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Alain Beaudet
View Alain Beaudet Profile
Alain Beaudet
2011-03-02 16:31
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I would first like to thank the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs for this opportunity to discuss the issue of combat stress and its consequences on the mental health of veterans and their families.
As in all matters of health, research is critical for achieving the quality of health and health care that we wish for Canada's military veterans. In the preamble to the act that established CIHR in 2000, Parliament recognized that investment in health and the health care system is part of the Canadian vision of being a caring society.
The act went on to establish CIHR's objective: to excel according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system.
I have believed since I became president of CIHR in 2008 that this vision means little if it does not include a responsibility for the health of those federal employees who put themselves in harm's way in defence of our country and in fulfillment of national security objectives.
Reducing the burdens of mental illness is one of the five research priorities in CIHR's latest five-year strategic plan. In order to address this priority, CIHR is relying on one of its 13 institutes, the Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. The institute's mission is to promote and support research in order to improve mental health by developing new strategies for prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and service delivery. We often forget that Canada has excelled in this area of research. It is in fact ahead of the pack compared to the rest of OECD countries in terms of quantity, quality and the impact of its scientific publications in this field of research.
CIHR investments in mental health research have totalled more than $234.4 million since 2006—$65.2 million in 2009-10 alone. As to post-traumatic stress disorder, CIHR has invested $7.6 million in research since 2006, including $1.7 million in 2009-10. However, this figure can be deceptive, since operational stress injuries can include PTSD as well as a variety of other disorders ranging from depression to hormonal imbalance, for which CIHR is also providing research funding.
For example, new brain imaging techniques have been put to use in looking at the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder on the brain. Neuroendocrinology studies, which look at the relationships between the brain and the endocrine system, have demonstrated significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in individuals with PTSD. Finally, it is likely that genetics and epigenetics will be key in helping us better understand the factors underlying the susceptibility of certain individuals to post-traumatic stress reaction.
I would now like to turn to some of CIHR's efforts to advance research into the issues affecting military veterans and their families, as well as research in operational stress injuries. You will appreciate that while I am not a research expert on this subject matter, I am pleased to speak to CIHR's efforts to accelerate research in this area.
As the other witnesses mentioned, the mandate of a number of departments is to promote research on the health of soldiers and veterans. These departments have formed specific partnerships with CIHR in this area. The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence have joined us in funding various research initiatives. I think we should build on these first successes to expand and strengthen our framework for action, increase consistency and maximize impact.
To this end, CIHR has started discussions with the office of the surgeon general of the Department of National Defence in order to identify areas of possible cooperation as part of their research initiative on the health of soldiers and veterans.
More recently, I met with the associate deputy minister of Veterans Affairs Canada, and we agreed to get our staff members together as soon as possible in order to set joint research priorities on the health of soldiers and veterans, and to develop a long-term cooperation plan.
Although there is a significant body of American research on combat stress and its effects, the military culture and community in Canada are different, and so are the types of operations in which Canadian troops participate. It is therefore important that we develop a research program of our own to fit the Canadian context.
A particularly noteworthy development for Canadian research has arisen from the November 2010 Canadian military and veteran health research forum in Kingston, which is the creation of the Canadian Military and Veteran Health Research Network, a network dedicated to building a better understanding of the health and well-being of military personnel, veterans, and their families.
Together, CIHR and the network announced in the fall of 2010 a request for applications for knowledge synthesis grants to summarize existing research in this area and determine gaps within the knowledge base.
This call for applications recognizes that military personnel and veterans have unique experiences in the service of their country, which can impact their physical, mental, and social health in a manner not experienced by the rest of the population. It also recognizes the increased need for research on the health and well-being of military personnel, veterans, and their families. We anticipate announcing the results of this competition later this month and subsequently using the data to identify research priority areas.
One of Canada's leading researchers in veterans' health is Dr. Jitender Sareen. He receives funding from CIHR and he testified before you in November.
Dr. Sareen is leading a CIHR-funded team on the study of trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder among soldiers involved in peacekeeping operations. He is also examining soldiers' need to access mental health care and the obstacles they have to overcome in order to obtain care; one obstacle is the fear of stigma in the workplace. The findings of his research have helped the Canadian Forces to create programs for those who need treatment and also to develop strategies to improve the mental health of military personnel.
Also, at the University of Manitoba, Dr. Darren Campbell is using functional magnetic resonance imaging in conjunction with psychotherapy to look at the emotional responses of military personnel with post-traumatic stress syndrome.
Similarly, Dr. Alain Brunet at McGill has led a Montreal-based research team on mental health disorders, including PTSD and related problems resulting from traumatic events in high-risk workplaces, and has been funded to examine treatment available to military veterans with operational stress injuries.
