Ombudsman Commendation – Recipients

2019 Recipients

Lifetime Contribution: Ken Reimer

For 71 years, Ken Reimer contributed much of his time and energy to the Royal Canadian Legion. Having served in the Second World War himself, the comradeship he felt with fellow Veterans turned into a dedication to help those in need.

After joining the Legion in 1948, Ken became an important member of the Chatsworth Legion Br. 464 in 1985. There, he held the position of Service Officer for 11 years, only retiring from that role in 2018.

During his time as Service Officer, Ken supported many individuals with Veterans Affairs claims, often travelling great distances at his own expense to secure new resources. He also kept a constant eye on local Veterans, ensuring their basic needs were met.

Ken always made time to help and continually went above and beyond the call of duty. His generosity and determined efforts have not gone unnoticed, earning him the utmost respect from his community.

Lifetime Contribution: Luc O’Bomsawin (1957-2019)

For decades, Luc O’Bomsawin has contributed to the wellbeing of Veterans and their families through organizational involvement and personal guidance.

Luc served with the Canadian Armed Forces for eight years as a telecommunications specialist and on the crew of the 12e Régiment Blindé du Canada. As a Veteran himself, Luc’s vision played a crucial part in the creation of the Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones (AVA,) an organization that represents the interests of Canadian Aboriginal Veterans and serving members who are of Aboriginal descent. He currently holds the position of Vice President and acts as a Provincial Director for Quebec.

In his time on the Ombudsman’s Advisory Committee, Luc brought thoughtful and sound advice to the table. He is an advocate and voice for Aboriginal Veterans and their families, especially those who are living in remote communities with little access to health and home care services. His guidance is often offered up to those who require assistance obtaining those services, and he maintains communication with his area Members of Parliament in pursuit of fair treatment for Aboriginal Veterans.

Luc’s commitment to fairness and unwavering care for those who have served has positively impacted the daily lives of many individuals. He is held in high esteem by colleagues, friends, and Veterans across the country.

Lifetime Contribution: Joseph Paquette

Earlier this year Mr. Joseph Paquette received a Veterans Ombudsman Commendation for Lifetime Contribution from Craig Dalton at the Credit River Métis Community office in Brampton.

Mr. Paquette is President of the Métis Nation of Ontario Veterans Council and a member of the Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones. Mr. Paquette served with the Lincoln and Welland Regiment and the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and has actively promoted his Métis heritage and the contributions of his fellow Métis veterans locally, provincially, and nationally.

We salute Mr. Paquette for his continued leadership and advocacy on behalf of Veterans and their families.

Individual: Patrice Bergeron

In his position as manager of Caisse Desjardins des militaires, Patrice Bergeron has spent almost three decades transforming the caisse into a province-wide banking asset for the military community. During that time, Patrice has accompanied many individuals through their financial life with great dedication. No efforts were ever spared in helping Veterans achieve financial success.

He is also an active board member of the Valcartier Family Centre Foundation, providing it with financial advice and executing numerous fundraising initiatives.

In 2015, Patrice stepped into the lead role on the “Tous pour un Kili” expedition. The journey took twelve Veterans, all of whom were suffering from PTSD, on an unforgettable climb of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Patrice offered organizational and financial support while acting as a coach for the Veterans. The experience was a huge success, and it brought hope to many Veterans across Canada. Without Patrice’s commitment, the expedition would not have been possible.

Patrice’s personal involvement with military-centered initiatives has touched the lives of many, and has positively impacted Canada’s Veteran community.

Individual: Richard Nicholson

As a Veteran who served 25 years in the Canadian Armed Forces and a longtime member of the Royal Canadian Legion, Richard Nicholson’s life has been shaped by his military experience.

In recent years, Richard has used that experience to step into the hands-on, 24/7, volunteer position of Resident Manager of Cockrell House, a transitional home in Colwood, British Columbia for Veterans that have found themselves homeless or under-housed.

Richard plays an integral role in helping resident Veterans, working tirelessly to ensure their safety and security while offering mentorship and support. In his time as Resident Manager, he has assisted over 20 Veterans integrate into civilian society.

Perhaps the strongest testament of his impact is in the words written by resident Veterans. Describing him as a guiding force, many say that Richard’s influence truly helped to save their lives at a vulnerable time.

Local Organization: Great War Centenary Association

Since 2013, the Great War Centenary Association (GWCA) has worked to commemorate the extensive contributions of Veterans from Brantford, Brant County, and Six Nations of the Grand River Communities during the First World War.

