of those situations whereby they are getting the treatment and the services that they need. So the paper trail will follow afterwards for whatever is required, but, again, as part of the agreements and as part of the activity that we've been made aware of, there have never been any cases where that treatment was the chosen treatment and people were turned away. We've never heard anything like that.

Senator Mitchell: Thanks for your presentation. Clearly, you're making progress, and there's a wide range of programs.

You of course are aware that there is an interest in this committee in sexual harassment in the RCMP, and we did a study under the direction of the Chair of the Defence Committee, Senator Lang, which was very extensive and, I think, quite revealing.

Commissioner Dubeau, you mentioned that RCMP members are called upon to respond to a variety of duties, including criminal incidents, traffic accidents, fires, medical emergencies and search and rescue efforts. You go on to say that, of course, one would expect that PTSD or OSI would occur as a result of that, but you don't mention anything about harassment or sexual harassment, which we all know has a tremendous impact and continues to have a tremendous impact on PTSD and OSI in the RCMP.

I'm wondering why that wasn't mentioned in your presentation. I'm asking you, I guess, more precisely, would it not be wise to recognize that, if for no other reason than to give credit to the people who are suffering those injuries?

Mr. Dubeau: Thank you, senator, for the question. Just in clarification, the sexual harassment, I think, is a broad statement. If we go by our statistics, it's not a rampant issue. Most of our complaints are not sexual harassment. They are actually abuse by authority — more bullying. I agree with you. Workplace harassment, sexual harassment, general harassment — any harassment is bad. You are right. If the workplace is not healthy, then the chances are that our members who work in that workplace will not be healthy. So the focus has been on the respectful workplace and all the work that has been done in the past on creating that respectful environment to change that culture, to change the culture so that it's not accepted, where any type of harassment or any type of bullying or anything of that sort is stopped and, if it is not stopped, we take the appropriate action through our discipline process or training or whatever it may be. The focus has been on that.

Though I don't mention it, that has been the underlying focus. All of the programs that have been put in place capture that. We have the informal conflict management program that gives people a way to deal with conflict because, at times, it's conflict. You have our peer-to-peer support mechanism that really is to help you get to the help you have. As I said before, all the changes to our law allow things to be streamlined — the harassment process, the external reporting from the chain of command — because one of the concerns we had and one of the concerns our members had was that if they're facing this in the work environment and it's their manager, how do they get out and get the help? That's where we have focus on that piece so that it's not lost on this.

There have been two things. This focus has really been on what do we provide our members who are injured? In the interim, we are trying to do the prevention part. That would be under the prevention. How are we making our workplace better and safer? That's been through training, through changes in laws allowing a discipline process that's more effective, holding people accountable more quickly at the lower levels so that it's not as judicial as it was, so adversarial. A lot of it has been training and also putting mechanisms in place to ensure that, when it does happen — and, unfortunately, it does in an organization of our size — we pick up on it quickly and deal with it quickly. That's what we're hoping to get, and we're hoping to change the conversation.

Just recently, our commissioner had a management forum, about a week or two weeks ago — time goes by fast — where he talked to all the senior executives across the organization. He's talking about respect and results. He's got two themes that he's challenged us with, saying that it's one thing just to get results, but we need to ensure that those results are gotten in a respectful manner. So you can't have one without the other, and that's where we have landed with our organization, to try to change that conversation. That's where we're still focusing. It's not lost on us because I agree with you totally, senator, that a respectful workplace is key to all this because you need a safe environment to come back to. When you go through a traumatic event, you want to come back to a safe environment where you're able to get that help, and that's what we want to create.

Senator Mitchell: I appreciate that. I'm not arguing with you. This is anecdotal: I'm in the train station in August in Montreal. One chair is empty. I sit down and start talking to the woman because she has an Edmonton knapsack, and I'm from Edmonton. She's not, as it turns out, but she says, "My daughter is in the RCMP. Always wanted to be. Been in for 15 months. She now has PTSD. She has been harassed in her detachment where she's the only woman.'' That's purely random; I know it's anecdotal. But my first question is this: Has any baseline study been done of the psychological condition and morale in the RCMP? Because every time I ask, I've been told no. I know there is some reference to your considering doing something like that, perhaps, but harassment is particular and special. So I keep hearing about the respectful workplace program. Then I hear, and I frequently get cases brought to me, that it's not working. The military — and you've mentioned that you have a liaison — just jumped all over this. They have a special call centre where people can go because, if you're being harassed in an isolated place, who do you complain to? If you do complain, clearly somebody could consider that their harasser is going to find out and make it worse. I'd like to see that emphasized, elevated and driven by the organization, and I just think it isn't. I don't think it's getting better.

