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Messages - Sylvain Chartrand CD

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Veterans demand action on military suicides after latest death

By Chris Cobb, OTTAWA CITIZEN January 19, 2014 8:00 PM

OTTAWA — Another member of the Canadian armed forces has died in an apparent suicide — the eighth in a little more than two months — bringing a furious reaction from a national veterans’ advocacy group.

The military confirmed Sunday that Lieut.-Col. Stéphane Beauchemin died in Limoges, just outside Ottawa, on Thursday last week but refused to confirm that the helicopter pilot had taken his own life.

Beauchemin, a veteran of deployments in Haiti in 1997 and Bosnia in 1999, was a client of the Joint Personnel Support Unit centre in Ottawa, the unit into which mentally and physically injured troops are posted before leaving the forces or returning to work.

Although the vast majority posted into JPSU are ultimately released from the military, a unit spokesman said Sunday that the officer was on a back-to-work program.

In 2011, Beauchemin was deputy commander of the 430 Tactical Helicopter Squadron. The Citizen was unable to confirm his position prior to being posted in to JPSU.

Canadian Veterans Advocacy president Mike Blais, who has been urging the government and military to take action on suicides, said Sunday that his own sources had confirmed Beauchemin’s suicide to him earlier in the day.

“The message has to resonate within the prime minister’s office, defence minister’s office and certainly the office of the chief of defence staff,” said Blais. “It’s time for action. We can’t stand by any longer and allow this to continue.”

JPSU, an umbrella for a series of 24 Integrated Personnel Support Centres across Canada, was criticized in a recent Department of National Defence ombudsman’s report for being understaffed, leaving those tasked with helping the most damaged veterans overworked, often inadequately trained and in danger of burnout.

As a result of that report, military brass ordered a limited increase in staff at the worst affected units but the military was unable to confirm Sunday how many staff have so far been added.

An apparent road accident in Alberta that killed 51-year old retired corporal Leona MacEachern was, according to her husband, suicide — the “intentional final desperate act of a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who was undergoing treatment for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).”

“We would like to say that Leona slipped through the cracks in the system,” said MacEachern’s husband, Tom, “but, in fact, there doesn’t appear to be a system.

The Citizen has also learned that a former Halifax area military police office who left the armed forces six months died last week, also of an apparent suicide.

The military has vigorously defended its mental health programs for injured troops.

The military’s chief of mental health, Scott McLeod, told the Citizen in an interview last December that “no other organization in Canada, and probably the world” has got a more intensive program to learn from suicides.

Staff at the Ottawa unit are “extremely saddened” by Beauchemin’s death, JPSU said in a statement Sunday.

The staff members … are an extremely caring, highly dedicated and closely bonded team,” said the statement. Their main focus is on supporting Lieut. Col. Beauchemin’s family and colleagues in their time of need.”

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Three people detained, in custody after armed standoff on Halifax military base

Updated: January 18, 2014 | 11:52 am

RCMP say one person is in custody following an armed standoff involving heavy police presence near the Shearwater military base Saturday morning.

Military police responded to reports of gunshots in nearby military quarters, according to Capt. Peter Ryan, a public affairs officer for Maritime Forces Atlantic.

Mountie spokeswoman Sgt. Linda Gray said military police notified RCMP at 10 a.m. to assist with a firearm incident involving an estimated three people barricaded in a garage on Banshee Avenue.

A national strategy needed for 700,000 veterans

Published | Publié: 2014-01-13
Received | Reçu: 2014-01-13 1:53 AM

Hill Times

And it's time Canada created a federal veterans commissioner as an officer of Parliament.
Michel W. Drapeau, Joshua M. Juneau

The recent rise of suicides of Afghan veterans, which should have been predictable, has focused national attention to the despair and neglect faced by many of them. It has also drawn attention to the likelihood that the suicide rate amongst CF members is many times higher than the Canadian statistical norm. This is supported in a Statistics Canada report, which found that among CF members, 26.6 per cent of the male deaths and 14 per cent of female deaths were the result of suicide. This same report states that individuals with some military career experience are 45 per cent more likely to die as a result of suicide than those in the general population.

These numbers, though, may be underinflated, as some retired military suffering from depression or other form of service-related injury, both physical and mental, are unaccounted for because they are currently outside the reach of Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC). In other words, bad as it is, the problem is likely even worse if we consider that at present the VAC clientele only accounts for less than 30 per cent of the veteran population.


As of March 2013, VAC reports that there are 91,400 veterans of the Second World War, with an average age of 89. There are 9,900 veterans of the Korean War, with an average age of 81. There are also 594,300 veterans who served in the Regular and Reserve components of the Canadian Forces since 1947 with an average age of 56. This totals close to 700,000 veterans.

In 2012, VAC estimated that is had a clientele of 220,242 veterans plus some survivors (primarily spouses) and approximately 6,000 RCMP personnel. These individual are 'clients' of VAC because they receive a disability pension, benefits and services under the Veterans Independence Program and/or treatment benefits. These 220,000 veterans are 'looked' after by the minister of Veterans Affairs, the VAC staff, the Bureau of Pension Advocates (BPA) and the VAC ombudsman. However, this leaves a very large number who, are officially 'unaccounted for'. From our perspective, our government owes a duty to all veterans not just those who already have advanced a claim through the VAC auspices.

