Committee
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Consult the user guide
For assistance, please contact us
Add search criteria
Results: 1 - 60 of 116
View Bryan May Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Bryan May Profile
2021-04-12 15:38
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 18 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, as we're all used to now, pursuant to the House order of January 25, 2021. The proceedings will be made available via the House of Commons website.
Pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), the committee is undertaking the study of the main estimates, 2021-22.
We are pleased to welcome with us today the Minister of Veterans Affairs and department officials. I will introduce the department officials in the second hour.
To start us off today, I'm pleased to welcome the Honourable Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs.
Sir, the floor is all yours.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and committee members, for having me here today to speak about our main estimates.
It's always a pleasure to join you, and I appreciate the important work you've been doing on the backlog and on supports for the veterans organizations and our veterans' families and caregivers.
As I've told you before, reducing wait times has been my absolute top priority as minister. I'm confident that we're on the right track to meet our goal of having the backlog under control next year. The backlog is currently down to about 15,000 applications from around 23,000 this time last year. More and more decisions are being made every single day.
Last June we presented a plan to tackle the backlog, using everything from new hires to digitization. In the 2020 fiscal update, we committed nearly $200 million in additional funding to put this plan into action. This plan has been making progress.
We have hired and trained the veteran benefit teams. This next quarter will be the first when they all will be up and running for the whole time, and we expect to see increased numbers of decisions month after month.
There is certainly a lot still to do, and too many veterans are still waiting too long, but the number of decisions being made and the decrease we've seen in the backlog—15,000 today, down from 23,000 last year—show that we're moving in the right direction.
You'll see that the main estimates are over $1 billion higher than last year's. This includes an increase of nearly $870 million for disability benefits and nearly $175 million for income support.
We need this funding largely because we're making faster decisions, approving more applications and getting benefits to veterans faster. That is nearly $1 billion more than last year going directly to the veterans, and well over $2 billion more than in 2014-15. There's still more to do, but I'm sure that all of us here can agree that this is important progress.
It's also worth noting that this work on wait times has taken place during a global pandemic. Since the pandemic started, employees at Veterans Affairs have been reaching out directly to veterans to check in and make sure they're okay. We'll continue to reach out in the weeks and months to come.
Because it affects our veterans just like it affects our serving members, I want to briefly address the reports that we have been hearing about sexual misconduct in our armed forces. Like you, I have been deeply troubled by the stories we've been hearing. Signing up to serve with the flag on your shoulder comes with its own risks. An unsafe workplace should never be one of them. No matter the rank, there is no place for the kind of misconduct we've been hearing about.
I want to stress how important it is for those who may be impacted to reach out. We've been working regularly with veterans and advocates on this issue of support for victims of military sexual trauma. We have services and support available through Veterans Affairs. No one should face these issues alone. We set up the Office of Women and LGBTQ2 Veterans and we've held women veterans forums to help identify and address the unique needs of the women who have served Canada in uniform.
Veterans Affairs Canada exists to offer support and assistance. Whether that relates to sexual misconduct, a post-traumatic stress injury or any other issue that one of our veterans may be facing, we want to help. We recently funded McMaster University through the veteran and family well-being fund for an intervention strategy for veterans who have PTSD after experiencing sexual misconduct during service. We always need to do more, and this is certainly an issue that we will continue to work on.
In conclusion, the main estimates are critical for the department to deliver on its mandate to serve our veterans and their families.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being with us again today. I would agree that the committee has been doing some pretty good work in discussing the backlogs, looking at veteran service organizations and many other issues.
I do want to focus for a minute on some of your remarks here as the Associate Minister of National Defence. Some people may not know that you hold that title as well. You said, “Like you, I’ve been deeply troubled by the stories we’ve been hearing. Signing up to serve with the flag on your shoulder comes with its own risks. An unsafe workplace should never be one of them. No matter the rank, there is no place for the kind of misconduct we’ve been hearing about.”