Mr. Dubeau: Well, senator, first, you don't think it's getting better; it's a work-in-progress. I'm not going to say it's all fixed, but it's a work-in-progress. We feel it's getting better. We do run our employee surveys. That is our gauge of the environment. As for the reporting, we do have centralized reporting, so we do have the 1-800 number. We have various mechanisms so that somebody in an isolated area can report outside of the chain, into Ottawa, and then it's actioned immediately and sent to the appropriate person to deal with. It's not as though there isn't that. That has been put in place. There is that outside reporting, similar to what the military has. That access has been watched very closely. The whole harassment process itself, the coordination, is done centrally now, outside of the chain of command, to ensure that everything is done and done within a certain time line so that we're able to get that. So we are working on that.

When you hear a case like that, it does disturb me. It disturbs all of us. Any senior executive does not want that to happen at all. We work too hard for our people. Our people work too hard for us, and they work too hard for Canadians. We have continued to work on this. We will continue to work on this. We're hoping, collectively, that the conversation starts happening and that you get that tide to change because the ones that do not buy into this culture, as our commissioner said, we don't want them.

Senator Lang: Welcome once again. We appreciate your taking the time to update us on where you are in this area of concern.

I have two areas that I'd like to perhaps ask you to expound on. One is the question of the psychological testing of new cadets. We did discuss it, I believe, about a year ago, with respect to being able to ascertain whether a new cadet will be able to stand the pressures of the job that he or she is about to take.

How successful is that testing? Do the results of the testing that you do result in the actual termination, perhaps, of a cadet proceeding into the RCMP in view of the fact that you don't feel that he or she can cope with the job that we're asking them to do?

Mr. Dubeau: The test we use is the MMPI-2. That is the test. I went back to confirm because I don't know why it's 2, but it's MMPI-2. I don't have the statistics on how many people have been screened out of it. I do know that in our recruiting process we do screen people out because of the MMPI testing. We may find that they're not psychologically healthy, but it doesn't tell you they're going to have PTSD later on. It just tells you they're in a certain place in their life and that there are some indicators that our psychologists look at and say, "We do not believe we should proceed with that applicant.'' We have screened people out based on that, so that has happened.

Unfortunately, I don't have statistics. I can't tell you how many we've screened out in our process.

Senator Lang: I just wanted to get a general sense of how that worked and if you're satisfied with that as a tool in respect to dealing with the situation initially as opposed to down the road.

Mr. Dubeau: Yes, we are. We believe it is a good tool. I'm not a psychologist, but our psychologists have a lot of faith in this. Our chief psychologist has told us it is a good tool. It is one of the ways to test people, so it is a tool that's available.

That's why we feel it is so important to get our research project started and working, so that maybe we can get into more details and figure out if there's anything the person brings into the organization that we have to watch for. Are there any indicators?

It is hard to find out, across somebody's lifetime, what would make them have an operational stress injury or not. That's why the second phase is the research project that we want to try to get off the ground and running this year. That research project would start to follow some of our cadets when they arrive at "Depot'' Division. It would be a 10- year research project, so you could watch them as they go through their life and deal with different workplaces and incidents, to see what happens over their life and why some get injured and some do not, and how we can put in place preventive measures or strategies to stop some of that. That is the intent of our research.

Senator Lang: Just one other area, and it's a question of physical fitness. Part of one's mental health is dependent on physical fitness, and vice versa. It would seem to me that that's an area that perhaps sometimes gets lost in how we evaluate a certain situation as far as health is concerned, and other aspects, especially maybe in the area of mental health.

I'd like to know what incentives there are within the RCMP to maintain fitness, the requirement to maintain fitness. What are you looking forward to in terms of encouraging the members within the force to maintain a minimal level of fitness so that it helps their personal situation and that of the force?

Ms. Châteauvert: There is a physical abilities test that the cadets need to respect as part of their program. To answer specifically how we retain that physical ability, essentially we have a national manager for lifestyle — ensuring, again, with a conduit into the various divisions, that coordinators are there as well. They work hand in hand with the members and with health services to provide the promotion and awareness, but also to help members with particular programs. If some are challenged with certain portions of their physical fitness — be it agility or cardiovascular — they will customize the program based on those needs. They also look at nutrition. They look at a wide spectrum. They also make the linkages that when the physical demands are too high, it impacts on mental capacity. Those linkages are being made, and the promotion is there. There are all kinds of physical activity events.

Certainly the RCMP leadership really does promote. It's part of the culture. They promote that it's really important to maintain your physical conditioning.

Mr. Dubeau: We have to go for our health assessments. I believe I'm going every two years. At a certain age you go more often. That is part of the physical test. To be able to carry out your intervention, you have to be operationally fit, so our doctors tell you if you're operationally fit or not. One of the incentives of our many members is that we've been trained to be operationally fit.