Increasingly, we find many of these 'unaccounted for' veterans involved in a mounting number of grass-roots veterans advocacy groups vying for national attention for their legitimate claims and expectations. We find others involved in some form of court action; even families of deceased veterans mounting vigils alerting the public to their plight and abandon.

Bureau of Pension Advocates (BPA)

This bureau is a VAC organization composed mainly of lawyers whose function is to provide free legal advice, assistance and representation for veterans dissatisfied with decisions already rendered by VAC with respect to their claims for entitlement to disability benefits, or any assessment awarded for their eligible conditions. Its mandate is to assist VAC clients in the preparation of applications for review or for appeals, and to arrange for them to be represented by a lawyer at hearings before the Veterans Review and Appeal Board (VRAB). Given their experience in pension matters, they are recognized as specialists in the area of claims for disability benefits. Our own experience indicates, however, that their resources may be limited since no adjustments have been made to account for the increased workload in the wake of the Afghan mission.

VAC Ombudsman

Currently, a veteran dissatisfied with the services and benefits received from the VAC is eligible to receive support from the VAC Ombudsman whose mandate is: "the provision of services, benefits, and support in a fair, accessible, and timely manner and to raise awareness of the needs and concerns of veterans and their families." The VAC ombudsman addresses complaints related to VAC programs and services and emerging issues with respect to appeals filed with the VRAB. However, his mandate and resources do not permit him to address the much wider and substantial issues facing the remaining 500,000 veterans. As we will see, this is left to an ad hoc combination of occasional Parliamentary interventions, anecdotal media campaigns concerning the increasing number of PTSD sufferers, and legal processes such as an occasional military board of inquiry, coroner's inquests, or civil litigation. All of this leads to a perception that Canada is failing to address the current unfairness. This disadvantages service personnel injured during deployments abroad as well as the changing needs of the veteran community.

Tsunami of PTSD victims

We know that many veterans will face challenges in adjusting to civilian life. Many will experience long lasting and significant impacts and continue to struggle with PTSD and other mental health problems. Families and careers of veterans will share the consequences of their service and this struggle.
How many of our retired veterans are suffering from PTSD but are too proud or scared of career ramifications to come forward? It is estimated that approximately 15 per cent of our soldiers who deployed on operations will eventually fall victim to PTSD. Given that some 30,000 soldiers served in Afghanistan alone, in the fullness of time, Canada can expect having to deal with approximately 4,500 PTSD sufferers.
A harder question may be: how many of those will be diagnosed with PTSD and receive treatment, before it is too late? This is something we may never know, as the purview of the VAC Ombudsman only extends to those veterans who have already come forward and requested a VAC disability award. Further, it is also outside the purview of the DND/CF Ombudsman since these distressed retired personnel are no longer eligible to receive care and protection from the military.
It behoves us to ask, therefore, how many of Canada's 500,000 veterans who are retired and not collecting VAC disability pensions, could potentially commit suicide due to mental health injuries? This also may never be known, as the statistics of suicide among veterans is only catalogued for serving members and retired members receiving a VAC disability award. A veteran who commits suicide, who is not receiving a VAC disability award, is counted as a 'civilian' casualty.

Civil litigation

Litigation activities over the past decades have demonstrated that many veterans have lost faith in the capacity or the willingness of government to provide them with the required support or, if provided with such support, they are dissatisfied by the handling of their pension and the fetters imposed on them by the existing legislated programs. This may explain why we are witnessing an increasing number of lawsuits initiated by post-Korean War veterans. Consider the following three examples:
Agent Orange-Gagetown

Between 1966 and 1967, civilian and military personnel at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Gagetown were exposed to harmful levels of Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide developed by the U.S. military for use in the Vietnam War. It is reported that these individuals were told that the chemicals were harmless, to the point that some would spray each other with the chemical to cool off. Decades later, it was learned that Agent Orange exposure causes cancer and other deleterious health effects. By way of settlement, VAC offered to pay each valid claimant who was still living $20,000. This is the subject of a lengthy class action lawsuit filed in 2005 and is still largely ongoing.
Dennis Manuge

This case, initiated in 2007, was also the subject of lengthy class action litigation. The Manuge class action concerned the clawback of SISIP benefits, which were found to be contrary to section 30(1) of the Pension Act. It was argued, among other things, that this was unconstitutional, and against legislative interpretation. Ultimately, in 2013, the government and the class settled for a reported $887-million.

Equitas lawsuit

This is another class action suit in which named veterans claim that the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-Establishment and Compensation Act (the "New Veterans Charter") substantially reduced their benefits and compensation that would have been formerly granted under the Pension Act. As a result, many of the veterans of the Afghanistan mission claim that they are being treated unequally because the benefits and compensation available under the New Veterans Charter are substantially less favourable than those that are available to injured persons claiming under tort law or worker compensation laws. Again, this litigation will likely take many years to resolve, and cost a lot of money.