Dr. Gordon Asmundson of the University of Regina led a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Regina and UBC who examined whether exposure therapy—where patients are exposed to prolonged and repeated images of trauma until the images no longer cause anxiety—may be more effective than other methods for treating the disorder. Dr. Asmundson and his team have also looked at delivery of treatment over the Internet.
In 2009-10, Dr. David Pedlar, the Director of Research at Veterans Affairs Canada and a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, along with a team of experts, received CIHR funding to study the reintegration into the workplace of veterans with mental health conditions.
CIHR-funded researchers are also doing important neural investigation into the brain activity of individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder writ large. For example, Dr. Ruth Lanius is the director of the post-traumatic stress disorder research unit at the University of Western Ontario. Her research focus has been the neurobiology of post-traumatic stress disorder and treatment-outcome research examining various pharmacological and psychotherapeutic methods, including in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder or major depression following motor vehicle crashes.
I could cite other examples of funded research dating back to CIHR's inception to demonstrate our history of funding those with research interests in issues specific to military veterans. I would like, however, to conclude by looking forward and acknowledging that more research is needed.
Canada is approaching the completion of one of its longest and most intense military missions in recent history. The care of these young men and women who served our country in Afghanistan makes even more pressing the need to thoroughly understand the physical and mental demands of military operations. We need to better understand through research what sorts of unmet mental health needs there are for veterans so that we can meet them with outreach and treatment.
We need to recognize that Canadian health research in this area is growing but needs to move beyond its infancy. The old military saying that “no one should be left behind” should guide us in ensuring that we understand and are ready to help veterans with health issues when they have completed their service.
Your work in this study will help us to understand where the gaps are and to set directions for future health research, and I would like to thank the committee for its work. I am pleased to take your questions.
Don Head
View Don Head Profile
Don Head
2010-10-19 9:02
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to the committee for allowing me to appear at a later date than you originally requested. My schedule was quite full, but I'm glad to be here today.
Good morning, and thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members, for the opportunity to discuss how the freeze on departmental budget envelopes and government operations will affect the daily operations of the Correctional Service of Canada.
I'd also like to address the impact on CSC operations that can be expected from the legislation connected with the government's criminal justice initiatives, in particular the Truth in Sentencing Act and the Tackling Violent Crime Act.
The freeze on the Correctional Service of Canada's departmental budget envelope and operations applies to operating budgets only, as you know. Operating budgets will be frozen at the current levels, and the freeze will also apply to 2011-12 fiscal year and 2012-13 fiscal year reference levels.
There is no freeze on wages. CSC employees will receive the salary increase for this year resulting from collective agreements and set at 1.5% by the Expenditure Restraint Act. As with other departments, the Correctional Service of Canada will absorb this increase as well as any increases to salaries and wages in 2011-12 and 2012-13 that result from future collective agreements.
Work is well under way at CSC to improve efficiencies within our operations to pay for these increases. For instance, we have introduced new staff deployment standards at our penitentiaries for our correctional officers. We are also now using computerized rostering systems to ensure that we are efficiently staffing our facilities on a 24/7 basis. This is improving our effectiveness by ensuring that our people know when and where they will be working their shift rotations well in advance. It will also help to reduce our overtime expenditures by more efficiently replacing correctional officers who are absent on training or leave.
We've also improved our integrated human resources and business planning methods to more accurately forecast our staffing and recruitment needs going forward. Because our penitentiaries must be properly staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, we make every effort to maintain our staff complement at appropriate levels. This is an important part of minimizing the overtime that would otherwise be incurred to fill vacant posts in our facilities.
Personnel costs represent our largest expenditure. For fiscal year 2010-11, Correctional Service of Canada's main estimates are approximately $2.5 billion, and personnel expenditures, including salaries and benefits, represent approximately 61% of the budget, or $1.5 billion. The rest is dedicated to operating costs, which represent approximately 25%, $625 million, and capital investments at approximately 14%, $329 million.
It's important to note that 90% of CSC's budget is non-discretionary and quasi-statutory. CSC has fixed costs that it must fund on a continuous basis. These include the provision of food to offenders, the utility costs related to the maintenance of our accommodations, clothing for offenders, and uniforms for our staff. The remaining 10% provides us with some opportunity and flexibility to seek out ways for us to meet the freeze on operating costs. I am confident that we will continue to find improvements in our program delivery that will help us to absorb these costs.
The government's criminal justice initiatives will present some opportunities for CSC as well as some challenges. The primary impact of the legislation will be a significant and sustained increase to the federal offender population over time. This will be particularly evident in the short to mid term.
As the members will know, the Truth in Sentencing Act replaces the two for one credit for time in custody before sentencing to a maximum of one day of credit for each day served in provincial detention. Only under exceptional circumstances may a judge provide a 1.5-day credit. Consequently, many offenders who would have previously received a provincial sentence will now serve a federal sentence of two years or more, and those who would have received a federal sentence will now receive a longer federal sentence.