Senator Lang: Every two years?

Mr. Dubeau: I believe I go every two years. I'm over 50. I can't remember what the cut-off is, but some go more often. My younger colleague may not go as often as I do. It's every three years, possibly, that I go.

You automatically get advised by our health services that you have to go in and do the full screening, physical and psychological, and you have to do the physical abilities test to make sure you remain physically fit. Based on that, a plan could be developed for you with the encouragement to get in shape. That's where we're at.

Senator Lang: I'm going to make a comment on that. If it's every two or three years, that's a lot of time that goes by; and if he or she hasn't maintained a fitness program, it's going to take that much longer to necessarily right the course, if the case is they haven't been doing what has been understood that they would be doing. I imagine it would be understood that one would be staying fit.

It would seem to me that perhaps we should be looking at something, even if it's a preliminary test every year, on an annual basis, so that at least you get a sense of where the officer is in their fitness level. Most importantly, that would follow through in respect to the mental health situation as well.

The one question that I do have, if I could, involves the case if you're in a small community. It's one thing to be in Vancouver or Toronto, where there is a fitness centre around the corner. But if you're in northern Saskatchewan or northern Yukon or other rural parts of the country, you don't have those facilities. For those officers that are put in an area that's quite isolated, what are you putting in place? Are you thinking of bringing forward some aspects of fitness that can help them in communities such as Ross River — for example, a treadmill, or the types of things that a person could use and that would be in their everyday workplace?

Mr. Dubeau: Senator, many of our detachments do have treadmills. Every detachment commander has the right — and many do take advantage of it — to purchase fitness equipment. In most of our detachments, even the isolated ones, a fitness area will be set up that a member can work out in. So we do try.

Everyone knows — our commanding officers and all the way down — that physical fitness and psychological fitness are the same thing. The brain is part of the body. We have been stressing that.

I can't say in all places, but in most detachments that I've toured, including the smaller areas, a fitness area is always set up. In most of the detachments where I've worked, including being the detachment commander, I had set up a fitness area. We know it is important, and we do stress amongst ourselves that it is important to stay in shape because it is your safety. It comes down to your safety. If you're going to be out there, you have to be in shape because you are going to respond. Unfortunately, sometimes it could be a physical response, and you want to make sure you're safe and that you keep the public safe.

The Chair: Just as a follow-up to that question before I go on to other honourable senators. It seems to me that I'm back to this point that you have a particular challenge because you have a lot of small units across Canada, and there's so much going on with respect to the psychological aspect of this.

How are you assured that whoever is doing this testing has the up-to-date testing skills for the psychological side of things?

Mr. Dubeau: I'll ask Sylvie to speak on that. That is done through the health offices.

Ms. Châteauvert: It is all done by accredited psychologists. They have to be recognized psychologists. Is that the question? In the context of the administration of any testing —

The Chair: You find an accredited psychologist in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, who is up to date on all of the testing for first responders?

Ms. Châteauvert: In that context, we do have a chief psychologist. She's responsible for maintaining her network of psychologists across the force. Certainly, if there is any recommendation for external resources, they have to screen them; they have to make sure they are the appropriate resources and that they have the necessary knowledge and experience to handle the situations at hand.

Mr. Dubeau: Also, we do transfer our members — we have to — to where the psychologist is. Especially in the northern areas, we do travel. They are flown out and we bring them to where the psychologists are so that they're able to get professional help.

When they call employee assistance services, EAS, they're talking to trained counsellors. They can link them to a psychologist via phone. They find that is a valid way of being able to get into the remote areas quickly if you have to. So we do have different avenues available to them.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: I have several questions for you. However, I first want to say that I understand the situation well. When I was a Sûreté du Québec police officer, I was also in charge of the employee assistance program.

What police officers need to realize — and this is the main obstacle, despite a good physical condition, as police officers do not talk about it — is that post-traumatic stress sometimes manifests in the aftermath of an incident. I collaborated with the RCMP during the Oka crisis, where we saw post-traumatic stress disorders. I had two opportunities to meet with MINUSTAH people, in Haiti. After a nine-month stint in Haiti, our people would come back home. They went through some difficult experiences, especially after the earthquake.

Those cases are difficult to assess. I understand the situation very well. My colleague, Senator Mitchell, brought up the harassment in some units. When someone decides to consult a specialist and receives treatment, should that person be reintegrated into their workplace? Should they be transferred to another unit? Even if a force has 5,000 or 14,000 police officers, everything comes out eventually. It is not always easy to reintegrate someone into their workplace.

You talked a lot about consultations. Is there a set minimum or maximum in terms of consultation hours? For instance, in my unit, members with post-traumatic stress disorder would consult a psychologist. We had an agreement with our employer to cover the cost of those consultations. Do you cap the number of consultation hours when someone is suffering from post-traumatic stress? Can the member continue to see a specialist until the problem is resolved?

