Interventions in Committee
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View James Bezan Profile
General Whitecross, in your presentation you made the comment that trying to deal with the issue and raising awareness was similar to what we've gone through with mental health within the Canadian Armed Forces and how we changed the stigma, how we shifted the culture.
During this parliamentary session this committee spent quite a bit of time studying the care of our ill and injured within the Canadian Armed Forces. One thing that we came across is that we saw change happening for sure at the top end of management within the Canadian Armed Forces, but there were still some problems sometimes with middle management and even among the ranks themselves in how we deal with someone who was suffering from mental health issues.
Do you feel that's going to be a barrier in how we view awareness, education, and training with members of the Canadian Armed Forces as we move forward on sexual misconduct?
Christine Whitecross
View Christine Whitecross Profile
Christine Whitecross
2015-05-25 16:53
The first phase of our approach right now is obviously the town halls, because we have had some success, as you alluded to, in the past—and it's certainly not a similar situation; I'd like to say that first off—with PTSD and OSI, where there was a stigma, there was being afraid to speak to your chain of command, being afraid to speak to your buddies. On that thing, a lot of it, we managed to effect some change based on grassroots and a leadership down, so a bottom-up and top-down approach, to start the discussion to make sure that people are aware that these exist and that we need to be able to be free and open about the discussion. This is one of the ways we are hoping to effect change on this sexualized culture that Madame Deschamps reports.
I would just like to add that there are a number of other areas that we need to also address. One of them is that as we're trying to reinstate trust and confidence in those chains of command where it does not exist, we ensure that people are aware of the policies that they must address. Granted, we're looking at all those policies to see where they need to change, but we need to have a similar address of policies regardless of where they are in the Canadian Armed Forces. That includes the procedures that the chain of command need to deal with. In the discussions, in the identifying of a comprehensive approach in terms of an independent centre, we're also looking at a number of other areas where we're trying to instill confidence back into the chain of command where it's required.
View Pat Perkins Profile
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I think the first question I'll ask is of Iain Macdonald.
You made the statement, with respect to HR and skills, that you very much required to have a properly trained workforce and that you're finding deficiencies in that area moving forward. What do you see the government's role being in this? Is this something you're asking us to consider assisting with, or is there something under way? Would you like to explain what that comment meant?
Iain Macdonald
View Iain Macdonald Profile
Iain Macdonald
2015-05-12 16:56
Sure. Thank you.
I think the role is to continue to fund the labour market studies, which have been very beneficial for understanding, as Ms. Block said, the transitions in the industry and responding to them. We have had very positive results with pre-employment training for disadvantaged groups and equity groups, as I mentioned. A major issue for companies is finding skilled employees and entry-level workers.
In terms of other roles, I think there's a potential for greater coordination between the various post-secondary institutions and industry in Canada so that there is some kind of laddering system for people to progress from high school education through various kinds of post-secondary training, and then possibly continue it through professional programs as they continue to work.
The fluid nature of technology and today's markets is such that it's no longer enough to have a four-year degree to serve you for your career. You're going to need at various times to take upgrading in your training. We're trying to do that in some ways through e-learning, for example, and blended learning, which combines e-learning with face-to-face training for shorter periods. But those kinds of programs are difficult to make sustainable, sometimes.
Jean-Pierre Voyer
View Jean-Pierre Voyer Profile
Jean-Pierre Voyer
2015-05-12 16:33
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much for inviting us to appear before the committee today.
Let me offer a few words about us.
SRDC is a not-for-profit, independent social policy research organization. We were established in 1991 at the request of Employment and Immigration Canada to design, pilot, and evaluate new social programs. Now, 24 years later, we have completed more than 200 projects for federal departments, provinces, municipalities, private foundations, and other non-profit organizations. Our work spans all areas of social policy writ large. In recent years, SRDC has been engaged in several projects on the application of performance-based funding and a social finance approach applied to the field of employment services, adult education, and training.
One reason we are here today is that more specifically, in January 2014 ESDC contracted us to be the independent evaluator for two essential skills training projects. Essential skills, as probably many of you know, are defined as literacy or foundational skills that are required for work, learning, and life in general.
These projects are the first two social finance projects launched with the support of the federal government. This was announced by Minister Kenney at the World Social Enterprise Forum in Calgary in the fall of 2013.
In both projects, private investors pay for the training up front and are repaid by the government if the training is successful in achieving pre-established outcomes. You may wish to look at the diagrams we have circulated to get a sense of the architecture supporting the delivery of the training.
