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Overhauling Oversight: Ombudsman White Paper

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Canadian_Vet:
March 30, 2005

Rt. Hon. Paul Martin, P.C., M.P.
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister
Room 309-S, Centre Block
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2

Hon. Bill Graham, P.C., M.P.
Minister of National Defence
NDHQ
13th Floor, North Tower
101 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0K2

Hon. Albina Guarnieri, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Veterans Affairs
460 Confederation Building
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A6

Dear Sirs and Madam,

I am pleased to provide you with a copy of my Ombudsman “White Paper” which outlines my vision of effective military oversight.

It has been both an honour and a pleasure to serve as Canada’s first Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and Canadian Forces (DND/CF). During my seven years of service, I have had the opportunity to acquire a wealth of knowledge and insight into the workings of the Department and Canada’s military. I have been uniquely positioned to observe from an outside yet informed perspective, both DND/CF’s shortcomings and weaknesses as well as its successes and strengths.

Prior to concluding my service as Canada’s first military Ombudsman, I feel it is incumbent upon me to share with you my experience and my views regarding the future of oversight for the defence community.

During my tenure as Ombudsman, I have had the privilege of working with DND/CF leaders in order to achieve significant improvements to the welfare of the members of Canada’s military and their families. I have seen first hand their exemplary accomplishments both in Canada and abroad. I have witnessed their sacrifices and struggles. I have also observed the distinct challenges that they face on a daily basis. It is from this perspective that I am offering my views on what is required to provide them with fair, efficient and effective mechanisms to address their complaints and to ensure they are treated with respect.

As I leave the Office of Ombudsman, it is my sincere hope that this “White Paper” will serve as a vehicle to pave the way forward for effective military oversight in Canada. Our CF members who give the ultimate in service to their country deserve no less.

Yours truly,

signature

André Marin
Ombudsman

Table of Contents
Executive Summary

Canadian history shows that civilian oversight of the military is required. This became clear under the intense light of the Somalia affair at a time when increased attention to the Canadian military revealed an institution that was suffering from leadership and morale problems, a failed grievance process, an increase in reported incidents of sexual harassment, and a culture that gave insufficient attention to the quality of life of its soldiers. Recent history in this country has also shown that the most efficient and effective way to deliver that oversight in a manner compatible with the need for ultimate military authority is by an ombudsman’s office. Moreover, it has become abundantly clear that there is a burning need to rationalize the dispute settlement agencies of the Canadian Forces. Based on any performance measure the way to do that is evident:

    (1) There is no need for a separate dispute settlement regime for military police complaints. These matters can be handled more effectively and far less expensively by an ombudsman’s office.

    (2) In the interests of efficiency and fairness, Veterans Affairs matters should be referable to the same ombudsman’s office, which deals with veterans’ complaints about Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Forces (CF) issues.

    (3) Resistance to permitting an ombudsman’s office to complement and improve the grievance process should be put aside. Where a matter can be resolved without grievance adjudication through the intercession of an ombudsman, it should be encouraged.

As effective as an ombudsman has been in resolving complaints and addressing systemic issues within the Canadian Forces, an ombudsman’s office will not achieve its full potential or make its optimum contribution as long as there are pockets of resistance within the military. Attitudes must change in the interests of the institution. In order to accomplish this, the Government of Canada must show the way by making a commitment to the Office by entrenching it in legislation so that it will have permanence, the tools it needs, and indisputable legitimacy.

New pages are unfolding as I leave the Office of the Ombudsman. Now is the time to make sure that those pages turn forward and not back.

Full Article: http://www.ombudsman.forces.gc.ca/rep-rap/sr-rs/wp-lb/doc/wp-lb-eng.pdf

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