Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and MPs sitting around the table, for taking the time to be on this committee. You are very important to us veterans as a conduit to the next step, shall we call it. It's very important that we get across to you, and there are so many points. I will try today to stick to three, believe it or not. I've got my clock, and I'll try to keep it to four minutes. There's more documentation, because I have a bench strength of analysts that you wouldn't believe: an ex-CDS, an ex-VCDS, who have done the homework for me. This is a Reader's Digest
summary. That's not an ad for them.
Did you know there are at least two categories of veterans in Canada? The World War II and Korean War veterans—war veterans they're called, even by some people who should know better—versus the post-Korean, current-day veterans like me. I did three tours in three lovely places. The servicemen and RCMP who participated in conflicts in Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, and 35 peacekeeping countries, like Haiti, Bosnia, etc.... They're awful places. The stories I could tell you of that would just.... Anyway.
These veterans groups—war veterans and the active part of Korea—have different legislation from the other groups. They're treated differently for benefits. We just had an ex-CDS refused admittance to a veterans hospital. He had served in Korea but in the peacekeeping time. These groups are—and I hate to use the word—segregated. Segregation should have passed, and has passed in most places, long ago. There are no longer federal hospitals for veterans. There are no longer hospitals for war veterans; there's even a waiting list.
All the hospitals—and I think I can say all, albeit I'm not sure about Camp Hill and Montreal—are all now provincial hospitals, which means that each province and territory has different rules and regulations for veterans getting in. I won't get into the different types of beds that Veterans Affairs has categorized. But as a veteran, once I can no longer stay in my home, I join the lineup with everybody.
The modern-day veteran, when he joined, accepted the unlimited liability clause. Do you all know what the unlimited liability clause is? There are some ex-veterans here whom I don't have to.... I'm sure you all know. In other words, it was....
It means when I sign the paper and put on a uniform—and it's probably very similar in the RCMP, I'm not sure—I'm willing to give my life. I'm willing to do my duty as a Canadian to go to some place for Canada and be shot at, killed, maimed, or wounded, and that is what I signed up for. When you sign and you put on a uniform, that's the unlimited liability clause.
With regard to recommendation 1, the legislation is just not balanced. I'm not saying that they all should be carbon copies of each other, but there should not be this difference between this gentleman, a World War II veteran, and somebody who is post-Korea, like me. I was in Egypt, Gaza Strip, and Beirut. A veteran is a veteran, and all veterans deserve to be treated equally. That was the first one.
The second issue is transition. I got out mid-career. I said never again would I leave my wife and kids at Trenton railroad station as I did three times. The first time was for a year, and I had been married for four months.
A veteran transitions from military life to civilian life. You must remember that a veteran is different from a politician and from a civilian. There are probably three different cultures. Being a veteran is like being a policeman. It's teamwork. You depend upon the person beside you. You depend upon the people in that tank. You depend upon teamwork of the gun crew. There's no competition. Then, all of a sudden, wham, you're, what, competing in a competition. It's two different concepts. Competing means that I'm going to do the best I can to beat these two or three.
DND is now working with VAC, so it's not all negative, but there's somebody else missing from the table, probably the Public Service Commission. There are other people missing from the table, people like me, and I have a person who is I won't say how many years junior to me, who was in Afghanistan. He got out for the same reason I did, mid-career, because of family, and he's transitioned. We could teach them some of the tricks of transitioning, even the psychological ones, because PTSD might surprise you. It's not an Afghanistan phenomenon.
I suffered from whatever you want to call it when I came back after three tours in the Middle East. Anyway, get the people who have successfully transitioned involved. That is my only suggestion there. It's hopefully a positive suggestion.
Along the same lines is my point about bureaucracy, which you mentioned. Bureaucracy has gone to the point of.... Until lately it's been a lot of macho males. It's not that we're in the sharp end. It has changed now, but it is not in the nature to go on sick parade. You just don't do it. Why don't you do it? You would be taken off duty. You're looked upon as what they used to call “MIR commandos”. You're branded, so you don't go.
Unfortunately, if it's not in a medical file, it never happened. That's the state of things. When you are going for a disability.... Many mental issues don't happen immediately. They happen, the studies are showing, two years, five years, ten years afterwards.