The first pilot project, on the slide that has “SIB pilot project for unemployed” in the title is led by Colleges and Institutes Canada, CICan, which plays the role of SIB intermediary. They are working with four colleges across Canada as the service providers.
The project proposes to enrol 400 unemployed, lower-skilled Canadians to receive a program called Foundations, which is an established essential skills training program developed by Douglas College in B.C. This project is testing what would be considered a true social impact bond model in which private investors will recover their initial investment plus a financial return of up to 15%, if the training is successful.
The second project is the flip side. This one is addressed to people who are already employed. It's led by the Alberta Workforce Essential Skills Society; they are the proponent of the project and the intermediary for this pilot.
In this case, the private sector employers will be reimbursed up to 50% of training costs for up to 800 workers, if the training achieves target outcomes. This is a variant that we call “employer as the investor”. It's a departure from a formal SIB, because the investor is not motivated by return on capital investment per se but by the prospect of economic returns from a better-trained and more productive workforce as well as reimbursement of training expenses.
In both of these pilots, government reimbursement of training costs is triggered based on gain in literacy skills. These are measured pre- and post-training, and they are used as a proxy for labour market outcomes success.
Up to this point our organization has been supporting the leader of these projects in the design of the program and has developed reimbursement formulae for both projects. We worked on investor risk-reward scenarios to establish graduated payment schemes and comparability of the SIB offering with market investment. It gets fairly technical, as you can see.
Positioning these projects in the social impact bond literature, I would say that they have some of the core features. First of all, the private investor pays the full cost of the intervention up front; the SIB addresses a well-identified social environmental problem or goal—that is, the high vulnerability of low-skills workers in the Canadian economy; and the activity generates a social dividend and economic return to investors. There are social and economic benefits associated with a more skilled workforce, and private investors in both cases are achieving returns on investment. The payback to the investor is from government and is tied to measurable results.
There is the presence of cashable savings for government. The more people who are trained, the more earnings they make, the more tax they pay, and also, the less reliance on employment insurance and social assistance programs.
Some or all of the risk is borne by the private sector. If desired outcomes are not achieved, private investors bear a large part of the costs.
But they're not like some SIBs we have discussed before in the sense that we're focusing on intermediate outcomes to trigger the payback—that is, skill gains—and not directly associated with measurable cash savings to government.
It goes to show that there is no one unique SIB model, and we came to this realization fairly early in this process, when we were looking at the literature and were looking at what other countries were doing. There are different ways of orchestrating these arrangements.
To conclude, here are some key observations about what we've learned so far. We're not an advocacy group. We could advocate, but we're not going to advocate. We're evaluators, so we present a neutral point of view.
First, we observe, of course, that social impact bonds and social finance schemes in general can be very complex. Defining success outcomes, reimbursement terms, and appropriate metrics to measure success, all of that is fairly complex. Our approach was to ground the rationale for the repayment scheme in evidence of point gains from previous essential skills training intervention to define a benchmark. We look for benchmarking in the process. Then we calculated risk-reward scenarios to prepare a graduated payment scheme that rewards higher levels of success with higher returns on investment. This we had to engage into, while we expected something much simpler at the beginning.
SIBs involve substantial transitional costs because there are a lot of people involved in the process, from investors to intermediaries to service deliverers. All of these people have to work and interact together and come to agreements, and it's a long process, so transitional costs are high.
At the beginning what we realized is that, despite the political interest and support for these projects, the legal and regulatory environment in Canada had never heard of SIBs and it was not adequately prepared. The intermediary for the SIB for the unemployed—that is, Colleges and Institutes Canada—which is structured as a non-profit and charitable organization, had to examine and review alternative corporate structures to be able to receive and administer the SIB funds. It spent a fair amount of money on consultants to figure out how to go about it.
Attracting private investment can be challenging. Potential investors range from benevolent investor foundations and the like to those who are more commercially oriented and who seek market returns on their investment. People whom we call “finance-first investors” may sometimes accept the risk of lower returns if their investment is supporting a good cause but that is not yet the general norm.
ln the case of the workplace essential skills training model, we have learned from the project leads that there can be hesitation to make the significant up-front investments from investors. They are not used to the formula and they are often tempted to rely on other government programs where the subsidies or the support from government is known and more tangible.