Minister, by now you've probably heard that the national defence committee was shut down by members of the Liberal Party today, so my question for you is this. When it really matters, why are you, the defence minister and your government turning your backs on women in the military by shutting down that committee and the probe into sexual misconduct?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
John, I can assure you that, number one, the committee is a body within itself and makes it own decisions. I have nothing to do with what they do at the national defence committee if I'm not there, and you're fully aware of that. I can tell you one thing for sure: This issue has to be dealt with and there is absolutely no place for this in Canada. It's totally unacceptable.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Well you see, Minister, here's the difference. The committee was dealing with it, yet it was members of your own government, the members of that committee, who moved a motion to shut it down. How do you reconcile the fact that you said in your remarks you want to stress how important it is to reach out, but the message to women in the military today is, “We're not interested in hearing about it and are going to shut it down”? How do you reconcile that, Minister?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
John, as you're fully aware, I was not at the committee, but the fact is, with Veterans Affairs, we certainly and absolutely deal with those issues. We take the word of the veteran when they come forward to make sure the issue is dealt with appropriately at Veterans Affairs, and we will continue to do that. What the national defence committee does is the national defence committee's business, but I will do my best as Minister of Veterans Affairs to make sure that every veteran receives the service and remuneration they deserve. That is why we work so hard and that's why your committee works so hard to make sure that we're able to provide these benefits. We have and will continue to do so, and I think you know that.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Sir, I want focus on the backlog numbers for a second. The ACVA report “Clearing the Jam: Addressing the Backlog of Disability Benefit Claims at Veterans Affairs Canada”, listed the backlog as of June 30, 2020, as 21,572 files, with an additional pending number of 23,724 files for a total of 45,296. In your address you provided a backlog number of 15,000. Can you also provide to us what the additional pending files are that are not assigned and under the 16 weeks of wait time, which is the normal standard?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Well, John, as I indicated clearly, the backlog is a major issue and we all agree on that. It dropped from 23,000 to 15,000, and we will continue to do that.
I'm not sure what files you want, but we're going to make sure at Veterans Affairs Canada that all of the files are addressed [Technical difficulty—Editor] back. Now, in the situation with files coming in about as fast as they were before the pandemic hit, as you know, there's been a dramatic increase in applications to Veterans Affairs. We have done an enormous amount of work in order to [Technical difficulty—Editor] and spent just under $200 million on this issue alone to hire 350 people, plus train about 175 or 180 more people in the department to make sure that these people are able to deal with the backlog. They are indeed dealing with the backlog. I indicated to you previously that the backlog was my number one priority, and we are dealing with it and will continue to deal with it and make sure within a year the backlog has been addressed.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Minister.
Next I want to talk about the pension for life scheme. The Veterans Affairs Canada departmental plan for 2021-22 states, “the number of Veterans choosing lump-sum payments over monthly payments for the new Pain and Suffering Compensation has resulted in increased planned spending.”
The whole point of the pension for life was to replace the lump sum payments that had been made since 2006. In your opinion, has this scheme been a failure and has it not achieved its desired goal, which was to spread out monthly payments rather than have veterans accept lump sum payments?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
I think my honourable colleague is fully aware that the veteran has the decision to make on whether they want to take the lump sum payment or the monthly payment. That's a decision that was made previously and is in place. It's a decision that's made by the veteran.
View William Amos Profile
Lib. (QC)
View William Amos Profile
2021-04-12 15:50
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Minister, you've come before this committee on several occasions and have been transparent on every occasion, supported by our most senior public servants at Veterans Affairs. It's clear that the effort has been there to achieve necessary improvements. The challenges have been acknowledged. The problems are being confronted head-on.
I think Canadians are looking for this committee to get as clear as possible a sense not only of what the improvements are but also of what additional measures are being taken. You've given us some indication of that.
I'm wondering if you can provide some additional detail on how, over the course of a year, Veterans Affairs public servants are working through a pandemic, as well as how the overall department and its team are functioning. What are the challenges as you and your department try to get this wait-list down as much as possible?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you very much, William.
The truth is that when the pandemic happened, it was a great test for everybody. Without a doubt the department certainly came to the table and responded very well. In fact, veterans funds going out the door are now, I believe, at previous levels or above the previous level.
On the departmental side, I'll let the deputy give more detail on that, but it's important that people realize that the public servants in Veterans Affairs have answered the call. They've provided the benefits for veterans.
I'll let my deputy say a few words on that. I think he's quite pleased with what took place.
Walter Natynczyk
View Walter Natynczyk Profile
Walter Natynczyk
2021-04-12 15:52
Sure. Thanks very much for that.