Normally we would have expected an incarcerated population of about 14,856 by the end of the 2014 fiscal year. This figure is a result of our projections for regular growth, which is set at about 1% for male offenders and about 2.8% for women offenders. However, we are expecting an additional 383 offenders by the end of the 2014 fiscal year as a result of Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act. And with the implementation of Bill C-25, the Truth in Sentencing Act, our analysis is forecasting an increase of 3,445 more offenders, including 182 women, by 2013.
Mr. Chair, this is a considerable increase over such a short period of time. The additional 3,828 offenders resulting from Bill C-2 and Bill C-25, together with our normal projections, represents a total growth of 4,478 inmates in the 2014 fiscal year and an anticipated total penitentiary population of 18,684 offenders by March 31, 2014. This growth, Mr. Chair, well exceeds our existing capacity today.
We are moving quickly to identify the measures required to address these population increases, and we are taking a multi-faceted approach. Several measures are now being developed, including temporary accommodation measures such as double-bunking. We are also now in the process of tendering for the construction of new accommodation units, program space, and support services within existing Correctional Service Canada institutions.
Regarding the expanded use of shared accommodation, I should note that it will be aligned with greater offender accountability. We expect offenders to be out of their cells engaging in programs and making positive efforts to become law-abiding citizens who can contribute to safe communities for all Canadians when they are released. These temporary measures will be implemented in a way that will minimize any adverse impact on front-line service delivery at our institutions. I assure you that with the proper support, any steps we take around budget implications and capacity issues will not jeopardize public safety or the safety of staff or inmates.
With respect to the new units, we can expedite the design and construction process by using proven and refined designs. Furthermore, we are strategically planning expansions at institutions located where we expect the greatest increases. Beyond expanding our facilities, CSC will be improving our program delivery capacity to meet the needs of an increasingly complex and diverse offender population. This includes programming for offenders who require treatment for mental health disorders and addictions, or those who are trying to break from their affiliations with gangs, particularly among our aboriginal offender population.
I should note that we are expecting the largest increase in our prairie region, where we will need 726 more accommodation spaces. As this region is where a majority of our aboriginal offenders are housed, we are currently reviewing our aboriginal corrections strategy to improve our delivery of education and employment training. This will assist in the safe reintegration of our aboriginal offenders back to their home communities.
Of course, there is a cost to all of this. Our current estimates are approximately $2 billion over five years in order to provide sufficient resources to address the additional double-bunking that will occur and to get the new units up and running. This also includes funds to ensure that we continue to provide offenders under our supervision with access to programs.
The assessment of this legislation's impact on CSC will be a long and complex process. As we continually monitor this impact, we will continuously fine-tune our approach to accommodate population increases and adjust our service delivery. We will also seek to connect this short- and medium-term impact with future requirements associated with the aging and inadequate infrastructure at some of our older institutions.
A long-term accommodation plan that will provide a forecast to the year 2018 is expected to be presented for consideration by this spring. As we move forward, we will be consulting with our partners and the communities in which we are located across Canada to ensure that we proceed in a transparent and collaborative fashion.
Of course, with the short- and long-term accommodation measures I've mentioned above comes a necessary increase in our staff complement. As indicated in the most recent report on plans and priorities, CSC is planning to staff an additional 4,119 positions across Canada over the next three years. This increase will enhance our capacity to carry out our mandate, help in our work with offenders, and improve our public safety results. I am very sensitive to the possible effects of an offender population increase on the work and safety of my staff in our penitentiaries and parole offices, whether they are existing staff or new hires. But I'm also very aware of, and extremely confident in, the commitment and ability of my employees to deliver high-quality correctional services that produce good public safety results for Canadians. I am speaking about our correctional and parole officers, our vocational and program staff, our health care professionals, and our support staff and management teams across the country. These are dedicated people, and the additional staff who will be added over the coming years will significantly help those who are on the ground today working with offenders.
We have been modernizing the way we select and train our correctional officers and other staff, and we work together with our union partners to make sure we are hiring the best-suited people who are committed to making a difference in the lives of others and the safety of their communities.
While it's clear that the criminal justice legislation and the spending freeze will pose some challenges, I am confident that the Correctional Service of Canada will successfully adapt and continue to provide good public safety results for all Canadians.
Mr. Chair, in closing, I wish to thank you for this opportunity to speak to the committee, and I welcome any questions you may have today.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, honourable colleagues. It is a pleasure for me to be here today. I know that there is a great deal going on in my department.
Colleagues, I have with me today members of the National Defence team: Robert Fonberg, the Deputy Minister of the Department of National Defence; Denis Rouleau, the Vice-Admiral and Vice-Chief of the Defence Staff; Dan Ross, the Assistant Deputy Minister (Materiel); and Major-General Walt Semianiw, the Chief of Military Personnel. Finally, I have as well, and I'm pleased to introduce to you, Lieutenant-General André Deschamps, the new Chief of the Air Staff, just having assumed that post last week. So I'm delighted to be surrounded by some very capable members of the National Defence team.