Mr. Dubeau: I will ask Ms. Châteauvert to answer your question, senator.

Ms. Châteauvert: In the case of post-traumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues that seem to be related to the workplace, the RCMP deals with all issues on a case-by-case basis and provides all necessary services to help the individual regain their health, so that they can participate in operations within the organization.

Senator Dagenais: Is there a cap on the number of hours?

Ms. Châteauvert: No.

Senator Dagenais: There is no maximum or minimum number of hours.

Ms. Châteauvert: No.

Senator Dagenais: Do family members have access to support services? You work in remote regions, and the problem also affects the family when individuals are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Do the spouses of RCMP members receive any assistance?

Ms. Châteauvert: The family has access to support services, which fall into the additional services category. The categories are basic health, occupational health and additional benefits. Family members are entitled to a maximum of 12 hours of support services. However, depending on the needs, the family may be required to accompany the member. Once again, those issues are dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

Senator Dagenais: Thank you for your answer. Mr. Chair, I would like to ask another question.

We are trying to resolve the issues by reintegrating those individuals into their workplace. However, they may not be able to return to work, even after receiving all the treatment. For instance, at Sûreté du Québec, we had an individual who was unable to return to work after being diagnosed by psychologists and physicians. According to the policies back then, an employee had to be kept on until they reached their age of retirement, after 25 years of service. Do you proceed in the same way when individuals cannot return to work? Have you experienced that in the past? What do you do with those who are unable to return to work after being diagnosed by doctors? I know that there are follow-ups in those cases before a decision is made. Have you dealt with such cases in the past? If so, what steps did you take?

[English]

Mr. Dubeau: In those specific cases, we have a return-to-work program and a duty-to-accommodate procedure. So any cases where an individual has gone through shock or whatever has happened in their life, our health services officers will look at what has happened and tell us what their limitations are. Depending on those limitations and restrictions placed on the member, we will accommodate them in their work environment as much as we can.

In that work environment, we have rebundled work so they are able to do it. On other occasions, we have taken them out of that work environment and put them into another one to keep them employed.

That is our intent behind return to work and our duty to accommodate; it's always to accommodate or bring the person back into the work environment.

At times where the person can never do police work again, that discussion happens: What does that mean for the individual? We have different processes at that point. If the individual is really — a lot of them will say they do not consent to a medical discharge, we will discharge them administratively and they have different benefits for that because they are discharged on a medical condition.

Other times, we have conversations on how to accommodate them. Some have converted to another category where they become one of our public servants. There are different mechanisms. It is case by case, individual by individual as to how we get this person back to work. Our first step is that we always want them to come back to work in our organization. We start with concentric circles: Can we get you in your current area? If not, we go across the force and see if we can accommodate the person.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: Mr. Chair, I do not want to be too finicky, but the assessments are done on a case-by-case basis. I assume visits with doctors and psychologists take place. We know that those situations are stressful for the members involved, as the outcome is never known. The outcome often depends on the physician's diagnosis.

If, for whatever reason, a member of the Canadian Armed Forces disagrees with a doctor's diagnosis, can they use the help of another doctor to challenge the decision?

Mr. Dubeau: Members always have a right to file a grievance to ensure that they understand what is happening to them. Nothing is hidden. They can always use those rights.

Senator Dagenais: Do you keep statistics on those cases in particular within the RCMP?

Mr. Dubeau: The statistics we have concern retirements; those are medical statistics. If you want, we could send that information to you.

Senator Dagenais: Yes, I would like to have a look of those statistics. Thank you.

[English]

Mr. Dubeau: We have those medical discharges — the discharge process — both consensual and non-consensual.

The Chair: If you can provide that to our clerk, it will be distributed to all members.

Mr. Dubeau: Definitely.

The Chair: Perhaps, at the same time, if you have any statistics on how many of your members who haven't been discharged are on short- or long-term disability as a result of a psychological problem.

Mr. Dubeau: I'm looking at my colleague. I'd have to look into that one senator. I don't have an answer for you today. I will look for it and come back to you.

The Chair: I would think you would be assessing the gravity of any problem like that and know roughly how many people are on these programs.

Ms. Châteauvert: I can say with certainty that we do have the numbers in terms of the RCMP still serving and the RCMP retired who are in receipt of a VAC pension as a result of PTSD or an OSI injury. So we do have that level of information.

The Chair: Okay. That was a question — those who have taken a leave, who are gone — Senator Dagenais asked that question, and I was just expanding it to those still there but not working because of occupational health or some type of injury that has a psychological aspect to it.

