It's All About Engagement

Ottawa - May 29, 2012

On Thursday, May 31, I will be appearing before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs to speak to the Transformation underway within Veterans Affairs Canada. My appearances before parliamentary committees, both in the House of Commons and the Senate, allow me the opportunity to speak directly to decision-makers, promote Veterans’ issues and raise awareness of the challenges faced in the Veterans’ community. My statements, along with those of the other witnesses called before the Committee, will be reviewed and compiled by committee members who will then draft a report and recommendations based on our testimony.

Committees are significant for several reasons: 

  • they allow for the detailed examination of complex issues, which is more easily done in small groups;

  • they offer an opportunity for members to hear directly from Canadians and experts and to have their statements placed on the public record; and

  • they provide an opportunity for members to learn more about the details of policies and programs.

From November 2011 to March, 2012, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs conducted a study of the delivery of front-line health and well-being services for Canadian Veterans. As part of this process, I addressed the Committee on March 8, 2012. Last week, they released the resulting report entitled Improving Services to Improve Quality of Life for Veterans and Their Families.

Committee report findings and recommendations often serve as a blueprint that enables the Office to determine what areas to pursue in the future. Throughout the report, the testimony is linked to the transcripts of the individual witness testimony, which allows readers to see exactly what questions were asked and how they were answered. This dialogue not only makes the work of the relevant departments more visible to Parliament, but it makes both the Department and the committee members accountable to you, the citizen, by the direct testimony provided. Nowhere else can one find such visibility into the inner workings of government departments, agencies and tribunals from the comfort of one's own home. Committee testimony can be seen or listened to live on ParlVu and meeting transcripts are generally published within two weeks of a meeting.  

In addition to other sources, the Office uses committee testimony to gain insight into what is happening in the Department and the broader Veterans’ community so as to prioritize and focus our activities. The systemic reviews and reports that the Office undertakes often complement committee reports by providing evidence and focused recommendations on a subject. Sometimes, as in the case of our recent report, Veterans’ Right to Fair Adjudication, the work of the Office serves as a catalyst to Members of Parliament to initiate a study or review.

The parliamentary committee process is a powerful enabler for citizen engagement and in an upcoming blog I will explain how we can use this process to pursue change. I’ll be back in touch after my committee appearance to discuss this further.


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