In other jurisdictions, the availability of funds for SIB investment has led to more rapid development and implementation of SIBs than in Canada, for good reason. As you well know by now, in the U.K., the creation of the Big Society Capital independent financial institution was a major lever to get them going.
The third point is accounting for all costs and benefits. SIB arrangements would be more likely to attract interest and popularity not only if governments were willing to reimburse investors on the basis of cash savings that their own fiscal frameworks will record but also if they would take into consideration all social and environmental benefits that can be generated through SIB intervention.
As I mentioned, SIBs could be very resource intensive. Without a large definition of benefits, including those going to society as a whole not only those affecting the fiscal framework, they would be harder to popularize.
One other difficulty for Canada is that many of the cash savings don't end up with one government. A lot of social policy is managed by the provincial governments, and they are the ones that will realize the bulk of the cash savings. While the federal government will also realize some cash saving through increased tax or other means, connecting the two is something that has to be achieved if you want to make sense of SIB implementation.
My last remark is to say that we are in favour of further exploration of SIBs in Canada, but please evaluate them carefully. It's not a proven recipe, as we've heard from previous speakers.
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 15:33
Thank you very much. Good afternoon and thanks to the committee for the invitation to come forward today as a witness.
Forest renewal and the future of one of Canada's oldest industries is of great interest to the group I'm here representing today, MLTC Resource Development. MLTC stands for the Meadow Lake Tribal Council, as the chair mentioned, which is owned by nine first nations communities in northwest Saskatchewan. MLTC Resource Development is a private equity investment partnership that owns several businesses in Saskatchewan and Alberta. Our largest investments are in forestry, and we also own real estate, hotels, fertilizer distribution, trucking companies, and telecommunications services.
The chiefs and councils of the nine first nations have developed a very positive reputation for having strong governance and clear separation of business and politics. I'm proud to say that as a non-first nations person, it's very humbling to work for an organization that is helping Canada's indigenous peoples make a contribution and earn a stake in the economy and work towards prosperity. There is a key reason why MLTC has been so successful in forestry, and it's because we're owners. We own the mill. We own the forest management company. We own the harvesting, the trucking, and the value-added processing. As owners, we control the natural resource development, the planning, the infrastructure, and we control how the benefits are retained in the region.
At the heart of our business is NorSask Forest Products, a state-of-the art high throughput and technologically advanced studmill facility. We produce 135 million board feet annually and are on track to increase that with ongoing investments in technology and innovation. Our high quality two by four and two by six studs are sold across North America and sought after by our customers due to our exceptional quality, customer service, and reputation.
NorSask was one of the few sawmills to remain open in the downturn and has remained a viable and successful sawmill under some of the most difficult conditions. NorSask directly employs nearly 200 people and 75% are aboriginal, almost half of whom are first nations people and most quite young.
The regional jobs that are maintained in the planning, harvesting, transportation and maintenance, and use of the timber are well in excess of 1,000 people and many of these are also first nations members. All of these jobs are linked to NorSask and MLTC's role in forest management.
Despite our success and resilience, we face unprecedented pressures due to limited market access, infrastructure deficits, no rail service, low quota levels, high labour cost, shortages of skilled trades, and competition for government resources from foreign-owned multinational companies.
ln 2007 we could see that forestry had to change. Lumber markets were collapsing. The traditional model where a sawmill and pulp mill operate hand in hand was just not sustainable. The pulp mills depend on low-cost pulp chips, produced as a byproduct of sawmills, as well as large government subsidies for capital and electricity rates, to stay viable. Pulp markets were shrinking. Pulp mills were closing and the future was uncertain. Pulp mills are also supposed to use hardwood species to allow access to the softwood for a sawmill.
Good lumber depends on good fibre and Saskatchewan has some of the best in the world. We are not yet impacted by the mountain pine beetle and the market knows that. Yet, we are still dependent on pulp mills, typically foreign owned, to utilize hardwood and to buy pulp chips, unless we change our model.