Mr. Dubeau: Some of those causes are confidential, so we don't always have the details, which is why I'm reluctant to say I have that. I would not see that. But I will see what I can give you.

We do know that when people are off, we have an idea, but we don't ask what the condition is. That's a confidential piece, that's why.

[Translation]

Senator Dagenais: I'm a bit curious. Can a member who cannot return to work owing to post-traumatic stress have access to a disability plan and receive their salary?

Mr. Dubeau: Yes, they receive their full salary. Nothing changes when they are on medical leave.

Senator Dagenais: Do you conduct systematic reviews for the assessment of each case? A full salary is fine and well, but, after six months — I am not familiar with all the jargon of your administration — you have to carry out a review, assess the disease's progression, and so on. At some point, money may run out, which does not help those people regain their health. Thank you for your answers.

[English]

The Chair: Next I will go to Senator Wallin, a senator from Saskatchewan. Pleased to have you here, senator.

Senator Wallin: Thank you very much, chair.

My focus is on the smaller towns and regions, just about two hours north of "Depot,'' and these are small detachments.

I have a specific technical question that I think goes to the larger point. If someone in a detachment, a small one particularly, self-declares with OSI or PTSD, or a colleague reports and says, "I think there is an issue,'' I'm asking you whether there is a disincentive to do either of those things if there's no backup. You're already in a small operation with a huge geographic area, and now you're going to lose a guy or woman. There is that tendency to kind of buck up: "Let's not go formally on this one; we're going to be short-handed.'' What do you do?

Mr. Dubeau: That's a valid point, senator. That's actually the culture, and we're trying to change that culture. It's through the messaging, and we're finding more and more people are stepping up. When I said the groundswell or grassroots swell that came up, it is our members doing that, speaking about it, talking in detachments about this, and understanding that yes, you never want to feel you let your shift or partner down. But understand that I am letting you down. If I'm not feeling well, then I am going to let you down because I won't be 100 per cent, and I have to be 100 per cent. We tell our members now to reach into our health services, start that dialogue, and the district officers and the commanding officers assure that the backup is there. They'll make arrangements to have backup there and make sure someone is on watch while this person takes the break they need.

Senator Wallin: You can do that? Do you actually have the warm bodies to send somebody to Wadena or wherever it is?

Mr. Dubeau: We don't have authority on bodies, but they do make arrangements on the district level in many places. They move people around and bring people off from different detachments for back up and to do relief. Especially up North, we do a lot of relief duties up North where we send people so that people can take a break. That's happening more and more, which is positive for us; it's starting to be the culture where it's not just managing the detachment, but they're managing on broader scales, and we have to make sure everyone is safe.

Senator Wallin: What's the safety valve or the protection if a colleague says, "Look, Joe my buddy is behaving crazily. He's got serious issues, drinking too much,'' et cetera? What do you do in a small place to go in and do that assessment, because you can't really do it on the phone or remotely, if someone is reporting on another member?

Mr. Dubeau: It depends what the report is. Normally, we would get the person to a doctor, to a health services officer. We would bring in the member that's been reported on and say, "We need to talk to you.'' Normally, if I'm working with Steve and I find Steve is not acting properly, I would probably go to my line officer and say, "I think we need to help Steve,'' and it would be clear to Steve that we need to get you help. We're trying to drive ourselves into peer-to-peer where I talk to Steve and say, "We need to get you some help.'' We say, "You're not yourself today, Steve. Let's see if we can get you some help.'' We find that conversation is happening more and more, and then we would get some professionals to talk to Steve. We have the EAS lines, where it's Health Canada on the phone, because, as the senator said, we're everywhere, so we have that full coverage. They can actually call Health Canada, talk to the EAS and say, "I think you have to talk to Steve,'' and bring him to the phone. We're trying to drive that behaviour now.

But that's a valid point on the culture. The biggest challenge for any police organization is the culture.

Senator Wallin: As Senator Mitchell said, it's anecdotal. But that's what people say. They already have a workload; they can't afford to be one down.

Mr. Dubeau: And they feel they are letting people down.

Senator Wallin: Thank you.

The Chair: I have three senators on second round. Typically, we explore areas that we didn't get a chance to explore earlier or develop in more detail some of the points we have already talked about.

Senator White: Thanks again for being here. My question is on two areas. First, could you get us the stats on accommodated members, sworn only, to give us by division, if possible, the number of officers accommodated?

The second question I have is around health costs. A few years ago, as a result of government cuts, there was a shift of health care costs to the province of responsibility for contract policing. I wonder at some point if you could send us the information on how much was saved and cut from health care costs for the membership.