Mr. Chairman, honourable members, ladies and gentlemen, good morning.
I am Mark Gaillard. I am the executive officer and national secretary and the only full-time paid officer of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Veterans' Association. I am also a member of the veterans affairs minister's advisory group on service excellence.
It is an honour for me to represent the board of directors of the RCMP Veterans' Association and the many thousands of former members and employees of the force, as well as their families. We last appeared before this standing committee in April, 2012. It is a pleasure to be invited back.
I am a veteran. Now retired, I myself served a total of 40 years as a regular member of the RCMP in British Columbia and in the high Arctic; as a foreign service officer in the now-named Global Affairs Canada; and as a soldier and as a commissioned officer in the Canadian army, regular force and reserve.
Since the creation of the Northwest Mounted Police Veterans' Association 130 years ago, former members of the force have always considered themselves to be veterans. Although not formally defined as such in legislation, former members of the RCMP are veterans because their service and the duties they performed during their careers are not like those performed by other federal government employees. Rather, their duties and conditions of service involve continuous front-line deployment; frequent relocations all across Canada, including to very remote and isolated places; and actual danger to life and to health, both physical and mental.
The 24/7 job of RCMP members is protecting Canadians in every province and territory and often abroad, risking their lives and safety to do so. Their job is more analogous to that of the men and women serving in the Canadian Armed Forces than to that of those in the federal public service.
Recently, this association appeared before a different committee of Parliament to remind parliamentarians that the members of the RCMP were excluded from the Government Employees Compensation Act for this very reason.
Although we frequently refer to veterans as being former “capital M” members of the force, we must always be mindful that the RCMP veterans family consists of more than just former regular and civilian members of the force and reservists. Our association welcomes other kinds of employees, such as voluntary auxiliary constables; public service and municipal employees, such as dispatchers, Commissionaires, and office workers; and temporary contract employees, all of whom frequently serve with and help enable regular members to do their jobs.
As the recommendation in the independent report of RCMP veteran Alphonse MacNeil into the Moncton shootings, which occurred two years ago this Saturday, made clear, these employees are affected by the work they do with the RCMP, and they need our attention and deserve our respect as well.
What do we have to say today about service delivery to veterans? First and foremost, it is very important to remember that the RCMP, not Veterans Affairs Canada, is responsible for providing approved health care benefits to regular and civilian members and to survivors who become entitled to a benefit due to a service-related injury or death. This responsibility flows from part II of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Superannuation Act, which was first enacted in 1959. Under part II, serving and former regular and civilian members of the RCMP and their surviving dependents can apply for a disability pension through VAC in accordance with the Pension Act for any permanent work-related illness, injury, or death.
It is through this connection with the Pension Act that the Veterans Review and Appeal Board has jurisdiction to review adjudication decisions and consider appeals made by RCMP veterans. VAC does not have the express legislative authority to provide disability pensions to eligible RCMP members and survivors, so since 1959 the RCMP has paid for the cost of disability pensions by way of a quasi-statutory grant. In other words, the RCMP has contracted out to VAC the delivery of services and benefits to RCMP members and veterans and their survivors to which they become entitled under part II of the RCMP Superannuation Act. VAC delivers the service, but the RCMP pays for it.
Mr. Chairman, honourable members, regular and civilian members of the RCMP have been VAC clients for the adjudication of disability pensions since 1948. In December 2002, VAC assumed full responsibility for adjudication, calculation of benefits, and the provision of disability pensions to all qualified current and former regular and civilian members and their survivors.
A decade later, in 2012, VAC provided disability pensions to 10,649 RCMP clients, constituting 5% of all disability pension clients served by VAC. If these current trends continue, it is projected that by 2027-28, the number of RCMP/VAC pension act clients will grow to over 19,000 women and men.
In 2012-13, the RCMP quasi-statutory grant was more than $118 million. Of this, 90%, or $108 million, was spent to pay for disability pensions; 7%, or roughly $7 million, was paid for disability pensions for survivors and dependants; and the remaining 3%, or $3.5 million, was spent to pay for special awards.
The special awards are granted to disabled, serving, and former regular and civilian members who qualify for tax-free monthly assistance in the form of three special allowances. These are the exceptional incapacity, attendants, and the clothing allowances.