As I said at the outset, Mr. Chair, it's always a pleasure to be with you. In the time since my last appearance here, there has been a lot of activity within the Department of National Defence. I'll begin immediately with the most relevant development, in my view—that is, issues that stem from the Canada First defence strategy, which, as you know, calls for an investment of $490 billion in personnel, equipment, readiness, and infrastructure over a 20-year period. These are known as the four pillars of the Canada First defence strategy, and I'm pleased to report that we're making progress in a number of the key objectives of that strategy.
We are looking to increase the numbers of the Canadian Forces. Last year alone, the Canadian Forces enrolled more than 7,000 new recruits. And this year, we are on course to exceed our target. Furthermore, the drop in the attrition rate is more good news. Over the last two months, this rate has fallen to 8.47%, or more than a full percentage point.
A comprehensive new retention strategy, released this summer, is helping. The new strategy offers a renewed commitment to military families, greater flexibility with respect to career options and better career management support.
Mr. Chair, of course, once you have the people, which is the most valuable asset we have at the Department of National Defence, you need to ensure that they have the equipment, the tools, they need to do the work we expect of them. This year alone I've had the opportunity to travel across the country to visit a number of our bases and announce numerous investments or improvements, particularly to do with aging infrastructure that you would understand, in many cases, has not been touched since the Second World War.
I was in Gagetown, for example, in July to announce one of our core Canada First defence strategy equipment commitments; that is, the family of land combat vehicles. This is a project worth in excess of $5 billion, and it will essentially replace all of the core capabilities of land combat.
I announced another one of the government's major acquisitions in August in Halifax: new heavy-lift F-model Chinook helicopters. The price tag there is over $2 billion.
And I've had an opportunity to travel from Gander, Newfoundland, to Esquimalt, British Columbia, to announce infrastructure projects ranging from new maintenance hangars to road, water, and sewer upgrades, and a new health services centre on many of the bases across the country.
Our investments are bringing significant economic benefits, as you would understand, Chair, to communities right now; that is, they're creating jobs in keeping with the government's other plans around economic stimulus. We're seeing local contractors and suppliers, local hands on local shovels, going to work on many of these projects on these military bases. Just two weeks ago, for example, this government announced significant benefits for companies arising from the Chinook acquisition, and if we want to get into some further detail about those actual projects and subcontracts for local suppliers, I'm pleased to discuss those details.
With respect to domestic operations, the men and women of the Canadian Forces continue to perform at a very high and demanding tempo. In addition to deployments on 18 different missions, from Afghanistan to Haiti to Africa, we know we're working in support of other agencies like the RCMP, and Public Safety, in preparation for the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, while at the same time carrying out many other important duties, such as maritime and arctic surveillance, and search and rescue operations.
I know we'll have a chance to talk about this further, Mr. Chair and colleagues, but keep in mind that Canada has the world's largest coastline. We have very demanding and diverse terrain across this country. We have NORAD responsibilities now that include maritime approaches, so our home game, if I can put it that way, in addition to the away game, is an extremely busy time for the men and women of the Canadian Forces.
You would all know our government's commitment and our country's interest in the northern strategy, which was released this year, which focuses on sovereignty, social and economic development, governance, and the environment. In August I spent a week in several northern communities in the territories, with the Prime Minister and other members of the cabinet, on board the HMCS Toronto. We also had the HMCS Corner Brook, one of our submarines, to observe Operation Nanook, which is the Canadian Forces' annual sovereignty exercise. We saw there the participation of more than 700 people from 15 different government departments and agencies participating in this operation, which is just one of the ways we're demonstrating a visible Canadian presence in the Arctic, in addition to investments in infrastructure such as ports, runways, and buildings in the Arctic.
On Afghanistan, and on the international front, again, I would suggest to you, colleagues, that our men and women in uniform continue to perform magnificently, continue to earn the respect of our allies and partners in the United Nations-mandated, NATO-led mission in Afghanistan. The recently released fifth quarterly report of the Afghanistan mission, which I commend to you, provides an honest and frank account of our mission for the quarter ending June 30. Despite setbacks in the security environment--and I note, as all of you will, with sadness the attacks this morning in Kabul that have taken the lives of Afghan citizens, and certainly our thoughts and prayers are with those who were affected by this most recent insurgency attack. Despite this very challenging security environment, there has been progress. I never overlook the inextricable connection between security and development. We have achieved notable progress on benchmarks that are outlined in the Afghanistan report that I mentioned.