The question I have actually is — and I know some people on the government side, my side, won't be very happy with me — but we've seen a dramatic increase on the workload placed on the RCMP over the past three or four years when it comes to national terrorism. I know anecdotally that the pressure on the membership has been absolutely dramatic. I would like to know if the RCMP has produced any documentation about how much money would be required to meet the demands today based on the workload today, and if so, I would like that to be shared with the committee as well. Thank you very much.

Mr. Dubeau: A couple of points: On the accommodation, we will get you what we have. The issue with the accommodation program is that many times there's informal accommodation, short-term, and we don't always have those numbers. So the numbers I will give you are what we have, with the caveat that they may not be as accurate as everyone thinks they are. Many times in a detachment an accommodation is done because I have a cold and am not feeling well, but I still go out on my shift, so you do court duty. I will give you what we have, and for the last two years we have been working on formalizing that, on ensuring that when there is an accommodation, we document it. We have to ensure that we know, because from a centre we need to know how many deployable people we have at a given time. A commanding officer needs to know how many deployable resources he has.

Senator White: A number of police agencies in Ontario have recently said that 10 to 14 per cent of their sworn officers are accommodated right now, which means they are no longer fully deployable. That's the kind of numbers I'm looking for.

Mr. Dubeau: I will get you that. As for the health costs, I will show you our health costs. As for the savings, I'm not sure we have that. I will show you where our health costs are. We did transfer; you're right. Every member went under the provincial health plan, and we're covered by provincial health.

As for the workload, I don't have an answer to that one. From your days, as you would recall, senator, we have a demand model. We know across the force how many vacancies we have that can be filled. We do know anticipated growth. That's what fuels our training at "Depot.'' I can give you those numbers. It gives you an idea of the growth.

Senator White: I appreciate that, but on top of that, I would like to know the numbers of redeployed resources to units other than the ones they are assigned to. In other words, organized crime in "O'' Division, if you had 500 officers and 350 are now working on national security, I would like those numbers. That would tell me the amount of money you're short to do the work expected of you. I do know from division commanders that they're finding it difficult to maintain the work they used to have, let alone keeping up with the work they have.

Mr. Dubeau: I will take that back with me. It's not my area, so I will have to bring that back to our organization and see what we can provide.

Senator White: I want to be clear. This isn't a stone thrown at the RCMP. This is trying to get to the bottom of what I think the RCMP needs to do the job.

Mr. Dubeau: I don't take it any other way. I can't commit today because I don't have that information, and it's not easily accessible to me.

I can tell you how I function in "Depot,'' our cadet demand model, which fuels the rest of the force, including federal, because we're able to get cadets out there and then people are released to federal duties.

Senator White: You may tell me you want to hire 1,100 this year, but that doesn't tell me what the shortfall is. I need to know, and I'll point at Steve. Steve could tell me that if he had 1,000 people doing a job and 600 were redeployed as a result of national security, he actually has 600 plus the 400 that he's vacant. I need to know how many officers it takes to do the job expected of you today because my argument to the government will be then resource that. That's my point.

Mr. Dubeau: I realize that.

The Chair: Deputy commissioner, we understand that you may not have the information, but if you go back to your office and determine that the RCMP doesn't have the information, then we're hopeful that you will either tell us that would not be useful to the RCMP, or, alternatively, we're working on getting that information. We're asking questions we feel would be helpful to you to do the job for your members we're hopeful that you want to do.

Mr. Dubeau: I realize that, Mr. Chair. I'm trying to make sure that that report is available. I believe it is, but I'm not sure in what format. I will come back to the committee and provide some information.

Steven White, Assistant Commissioner, Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police: With regard to the national security numbers, they do fluctuate. We may have some long-term secondments to very short- term secondments from one program — organized crime into national security — for a week, four weeks, five weeks. It could change. The number fluctuates, and we have to be fluid and flexible in terms of our workforce. National security issues arise often very quickly, and we need to have that flexibility, but it's not a particular set of individuals who would be deployed for a specific amount of time. It will fluctuate. I want to put that context around the numbers.

The Chair: We appreciate your making that point.

Senator Mitchell: My first question will be about statistics as well. Recently, General Whitecross in the military announced the number of calls that they had received at their sexual harassment call centre. She itemized the four or five categories, and said eight personnel were being prosecuted because of sexual assault. Can you give us the same kind of breakdown for a certain period of time — the last year, the last two years — for your call centre? And can you give us the number and contact information of the call centre so that we can put it in our report? I'm sure it's well exposed to the force, but it's another way of getting that out there. Thank you.

I've heard — again, this is anecdotal but that's a lot of what we get — that people with operational stress injuries — constables and others — will be referred by private practice medical doctor — not an RCMP doctor — to an OSI clinic, but they have to go through the medical officer and they're turned down. Are you aware that that's happening? If that happened to somebody, what would their recourse be?