Those who fall between the cracks

Many of the unaccounted 500,000 veterans or members or their families are currently left to their own devices primarily because their claims fall outside VAC jurisdiction. At present, these persons have no place to go to address their grievances or claims, save, and except, the court or the media. Perhaps two recent examples would suffice.

Joan Larocque

This case received significant national media coverage in mid-2013. Joan Larocque's husband, Jacques, collapsed and died from a sudden heart attack while he was on leave in 2005. Post-mortem autopsy revealed that Jacques had suffered two previous heart attacks while employed as a member of the Canadian Forces, including one, which was diagnosed by military doctors as heartburn, in Afghanistan.
Joan Larocque had Jacques death deemed "attributed to service" in 2013, after eight long years fighting for recognition. We surmise that Joan Larocque may now qualify for a widow's pension through VAC. However, currently, investigation into Joan Larocque's matter is outside the mandate of the VAC ombudsman, as Joan Larocque is not a veteran. This matter is also outside the purview of the DND/CF ombudsman, because Joan Larocque is not a member of the Canadian Forces. This is no way to treat the family of a CF veteran.

Boards of Inquiry into the sudden deaths (suicide) of soldiers

When a CF member dies from a non-combat death, the military conduct an in-camera military Board of Inquiry (BOI) investigation. There are tremendous inconsistencies between a military BOI and a civilian coroner's inquest, which may taint the entire process because it shifts the focus of that BOI from a fact-finding mandate to a protectionist one; more interested in exonerating the Chain of Command from any blame or liability, than in uncovering truths and/or seeking improvement to the system to prevent future tragedies.

Currently, this issue is outside the purview of the VAC ombudsman and/or the DND/CF ombudsman because this time, rightly or wrongly, the chain of command has taken full and exclusive jurisdiction of this issue. In the end, non-combat deaths of, say, soldiers suffering from PTSD, go uninvestigated, unless a Charter-challenge is raised by their families, at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars, unless the military family is granted by the civil authority a coroner-like independent and impartial fact-finding investigation.

Veterans Commission Accountable to Parliament

As mentioned earlier, the VAC ombudsman's limited role and mandate may explain why, at present, there is no national focal point for addressing the needs and expectations of all veterans, and not just those whose names are already listed on the VAC Rolodex. His powers are necessarily limited to investigating complaints made by clients of Veterans Affairs. This represents less than one-third of the veterans' community!

For the two-thirds of veterans who, while not receiving a disability award, may wish to raise a systemic issue or a claim which falls outside the jurisdiction and existing mandate of the VAC, there are only three avenues: the court, the media, or the political route. Another option, which would serve the public interest, would be to establish a Veterans Commission as a creature of Parliament to serve all veterans. Granted with a reasonable sense of independence and a degree of public confidence, the Veterans Commission would be granted the powers to examine and report on new claims and monitor the effectiveness of existing programs and benefits and, analyse and report on new claims. He would also provide assistance for each and every veteran to ensure a seamless transition from military to civilian life. The Veterans Commission would also become the de facto focal point to develop a national strategy to deal with the current No. 1 veteran's issue: PTSD. His mandate should be as broad as possible so that no veteran (or family of a veteran) is turned away.

Lastly, for the sake of efficiency and optimizing resources, the Veterans Commission could quickly be established by absorbing both the offices of the Bureau of Pension Advocates and the VAC Ombudsman to ensure that there exists a single national focal point to investigate, assess, and recommend a coordinated national strategy to deal with issues affecting the morale and welfare of our sons and daughters during and after their military service.

The establishment of such a Veterans Commission may actually save the taxpayer money, as the costs of commission-initiated investigation may be lower than paying a barrage of Department of Justice lawyers, paralegals and other professionals to proceed with the current and expanding civil litigation. It would also herald a long-standing and legislated recognition by Canada of the unique service and sacrifices of those who serve and have served in the Armed Forces. This would provide Canada with an ability to examine and develop, in a non-partisan basis, a pro-active, fair and comprehensive national strategy to address and coordinate the nation's welfare support and obligations towards our serving and retired military personnel.

The Hill Times   Online:

Michel W. Drapeau
Barrister and Solicitor/avocat-notaire
Professor, Facultyof Law, University of Ottawa

Afghanistan / The truth about Afghanistan
« on: January 15, 2014, 04:34:49 PM »
The truth about Afghanistan

By Terry Glavin, Ottawa Citizen January 15, 2014 4:00 PM

Sean Maloney is the sharp-witted and ebullient generation X history professor at the Royal Military College in Kingston who also serves as the historical adviser to the Canadian Army for the war in Afghanistan. Maloney is known for critiques of Canada’s military policies that can be as acerbic and bracing as his assessments of the Canadian Forces’ loudest detractors.

Lately, Maloney has been asking some especially disturbing questions about the Canadian news media’s mistakes, its “memes,” and its occasional outright malpractice. Maloney’s main riddle: What is it that has so incapacitated Canada’s opinion-makers in the task of comprehending and articulating and debating the effectiveness of Canada’s various engagements in Afghanistan over the past dozen years?