We are seeing continued progress on our benchmarks, from immunization of children to the education programs. We are building schools, hospitals, and roads that connect many of the villages. One of our major signature projects that I know you're familiar with, Mr. Chair, is the building of the Dahla Dam. The irrigation that comes from that allows Afghans to grow alternative crops like wheat, as opposed to poppies. I want to draw to your attention the fact that this year, for the first time in 40 years, Afghanistan will produce more wheat than poppies, and will produce sufficient wheat to feed their entire population, which we believe is of significant importance.
On visits to Afghanistan I was impressed by the improved capabilities. Others would have also noted that the Afghan national security forces, both army and police, are making gains in their ability to plan, execute, and sustain independent operations. Let's never lose sight of the fact that one of the primary goals is to enable and empower Afghan security forces to essentially protect their own population, protect their own sovereignty, and do the job that in many cases NATO and Canadian soldiers are doing on their behalf.
A major development in the way Canadian and Afghan forces conduct operations in Kandahar was and will be the continued arrival of U.S. reinforcements. That enabled a shift in focus from disrupting the insurgency in the countryside to protecting the population in and around Kandahar City. Known as the village approach, this is something that we believe other countries are emulating. This is specifically referenced in the recent report of the commander of ISAF. Stanley McChrystal spoke of the success and the pursuit of this village approach, which is “take, hold, build”.
With security in place, we believe that Canadian development aid is enabling the villagers of Deh-e-bagh village, for example, to undertake some of the projects vital to their interests, such as solar-powered street lights, irrigation, and road repair. These projects are providing work for local Afghans, and more projects are in the works. We have found consistently that when we're able to hire local Afghans to do much of this work, having a shovel or a pick in your hand is a great alternative to having a rifle or being drawn into the insurgency.
This new village-based approach is making insurgency less relevant to the population and allowing them to focus on the quality-of-life provisions that we're working with them to develop. It again illustrates this link between security and development.
The Canadian way of operating is recognized and cited by senior NATO commanders as an example to follow.
Mr. Chair, Canadian Forces success comes down to the men and women who put the equipment, the operations and the strategies into action. We as a government have an obligation to care for these people who work so hard to serve their country. This government is committed to providing them with a level of care that reflects the very high value we place on them and their service. As the CDS and I readily admit, we are not perfect at this, but we are getting better at it every day.
Earlier this year, I was pleased to announce our government's decision to cover the full cost of insuring Canadian Forces members against service related injuries and illness. I also announced the opening of integrated personnel support centres across the country.
Mr. Chair, some of the improvements, which I know we'll have an opportunity to discuss, are moving along quite well. I had the chance to visit personally and speak to some of the clients as well as some of the health care service providers who are currently working in these joint personnel support units.
It is a sign of what I would describe as a compassionate shift in the direction of providing greater service for those men and women who have put themselves in harm's way and who have sustained, in many cases, serious injuries, both physical and mental. We are taking great strides to deal with those very real results of their incredible service to Canada.
In fact, this summer the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Natynczyk, launched the “Be the Difference” campaign, a mental health awareness campaign to educate Canadian Forces personnel on mental health issues.
I will share with you, colleagues, that last night the Canadian Forces were recognized by the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health. Mental health issues were front and centre. There was a great deal of recognition in the room for the efforts that the Canadian Forces have already undertaken to deal with mental health issues--most importantly, putting the issue before the public in an attempt to destigmatize.
You can understand that within the culture of the Canadian Forces there has often been--and continues to be, to some extent--very much a stoicism and strength, and there was a stigma attached to having issues, particularly issues related to post-traumatic stress, which we are now confronting.
With respect to this, in terms of the economic need, as part of the ongoing five-year $52 million plan, we've begun to host a number of new initiatives. This means a directorate dedicated completely to mental health, and more mental health care workers. That's an issue I'll come back to during the course of our discussion; there is a general need in the country, as you would know, for more psychologists and psychiatrists, not just in the Canadian Forces but more broadly.
We've also now identified and moved forward on a centre for expertise in addictions treatment. We are chairing an international experts group on suicide prevention, and we are conducting research on post-traumatic stress and mild traumatic brain injury.
I want to commend the fine work of this committee for the work that you have done and for the report that was tabled yesterday in the House of Commons along with the government's response to your recommendations. Your committee's report on the health services of the Canadian Forces that we provide to the men and women in uniform is extremely timely considering our continued and ongoing efforts to improve in this critical area.
In fact, it's clear from the long list of programs that I just mentioned and the recommendations of this committee that some of these initiatives are very much under way. I hope you will find that the response by the government to your committee report addresses many of the genuine concerns that were raised.
I want to thank you again for the time and thought and obvious personal attention and care that was put into this discussion and this study.
Again, just to conclude--I know you want to move on to questions--I want to thank the members of the committee for the invitation to be with you this morning. I want to thank you for your ongoing work on important defence and security issues for our country.
Thank you for your attention and for your commitment to improving Canadian Forces services.
We as a government have made a lot of progress in many areas, and will continue to work towards greater success. We look forward to working with this committee to continue making progress on a number of the important issues.
