Quebec and Maritime Outreach Tour
Ottawa - October 27, 2011
The fall 2011 outreach tour has come to an end. It was, to my mind, a great success! I was pleased to meet so many Veterans from Quebec City, Moncton, Oromocto, Halifax and the surrounding areas.
As many of you know, we began our tour in Quebec City, where over 100 Veterans attended our first town hall. Town halls such as this one allow me to inform the Veterans' community about my mandate and the work that the Office is doing. Town halls also provide an opportunity for military and RCMP Veterans, their families and representatives to gather in camaraderie, and they enable my staff and I to directly hear and address the concerns of Veterans. At least two Early Intervention officers from the Office were available to assist Veterans with their personal concerns and complaints, both during and after every town hall.
While in Quebec City, I met with the Protecteur du citoyen (Quebec's provincial ombudsman) to discuss potential ways by which our offices could collaborate, and with the Deputy Mayor to highlight the positive contributions that Veterans make to the community.
My staff and I also met with military families in Valcartier to address some of their concerns, particularly related to the transition process after service.
In addition to holding a town hall in Moncton, I met with staff members of the Military Family Resource Centre to discuss the challenges faced by military families.
While in the Oromocto area, my staff and I met with employees of the Integrated Personnel Support Unit in Gagetown. We discussed the challenges of transitioning from military to civilian life, including the transition from services provided by the Department of National Defence to those provided by Veterans Affairs Canada. We also accepted the invitation to meet with an 86-year-old Veteran in his home, as he was unable to attend our public events.
The rain didn't dampen our outreach in Halifax. I had an insightful meeting with the Nova Scotia Ombudsman, himself an RCMP Veteran, to discuss how we might work together in the future to address concerns that fall under both of our mandates. I met with the Mayor of Halifax to highlight the valuable skills and experience that Veterans contribute to civilian society upon leaving the service. I also met with staff of Veterans Affairs Canada at both the regional and district offices to inform them of the work that the Office is doing and answer their questions. These meetings enabled me to better understand the challenges and frustrations that the Department’s frontline employees face in trying to provide the best service to you, the Veterans.
Two main themes emerged throughout these activities. Firstly, the communication from Veterans Affairs Canada to the Veterans' community needs improvement. There is often either a lack of communication from the Department or the information that is provided is unclear, too complex, and bureaucratic. Secondly, access to programs is too complex and difficult. Often, Veterans in need of assistance are so disheartened by the process that they simply give up and suffer in silence. I want to assure the Veterans' community that we hear these concerns loudly and clearly and that the Office will continue to raise these issues with the Department and the Minister.
Other concerns were raised during the town halls and are priorities for the Office, including services available for families, the disability award, disability benefits for conditions related to exposure to Agent Orange, long-term care, and the Veterans Independence Program. The issue of the blending of the Canada Pension Plan with the Canadian Forces Superannuation and the RCMP Superannuation was also raised by many participants at the Halifax town hall. While the issue falls outside the mandate of the Office, we will continue to monitor the issue and will follow up with the Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces.
I would like to sincerely thank the many Veterans, family members, service providers and others who helped my staff to plan and publicize the outreach activities, attended our public events, and shared their concerns with us.
I would also like to thank my team, who kept me on the straight and narrow and made it all happen. Without them, this would have been just a trip rather than a successful outreach campaign.
We're all doing this for the same reason, to help Veterans.
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