Among his several ways of answering that question, my personal favourite is the simple explanation he offered me during a conversation the other day. It goes something like this: The entire debate is dominated by “fop intellectuals” who cannot rouse themselves to the basic decency of an approach to facts and evidence that is not determined solely by their own preconceived and ill-informed ideas.

Maloney lays out a more scholarly and nuanced elaboration of that hypothesis in a meticulously-argued and bracing paper titled “Was It Worth It? Canadian Intervention in Afghanistan and Perceptions of Success and Failure,” in the current edition of the Canadian Military Journal. In it, Maloney administers a richly-deserved thrashing to “the media and their fellow travellers, the pollsters,” for persisting in bunging up the public debates on the subject.

Maloney is particularly intrigued by the mass media’s incubation and transmission of what he calls the “Was It Worth It?” meme. It’s a bundle of poses, behaviours and styles that he renders thus: “Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan resulted in dead Canadians and the expenditure of lots of taxpayer money. There hasn’t been any real progress made. Canada withdrew in 2011. It wasn’t worth it.”

The positive data from the UN‘s human-development, health and education indices may be overwhelming, but “critics of Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan want simplistic metrics that reinforce their existing views,” so measurements of effectiveness, along with evidence for longer-term and bigger-picture progress, either get overlooked or end up being contorted and bent out of recognition.

A meme spreads through society like a virus, and with the winding down of the Canadian Forces’ training and mentoring “Operation Attention” mission in Afghanistan the “Was it Worth It?” meme is emerging from periods of dormancy, erupting in outbreaks here and there.

The meme has also been evolving lately into an increasingly debilitating variant. An especially aggravated case showed up last Saturday in a Globe and Mail opinion article under the headline: “Was our Afghan saga useless — or worse?” It claims there is evidence to suggest that “Afghans increasingly favour the Taliban over NATO and its own chosen regime.”

In fact: “Since 2009, there has been decreasing support for armed opposition groups (AOGs),” according to the latest national polling data, in the Asia Foundation’s ninth annual national survey, released last month.

My friend Sanjar Sohail, editor of the liberal Afghan daily Hasht-e-Sohb, says, “Afghans never, ever favoured the Taliban, and Afghans do not favour the Taliban now. The Taliban is a product of the Pakistani military establishment, imposed on Afghans. I don’t know how anyone can rationally justify such illogical and fact-absent claims.”

The Asia Foundation survey shows that hardcore Taliban support is hovering, as usual, at less than 10 per cent, concentrated almost entirely in the most backward and primitive Pashtun regions bordering Pakistan. Afghans have also consistently demonstrated a remarkable patience with the UN/NATO effort in their country, and with the national government in Kabul.

The implications of getting these basic facts upside down are tectonic, as a 2009 University of Maryland Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) survey of opinion in 20 different countries so sublimely illustrates. “Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to leave, 76 per cent say that NATO forces should leave,” PIPA found. “Among those who believe that the Afghan people want NATO forces to stay, 83 per cent say NATO forces should stay.”

That’s the problem with actual evidence about those persistently sensible and incorrigibly optimistic Afghans. They stubbornly refuse to go along with the Toronto view that things are “worse” for them now, or at least no better, than the during the Taliban time. What all the evidence shows is if you ask an actual Afghan the question — Was it Worth It? — the odds are overwhelming that the answer will be “yes.”

Terry Glavin is an author and journalist whose most recent book is Come From the Shadows.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and the Mental Health of Military Personnel and Veterans


Audit finds ‘gaps’ in military daycare, health services

By Lee Berthiaume, Postmedia News January 13, 2014 7:16 PM

A soldier dad says a sad goodbye to his son as he prepares to board a plane to Afghanistan in 2012. Defence Department auditors say "the military lifestyle can create disadvantages for military families" that require effective support services.
Photograph by: Julie/Oliver/Postmedia News/File , Postmedia News

OTTAWA — Canadian military families may be described as the “strength behind the uniform,” but Defence Department auditors have found significant “gaps” in their ability to access child and health care in the same way as civilian families.

One doesn’t have to look long to find military parents venting their frustration online about the difficulties in finding daycare for their children, from long waiting lists to the absence of emergency services when a parent gets called away to work.

While many non-military parents can relate, the situation for military families is exacerbated by frequent moves and temporary deployments.

“The frequency of relocations and separations imposed by the military lifestyle can create disadvantages for military families as compared to non-military families,” Defence Department auditors found in a report.

“Therefore, there is a need to address the disadvantages imposed upon them by operational requirements.”

The same holds true for access to health care (including mental-health services and assistance for families with special needs), spousal career support and education.

The auditors’ report was written a year ago but was only recently posted online, and echoes issues identified by Canada’s military ombudsman, who surveyed 370 military families and visited 10 bases before publishing a damning report in November highlighting many of the same problems.

National Defence spends about $50 million to $60 million each year on support programs to help military families deal with the “unique stresses” of the Canadian Forces lifestyle. These programs are delivered mainly at 32 Military Family Resource Centres across the country, and at 11 centres outside the country.

While exact numbers weren’t available, Defence officials told the auditors the services are used by at least half of military families. Rates varied, however, with one estimate putting use at Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ont., at more than 90 per cent.