Right from when the pandemic hit on March 13 last year the department went to a remote working environment. I'm pleased to say that within a month we were back up to over 90% effective; that is, people had the right IT equipment and secure access.
Automatically we started to reach out to vulnerable veterans, those who we believed were on the verge of homelessness and veterans who were in long-term care, and we linked with their families. We reached out to women veterans, indigenous veterans and anyone with an illness or ailment that, as deemed by our folks, made them vulnerable, including case-managed veterans.
We continue to provide service daily. We receive about 1,600 phone calls a day and hundreds of texts a day. It is interesting that in some areas, like our phone service, we actually became more efficient in answering calls, certainly within the two-minute standard. We started piloting the use of tools such as this and Microsoft Teams to do virtual meetings with veterans. Our mental health supports went virtual almost immediately. We are very proud of the operational stress injury clinics and our clinicians across the country.
At the same time, for cases in which our veterans were in very difficult palliative or frail circumstances, we still had employees who did home visits, occupational therapists and other professionals, in order to ensure seamlessness in support. We created a COVID-19 working group with veteran stakeholders so that we could hear from them and see ways and means whereby we could improve what we were doing. We continue to learn, having these meetings on a regular basis across the board. The fact that we were able to hire over 350 employees and train them during this environment in a virtual workspace was commendable for the team.
I will stop there, sir.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
William, I think that explains pretty well how efficient the public servants have been at Veterans Affairs Canada here and right across the country. That is so important, because the pandemic is a time for mental stress, and without question, as the deputy has indicated, the department has addressed the call to make sure we provide the appropriate service for veterans to the best of our ability.
For that I am very thankful to all of our public servants here at Veterans Affairs. I've been at this business a long time, and in Veterans Affairs, we have the finest public servants in the country. They are dedicated to the task and they have certainly shown that since this pandemic started. Again, I want to thank them publicly for that.
View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
Good afternoon, fellow members and guests.
Minister MacAulay, I'm a little surprised and disappointed by your remarks. I was expecting to hear you speak about women and the services provided to francophones. You spoke about the Office of Women and LGBTQ2 Veterans. However, based on the feedback that we're getting right now, the office isn't running and is having issues.
I would also have liked to hear you talk about mental health.
One person told me outright that the department suggested that she ask her questions or make her requests in English rather than in French, for three reasons. First, her request would be processed more quickly. Second, it would be easier for her to win her case. I doubt that very much. It's almost impossible. Third, the data in English would be slightly different and more up to date.
Minister MacAulay, do you acknowledge that the services provided in English and French at Veterans Affairs aren't equal?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Luc, thank you very much. The last thing I ever want to do is disappoint you.
The fact is, yes, we do.... We understand quite clearly, and we had to hire more francophone and bilingual staff in order to make sure that the French applications were processed properly and more quickly.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Very good.
Luc, as I said, the last thing I would ever want to do is disappoint you. The fact is, we were aware, and that's why we hired more francophone assistants and more bilingual assistants in order to make sure we could reduce the wait time. There's absolutely no reason for anybody in this country to not be able to file an application in English or in French to the Department of Veterans Affairs. That is and must be the way that things are handled at Veterans Affairs.
We understood that with regard to women and LGBTQ veterans we had to do more. That's why, in 2020, we had a first conference to make sure that—or I think it was 2019. The first one was in 2019. I had the privilege of announcing and putting it in place, in order to make sure we understood exactly how to deal with the problems that women and other veterans have when they apply for assistance. I think it's vitally important, and we will continue—
View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Minister MacAulay.
I want to focus on the situation of francophones, for whom this is a recurring issue. This situation is dragging on and isn't improving. How can this issue be resolved in a concrete manner?
I'll give you an example. One of my constituents applied in English for additional pain and suffering compensation on behalf of a French-speaking veteran in Ottawa. She received a response after seven weeks. You know as well as I do that it usually takes between 6 and 12 months to get a response to this type of claim in French. The people who are waiting are suffering and yet aren't receiving the money owed to them.
What concrete steps will you take to address this issue and when will you take action?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Luc, what we were going to do with the situation overall is to make sure we hired more people, that we digitized the system, made sure that the applications moved more quickly.
We understood that we needed to hire more francophone assistants, and we did, to make sure that we addressed those claims in an appropriate time. I think we're all aware that there was too long of a wait time, too long for veterans to wait.