During the 1980s RCMP veterans who were permanently disabled were also eligible for two other VAC programs related to home care types of services, including the veterans independence program, VIP. VAC had specific authority to provide these programs on behalf of the RCMP to disabled RCMP veterans under the veterans treatment regulations.
However, in 1990 the veterans treatment regulations were replaced by the veterans health care regulations which inadvertently dropped this authority. Efforts have been made over the past quarter century to restore that authority, but for a variety of reasons these have not borne fruit.
I can assure this committee that the RCMP Veterans' Association will continue to pursue the restoration of home care benefits similar to the purpose and scope of those provided to veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War, as well as pre-2006 Canadian Armed Forces veterans, so that our veterans who qualify may continue to live in their homes in their elderly years, and also to help prevent homelessness.
Mr. Chairman, honourable members, the RCMP Veterans' Association is very encouraged by the 's mandate letter to the , especially the direction to ensure that the “one veteran, one standard” approach is upheld. Being considered and treated as veterans by the Government of Canada is very important to us. Our association first made this point in 1886, and we have never wavered from it.
Increasing the veterans' survivors pension benefit from 50% to 70% and eliminating the “marriage after 60” clawback clause is welcome news, because many RCMP veterans have pushed for these changes for many years, if not decades.
We look forward to hearing more soon about the proposed changes to RCMP legislation to enact these reforms, including the removal of the “marriage after 60” clause in section 19 of the RCMP Superannuation Act.
Nonetheless, of all the issues confronting RCMP members and veterans, mental health is by far the most pressing issue, especially post-traumatic stress disorder and operational stress injuries. The incidence and prevalence of mental health injuries can and do impact an RCMP member long after she or he has left the force.
The evidence of this fact is compelling, and through research we are starting to better understand the pathology of mental health injuries on the veteran and on their families. Testimony at another standing committee revealed that research into PTSD and OSI impacting first responders, including police officers, is at least 15 years behind that about members and veterans of Canada's military. We need to make up that gap.
Family breakdown, addiction, poverty, and homelessness among veterans are too frequently caused or exacerbated by untreated mental health injuries.
In March 2015, an RCMP veteran died in a Manitoba winter after being evicted from his apartment in a small town and had been living in his car. He was all alone and was found frozen to death. It is shocking that this still happens.
Mental health injuries can affect the veteran and his or her family in other surprising ways. For example, I am aware of one veteran who had a nearly 30% increase in premiums on a life insurance policy. Another reported to me he had been refused mortgage insurance. The reason given was that he had been diagnosed with PTSD and was at risk of suicide. To me, that is the stigma expressed in dollars and cents.
Mr. Chairman and honourable members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, thank you once again for the invitation to appear before you today. I would be pleased to answer your questions. If time permits, I have prepared a very brief closing statement.
First of all, thank you so much for coming today. All of your presentations have been very targeted and clear, which is very beneficial and helpful to us.
We're hearing a lot of the same things we heard previously, which should give us good fodder to come up with some really good recommendations for how to improve the delivery of services, which is basically the focus of our study here. Thank you very much. It's appreciated.
I've heard a recurring theme of mental health and the concern over how behind we are in taking care of those needs in our veterans.
I appreciated, Mr. Jenkins, your speaking to the truth of the fact that our veterans from the First World War and whatnot definitely experienced the same challenges that our current veterans are experiencing; however, I don't think it was acknowledged in any way. I know that from my own step-grandfather.
This is something that we definitely need to deliver much more effectively to our veterans. As you said, it's so key to their ability to transition, to feel valued, and be able to function well in their transition and after they have transitioned. I really heard you on those issues.
I'm just wondering if you could share a little more. I heard the term and concern about VAC culture and that it is impacting the delivery, denial, and delay in services.
Could you expand on that, maybe Richard and Joseph, a little bit for me from your perspective of what needs to be done there so that delivery is better?
Yes, it is. As I said, the transition model for the RCMP not the same as it is with the Canadian Armed Forces. Traditionally and historically, members would join and would have a full career, would go to 35 years, sometimes beyond, and there would not be this issue of transitioning from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police into civilian life.