Yet the auditors found that the programs and services “do not explicitly address each of these high-needs areas and/or do not address them to a depth that will effect a significant reduction in support gaps in these key areas.

“Instead, many of the programs/services address issues peripheral to the key family support requirements.”

The auditors acknowledged better access to health care and issues related to spousal employment, such as credential recognition, are provincial and territorial responsibilities. But they indicated that is no excuse for inaction, arguing that “DND leadership and sustained effort will be required to make progress in addressing these systemic disadvantages to military families.”

At the same time, they said Defence officials need to take a good, hard look at ways to improve access to child care for military families.

National Defence says it is taking steps to address the issues raised. That includes discussions about child care with child and youth agencies as well as provincial governments, and signing agreements to make it easier for military families to access health-care services in different jurisdictions.

Defence officials have also said they hope a plan to reduce the number of forced relocations by up to 10 per cent will ease the problem for many families.

The auditors found many military families are “currently able to manage family stressors” and “have greater confidence in the level of support available.” They also discovered through interviews with military commanders and support staff a desire to “temper the image of ‘brokenness’ in military families and focus instead on promotion of families’ inherent resilience.

“The creation of many support programs/services for military families, especially via charitable fundraising, may have perpetuated an image of military families as ‘needy,’” the auditors wrote. “Many interviewees underscored that military families are resilient.”

But the need for more medical care, child care and spousal employment support stood out.

The amount spent on supporting military families represents only about 0.3 per cent of National Defence’s budget, auditors found, and translates to about $950 per family per year.

“Considering federal spending on the current National Child Tax Benefit of $1,367 annually per child per Canadian family, overall public spending on (military family support) is relatively modest,” the auditors wrote.

Improved support for families translates into a stronger Canadian Forces, they added, with military members being more willing to deploy and more willing to stay in the military if their families are supported.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

Update on Appeal of the Scott et al. Proposed Class Action

January 3, 2014 Department of Veterans Affairs

Ottawa – The following was issued today in light of the routine filing of the Government’s legal factum, the latest stage in the ongoing Scott et al. v. Attorney General of Canada proposed class action:

On October 2, 2013, the Government of Canada appealed the Honourable Mr. Justice Gordon Weatherill’s ruling on the Attorney General of Canada’s Application to Strike the Notice of Civil Claim filed by the Plaintiffs’ counsel in the Scott et al. v. Attorney General of Canada proposed class action.

On September 26, 2013, after reviewing recent reports from the Veterans Ombudsman and following several weeks of extensive consultation with stakeholders, Minister Fantino announced the Government’s support for a comprehensive review of the New Veterans Charter, including all enhancements, with a special focus placed on the most seriously injured, support for families and the delivery of programs by Veterans Affairs Canada. This review, which was called for by the Government, serves as a key vehicle to find responsible changes to improve the already robust systems of support in place to help Canada’s Veterans.

"The Parliamentary Committee remains the right forum for addressing changes to the New Veterans Charter," said the Honourable Julian Fantino, Minister of Veterans Affairs. "This review, led by legislators who represent Canadians from across the country, is an inclusive, consultative collaboration on how best to make positive changes for Veterans and their families. We continue to focus on our common goal of best serving those who served Canada."

To date, Canada’s Veterans’ Ombudsman, Equitas representatives, the Minister of Veterans Affairs and technical experts from within and outside the Government of Canada have appeared. During his appearance, Minister Fantino asked parliamentarians to recommend language that could be added to the New Veterans Charter to define the duty and obligation that the Government of Canada has towards Veterans. The review will continue when Parliament resumes at the end of January.

Veterans Affairs Canada’s support and services offer the right care at the right time to achieve the best results for Veterans and their families. Find out more at

Air Canada apologizes for telling soldier with PTSD her service dog not welcome

Read more: Staff
Published Monday, January 13, 2014 4:34PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 13, 2014 7:12PM EST

Air Canada is apologizing to a soldier for a “misunderstanding” after she was told her service dog, which helps her cope with her symptoms of PTSD, was not allowed on board a flight she had booked to attend her grandmother’s funeral over the weekend.

In a statement sent to CTV News Monday afternoon, Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick said the airline has a policy to accept service animals for passengers with a number of disabilities that are not limited to physical impairments. Once passengers submit a form filled out by their doctor, “professionally trained and harnessed” service animals are allowed on board.

“In fact, we provide extra space to accommodate them,” Fitzpatrick said.

Read more:

“In this particular case, we have invited the customer to provide us with more complete information to allow the customer to travel on Air Canada with her service animal. We apologize for this misunderstanding.”

Shirley Jew’s ordeal began on Saturday, when she contacted Air Canada to inform the airline that she would be travelling with her service dog, Snoopy, from Edmonton to Toronto. In one of several posts she made to the airline’s Facebook page, Jew says she and Snoopy had flown on Air Canada as recently as December without incident.

On this occasion, however, Jew says her call was passed around from employee to employee. All of them told her that Snoopy did not qualify because Transport Canada did not recognize her PTSD as a disability requiring a service dog.

“They keep referring to her as an emotional support animal and she is not,” Jew posted to Facebook.