However, Luc, you also understand, and I know you do, that the number was at 23,000 and it's now down to 15,000. We're working to make sure that we address this problem appropriately. We have addressed the hiring of more francophone assistants.
Luc, if you have an individual who's having a difficulty, please contact me and I'll do whatever I can to address that issue. Without question, in Veterans Affairs Canada, you can apply in English or in French, and you should. However, I would like to hear from you on the individual issue you're dealing with and I will try to help.
View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. MacAulay, you know that I like you. Unfortunately, I tried to make an appointment with you in November and never heard back. We were supposed to discuss veterans' issues. I still like you though. I know that you have a very busy schedule. However, I would be happy to talk to you about a specific case if I get an answer from your office.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Mr. Chair, I have to tell Luc that I will get back to him.
I will call you, Luc.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being here with us today. I hope you do address this issue, because I know that veterans who are applying to get the services they need in French are not getting them, and they are having to wait longer than English-speaking veterans are. I hope that's addressed very soon.
My first question for you today, Minister, is on the marriage after 60 clause. In 2015, your government promised to remove this clause. It was in previous veterans ministers' mandate letters, but I noticed it was not in yours. However, I recognize that in 2019 there was $150 million committed over five years for survivors of veterans who married after 60. What I cannot find, Minister, is anything in public accounts or estimates that shows that any money at all was spent, so I have two questions for you today.
One, when will this clause finally be removed, considering that many veterans live well into their eighties and their partners are caring for them during that time? Two, why was this money not spent? If it was, will you provide the committee with the relevant documentation to prove that it has been spent?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you very much, Ms. Blaney. I appreciate your question. I also always appreciate your concern.
On this issue, my department has been working with Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research to learn about the characteristics and needs of these survivors. Over the coming months the department will use the results of this research to inform how best to support these survivors.
First, we need to get the data and the information on just how many of these people are out there, where they're located and anything else we can find out about them. That is what we are doing and will continue to do.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Okay, so the money has not actually been sent to those folks. I can promise you, Minister, that what's happening for them is they are living in more poverty because they're not getting the support that they well deserve. When someone marries someone or commits their life to someone, I certainly hope that Veterans Affairs will accept that. I didn't hear an answer at all about when that's going to be changed, so I'm going to assume that this is no longer a priority for this government.
Let's move on to the next question, Minister, if you don't mind.
I would like to clarify with you something on the RCMP. The fact is that at this time, RCMP do not qualify for the veterans independence program. I understand that they do in fact qualify for the attendance allowance to support them with indoor tasks, but the outdoor tasks covered by the VIP are simply not provided.
When we ask the RCMP to serve us, I think it's important that we return the favour when members get to that age, and I'm just wondering if that will be fixed for our RCMP.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you very much, Ms. Blaney.
My understanding is that the RCMP, like the department, works to make sure that the support is provided to them.
I'll let my deputy handle that.
Walter Natynczyk
View Walter Natynczyk Profile
Walter Natynczyk
2021-04-12 16:06
What is unique to our service to the RCMP is that we have a memorandum of understanding, which we provide to the RCMP under the RCMP Act. The RCMP leadership have decided to continue with the pension scheme, so we administer the pension scheme for them. We include the RCMP, stakeholders, and their veterans associations in all of our meetings—in fact, we had a meeting just last week with them—and provide them briefings and total transparency on the host of benefits that we provide Canadian Armed Forces members. However, it is the leadership of the RCMP who then decide what programs they will sign on to and whether to include the veterans independence program or long-term care, or other programs that are being provided to the Canadian Armed Forces veterans, but the RCMP, from a leadership standpoint, have not pursued those benefits.
We are in a provision of services situation with the RCMP and we did receive additional funding for them. They have access to all of our mental health care and supports, and that includes access to the operational stress injury clinics and clinicians.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you so much, General. I really appreciate your answer, and will follow up on that again.
Minister, I will go back to the disability benefit backlog. You keep mentioning the money that you're putting towards that. I recognize that. The problem is the veterans are not getting the services they need. We're hearing that again and again. The backlogs continue to be long. You've hired temporary workers. We're still not clear if those are temporary workers or if they're actually going to become permanent workers.