Since 2013, we have invested more than $20 million into modernization, expansion, and recapitalization of our sawmill. As a result, we have put our money where our mouth is towards innovation and the confidence that lumber will always be a product in high demand, despite market cycles.
ln our view, the future depends on finding better value from our timber resources instead of just lumber and pulp. We need to ensure total fibre utilization, including the value-added use of our wastes. Our focus turned to bioenergy and in particular electricity generation and wood pellets. Wood pellets are simple enough as long as you can find markets. Electricity, on the other hand, is very hard to get into without cooperation from local utilities. ln our case, SaskPower is the provincial-owned crown corporation and holds a monopoly in the regulated market. ln 2013, we successfully signed a power purchase agreement to construct a 36 megawatt biomass fired power plant, the first in Saskatchewan.
ln 2014, we started construction on Saskatchewan's first wood pellet manufacturing facility with a design output of 10,000 tonnes per year of premium wood pellets for use in residential heating and environmental spill cleanup. We are very optimistic that this plant can be expanded as we continue to develop more markets across North America.
A key issue worth mentioning is that first nations-owned sawmills do not qualify for many federal or provincial funding programs. So all of this is done with private investment. We can't use the accelerated capital cost allowance, SR and ED, IRAP, or any other innovation funding programs, and the softwood lumber agreement usually prevents direct government funding to sawmills. So our investments in innovation have been internally and privately financed, which is a huge disadvantage compared to the rest of the forest sector and hampers innovation investing.
I can't leave here today without mentioning the softwood lumber agreement. Saskatchewan is often overlooked in the Canadian negotiations. We haven't got enough quota. Today we have three saw mills operating and enough quota for one. Other provinces, such as B.C.... I won't go through the list, but several of them have excess quotas. Negotiators seem unwilling to try to help Saskatchewan because of the fear that changing the agreement would jeopardize the fragile consensus and that we're better just to renew the status quo.
We are strongly recommending that the SLA be structured to give Saskatchewan it's fair share. Moving quota does not cost the other provinces any jobs, but if Saskatchewan doesn't increase it's quota, it could cost a thousand jobs.
In summary my recommendations to the committee are as follows: develop financial support programs and investment incentives for diversified forest products that first nations-owned companies are eligible to received; focus on continued skills trade program funding such as Northern Career Quest, which we feel is very successful; develop a new domestic focus on ensuring that community ownership models are supported, including loan guarantees or other financing programs; rebalance the SLA quotas to support the Saskatchewan saw mill industry without harming other provinces who have surplus quotas; and expand and enhance federal funding programs for innovative new technology investments to encourage domestic investment and newer leading edge technologies.
I want to thank you for your time today, and I'll do my best to answer any questions you may have.
I hope that our story has been a benefit to your committee's work and we can offer some proof that forestry innovation is alive and well in Canada.
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 16:20
We have gone through a bit of an occurrence that's common in Saskatchewan now where there is a labour shortage. We have a lot of skilled trades shortages, and there is also this extremely high unemployment rate with aboriginal people, which we're also familiar with.
The Meadow Lake region has an abundance of aboriginal people, young people in particular, so the average age among the population is 17. The Meadow Lake Tribal Council has 13 members, half of whom live on-reserve, and the other half are off-reserve. There are big distances between the communities.
We've been working closely with the regional colleges and the professional and technical colleges to implement as many skilled trades training programs as we can. There were some federal programs we partnered with, one in particular called Northern Career Quest. I mentioned in my notes that it has been very successful. We would love to see it return and be rejuvenated because it's had the best outcomes of any program we've seen, largely because it's extremely flexible. It's able to address the immediate needs that are usually not compatible with typical funding programs, so that's been fantastic.
When we went back to the market looking for employees, we found that aboriginal people were the primary applicants, so we just had to make sure that our workplace was really embracing them in terms of their unique youth-oriented needs, which is not really an aboriginal issue but it happens to be just something that's part of the new generation, but we also had to—
View Joan Crockatt Profile
Could you maybe be specific on one or two points that you think have actually made that difference for you so that the committee can be a little bit more knowledgeable about some best practices?
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 16:22
If you compare us to other forest companies in Saskatchewan, we have by far the highest aboriginal employment. The normal would be perhaps 5% or 10% whereas we're at 75%. We're owned by first nations so there is going to be some strong policy around making sure we put emphasis on promoting job creation among our membership. There are a lot of stakeholders who want to see that happen. Federal government departments want to see it happen. They want to see people moving off social assistance and moving into the workforce, so there is a lot of support.
The Meadow Lake Tribal Council has a number of very successful health and social programs that are active in getting people through graduating from grade 12, getting them into post-secondary training, and getting them into pre-qualification in trades, and that's led to a large number of candidates who are able to come forward to apply for jobs. We don't really have a temporary foreign worker program. We have an abundance of applicants, generally from the region, so it's a bit of a good news story that way.