Transport Canada allows service animals onto flights when they are accompanying patients with a variety of conditions, from vision or hearing impairments to mobility limitations. Air Canada’s rules, as posted to the airline’s website, suggest service animals for emotional or psychiatric support are permitted only aboard flights to the United States.

On Sunday, Air Canada responded to Jew on Facebook, saying that Snoopy could be allowed into the cabin as a pet if she paid the $50 pet fee.

“We have spoken with our medical desk and they have informed us that they explained to you that PTSD isn't yet recognized by the Canadian government as one of the conditions requiring a service animal,” an Air Canada social media representative named Nisha wrote to Jew on Facebook, saying service animals for PTSD are allowed on flights to the U.S. only.

Nisha suggested that the airline would be happy to add “your pet” to Jew’s passenger file if she paid the $50 pet fee.

However, Jew opted to accept a refund from the airline and book a flight on WestJet instead.

The airline also took to Facebook to inform Jew that she can register her service animal via the airline’s medical desk.

With reports from CTV’s Mercedes Stephenson and Richard Madan

Read more:

Sgt. Shirley Jew and her service dog Snoopy. Jew, an Alberta soldier with post-traumatic stress disorder, says she's disappointed Air Canada wouldn't allow her dog on board a plane as a service animal. (Canadian Armed Forces / Handout).


Mike Blais Rcr Cfds
Minister Nicholson – National Defense
Minister Fantino – Veterans Affairs

PTSD - Certified Service Dogs – Travel


As you are undoubtedly aware, Sergeant Jew's certified service dog was most recently denied access to a Air Canada Flight when the company, citing Transport Canada regulations, refused to recognize her medical requirements.

I am contacting you today to encourage you to personally address this issue at the ministerial level by ensuring Transport Canada’s regulations are amended to included PTSD in the criteria for Certified Service Dog and that those who are suffering from mental wounds receive the standard of care and respect they have earned through great sacrifice to this nation.

I am confident that with your direct assistance, this situation can be resolved in an expedient manner.


Michael L Blais CD
President - Founder Canadian Veterans Advocacy
6618 Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ontario

Alberta woman outraged service dog not allowed on Air Canada flight

By Slav Kornik  Global News

Edmonton – A Cold Lake woman is expressing her frustration after she says Air Canada refused to let her service dog ride in the cabin with her for free.

Shirley Jew had booked a flight from Edmonton to Toronto after finding out her grandmother had passed away.

The Canadian Armed Forces sergeant says PTSD makes it hard for her to function and concentrate during her daily life, so her dog “Snoopy” helps her with her anxiety and focus.

She will pull me out of a situation. She’ll pull me out of my zone. If I zone out, she’ll pull me out of that,” explains Jew.

Air Canada’s policy is for those travelling with service animals to call customer service and alert the airline. Jew says that’s what she attempted to do.

“Once I contacted their desk I was told that they don’t recognize my service dog as a service dog even though I have the documentation,” Jew explains.

Jew says after speaking to Air Canada’s medical desk, she was so upset she had to hang up the phone.

“I very (nearly) had a meltdown.”

During a Facebook exchange between Shirley and Air Canada a message from Air Canada reads:

“PTSD isn’t yet recognized by the Canadian government as one of the conditions requiring a service animal. Under current regulations, we are required to permit service animals only for flights to the US where PTSD is recognized as a condition requiring service animals. Flights within Canada fall within Canadian law and so we don’t have these requirements yet. “

Jew claims Air Canada has allowed her service dog to sit at her feet during previous flights.

The company did offer the option for Jew to have her dog in the cabin for a charge of $50, but Jew cancelled the tickets – which Air Canada refunded – before booking with Westjet.

“They’re awesome. They were like, ‘yup, no problem. Everything is all set. You’re good to go,’” says Jew.

Global News has spoken to the legal agency representing the organization that trained Shirley’s dog.

A lawyer with the agency says under the Canadian Transportation Act, service dogs must be allowed on planes for anyone who has a physical or mental disability, and PTSD is a recognized mental health disorder.

Jew says she sent a message to Air Canada she hopes will change the airlines policy on dealing with people who are dealing with PTSD.

“I hope you guys understand it’s not just military or veterans. You are now going to have RCMP and first responders, so this is going to be a very common sight, and I hope you treat all of us like humans.”

Follow @slavkornik

Operation Sacred Obligation - OSO / PM should support troops
« on: January 11, 2014, 02:03:43 PM »
PM should support troops

Ottawa Citizen January 11, 2014 2:00 PM

Re: Military confirms another suicide, Jan. 10.

Yet another heartbreaking story of more suicides by members of the military, some suffering from PTSD. I am so ashamed of my government for its treatment of veterans.

We send them to supposedly "fight the good fight," then on their return, do not provide them with the services they need to heal from the hell that is war. Or we offer them a one-time pittance of a payment, to compensate for missing limbs, in so doing, condemning them to a lifetime of financial hardship. Or we arrange for them to be let go from the military before their pensions kick in.

There simply does not seem to be a political will to change the status quo. Only when Canadians speak out against the appalling treatment of war vets, do we have a chance of turning this around. I do not think for a moment that the average Canadian would support these shameful practices. We must not cut DND budgets at the expense of vets.