As a charitable organization, the GWCA’s devoted volunteer base shares a common desire to shine a light on the past. Their work has included, but is certainly not limited to: the creation of a permanent and evolving record of the community’s Great War involvement, educational outreach targeted at youth, various initiatives to promote community interest and inspire remembrance efforts, and the building of partnerships at the local, national, and international level to share their knowledge.

In honouring and bringing awareness to local Veterans of the First World War, the GWCA has made a significant and enriching contribution.

National Organization: Wounded Warriors Canada

As the nation’s leading uniformed service mental health provider, Wounded Warriors Canada is dedicated to honouring and supporting ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, Veterans, First Responders, and their families. Standing by their guiding ethos to “Honour the Fallen and Help the Living”, Wounded Warriors Canada works alongside their national clinical team to support the well-being of approximately 2,000 individuals each year.

They offer eight core programs in the following categories: Group-Based Trauma Programs, Animal Assisted Therapy, Resiliency Training & Research, Children and Youth programming.

Wounded Warriors Canada’s innovative COPE program (Couples Overcoming PTSD Every Day) is Canada’s leading couples-based trauma program for those affected by Operational Stress Injuries. It is also their first internationally recognized program.

Through their initiatives, Wounded Warriors Canada has transformed the lives of many individuals by creating an environment of compassion, resiliency and hope.

2018 Recipients

Lifetime Contribution: Dr. Timothy Black

Dr. Black is an Associate Professor of Counselling Psychology and Department Chair in Educational Psychology and Leadership Studies at the University of Victoria. He has worked with the Canadian Military and Veteran Community as a clinician and researcher for 20 years with a focus on group counselling for PTSD and transition to civilian life.

He is the co-founder and lead researcher of the COPE (Couples Overcoming PTSD Every day) Program where he learned the many benefits that come from including spouses in programs for PTSD, such as enhancing relationship satisfaction and reducing isolation and shame in Veteran families.

Dr. Black also helped the organization of the 2016 CIMVHR Forum in Vancouver and was named a CIMVHR Research Fellow in 2017. Dr. Black is one of the founders of the Veterans Transition Program and is the former National Clinical Director for the Veterans Transition Network.

Individual: Lenny Roach

John Lenwood Roach is a retired Boatswain who served with the Royal Canadian Navy. He is a most generous individual always giving and always ready to help another person. Lenny has been helping Veterans with Veterans Affairs claims for many years. He is very patient and thorough meticulously working through and sorting out the material required so that the Veteran will be able to present his application for a claim in a well-organized and concise manner.

Lenny will spend hours at his kitchen table working for his fellow Veterans. He has a very high success rate and has certainly become well respected by his peers. Lenny, despite being very ill, continues to give and give. He continues to sit at his kitchen table working for and helping out other Veterans.

Individual: Leah Cuffe – Military Spouse

Leah Cuffe is the wife and caregiver of MCpl (Ret’d) Michael Trauner, an Afghanistan Veteran who in 2008 suffered from the loss of both of his legs and the majority of his left arm and hand functions. After her husband’s injury, Leah left her job and sought different employment for a more flexible schedule to provide and care for him.

She is not only a central source of support to her husband’s ongoing battle, but also a dedicated advocate for Veterans and their families. Leah provides peer support for Veterans with amputations and their families, offering advice on navigating their similar struggles. She is actively involved with foundations, such as True Patriot Love, Soldier On, and Support Our Troops, along with raising awareness and garnering public support for wounded soldiers.

Local Organization: RCMP Veterans’ Association Support & Advocacy Team (Nova Scotia Division)

In 2012, the Nova Scotia RCMP Veterans’ Association initiated the Support and Advocacy Committee after recognizing the lack of available assistance and support in pursuing VAC pensions and other retirement issues for RCMP Veterans and their families. The Committee has evolved over the past six years and developed various strategies to support the retired and serving RCMP members and families.

They successfully developed a formally trained group of Division-wide counsellors who provide meaningful responses to requests and organized training courses for Veterans wishing to engage in the program, as well as, delivering fourteen informative workshops in all corners of the province for Veterans and their spouses, utilizing qualified professionals who detail the resources available to the Veterans and families. Further assistance protocols have been developed to support spouses and families through the post-death realities of pension transition and benefits continuation for survivors. The current Co-Directors, Vic and Jan Gorman, also developed a Guide for Survivors and Executors that has been adopted by the RCMP Veterans’ Association Canada-wide.