I am more than ably supported by the gentlemen here with us.
Again, both men and women of the Canadian Forces thank you for your continued interest in their well-being and in the work they do on behalf of all Canadians.
Merci beaucoup.
View Jack Harris Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
We appear to be in a bit of a time warp, so I hope the same time warp applies to the answers to my questions.
Thank you, Mr. Minister, for coming. We're glad to have you here. I'm pleased also to note that your elbow is better, and for that reason I'm glad I have two gentlemen between you and me today.
First of all, let me say I want to commend your department and the Canadian Forces for its work on the mental health issue, particularly PTSD, and in particular your announced campaign to ensure that at all levels of the military culture, from bottom to top, there's an awareness of mental health issues as being as important a type of injury as physical ones. I'm sure you will agree with me that this is not a one-off deal. There's much work to be done, but you have been doing this work, as we've been doing our committee work, in raising the attention to these issues, and also in response to our report. So I hope that continues as an ongoing project of the Canadian Forces.
I do have, though, four specific questions for you, Mr. Minister, that I would like to ask, and I'd like to ask them first, so that you can then respond to them all.
Mr. Minister, first, you're on record as saying—and you said this in the House the other day—that there's not a scintilla of evidence to support claims of government attempting to delay or diminish the ability of the Military Police Complaints Commission to get to the bottom of allegations of your government's knowledge of torture of Canadian detainees in Afghanistan. So why are you objecting to Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin's evidence about this topic? Why does the government fear what Mr. Colvin has to say? Because, after all, he's the man who knows. And I would remind you that it was the government that invoked section 38 of the Evidence Act, and they did so after Colvin made it clear that he would cooperate fully with the commission.
Second, according to the Prime Minister in the House of Commons in January of 2008, you met with then Kandahar Governor Asadullah Khalid in the fall of 2007 and discussed with him issues of torture of Canadian detainees. Were you ever made aware of torture allegations against him personally, and if so, when?
Third, were you made aware, and if so, when, that at the senior levels of the military, including at meetings at National Defence Headquarters, there was knowledge of allegations of the sexual abuse of young boys by Afghan security forces at Canadian bases in Afghanistan, and in addition, charges that Canadian Military Police were told by commanders and trainers not to interfere in incidents where Afghan forces were having sex with children?
And fourth—and this is related to the third—despite the fact that in June of this year you said in the House that the Canadian Forces were still investigating the issues of sexual abuse of young boys, the board of inquiry that was set up in October of 2008 had already filed its report in May. Five months later it's still not released, and it indicated in May that it was sitting with the military leadership. Have you seen this report, and will you make it public immediately?
View Laurie Hawn Profile
Finally, here is a quick one for the minister.
Mr. Minister, to go back to mental health for a second, which is such a thing that we'll never get it 100% right, is it fair to say—and we've heard it in this committee from others who have had experience with other militaries with other programs—that we're not perfect, but that in relationship to other countries we are simply the best at it so far?
View Peter MacKay Profile
—from other assessments and other sources, including other countries.... I'm sure that as part of your study you examined the health care system for the forces in other countries. Yes, I am very much of the view that we're the best in the world when it comes to responding to the health care needs of our soldiers, sailors, and airmen and airwomen. We're committed to keeping that standard and to build and improve upon it every day.
View Peter MacKay Profile
Sadly, you are not able to put a person back together.
We had some very emotional speeches last night from a number of people. Lieutenant-Colonel Grenier, who was given an award last night in recognition, talked in particular about the stitching back together of people in a psychological way, which is a very complex process. But the support of the families in bringing people into the process, diagnosing early, having the available counsellors and individuals who are there to help people deal with these issues.... In particular, there is more and more research and greater understanding of post-traumatic stress and of how we move forward to treat those very real psychological injuries. They're not as visible as the physical injuries, but they're just as debilitating and just as important to treat.
Walter Semianiw
View Walter Semianiw Profile
Walter Semianiw
2009-10-08 10:19
Yes, I can, Mr. Chair.
To be very clear, we're talking about both health care and mental health care, which is a component of the overall health care case. My response will address the mental health issue.
I want to remind members of this committee of the policy currently in place. If a man or woman in uniform develops a mental health illness caused by the military, their family is provided that support.
Walter Semianiw
View Walter Semianiw Profile
Walter Semianiw
2009-10-08 10:19
We provide mental health care. They are seen by psychiatrists, psychologists, or mental health nurses if it is a condition that actually began with the individual in place--the Canadian Forces member.
For example, I go to Afghanistan and come back and develop PTSD. If I'm back home getting help, we will not just support the family; we will provide mental health support through psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health practitioners. That's the policy in place.
View Peter Braid Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, gentlemen, for being here this morning.