The irony is that those of us who questioned Canada's involvement in the war in Afghanistan, were told repeatedly to "support our troops." (Actually, that's exactly what we were trying to do.) Well, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, it's over to you to walk your talk and stop this insanity by supporting our troops and honouring the sacrifices they made.

Pam Mayhew, Ottawa

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen



January 2014

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) wishes to advise you of a change to the following benefit code for Massage Therapists in Prince Edward Island under Program of Choice (POC) 12 – Related Health Services, effective February 1, 2014.

For the following code, providers will be reimbursed their usual and customary charges up to a maximum of $75 per hour.

249432 Massage Therapist - Visit

Providers must not charge VAC clients more than other clients who are residents of the province.

Thank you for the ongoing care and service you provide to our Veterans.

Canadian soldier's death 3rd suspected suicide in a week

Tom Mulcair urges Stephen Harper to make the issue of military suicides a personal priority

The Canadian Press Posted: Jan 10, 2014 6:03 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 10, 2014 10:49 PM ET

The Canadian military is dealing with another case of suspected suicide, the third sudden death in a week.

The latest tragedy, which occurred Wednesday, involves a reservist belonging to The Princess of Wales' Own Regiment, one of the country's oldest military units, based in Kingston, Ont.

Several defence sources identify the victim as Cpl. Camilo Sanhueza-Martinez, 28, a veteran of the Afghan war.

National Defence confirmed the identity, but declined comment on the circumstances saying that Kingston Police were investigating after the soldier was found at home.

"The sudden loss of any soldier is devastating to the military community and our condolences go out to his family and friends," said a defence department statement. "The loss of any of our soldiers is tragic and heartbreaking. The regimental family, the entire army family and community are mourning the loss of Cpl. Sanhueza-Martinez."

He joined the army in January 2005 and served in Afghanistan between May 2010 and January 2011.

Over the last week, there have at least two other cases of apparent suicide involving serving members of the Forces, and that follows on a string of deaths last fall, including a spate of four in one week.

One particularly stark case from December was made public earlier this week when the husband of a former Canadian soldier who died in a Christmas Day car crash in southern Alberta told CTV that his wife's death was a suicide.
PM urged to take 'urgent action'

Tom MacEachern said his 51-year-old wife, Leona, a retired corporal, was being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, and intentionally drove her car into an oncoming tractor-trailer on the Trans-Canada Highway near Calgary.

MacEachern says his wife had been locked in a long battle with Veterans Affairs over medical benefits for dental work she received while stationed in Germany during the first Gulf war.

The latest case involving the reservist from Toronto alarms veterans advocates.

While National Defence is able to effectively track regular, full-time members, it has struggled to deliver services to reservists, who serve part-time.

"One can only wonder just what level of mental health support DND is providing an individual at the reservist level or how many more reservists have taken their lives," said Mike Blais, president of Canadian Veteran Advocacy.

"We can not underestimate this problem, thousands of reservists were called upon to serve in Afghanistan. Those who have sustained mental wounds are in our communities. They need our help. They need the help of our military and government."

The alarming number of suspected suicides prompted NDP leader Tom Mulcair to make a direct plea to Prime Minister Stephen Harper on earlier Friday to take "urgent action."

Mulcair sent a letter to Harper calling on him to "commit to taking urgent action" to properly address the mental health needs of those who serve in the military.

"I urge you to make addressing this issue a personal priority for you as prime minister," the letter states.

"I am asking you on behalf of your government to honestly acknowledge the crisis, accept responsibility for the fact the status quo isn't working."
50 boards of inquiry on military suicides

The issue of mental health needs in the military was brought before two separate House of Commons committees last month.

Former soldiers and veterans advocates said little attention is paid to helping physically wounded soldiers and those suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder make the transition to civilian life.

And they said the perceived financial uncertainty created by the Harper government's overhaul of veterans benefits is driving some soldiers to the brink.

The government's New Veterans Charter largely converted the old pension-for-life system to a series of lump-sum awards and finite allowances — something the soldiers claim is far less generous.

Mulcair's letter points out that there have been more than 50 boards of inquiry on military suicides, some of which date back five years and some of which haven't been released.

"In too many cases, grieving families are left without answers or closure," Mulcair writes.

"Canadians are left with grave concerns about whether the system put in place to help our armed forces is broken, or if we are learning from these tragedies in order to prevent future ones."

Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for Harper, said in an email that Canada's military and Veterans Affairs take suicides and stress among current and former soldiers seriously and are making every effort to provide support.

"It's irresponsible for politicians to assert that these services are not available," MacDonald said.

The Harper government has said it the past that it has invested millions bolstering mental health services for the military.

Military psychiatrist defends treatment of troubled soldiers, veterans

VIDEO: Staff
Published Thursday, January 9, 2014 10:13PM EST

A military psychiatrist is defending the care provided to troubled members of the Canadian Forces after six soldiers died of suicide in as many weeks.