We would like to see a lot more emphasis on life skills development and helping people integrate when they move from a very remote rural community into Meadow Lake, which is not that urban, 5,000 people, but it's still a big shock for a lot of people.
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 16:24
What is it like to rent an apartment, build a lifestyle, get a family established, and put down roots? That's not really common for a lot of young people so we need to help them understand those things. When we strengthen those things they become long-term, stable employees and commit themselves to the company.
We have a lot of strong candidates right now, a lot of shining stars. We're using them as examples to help recruit more like them, and it's going well.
View Joan Crockatt Profile
If you had a recommendation for government, of the programs you've accessed, which would you say you want to see us strengthen and continue? What do you think is a best model that's worked for you?
Ben Voss
View Ben Voss Profile
Ben Voss
2015-05-07 16:24
Yes, it's a Saskatchewan-specific program. I know that other provinces have looked at it. It's been very successful.
There are some models in Alberta and B.C. that we're looking at as well that are specific to forestry, but we really like Northern Career quest. It's great.
Don Ludlow
View Don Ludlow Profile
Don Ludlow
2015-04-23 8:48
Great. Thank you, Mr. Chair, committee members, and all those joining us here today.
It is a pleasure for my colleague Tim Patriquin and I to be here representing the members of the Treble Victor Group and participating in this important discussion.
The Treble Victor Group, or 3V, is a network of ex-military leaders working in business, government, and the not-for-profit sectors, who support one another in their post-service careers. We assist one another through mentoring and advice, networking, and speaking events, while consulting with corporations and other organizations to establish programs for those transitioning from the military. While not representing ill or injured soldiers specifically, we simply note that our organization comprises some 250 former military leaders with many different backgrounds and experiences, all at different stages in their careers.
We recognize that all veterans transition out of the military at some point. Many, if not most, seek engaging and meaningful careers post service. Our members believe that when considering a national approach to veterans, a great country like Canada needs to ensure the following: that we honour our heros who have served in times of war and peace; that we look after our ill and injured soldiers, seeing them through recovery, rehabilitation, and a return to fulfilling work; and that we tap the amazing talent that the nation has developed in its military services. Our organization is particularly interested and experienced in the latter point as it seeks to collaborate with businesses and organizations throughout Canada to leverage the skills, capabilities, and experiences of those with military backgrounds.
Why is it imperative to tap the talent available from transitioning veterans? First of all, Canada has invested heavily in developing and building the skills and capabilities of these citizens who are drawn from all regions of the country and all walks of life. Second, many of the strengths developed through military service are highly sought after in the business community, often-referred-to soft skills such as leadership, managing diversity, initiative, and the ability to deal with ambiguity and rapid change. Finally, evolving demographic, economic, and competitive demands require us to mobilize all talent available in the population to address looming labour and talent shortages.
With this in mind, we would like to share with you a number of insights that 3V members have gained from their own transition experiences. The first is that transition takes time. Our own experience would suggest that a well-planned and executed transition from the military can take at least two years and often much longer. The implications of this are clear. If veterans, injured or otherwise, do not spend time and effort preparing for their post-military career while still in uniform or while convalescing, a last minute move will likely not prove successful for them or their new employer.
Second, our experience with transitions has demonstrated that there is almost always a brief conversion or ramping up to a particular industry or job. Thus jobs that have a training and development component at the outset, whether some of the excellent generalist programs run by some corporations or, for example, sales roles that have common courses for all new hires, seem to be well suited to transitioning veterans and result in considerable success for all.
Finally, we have learned that a successful transition of military personnel often requires an active sponsor or a highly supportive organization. Although Canada's military is highly regarded by Canadians and business leaders, the transferability and relevance of military experience is not so well understood. Too often, someone with military experience, while perhaps interesting and impressive in person, may seem like a hiring risk in comparison to and in competition with candidates who have done a particular civilian job before.
However, success breeds success. Once given a chance, our veterans usually perform remarkably well and are quickly integrated into new organizations, teams, and ways of doing things. Not surprisingly, organizations that have had some successful hires begin to employ many more veterans, and ex-military recruitment programs become a meaningful part of their talent sourcing.
Nonetheless, veterans require sponsors and someone willing to give them a chance. The reality is that there are just not enough of these champions in the business community today. All of this is to say that while many business leaders and hiring managers are sympathetic to those with military backgrounds and regard them well, there are some barriers preventing successful transitions. We wish to underscore that despite such challenges, veterans are not looking for sympathy. They are simply looking for meaningful employment to launch their post-service careers.