I have questions that touch on a number of different topics. I'll continue with the current thread of discussion on mental health services. First of all, congratulations on the tremendous work the Department of National Defence is doing in this very important area. Having worked in group benefits myself in the private sector, I recognize that this has taken a significant financial and resource commitment on the part of the department. You're clearly already making great progress in this area.
I recognize the great work that is being done within the department. Has any thought been given to how you might share the great work that's being done and effective treatments that are being completed, or best practices, beyond the department, in terms of effective mental health approaches for suicide prevention, for example? Has any thought been given to that as we move forward?
Walter Semianiw
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Walter Semianiw
2009-10-08 10:23
There are two components to the question: the government aspect and the public aspect. I'll address the first. We work with other government departments, in particular the RCMP, and with Treasury Board to ensure that we pass on lessons learned so they can see what policies, programs, processes, and machinery we have in place. That's already done through a number of committees. More importantly, I sit on a committee with senior officials from the Department of Veterans Affairs to ensure that the two departments work together toward a common goal.
On the outside, that's a great question. We are part of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, so that ensures we're not only within the military and government; we're actually on the outside. Only last year I spoke in Toronto at an industrial accident prevention meeting that was purely private. We shared ideas and listened to what had to be said. So this is being done, both through committees and in discussions with members.
Walter Semianiw
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Walter Semianiw
2009-10-08 10:36
On the first issue, which is mental health, the policy is that if we have soldiers who have mental health challenges in Petawawa, their families will get support from military psychiatrists, psychologists, and mental health practitioners. Outside of that realm, it is a challenge. We are in the process of examining this issue, and we hope to come up with some ideas and options to study. We know this is a challenge for our military.
On one of our bases in Trenton, we built a mini-mall and brought doctors in. That is the number one issue—finding a doctor. I would assume it's not just an issue for men and women in uniform, but for Canadians across the country, given the state of the health care system. We are trying to ensure that the first line of medical care is available and nearby. We are aware of the problem, and we're examining options to ensure that we can provide the support our people need.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
I'd like to recognize the tremendous work that has been done with respect to the children and their access to mental health care. Through the Phoenix Centre for Children and Families, many children who would not otherwise have any coverage are now being helped, and it really makes a difference in the classroom.
Now I'm going to go to more military matters. In the event that a vote recount indicates that someone other than President Karzai has won the presidency, have security preparations been made for the transition, or are any deemed necessary?
Don Head
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Don Head
2009-06-11 9:10
Thank you, and good morning, Mr. Chair and committee members.
I'm pleased to be here today, and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you on this very important issue for the Correctional Service of Canada. Over the last decade, due to a number of factors, we've seen a significant change in the offender population profile, and this reality has posed serious challenges for the Correctional Service. One of the key changes is an increase in the number of offenders with mental health problems and substance abuse problems who arrive at our institutions. To give you an example, the percentage of male offenders identified at intake as having a mental health issue has increased by 71% since 1997, while the number of women offenders with mental health issues has increased by 61% over the same period.
As a service, we must find ways to address these challenges in providing mental health services, and we must continue to strive to improve both the standard of care as well as the correctional results for federal offenders with mental health conditions. It's crucial that we continue to enhance this capacity, because addressing the needs of offenders with mental health issues not only reduces their vulnerability but helps to reduce the risk they pose to others, thereby contributing to public safety results for all Canadians.
Over the last five years, we have enhanced our efforts and continued to work diligently to identify gaps in our mental health services and implement new programs, policies, services, and initiatives to address these issues. In support of these initiatives, we've received a total of $29.1 million over five years to strengthen the continuum of specialized mental health support from institutions to the community, within the context of the community mental health initiative. In addition, in 2007 CSC was funded $21.5 million over two years to support key elements of its institutional mental health strategy. In budget 2008, the Correctional Service of Canada received permanent funding of $16.6 million annually for institutional mental health services, commencing in the fiscal year 2009-10.
These funds have gone a long way toward establishing a continuum of mental health services to meet the needs of federal offenders, from intake to warrant expiry. For example, CSC is implementing a computerized system to screen and assess all new offenders at the time of intake. As well, all institutions are putting in place a multidisciplinary team of mental health professionals to provide basic mental health services and supports.
I'm pleased to inform you that the critical aspects of the comprehensive mental health strategy are also currently being implemented, including building capacity in federal institutions and supporting offenders to return safely to communities. It is a strategy designed to improve the continuum of mental health care and interventions provided to offenders from the time of admission to the end of the offender's sentence in the community. For example, interdisciplinary mental health teams provide offenders with access to coordinated and comprehensive mental health care within their institutions. Clinical social workers provide clinical discharge planning to support offenders with mental health disorders being released from an institution to the community.
CSC's treatment centres are also an important component of the continuum of care, as they assist in addressing the intensive, acute needs of offenders with mental health disorders. Treatment centres have well-defined admission and discharge criteria, and referrals for admission are made by mental health professionals in regular institutions for various types of mental health conditions.