Ms. Châteauvert: When they're referred possibly by their own treating physician to get treatment in an OSI clinic, for example, could they be turned down by their own HSO within the RCMP? It's not a matter that they're being turned down, but, when they're further evaluated — and the HSOs do have more intimate information, knowledge and understanding of the individual's condition and what they've been subjected to — they may recommend alternative treatment. Not to say they are turned down from the OSI, but that there might be better, more pointed treatment that is initially required. It's not that they're necessarily being turned down. They're looking for the best possible treatment based on the diagnostic, and based on the issue at hand.

Senator Mitchell: Do you feel you have enough medical resources to deal with PTSD? I'm with Senator White in that some of the problems that you face clearly arise from under-resourcing; you don't have enough people to do many of the jobs, and 600 were taken to national security. With respect to dealing with people with PTSD, are you relying on the public health care system, or do you have resources inside?

Mr. Dubeau: We have accommodation, but we rely a lot on the public health care system. We do have our internal resources that we are looking at that we have on the ground in every division. As we go along, and as we prioritize, we realize that we need to put more people on the ground in our health offices. There is a movement afoot to staff and put more people on the ground who will have that one-on-one contact with the individual or member who is sick, or off duty sick, so we will be able to help them quicker. That link is missing, so we will be creating these adviser roles, and they will be able to start tracking the files more closely and talking to people more quickly to get them help. One of the investments is that; we look out there, and we reprioritize accordingly.

The Chair: If a major event takes place and there is some trauma, do you do an automatic debriefing with individuals who are exposed to the trauma? I'm thinking in terms of the Moncton shootings; there were a lot of other officers and members involved in that situation who weren't the three that regretfully lost their lives. Do you have a system set up to automatically meet with the others, talk to them and assess them over a period of time? Explain that to us, could you?

Ms. Châteauvert: Yes, indeed, when there is a critical incident, critical incident debriefs do take place. It's mandatory that the CO has the reflex to make that request, depending on the immediate need. It is a psychologist decision in terms of timing: If it's too soon after the incident, sometimes that's not the best, so they make that determination. Certainly critical incident debriefs do take place. There might be more than one. There will be different needs. It's a multidisciplinary approach whereby the health services officers get involved, the psychologists get involved, and the critical incident debriefs are done by the RCMP psychologist. We may call upon, if we have the need, our employee assistance services through Health Canada. We may also call upon external providers, which was the case, as you referenced, with Moncton, where we needed a lot of help on the ground. Multidisciplinary — at the time we had the staff relations representatives that were very present, very engaged, and we had peer-to-peer coordinators there and available. The leadership made a very strong presence, so there was work around the clock. Different areas were set up throughout the organization, but also even at the hospital, to provide the support where that was required.

From there, an assessment, a triage, was also done before the members actually returned to work after been exposed to the incident, and being tired. Essentially, without wanting to over-medicalize the process, it was an assessment with a set questionnaire. Our chief psychologist happened to be there at the time, so she worked with the psychologists, and they put the members through this questionnaire to determine whether they were capable of returning to work, and if there were any issues that they felt that need to be monitored. From there the listing was established, and the responsible officer for the occupational health services has been continuously monitoring the members' health. Some did need a little bit of time before returning. Clearly, not all will suffer mental health injury resulting from critical incidents, but it is certainly something that needs to be closely monitored.

The Chair: I don't mean to interrupt, but you're right on the point that I'm interested in: the monitoring and debriefing. Do you automatically meet with the families? The spouses are probably better equipped than anybody to tell you if that member is not acting the same way. "He's not sleeping; he's drinking more,'' whatever it might be.

Ms. Châteauvert: We're not necessarily meeting with the family, but there is that level of awareness. As part of the dialogue and education, that conversation is taking place. We're also providing them with some care packages so that they realize the access to the services that they have, but also that their families have. In the event, unfortunately, that there was a loss of a member, for the families in that context, indeed, they have access to a panoply of services. For example, the bereavement counselling available to the widows through VAC is unlimited, so they can access that service. At the time of Moncton, we had not solidified our agreement. Certainly, VAC reached in and said we can provide this service to the families. Since then, we've been working on creating an addendum to an existing MOU to make official this level of service to the families for unlimited bereavement counselling.

The Chair: It's pretty clear that things are changing rapidly for services to your members. That's good for us to learn.

Senator Lang: I would like to follow up on Senator White's questioning with respect to looking for information on personnel, the reassignment of personnel, and the ability to do the job that Canadians are asking the RCMP to do.

Just for general information so that members are aware, in Belgium this past week it was announced that they are hiring an additional 1,000 personnel within their law enforcement agencies to deal with the terrorism threat there. Not too long ago, a press release was issued, I believe, that a further 600 RCMP personnel were assigned to the public security threat that faces Canada.

