Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, committee. It is an honour to appear before you today. My name is Namita Joshi and I am the Head of Granting and Strategic Partnerships at True Patriot Love Foundation.
True Patriot Love is a national charity dedicated to providing Canadian military and veteran families with the support they need and the hope they deserve. Since 2009 TPL has provided $25 million to fund innovative research and support 750 community-based programs across the country. By addressing the unique challenges resulting from military service, TPL has helped change the lives of more than 25,000 military families.
The True Patriot Love disbursement advisory committee was formed in 2016 to provide external advice to TPL's board of directors. The committee is chaired by a member of the TPL board of directors and has representation across the country from the business, research, government, and military sectors. The committee is also responsible for setting longer-term funding priorities for the organization that recognize emerging needs and opportunities for significant impact.
As an organization that strives to provide equitable funding opportunities across the country, TPL is committed to promoting communication and collaboration within the sector. We have strong relationships within the community and both within the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada.
Our funding does not overlap with government funding but rather complements it and offers an opportunity to address gaps where they may be identified. As a registered charity, TPL also offers agility, flexibility, and the ability to provide ”proof of concept” funding for programs in early stages of development.
Examples of successful collaboration include Prospect Human Services Forces@WORK, which received bridge funding earlier this year to ensure seamless delivery of transition services for veterans in Alberta.
In 2014, True Patriot Love raised $500,000 in private funds for the University of Southern California to Canadianize virtual reality software that is used in at least seven government-funded operational stress clinics across the country for the treatment of PTSD, or post-traumatic stress injury.
Our commitment of $5 million to the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research at Queen's University will enable academic researchers to study key determinants of military and veteran health and strengthen community-based programs as a benefit outcome.
In 2016, we conducted an internal review of regional representation and noticed that there were no programs funded in the Far North. This recognition was a step in our efforts to address the need for increased programming in remote regions, in particular within the indigenous veteran population.
It is no surprise that postings to remote geographical regions, deployments, reintegration, and frequent moves may cause stress on military families. Layered on top of this, the process of transition and unique cultural characteristics, including belief systems and family dynamics, may also contribute to the challenges faced by indigenous veterans in seeking access to care.
True Patriot Love recognized the continuum of service of indigenous veterans at our 2016 Toronto tribute dinner. An honest effort was also made to offer a distance coaching program for families within the Canadian rangers in two different communities. Although at that time we were unsuccessful, our commitment was unwavering. Identified challenges include communication, geography, resources, and timing. Sometimes you have to try a few times before you succeed, and we're willing to do that.
Earlier this year TPL secured private funding for the Veterans Transition Network to deliver a unique program for indigenous veterans in Manitoba later this year. VTN is one of our long-standing program delivery partners. TPL's investment has played an instrumental role in transforming it from a Vancouver-based program into a national, bilingual program.
Through our national network, TPL has assisted VTN in identifying new communities that are in need, most recently in Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Manitoba, and in raising local funds to support the delivery of the program.
TPL funding will support a VTN six-week pilot program dedicated to indigenous veterans in Manitoba. Working in partnership, we have the experience and ability to address regional and cultural needs within the veteran population. By engaging the experience of an indigenous adviser who has previously participated in the VTN program, it will be developed specifically for indigenous veterans to address cultural beliefs and practice. A robust communication plan, including personal outreach within the indigenous community in Manitoba to build trust and understanding, will be pivotal for delivery and expansion.
Program evaluation will occur immediately before, after, and at intervals of three, 12, and 18 months following the program. A variety of constructs have been linked to transition, such as quality of life, interpersonal well-being, and the ability to cope with life stressors, all of which will be measured. We are currently in the phase of confirming participation of a researcher who has worked within indigenous communities, is culturally informed, and is able to facilitate the building of relationships and trust.
The 2018 CIMVHR forum will provide an opportunity to discuss progress to date with a larger group of researchers and stakeholders in order to gain from collective experience. TPL recognizes that the strength of this initiative lies in collaboration with other entities. It is our hope that the dialogue will lead to further action.
As a result of a successful pilot project in Manitoba, we would like to see further expansion of programming. In an effort to transfer knowledge, TPL and VTN will develop a best practice guide to be shared with other community organizations interested in expanding their programs to include indigenous veterans.
As a final note, our intention is to create a culturally sensitive, practical guidebook that will draw on the strength of partners and educate service providers on a national level. We remain open to recommendation on other stakeholders who should be engaged and consulted to gain the deepest understanding of the topic before us.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
[Witness speaks in Algonquin.
Good day, everybody. My name is Aurel Dubé. I am an Algonquin from the Kitigan Zibi community. First, I need to say that I am glad to see people who I shared an event with last year when I had the honour to be part of the 100th anniversary of Vimy in France. I can recognize some faces, and I'm really happy to meet these people again.
I served 22 years in the artillery in the Canadian army. I joined back in 1983, and I released after 22 years, in 2005. The reason I was released from the military is that, during a mission, I had an accident, and I couldn't do my job anymore. I was released for medical reasons after 22 years.
During my career, I was posted to many places. I was in Gagetown, Shawinigan, Val Cartier, and Shilo. I also had the opportunity to do some UN missions or NATO missions. I served my first UN tour back in 1987 when I served with United Peacekeeping in Cypress. I was there for a couple of months. After that, in 1995, I also had the privilege to serve with another UN mission. That was in Haiti when René Préval was elected as the president of Haiti. I was there for six or seven months. After that, my last mission, when I had my accident, was back in 1999 to 2000 when I served in Bosnia.