This growing organization now consists of 28 members spread across Nova Scotia. This past year alone, they handled 400 cases.

National Organization: Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE)

Founded in 2012, Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur (POE) has become the hub of entrepreneurship for the Canadian military community. By engaging military, civilian, academic, and corporate collaborators, plus hundreds of volunteers, POE provides a continuum of training and support services needed for veterans and their families to start and grow successful businesses. As of Fall 2018, 449 have graduated from one of 23 seven-day business boot camps and started over 370 businesses; 2000 could-be entrepreneurs have explored second career options at one of 83 introductory one-day workshops; and hundreds more have taken advantage of easily accessible online support services and confidence boosting networking opportunities.

In 2016, POE launched the online business directory: Its annual #buyveteran campaign draws the attention of 1.1 million Canadians providing them the opportunity to support veterans and their families year-round. The 2018 campaign launched on November 1.

A program of Prince’s Trust Canada and with support from generous sponsors, all of POE’s programs and services are offered free.

2017 Recipients

Lifetime Contribution: Lieutenant-General (Ret’d) Louis Cuppens, C.M.M., C.D.

Lieutenant General Louis Cuppens was born in Nijmegen in the Netherlands during World War II. Canada so influenced his family that they immigrated to Canada in 1950, and he chose to spend his adult life in the service of Canada as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces. After 10 years in the Army, he transferred to the Air Force and rose steadily through its ranks until his retirement in 1998, after 38 years of service, as Deputy-Commander-in-Chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. He is past president of the New Brunswick Aerospace and Defence Association, past chair of the Defence Committee of Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion, past National President of the Last Post Fund, and has served in various executive positions in the Corps of Commissionaires, as well as serving as the National President of the United Services Institutes. Mr. Cuppens’ lifetime work and dedication to help Veterans has greatly contributed to the betterment of Canada’s Veterans.

Individual: Sergeant (Ret’d) Daniel Lafontaine

Sergeant Daniel Lafontaine was born in 1964, and grew up in Chelmsford outside Sudbury in Northern Ontario. His father’s mother was Algonquin (Anishnabeg), born in the Baskatong region of Québec; his mother’s grandmother was Innu (Montagnais) from the area of Les Escoumins, Québec; and he is a francophone first-generation Métis in Québec. He is proud to be a Canadian Veteran, and even prouder to be an Indigenous Veteran. In 1983 he enlisted in the Canadian Armed Forces and was quickly promoted to the ranks of Corporal, Master Corporal, and then Sergeant. He was deployed on peacekeeping missions with both the United Nations and NATO in Cyprus, Haiti, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia. After he left the Forces in 2003, he found that his biggest challenge in retirement was adapting to civilian life while dealing with PTSD. Each year on National Peacekeeper’s Day (August 9th), he is proud to bring together more than 1,000 Veterans for a Sunset Ceremony to honour Canadian Peacekeepers.

National Organization: Paws Fur Thought

Paws Fur Thought is an initiative that fundraises and matches service dogs with Veterans and First Responders in need. Inspired by his service dog, Thai, Medric Cousineau, a decorated RCAF Captain (Ret’d) who was awarded the Star of Courage, co-founded Paws Fur Thought with Jocelyn Cousineau in 2013. The Paws Team has a variety of team members from different backgrounds and specialties. Since its launch, the organization has successfully paired over more than 90 Veterans and First Responders with service dogs.

Local Organization: New Chelsea Society

The New Chelsea Society was founded in 1952 to provide safe, affordable housing for World War II Veterans and their families in the Vancouver area. Today, it is the third largest non-profit housing provider in the BC lower mainland with 1,432 affordable housing units for Veterans, seniors, families and persons with disabilities. For over a decade, the Society has also operated “Winch House” a supportive housing unit for Veterans of the Canadian Military and First Responders, providing them with a safe and comfortable home while undergoing medical treatment or rehabilitation in the Vancouver area. Over the years, Winch House has provided accommodation to dozens of Veterans.

