A Veteran in Service of Other Veterans
Ottawa, ON - October 20, 2017
The Veterans Ombudsman presented the 2017 Commendation for individual contribution to Daniel Lafontaine for his ongoing dedication to the military community. In addition to sharing his accomplishments (link to bio), we wanted to know more about the inspiration of our recipient of the Veterans Ombudsman Commendation in the Individual category.
Guy Parent, Veterans Ombudsman: How did you start working with Veterans?
Sergeant (Ret’d) Daniel Lafontaine: After my depression and suicide attempt in 2008, I accepted the support of my great friend Robert “Bob” Danis, who worked with OSISS. Later, I had to deal with the inevitable: divorce, personal bankruptcy and a contentious relationship with my 18 years old son. With my psychiatrist and my physical/psychological/social/vocational rehabilitation workers, I regained my self-confidence and was able to cope with my anxiety problems. Despite repeated failures during my vocational rehabilitation, I received a major blow: declared indeterminately unfit by VAC. However, my rehabilitation work enabled me to overcome my frustrations and my fears for my future.
I told myself that there must be a lot of Veterans who are suffering like me and don’t dare to ask for support. I therefore got involved in policy, working on several advisory tables with the Honourable Steven Blaney. I also noticed the lack of ceremonies for Veterans and new generation Veterans, so I decided to organize a commemoration for Canadian peacekeepers in 2011 through 2013. I had to stop this activity due to lack of interested volunteers and lack of financial support from governments and businesses. Now that a team has been formed, we are planning the 5th edition for August 9, 2018. I also got involved with several organizations of Veterans to help them to better understand their rights and how to fill out VAC documentation. I am currently serving on a working table to fight Quebec Veteran homelessness with the banner “RESPECT.”
Guy Parent, Veterans Ombudsman: What would be your message to someone who wants to make a positive change in the lives of Veterans and their families?
Sergeant (Ret’d) Daniel Lafontaine: You need time and, above all, perseverance. Anything is possible if you have the will to improve your life. I tell injured Veterans that they have every right to want to give up, but that we have a responsibility to take care of ourselves before we can support others, such as our spouse and children. I tell them that it takes courage to ask for support and that, because they are soldiers, they already have courage within them, so during the darkest times they have to draw on their deepest stores of courage. I tell them that the road to well-being can take time, but it is well worth the investment to be at peace with themselves. The saying that I take with me everywhere is “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink.”
Guy Parent, Veterans Ombudsman: Thank you and congratulations!
I am a Veteran here in Nova Scotia, I would like to have more information about how I can do more for Veterans and if there is any financial assistance out there for Veterans to actually work with veterans I find the major issue is not financial monthly assistance provided by veterans affairs but more so the message getting out to the Veterans that these are the programs out there to support them in their change in life. These programs are more beneficial to veterans in recovery of any illness than a dollar bill mind you the financial part is also a requirement in some cases. Thank You Sgt.
April 20, 2018 1:31 PM
Office of the Veterans Ombudsman replied:
Thank you Will for your question and your commitment to helping fellow Veterans. As you may be aware, the Royal Canadian Legion has service officers across the country - many of them Veterans - who help other Veterans and their family members navigate the system and apply for VAC benefits. You may want to connect with the Legion if you'd like to volunteer. Further, VAC has recently announced a new program to provide grants and contributions to private, public or academic organizations to implement initiatives and projects that support the well-being of Veterans and their families. You may want to look into this if this is something of interest to you: http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/services/information-for/families-and-survivors/well-being-fund#03
Finally, please don't hesitate to direct any Veterans who may be confused about VAC's services to our office. They can call our front line at 1-877-330-4343, and we'd be happy to help.
April 26, 2018 12:16 PM
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