I don't think this is a short-term problem. I think it's a long-term problem. Money only matters when services are being delivered, so right now there's this huge challenge, and I'm just wondering when the department is going to hire enough people to actually care for veterans the way that they deserve to be cared for.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Ms. Blaney, I know that you're committed to these issues, and I appreciate your support.
Without question, I think it's fair to say that the government and the department have done a substantial amount. Have we done enough? No. However, in the last year, we put just under $200 million into making sure that the backlog was addressed, around 500 employees, 350 of whom are new employees, making sure that they were trained in order to address the backlog.
We took the backlog from 23,000 to 15,000. Is it good enough? No, it's not. We need to make sure we address it properly, and we're on that path. We have to make sure the veterans receive the funding that they should receive, in an appropriate manner—I said that—and within a year, I indicated that we will have addressed the backlog issue.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
It is an important issue to address, and we have to make sure that we do that. I understand that veterans are waiting, but there's a lot more money being delivered to veterans—not enough, but a lot more.
Thank you.
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you, Minister, for being with us again this morning.
Minister, in addition to serving as the Minister of Veterans Affairs, you are also the Associate Minister of National Defence. With the recent exposure of the depth of damage that military sexual trauma has inflicted on current members of the Canadian Armed Forces, as well as veterans who experienced military sexual trauma during their service, I have to ask, have you reached out, or has the minister of defence reached out, and have you met with him specifically in this regard?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Mr. Chair, I will tell my honourable colleague that the Minister of National Defence has addressed this issue properly. We have discussions basically every week. The minister—
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
I have met him many times on many, many issues. However, he is the Minister of National Defence, and he has addressed this problem appropriately, as you're fully aware, and to make sure—
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
Okay, you've answered my question. Thank you so much. Basically what I'm hearing is that you haven't met with him specifically on this issue.
Of course, we know that both the Minister of National Defence and the Prime Minister have said that they believe those bravely coming forward in regard to their testimonies about what they've experienced. I believe you said the same today. However, the proof will be in the pudding when it comes down to them having to go through the hoops to prove what they have gone through. I certainly hope that belief is extended extensively so they don't become other victims of the current backlog in all that they're experiencing.
With regard to that backlog, you indicated that the workforce has been built up over the last four years to 900 new positions, but over the course of the next two years, 750 of those positions will no longer be there. That's a remainder of 150 full-time positions, not even the 400 that the Conservative government had ready to go with the financing when you formed government.
At the rate you're describing dealing with the backlog, it will take a minimum of two more years to deal with that backlog, and that won't deal with those pileups of pending applications that you aren't including in the current backlog numbers.
Why are you not responding to the Parliamentary Budget Officer's recommendation that these positions remain in place for the coming years? This issue is going to compound itself again when you remove all of those positions within the public service over the next two years.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
I can assure you that when somebody comes forward to the Department of Veterans Affairs with a sexual trauma issue, they're taken at their word.
I don't think you want to discuss what it was like before 2014-15, when you fired 1,000 people—
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
No, no, give me a minute now to answer. You asked a question; I'll give an answer.
The fact of the matter is that what the Conservative Party of Canada did was to fire 1,000 employees, cut the money to Veterans Affairs, hurt veterans and hurt Veterans Affairs Canada.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
The changes we have made are putting about two and a half billion dollars more at the end of this year into the pockets of veterans.
Mrs. Cathay Wagantall: That's a great answer—
Hon. Lawrence MacAulay: That is why we want to and will take care of veterans. That's what is fair—
View Cathay Wagantall Profile
CPC (SK)
I appreciate what you've just said. Thank you so much.
We were dealing in the midst of a significant recession. You have created one, so here we are.
You indicate between two billion and three billion dollars' worth of new spending, yet you continually say, even in the House of Commons, that you've invested $10 billion more. Where is that money and how has it been spent?
I do not see the removal of these particular.... If you're doing a better job than we did, why are you removing 750 positions over the next two years when we are still in a backlog situation for those two years? Can you answer that, please?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
I think it's awfully important to realize that compared to 2014-15 and today there's over $2 billion more going into the pockets of veterans. What you, your department and your government did before 2014-15, you fired them. You took money out of the pockets of veterans. You hurt veterans and the department—
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
—and we had to start at the bottom to put the thing back together.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
[Inaudible—Editor] become very efficient.