There's also the difference that, of course, the RCMP are not soldiers, they police, so they already are in a civilian environment. I've always said that the RCMP are always deployed, but never in garrison. They go with their families into their areas of operation, which are their communities in which they serve, and they do not think of themselves as separate from society. The idea that you transition from small-town life to small-town life in and out of the RCMP is not as stark as it is for those releasing from the military.
This was a challenge to us because of the RCMP's unique culture and traditions and folk ways. Our challenge is to convince RCMP members that they are in fact veterans, and that is a surprise to many of them to think of themselves in that way. When they envision a veteran, they're thinking of people like Mr. Blackwolf and Mr. Jenkins here. That's who they imagine as a veteran. They do not imagine themselves as being a veteran. Therefore, it does not occur to them in every case that they should be approaching Veterans Affairs Canada for help when they need it.
This touches on the other question about addiction, etc., because it is not the way of the RCMP members to go to Veterans Affairs if they need help and assistance with their transition or with issues related to their service. This is what we want to turn around, and I think this committee can play a large role in that, in convincing or popularizing the aspect that the RCMP, under the “one veteran, one standard” model are in fact charter members of that veterans community, and they have every right and entitlement. They should be able to benefit from that relationship with Veterans Affairs Canada.
It's not so much the transition issue, because they're already in a civilian-like environment, so there's not that same kind of transition for someone in the military going from uniform to nothing or from the barracks to civvy street. It is not as stark as that, and it's due to the dispersal and the unique history of the RCMP. It's a police force, but it's all across Canada, and it's in every community. We're fully integrated into the civilian so-called community beforehand.
First, I'd like to thank you all for being here, and thank you for your service.
Unfortunately, I am a little familiar with the unlimited liability as my two sons are currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces. So I know what it means to sign on the dotted line.
Mr. Jenkins, you brought up a really good point in terms of your medical file: if it's not in there, it doesn't exist. We talk about when people leave the Canadian Armed Forces, whether voluntarily or not, and if it's, unfortunately, involuntarily because of illness or injury, there's a constant fight to prove that the illness was related to service.
I'm going to ask you a question, because I think the problem starts even before that. When you are a serving member of the Canadian Armed Forces, there's something called the universality of service. Now, God forbid that you are struggling with something or you're not feeling well, because it's frowned upon to actually go to seek help, because if you do, something goes onto your file. So for current serving members, whether you just started the forces, whether you're in RMC, whether you've seen action or not, it's frowned upon to seek help, because you don't want to have something in your file.
But, God forbid, later on down the line, you might need to have something in that file to show that you have a service-related injury. So it's chicken and egg. You can't put anything in your file, but then you need something in your file.
So my question is how can we actually change it from the get-go so that if people need help...? I'd hate for people to self-medicate or worse. My son just lost two classmates at RMC, unfortunately, because they were too afraid to ask for help. What can we be doing differently so that folks who need the help get the help they need whether they need it when they're active service members or after?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and honourable members.
We're always very pleased to appear here. This is, I think, our third or fourth appearance. Hopefully we've been helpful in answering your questions.
As for Canadian aboriginal veterans, in 2012 we celebrated 200 years of defending Canada. I had a lot of speaking engagements that year. Many people were quite taken aback by the fact that if the 15 first nations hadn't stood with General Brock, we would be in one of the U.S. states at this time. That was the whole point of the attacks in the War of 1812, to drive the British off the continent.
We're still here, you're still here, now as Canadians, so thank you. We have served in all those 200 years, in the Boer War, the First World War.... It's going to be my honour shortly, on June 21 of this year, to attend at Parry Sound in Ontario the unveiling of the monument to Corporal Francis Pegahmagabow, a three-time winner of the Military Medal. Some of his accounts actually could have been at a much higher level. But for the British of the day, as a colonial and as an aboriginal on the other hand, it was the Military Medal. He joins a group of 38 others who, of all the millions who have served, won three. He is a Canadian hero.
We're honoured to do that. We'll be honoured to attend another invitation to go to Australia in the first few days of August to attend at the invitation of the Canadian high commissioner. It's our third trip to Australia. We'll have interchanges there with their aboriginal people and their veterans. We're very honoured to do that.
We're always willing to help out here with any questions from Parliament or the Senate. It's been our duty, and we take it quite seriously. That's why we answered all your questions.
Thank you very much.