What can be done to help improve the situation for our veterans and enable Canada to make better use of those with military backgrounds?
Our organization has three recommendations. First, transition needs to begin well in advance of release or completion of rehabilitation. Transitioning veterans must be encouraged to consider and be provided resources to support their post-military employment plans a number of years before hanging up their uniforms. Transition support needs to be much more than resume writing and pension briefings, and should be structured to provide both resources and time for education upgrading or skills development.
Second, a particular emphasis needs to be placed on the educational aspects of veteran transition. Veterans should be provided with sufficient funding to pursue post-secondary education or training during, or on completion of, their terms of service and efforts to grant equivalency certifications based on military service and qualifications should be accelerated. A veteran will certainly appear to be much less of a risk if they, at the very least, have similar education and qualifications to others competing for civilian jobs.
Finally, we believe that clear goals should be set and formal partnerships established with corporate Canada. The highly successful 100,000 jobs mission south of our border demonstrates what can be accomplished when a specific goal is set and when corporations understand how supporting veteran transitions can benefit their own businesses. We note that Canada Company, closer to home, has established a goal of 10,000 jobs for veterans and this is achievable with appropriate support from the business community. Once common goals are committed to, we believe there is an opportunity to establish structured apprenticeship, on-boarding, or ramp-up programs with businesses across Canada to support transitioning veterans funded in part through relevant grants or tax incentives.
In closing, we do not believe that veterans want either charity or special treatment, but rather they seek the opportunity to use the skills and experiences they acquired in the armed forces as a springboard to a post-military career. We ask that you consider ways to support veterans well in advance of their transition date, while working with Canadian businesses to establish specific programs to convert qualified veterans to successful members of their organizations. Doing all of this properly is important to our veterans who will continue to enjoy meaningful work, while contributing to the continued success and vibrancy of Canadian society.
We very much thank you for the opportunity to present to you today and look forward to questions and further discussion.
Bronwen Evans
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Bronwen Evans
2015-03-26 8:53
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, and thank you for inviting me to present today.
I'm going to focus my remarks primarily around veterans who have been ill and injured, opportunities for employment programs that exist currently within government, and then some programs that we fund external to government.
I'll start off by giving a bit of a background on True Patriot Love. Some of you may know who we are as an organization, but I'll give a quick background on that. Then I will move on to talk about some work that we did in leadership at the Veterans Transition Advisory Council, which was a council that Minister Blaney, when he was the minister of veterans affairs, asked us to assemble. Through that I will talk about some survey work that we did of employers around their attitudes toward hiring veterans and then speak specifically to what we perceive to be some of the challenges regarding employment and where we think things should go.
True Patriot Love is an organization that started in 2009. There was a small group of us. Originally it was going to be a fundraising dinner that we did to raise money for the Military Families Fund. We raised about $2 million in one night and recognized that not only was there a need, but there was a huge opportunity and a willingness to give from corporate Canada.
We've been around for about six years and we've raised about $20 million, which we disburse to community-based charities across Canada that support military families. We don't run programs per se, but we raise money which we disburse, similar to how the United Way functions.
Our main areas of support are mental health and rehabilitation. We fund many counselling programs not just for injured soldiers, but also for their families. When a soldier suffers an operational stress injury, the whole family suffers. We also fund counselling programs in addition to that, where we look at children and young adults who are struggling at school or in new communities. Because they move frequently, they are often in need of support.
We also fund physical health and rehabilitation; so think adaptive ski programs and some very adaptive sport programs. We fund home and vehicle modifications for injured soldiers. The government does do some of that, but to give you an example of the kind of things we do, if a soldier lost a limb in Afghanistan and they come back, the government will pay to retrofit the soldier's existing vehicle. If that vehicle is too small to put a wheelchair and a ramp in it, we will pay for a new vehicle for the individual and the government will then retrofit it.
The other area that we fund is general family support. We do quite a bit in the area of supporting children in the military with special needs. This need has grown to about $750,000 a year. What happens is when children have special needs, like autism, and they move from one base to another, they go to the bottom of the public waiting list because it's all overseen by the provinces. Oftentimes they won't make it to the top of the waiting list before they need to move again. We were finding that families were taking out second mortgages on their home to pay for important therapy. That's a huge area of funding that we focus on. We also pay to send children to camp. Where there's been a recent injury, death, or deployment, we give military children the opportunity to go and spend time with other military children who may be going through some of the same things.