However, there are some complexities with convincing an offender to agree to participate in treatment. Since the centres are designated as hospitals, they must operate in accordance with the provincial acts governing health care, including the Mental Health Act. Provincial law requires that a patient must either be placed in a hospital voluntarily or, if the patient is assessed by a physician as not being competent to give consent, on an involuntary basis under certification. This certification must be renewed regularly.
An offender's stay in a treatment centre varies considerably and depends on the offender's needs. Discharge from a treatment centre could be for any of the following reasons: the clinical team assesses that a discharge is appropriate, i.e., their treatment plan is complete; the offender decides to leave or refuses to accept the treatment and cannot be held within the provisions of the provincial mental health act; or the offender has a mandated release date regardless of the above, a statutory release, or a warrant's expiry release. It should be noted, then, that in some instances it can be difficult to move an offender to a treatment centre or to keep them there to get the help and support he or she needs, if they are unwilling.
To continue to support and treat the growing number of offenders with mental health problems, the service is taking strides to boost its human resource capacity. Last year, CSC established a recruitment and retention strategy for health care professionals, including psychologists and other mental health professionals, to recruit and retain qualified candidates. Implementation of the strategy is now under way and focuses on communicating and advertising CSC health positions, doing targeted recruiting, and promoting a healthy workplace that promotes professional development.
Compounding mental health challenges is the fact that four out of five offenders now arrive at a federal institution with a substance abuse problem, with one out of two having committed their crime under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants. Unfortunately, an offender's substance abuse problem will likely continue once they have entered an institution. A major contributor to the institutional violence is drug trafficking, both in street drugs and prescription drugs. This creates a challenge to ensure our institutions are safe and secure for both staff and offenders. It also has a significant impact on an offender's willingness and capacity to successfully participate in and complete substance abuse programs.
Preventing drugs from entering our federal institutions is an ongoing issue, and it is the diligent work of CSC staff that helps us tackle this challenge. Consequently, CSC continues to develop plans and implement measures to reduce violence and illicit drugs in our institutions through the anti-drug strategy. This strategy focuses on the three key elements of prevention, treatment and intervention, and interdiction. One of the goals is to emphasize a more strategic use of existing interdiction tools. It also aims at an awareness program to inform visitors, contractors, and staff about the repercussions of smuggling drugs into penitentiaries, increased monitoring of those offenders and other individuals potentially involved in the drug trade, increased discipline measures, and a broadening of offenders' awareness of substance abuse programs.
In addition, CSC staff members use a number of tools to prevent drugs from getting into our institutions, such as x-ray machines, ion scanners, a 1-800 tip line, drug detector dogs, as well as a public information campaign. We will also be piloting a new integrated correctional program model in designated men's institutions and community sites in January 2010 for a period of one year. The integrated correctional program model will be based on the most effective aspects of our existing correctional programs and will maximize the service's contributions to public safety by helping to ensure that offenders get the right programs at the right intensity level at the right time.
Creating an integrated approach to meet those needs is the most cost-effective way of delivering services, particularly as offenders transition to the community. These are important measures that contribute to making institutions safe, secure, and drug free, measures that are critical to creating an environment where offenders can concentrate on becoming law-abiding citizens.
In May 2008, CSC hosted an international symposium on advancing solutions to offender mental health issues. This symposium was organized to allow CSC to consult with other correctional jurisdictions on their best practices. In December 2008, CSC hosted a symposium on managing the interconnectivity of gangs and drugs in federal penitentiaries. The symposium proved very successful in allowing Canadian correctional employees and their international counterparts to exchange best practices and ideas to approach gang and drug issues.
As you may be aware, on April 20, 2007, the government appointed an independent review panel to assess the operational priorities, strategies, and business plans of CSC, with the ultimate goal of enhancing public safety. In December 2007, the panel released its report containing 109 recommendations that focus on five key areas: offender accountability, the elimination of drugs in institutions, offender employment and employability, the physical infrastructure, and the elimination of statutory release in favour of earned parole.
In February 2008, CSC established a transformation team to lead the service's response to the report presented by the review panel. CSC's transformation agenda was then supported in budget 2008, with $122 million committed over the next two years. This funding allows CSC to implement the first critical stage of transformation.
Above and beyond our efforts to address mental health and substance abuse issues, we have focused on areas such as population management; safety and security; assessment and correctional interventions; employment and education; women, aboriginal, and ethnocultural offenders; transition to community; victims; human resource management; and our physical infrastructure. I believe we are well on our way to improving the federal correctional system and thus enhancing our ability to meet our mandate of contributing to public safety.
In closing, I wish to thank you for this opportunity to speak on CSC's efforts to address the needs of offenders suffering from mental health and addictions problems and to outline some of the strategies and initiatives we have taken.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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