Is this about additional personnel or existing personnel that have been transferred to that file?

Mr. Dubeau: The 600 would have been deployments — internal resources deployed to the highest-priority problem.

Senator Lang: To confirm for the record, these are not new positions but strictly a reassignment from RCMP personnel involved in other areas, such as crime.

Mr. Dubeau: Yes.

Mr. White: We assign the reallocations that were done. In Ontario, for example, investigators working on organized financial crime files were reallocated to national security files. As I mentioned earlier, it wasn't a specified number for a specified period of time. It varied in terms of the numbers and how long they were reallocated over to national security. For some it was short term, and others were for a longer term.

Senator Lang: What is short term versus long term?

Mr. White: It could be a week to two months or more.

Senator Lang: To get this on the record here, it sounds to me like we're understaffed in respect of the job we're asking the RCMP to do if you had the ability to deal with all the issues that you're dealing with.

Mr. Dubeau: We prioritize within the organization. Any time we have files or a lot of calls come in, we prioritize and deploy resources accordingly to meet the highest-level file.

Senator Lang: One can draw the conclusion, but it tells me you're understaffed in respect of the situation we face. I will leave that.

I want to ask if I could get some statistics on the smaller detachments regarding physical fitness and the ability to provide accommodation for the officers to maintain some sense of fitness. I have no doubt in my mind that in some areas there is no accommodation or very little accommodation to provide for a small gym. In the smaller communities how prevalent is that? If it is prevalent, are we able to make arrangements with the local community hall where purchased equipment could be set up? The community in conjunction with the RCMP staff could make use of this equipment to maintain a level of fitness. Could you look into that for me?

My final question is general. I agree with Senator Mitchell, who said that you're obviously moving a long way in a short period of time in trying to be able to deal with the question of PTSD. What more has to be done to meet the objectives you have set out? What more do you need from government to do that?

Mr. Dubeau: On your small detachment question, I will try to get you that information and see how our commanding officers are tracking that. For clarification, what size are these smaller detachments? Are you thinking remote?

Senator Lang: Those that don't have access to a fitness regime of some kind within a small detachment. I would be surprised if you didn't have that, if you believe that fitness is a significant part of the mental health aspect of being within the RCMP. If we don't have that, what are we doing to provide that either directly or indirectly to members of the force?

Mr. Dubeau: I will look at that for you.

Our focus right now is the research piece. We have a lot of services and we're trying to deploy a lot of services. On R2MR, we were able to have a study in New Brunswick. We had the University of New Brunswick involved, and they were able to tell us that yes, it works. Our focus is on the research piece and having it developed so that we're able to say what the indicators are. You mentioned the indicators and what we can pick up and do about it. Every police officer out there, at one point or another, will hit a traumatic event. It's part of the nature of the business. We want to make sure that when they arrive at that, either their resilience is high enough or they know where to get the help.

Our focus is on the research and getting that program off the ground. For first responders, there is not as much out there as we would like. Given that we are spread out on all levels of government, we want that as a way to find out what's happening out there and track our members over a long period of time so that we know over time how people develop and whether there are indicators to help us do that. Our focus right now is on the research.

The Chair: On the research side you're talking about the return to mental readiness and work. You had some work done with the University of New Brunswick.

Mr. Dubeau: We had the University of New Brunswick involved, under Dr. Julie Devlin and our doctors. Some research showed us an effective way to build resiliency and self-awareness.

The Chair: We have had quite a bit of exposure to the tremendous work going on through the institute based at Royal Military College at Queen's University with universities across Canada involved. I believe there are close to 50 or 60 members of the institute doing that work, which I hope you're tapping into. It's designed for Armed Forces veterans and their families. We hope to visit the institute in Kingston one of these days. It seems that when you start talking about research and trying to rebuild something that's already been built, if you can take advantage of other work that has been done, it can be helpful. I hope you're doing that.

We've learned that the transition from the Armed Forces that's overseen and administered by Veterans Affairs had some gaps. The two have gotten closer during that period of transition. Hopefully you're taking note of that particular discovery, which has resulted in much better service to veterans and their families. Since you're basically hiring services from Veterans Affairs, it would be nice if you could take a look at what's happening with National Defence in relation to those soon-to-be veterans who may be transitioning out of uniform because of operational stress injury or maybe just because of age, which may cause some psychological injuries as well that we should be aware of.

Whatever we can do to support you and your members and the Armed Forces is our role as senators. As lawmakers, or voters of appropriation funds, we ask these questions so that we can understand how we can best help. Please keep us in mind if you want to return at any time. We look forward to receiving the undertakings that you have given and that will be very helpful to us.

Thank you very much for being here.

Mr. Dubeau: Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and senators.

The Chair: That concludes the meeting.

(The committee adjourned.)