During my military career, I lived through many things. Some of those things were hard for me to go through, like when I was in Haiti. I was on a call once where we had to find an airplane that had crashed. We had to give first aid and find the black box of the aircraft that crashed.
When I lived through those things, I didn't know, but that was the beginning of my PTSD. In 2010, there was that big earthquake in Haiti, 15 years after I was there. I started to be affected by what I had lived through back in 1995. With the support of Veterans Affairs and my family, I sought and got help with Veteran Affairs and with mental health aid in Ottawa.
All this is to say that I've been out now since 2005, 13 years. I am still connected with the army because I worked as a civilian employee for 11 years after I released. Now I am working with Library and Archives Canada. My job basically is an analyst. I work for people who served in the military and want to seek help from Veteran Affairs. We all know that they need to prove that they were in the military, so I respond to their requests to provide them their file, because they want to go with Veterans Affairs.
Ever since I was released, I've reconnected with my own community in Kitigan Zibi. It is only after that you realize that many more people served our country, like people from my own community who served in the military. They went to the First World War as well as the Second World War.
It's really important when we suffer from any sickness. The first thing really is to realize and to admit that you are suffering from something, and after that, you need to know where to go to get help. For many people, it might be hard for them to find their way to get some help. In my main job today at Library and Archives Canada, I try to help these people and refer them to what to do after I provide them with their record.
Basically, when I first got the invitation to come here, I was supposed to represent Aboriginal Veterans Autochtones, but you have just met our president, Mr. Thibeau, so I was asked to talk about my own history or to tell my own story.
During my military career, in 1990, as we all know, we had the Oka crisis. I was at the Oka crisis for many months. Back then, I had a fight with my own family; they didn't want me to go to Oka. It was, however, my job to go and work for the military. It took a little while before I was forgiven for having been part of the Oka crisis.
As a matter of fact, I'm just coming back from DND now, because this week is Aboriginal Awareness Week. I'm just coming from NDHQ, but two years ago, I was also there and I met a great native girl, Waneek Horn-Miller. She's a lady who went to the Olympics. If you remember, back in 1990 during the Oka crisis, she was well known because she had been stabbed with a bayonet while protecting her daughter. Two years ago, when I had the opportunity to meet her, I asked her to forgive me for being part of the Oka crisis. This is what I wanted to share.
I could also maybe say that before, aboriginal people were not allowed to join the military. Today, we are still affected by people who gave away their Indian status because they didn't want to have the same thing happen that happened to their brothers when they served during the Second World War. Because they were native, they did not have all the benefits that other people had when they came back.
I know some people still living today who gave away their Indian status. Because they gave it away, today their kids and their grandkids don't have their status, just because their father served during the war and gave away their rights to have Indian status.
That is what I wanted to share with you.
I joined back in 1983. I was raised in a foster family, so at 18 years of age, we were basically kicked out of the family. I went to school over here because I wanted to become a police officer. I went to school, but because I was on my own at 18 years of age, basically school was not really meant for me.
I had some friends back then who wanted to join the military. We wanted to join the reserve unit here, on the other side of the bridge, the Régiment de Hull, so at one point I just went to the recruiting centre, did the test, and a couple of months later, I was enrolled.
I joined as a gunner, field gunner artillery, and I served for 22 years in the artillery. When I joined back in 1983, it was not nice to say we were aboriginal, because people really did not like that, and we didn't want to say that we were native.
Things have changed. When we went to the Oka crisis back in 1990, they started to give courses on harassment, for sensibilisation for other people. So I would say that yes, I did meet a lot of aboriginals during my career, but I would say that I met many more after I was released in 2005.
During National Veterans Week, the first week in November, more and more indigenous veterans are volunteering to give presentations in schools. The goal of the presentations is really to talk to young schoolkids about the indigenous contributions in the first and second World Wars. Given that it has perhaps been poorly taught in the media, we are making up for lost time today. We are telling indigenous communities, and the students, that their parents and grandparents served in the First World War or the Second World War.
In my own community, there is a cemetery. I go there sometimes, but it was only a few years ago that I discovered some commemorative monuments there. The monuments are dedicated to those who served in the First World War and the Second World War.
Today, we have the opportunity to appear in schools and teach our young people about that. Everything we are going to teach is indigenous. We all experienced it in Vimy during the sunrise ceremony, an indigenous tradition. When we held that ceremony, the aim was to free the spirits of all the veterans who lost their lives at the battle of Vimy Ridge, during the First World War. The aim of the ceremony was to allow their spirits to return to their communities and their families.
Ms. Joshi, I have built a strong relationship with a group in Saskatchewan called Audeamus. They are certified service dog trainers who work with veterans. Again, it's the realization that training, pairing, and ongoing care between veterans and these dogs is significant to their healing with respect to a lot of conditions. There is a lot of research, with grants, going on at the University of Saskatchewan and the University of Regina. The goal is to set standards, hopefully, for Saskatchewan, and then to be part of determining those national standards, which I think are all high priorities for the type of organization you're a part of.
How do you determine out of all of the various options out there who would receive funding if this is a possibility because I believe they have applied in the past?
I only have two minutes—sorry, but this could take an hour—so I would also like to ask Mr. Dubé a question.
For first nations, aboriginal, Métis, and Inuit individuals, when it comes to healing, I know that spiritual and natural sources of healing are important. Have you heard about or do you sense a need for veterans service dogs to be part of that process, or are they already?
Between the two of you.... Sorry, I have very little time.