That's a general background on True Patriot Love.
A couple of years ago, Minister Blaney, when he was the minister for veterans affairs, asked True Patriot Love to put together what was called the Veterans Transition Advisory Council. I did send this document in advance and I want to make sure everybody has a copy of it. The purpose of the Veterans Transition Advisory Council was to look at systemic barriers that were preventing veterans from making a transition to meaningful employment. The reason I say meaningful is that we discovered quite early on that the issue isn't unemployment; it's more underemployment.
We assembled, with the support of Veterans Affairs and eventually with support from the Department of National Defence, a number of companies to help us look at the barriers. We also included other representation from charities across Canada that were in this space. Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence also have seats on this advisory council.
What I thought might be of particular interest to this group was a survey that we did of human resource departments across the country. It's the first-ever survey that has been done in Canada of this sort where we were looking at the attitudes of people doing the hiring in companies towards hiring veterans. There's been a lot of work done on this in other countries, like the U.S., but nothing had been done in Canada.
We did a quantitative survey of 850 corporate HR departments in Canada. What we found was interesting. We found that 45% of Canadian employers think that promoting the hiring of veterans reflects well on their company. We'd like it to be higher than 45%, but there's at least still 45% who believe that. However, 73% of Canadian employers admit that their organization does not have a specific veteran hiring initiative. When we prodded even further, we found only 4% of those who didn't have one have any intention of ever putting one in place.
We also found that only 13% of HR departments have been trained on how to read a military resumé. One thing we found especially interesting was that 46% believe having a university degree is more important than years of military experience. When you prodded that question and asked, what could a veteran do in order to help himself or herself get a job in the civilian world, education ranked the highest. The feeling with that was if you looked at their years of service, it wouldn't qualify essentially as the kind of training or internship that they were hoping to see and that they would need in order to bring veterans into their companies.
We have that going on and we're in a situation where employers, while their intentions might be good, don't really know how to go about hiring veterans.
We get calls as an organization quite frequently where somebody or a company will say to us, “We want to hire veterans. Where are they? How do we go about finding them?”
There is a program named MET, the military employment transition program, which is run by Canada Company in partnership with the Department of National Defence. That's very hands-on in terms of matching up employers with veterans. However, it's only able to handle so much volume, and on top of that, they don't deal with the ill and injured population at all.
The report that you have is our interim report, which ended up being presented to Minister Fantino. When we presented it to the minister and asked for further direction, he asked us to look specifically at the ill and injured veteran population to see what could be done in that area, because that was an area where when it came to employment the feeling was there was the most concern and the least amount of supports available to them.
We, the Veterans Transition Advisory Council, spent some time looking at that issue in particular. We did a survey of the programs that are already out there through government, through both Veterans Affairs and the Department of National Defence. We certainly found that pretty much every employer indicator showed that medically released veterans are worse off than veterans who aren't medically released.
Clients who have been medically released experience 15.1% unemployment compared to 7.6% unemployment for the total veteran population. Also, their income and their skill relevance tend to be lower. In one sample size that Veterans Affairs looked at, they saw a 29% decline in income and a 63% decline in earnings in a three-year post-release period for ill and injured veterans. Data show that only 8% of the medically released are unable to work, which means that the remaining 92% present a significant opportunity for employers, because these 92% have served and obviously have a tremendous skill set.
One of the issues that you are probably aware of as a committee—although I find that when I am speaking to our donors, corporate employers, they find it surprising—is that only veterans who are clients of Veterans Affairs are eligible for VAC services, which isn't the majority of veterans. You are able to access the support in VAC, whether it's support for employment or other types of support related to illness, only if you are a client. Only 30% of medically released veterans are clients of VAC, so 70% of medically released members of the armed forces aren't clients of VAC and are out there on their own.
There is a program called CanVet, which is the official service provider for Veterans Affairs to provide vocational rehabilitation for veterans. While this is a good program in terms of helping veterans prepare resumés and think about where they are going with their career, the one thing that we think is lacking is that the people who work at vocational rehab and who are providing the advice to veterans aren't going out and connecting with the employer population. It's one of those things where you go into a classroom setting, work on your resumé, and get advice on how to do job interviews, but CanVet isn't making any outreach to employers to prepare them for the fact that there may be some veterans coming their way who are interested in jobs.
Really, the only alternative within Veterans—
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