2016 Recipients

The Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command – Leave the Streets Behind program

Launched in 2010, The Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command’s Leave the Streets Behind program provides outreach, emergency shelter, transition housing, financial assistance and access to addiction and counselling services to homeless and at-risk Veterans across Ontario. To date, the program has helped over 500 Veterans get off the street and assisted in providing permanent housing to over 250 homeless Veterans. With the success of this program, The Royal Canadian Legion launched the national Leave the Streets Behind program in 2012 to assist homeless and at-risk Veterans across the country. The importance of this program as a building block to assist homeless Veterans across Ontario and then extended nationally cannot be understated. Through its exceptional leadership, initiative and dedication Ontario Command has been instrumental in establishing a national initiative linking all levels of government and community resources to ensure that homeless Veterans get access to the resources they need.

Allan De Genova

Honour House President, Allan De Genova, was inspired by the story of a Canadian Soldier, Captain Trevor Greene, who was very seriously injured as he served with the Canadian Military in Afghanistan in 2006. Captain Trevor Greene’s family struggled to find a way to be by his side as he recovered overseas and also when he arrived back in Canada. Allan recognized a need to provide more support for those who serve and the vision of a “home away from home” for military and emergency services families was born. Allan was handed a challenge coin by the then-Canadian Chief of Defence, General Rick Hillier which inspired him to power forward relentlessly with his vision until Honour House was opened in New Westminster in November 2010. Set on a quiet tree-lined street, Honour House is a beautiful, fully-accessible 10 bedroom and ensuite home with a large shared kitchen that provides a temporary home for Canadian Armed Forces members, Veterans, Emergency Services Personnel and their families while they travel to receive medical care and treatment in the Metro Vancouver area. Just over four years later, Honour House has provided thousands of nights of free accommodation for our men and women in uniform and their families as they’ve gone through some of the toughest times in their lives.

Lorne McCartney (posthumous)

After 25 years of service with the Canadian Armed Forces, Lorne McCartney continued to serve by taking on the role of Dominion Secretary-Treasurer with the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada (ANAVETS) for nearly ten years. Guided by his motto “What is best for the Veteran and their family?” Lorne dedicated much of his time to advocating for Veterans and their families as a participant of the Veterans Affairs Canada Stakeholder meetings, the New Veterans Charter Advisory Group, the Gerontological Advisory Council and the Special Needs Advisory Group. He was also on the Advisory Councils of the Canadian War Museum, the Perley Rideau Veterans Health Centre, and the Veterans Ombudsman. In 2011, as the NATO Veterans of Canada Association was forming, Lorne acted as mentor and advisor on issues surrounding the New Veterans Charter, Long-Term Care and funeral and burial benefits. Although Lorne passed away in 2016, he is remembered by his colleagues, friends and Veterans for his dedication, in-depth knowledge, and unwavering commitment to helping Veterans and their families get the support they deserve.

Jenifer Migneault

Jenifer Migneault is a dedicated and devoted caregiver of a Veteran suffering from PTSD, as well as an advocate on behalf of all caregivers. Her efforts have led to a national discussion on support to military families, especially those caring for ill and injured Veterans. Her resolve and tenacity led her to knock on every door available resulting in Veterans Affairs Canada launching new programs and benefits to help caregivers of ill and injured Veterans. Jenifer shares her story publicly and openly to help others struggling with the issues she has faced. She organizes meetings to help Veterans and their families, posts videos to YouTube and Facebook and blogs regularly to ensure families know they have someone to lean on. She has become a trusted source of support and encouragement for other caregivers, and continues to contribute to an important national conversation on their treatment. As a result of her tireless efforts, she has recently been appointed to the Minister’s Advisory Group on Families.

2015 Recipients

Roméo Dallaire

Roméo Dallaire is a retired Canadian Senator, a retired Canadian Army Lieutenant-General, and a devoted advocate for human rights. He currently dedicates his time to increasing public awareness on Veterans’ issues and their quality of life, and has spoken out for improvements to the New Veterans Charter and other issues facing Veterans and their families. His openness about Operational Stress Injuries has helped educate the public about mental illness suffered by serving members, Veterans and their families, and has inspired many to seek help. His work and dedication have been recognized by many as inspirational and life-changing. View clips of an interview conducted with this recipient follwoing the Award Ceremony.

Ray Kokkonen

With 38 years of dedicated military service, Captain (Ret’d) Ray Kokkonen is a founding member of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association and has been its president for the past six years. In this role and behind the scenes, Mr. Kokkonen educates Veterans and helps them access the support they need. He also tirelessly advocates for improvements to the New Veterans Charter so that current and future Veterans and their families are properly supported. As one of the founding members of the Assembly of Veterans Organizations, Ray has recently been working towards harmony within the Veterans’ community in order to improve conditions for all. View clips of an interview conducted with this recipient follwoing the Award Ceremony.