A day after the husband of retired Cpl. Leona MacEachern revealed that she intentionally drove her car into an oncoming transport truck in Alberta on Christmas Day, Canadian Forces psychiatrist Maj. Paul Sedge insisted that officials are doing everything they can to support soldiers and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sedge told CTV News that the military is in the final stages of hiring 54 new health care support workers. But since the latest string of suicides began, National Defence has only hired one new social worker, one nurse, and one psychiatrist.

“We've stepped up these mental health clinics. We've increased the size, increased training, and increased quality of care that's delivered,” Sedge said. “So every base now has some form of mental health clinic.”

However, many advocacy groups say National Defence punishes soldiers who go public with their struggles with mental illness.

That’s why one group has stepped up with its own support system, independent of the military.

A new toll-free support line, 1-855-373-8387, was launched today, established for soldiers by other soldiers.

Many say an existing military-run hotline for soldiers in distress is ineffective.

“You don't get hope calling a 1-800 (number) and somebody saying we're going to get back to you in three days,” said veterans’ advocate Kevin Berry. “Getting back to you in three business days when you're suicidal? That's not going to work. That's not going to help anyone.”

Meanwhile, the opposition is blaming the Conservative government for not reacting fast enough to the mental health crisis in the military.

“If they don't want to step up to the plate, then guess what, get out of the way and get someone else in who knows how to do it,” said Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis.

With a report from CTV’s Richard Madan

Read more:

Canada’s military confirms another suicide amid renewed criticism

By Chris Cobb, OTTAWA CITIZEN January 9, 2014

OTTAWA — Canada’s military and political leadership are facing a renewed tide of criticism in the wake of more military suicides, with critics charging that the Conservative government is failing its mentally injured troops and veterans.

CFB Suffield base commander Lt.-Col. Sean Hackett confirmed Thursday that Cpl. Adam Eckhardt of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry took his own life on Jan 3.

The 29-year-old Trenton native, a married father of two, showed no outward signs of depression and had not sought treatment, said Hackett.

“He was a very outgoing, personable guy and comfortable with leadership,” he said. “It’s quite hard to fathom the rationale behind it. He was a great soldier and had a great record. It was all quite a shock.”

Eckhardt, who served only on domestic missions, will receive a full military funeral next week in Trenton.

Thursday’s announcement from the Alberta military base came a day after the husband of 51-year-old Calgary veteran Leona MacEachern attributed his wife’s death in a Christmas Day traffic collision to suicide — “an intentional, final desperate act of a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who was undergoing treatment for PTSD.”

“We would like to say Leona slipped through the cracks in the system,” said Tom MacEachern, “but in fact there doesn’t appear to be a system. Too many bad decisions are being made by disconnected politicians and unaccountable mandarins.”

The military leadership has been under fire since the suicides of four other serving soldiers shortly before Christmas, but Canadian Veterans Advocacy president Mike Blais says whatever strategy exists to cope with mental injury in serving soldiers and the military “isn’t working.”

“We need leadership at the Chief of Defence Staff level and the ministerial level,” he said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but they have the resources and wherewithal to find the answer and implement mechanisms to stop this. They have an obligation and they’re not fulfilling it.

“I don’t know whether it’s a disconnect at DND — that they don’t understand that this problem is as severe as it is — or whether they are constrained by budget cuts,” he added. “Or is it wilful ignorance? I would hate to think it’s the third because we are a brotherhood and sisterhood and we’re supposed to be taking care of each other. We’ve heard them say ‘come forward and we will take care of you,’ but too many people are choosing the other option. Why?”

Former military officer Stéphane Grenier, the Canadian military’s former adviser on operational stress injury, told the Citizen that military brass need to work on changing the “fabric of military culture.”

“What military leadership has to stop doing is consistently reverting back to psychiatrists for solutions,” he said. “Psychiatrists are doctors who prescribe pills and diagnose people. They don’t have the skills or the knowledge to work on cultural acceptance of these (mental health) issues. We’ll never eradicate suicide but darn it, we have to do something more. I hope we can see the day where we start doing some meaningful work to find out what is missing. We need to rehumanize the (military) workplace so people … understand that it’s OK if someone develops mental health issues.”

Defence Minister Rob Nicholson again urged troops going through “difficult times” to seek help.

“Canadians can trust that the Armed Forces take the issue of member suicide very seriously,” he said in a statement. “Great efforts are being made to identify at-risk members and to provide them with treatment, counselling, and other types of support.”

But opposition veterans affairs critic Peter Stoffer told the Citizen that neither the military nor Veterans Affairs has the funding necessary to deal with the problem.

“Even though the government says nice words, their actions don’t match the rhetoric,” he said. “I can’t tell you the hundreds, perhaps thousands of people I have dealt with who aren’t getting the help they need because of bureaucratic red tape. The husband of (Leona MacEachern) said her fight with Veterans Affairs was ongoing and she could no longer do it. I’ve heard that from many people.”

Stoffer is urging the military to do immediate investigations of all suicides in an effort to prevent more and institute a tracking system for veterans with a history of mental health issues after they leave the service.

“Whatever help these people need, they should get,” he added. “You would have thought we’d have this figured out by now but we don’t. It’s disappointing that a nation as rich as ours has these tragic events happening. This should be the number 1 priority of our government.”

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