2014 Recipients

Thomas Lewis (Tim) Hoban

Thomas Lewis (Tim) Hoban retired from the RCMP after 24 years as Senior NCO/Detachment Commander. For his contribution, he received both the Queen Elizabeth II Golden & Diamond Jubilee medals. Tim has been an active member of the community and member of the Lions Club International for 45 years as well as past President and Governor of the RCMP Veterans’ Association. Over the years, he showed particular interest in helping troubled youths and Aboriginal Veterans. Recently, he’s been advocating for Homeless Veterans, to ensure those who proudly served maintain an acceptable standard of living.

Dr. Heather MacKinnon

Dr. Heather MacKinnon had a distinguished military career. She served as a medical officer for 12 years and retired at the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Today, Dr. MacKinnon operates a medical practice in Halifax focused on serving military and RCMP Veterans. She is a passionate advocate for Veterans. She tirelessly presses the federal and provincial governments for improvement in healthcare programs to better serve the needs of Veterans and their families. She is highly regarded by her colleagues as well as her current and former patients.

2013 Recipients

Jerome Burke

Jerome Burke is a dedicated ambassador for the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada (ANAVETS). He served in various executive roles with ANAVETS over the past ten years and currently serves as Vice President of the Dominion Command and as their National Advocacy Committee Chairman. Jerome spearheaded major fundraising events for his ANAVETS’ unit and many other organizations – raising tens of thousands of dollars for his community. Jerome is also member of the Royal Canadian Legion. With his extraordinary leadership, Jerome demonstrates the positive impact Veterans have on their communities. Jerome resides in New Waterford, Nova Scotia.

William (Bill) Gidley

William (Bill) Gidley has contributed more than 10 years to the RCMP Veterans’ Association, including serving as Executive Director. In his recent role as National Advocate for the RCMP Veterans’ Association, Bill remained committed to promoting the fair treatment of Veterans and their families in accordance with the Veterans Bill of Rights. A noteworthy leader, Bill has been at the forefront of helping RCMP Veterans obtain benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada. Bill resides in Orleans, Ontario.

John D. Gillis

John D. Gillis has dedicated more than 50 years of tireless service to the Royal Canadian Legion, many years to the Korean Veterans Association and has held executive roles with the Army, Navy & Air Force Veterans in Canada (ANAVETS). His distinguished leadership and superlative work with the Deer Lodge Centre in Winnipeg exemplifies the deep concern he has for the welfare of the most vulnerable Veterans. John continues to be a committed, active member of the Deer Lodge Foundation Board and its Joint Veterans Committee. John resides in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

David Munro

David Munro, currently serving as Zone Commander, South/Mid Vancouver Island, for the Royal Canadian Legion, has devoted more than 20 years to serving Veterans, including as President of the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association. He actively participated in the development of the New Veterans Charter, and played a significant role in the crafting of the Seventh Book of Remembrance. With remarkable leadership, David was instrumental in the development of low income, quality housing for Veterans and seniors in his community, and in initiating the Cockrell House project for homeless Veterans, in Colwood. David resides in Chemainus, British Columbia.

2010 Recipients

Dennis Manuge

Dennis Manuge has demonstrated outstanding courage by standing up for Veterans as the main claimant of a class action lawsuit against the Crown for the so-called SISIP claw-back as well as being an advocate and leader in Veterans community. If his claim is successful, it will significantly enhance the financial security and lives of many Veterans.

Peter Stoffer

As the critic for his party on Veterans’ issues, Peter Stoffer has amassed detailed knowledge of the challenges facing Veterans. Thanks to his tireless advocacy, he has helped bring Veterans’ issues to the forefront and centre of Canadian discourse, championing their cause while holding Ottawa accountable for its responsibility to Veterans.

John Labelle

Encouraged by many Veterans, John Labelle formed a committee aimed at terminating all reduction formulas that are being applied to military and RCMP pension plans after seeking and receiving support for a private member’s bill from Peter Stoffer, MP Sackville-Eastern Shore.

Harold Leduc

After a distinguished career in the Canadian Forces, Mr. Leduc became extremely active in Veterans’ issues. He has regularly provided advice to the Department on how to meet the emerging needs of CF Veterans and families and has become one of the foremost experts in the history, laws, orders and authorities associated with Veterans’ programs.

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