Mr. Chair, I'd like to answer it. The fact of the matter is—
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Yes. What we strived to do here and are doing is making sure that we run an efficient department, making sure we take care of our veterans and making sure they receive the proper remuneration that they should. We have done that and will continue to do that.
I thank you.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2021-04-12 16:16
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Minister, first of all, let me thank you for recognizing the work of the dedicated public servants who have increased the level of efficiency in such difficult circumstances and who are doing yeoman's service to address the backlog.
Minister, I want to give you a fair chance to answer, without being interrupted, on the topic that Ms. Wagantall raised. In your opening remarks, you talked about the fact that this year's estimates are a billion dollars higher than last year's, but they're $2 billion higher than 2014-15. I found it interesting that you chose that year because, as you know, the former ministers of veterans affairs in 2014-15 were Julian Fantino and Erin O'Toole.
Here we are, looking at estimates that are $2 billion higher than what they were then. You and I both remember well the situation within the Department of Veterans Affairs: the deep cuts that preceded that, the fact that the cuts outside of the national capital region were significantly higher or significantly deeper and, of course, the closing of the district offices and the like.
While in your opening remarks you did talk about where the $1 billion in additional funding is coming from for next year, I wonder if you could talk about the $2 billion from the days of ministers Fantino and O'Toole up to now, where that is coming from and the difference that's making in the lives of veterans.
Thank you.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Well, I thank you, Mr. Casey. The fact of the matter is that nearly $2 billion of that is going into the pockets of veterans. That's so important, and that's what we're here for—to make sure.
With that, we also established many other things. There's the veteran and family well-being fund. I think most people are aware of what that does for the groups that work so hard to support veterans and veterans organizations right across the country. They speak on behalf of veterans. They tell me, the government and the department what the needs of veterans are. It's so important that we keep these people in place.
We've established a centre of excellence for PTSD. We reopened nine of the offices that the Conservative Party closed. We've hired over 1,000 employees and we will continue to hire. We established an education fund, which is so vitally important for veterans when they come out of the military. The Canadian military has basically every walk of life.... The economy and the business community in this nation need those people. We put a training program in place so that they can become much more efficient. It's good for themselves, good for the veterans, good for the country and good for our economy. Also, as you know, we invested just under $200 million to deal with the backlog, and that's why it's down from 23,000 to 15,000.
The fact is, it's our job—and your job—to make sure that we put more money into the pockets of veterans who need it. Do we need to do more? Yes. Is there more to do? Yes. We will continue to do that.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2021-04-12 16:19
Thank you, Minister.
If I may, I want to come back to the exchange that you had with Ms. Blaney. After you answered her question, she indicated that she presumed the situation of survivors and family members of veterans who marry after 60 is no longer a priority for the government, but she didn't give you a chance to respond. Would you like to do so?
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
I think I responded quite clearly. What we're doing is evaluating the situation, and gathering the information to make sure that we understand exactly what the situation is, how we deal with it and what measures need to be taken. In fact, that is what we are doing. When we have that, decisions will be made, but you have to know where to go. That's why we do studies on things like this and that's why we are where we are, to make sure that we do better for veterans. Do we do enough for veterans? No, but we have certainly improved the situation, and we want to do more.
View Sean Casey Profile
Lib. (PE)
View Sean Casey Profile
2021-04-12 16:20
Minister, the next study that the committee is going to undertake is to have a look at commemoration. I can tell you that my most memorable experience as a parliamentarian was to accompany a group of veterans to Korea to mark a significant anniversary there and to see young Korean kids hug those veterans when they got off the bus, kids who, of course, wouldn't have been around when they had so bravely defended.
Can you give us a brief snapshot of the 10-year strategic plan for commemoration within the department?
Thank you, sir.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Of course, I have had the privilege over the years of commemorating events of the First World War, the Second World War and the Korean War, which is vitally important to do, and which we will continue to do, but we have to work with the modern veteran. You know how many places they have been. They've preserved democracy around the world. We're going to work with veterans, armed forces, veterans organizations, educators and business people right across the country to make sure we commemorate what these men and women have done. We will do that and make sure that we commemorate it appropriately. It's so important to commemorate what took place in the military action, and we have to make sure that we continue to do that.
View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Minister MacAulay, you're a member of cabinet. So you know better than anyone that Canada should be receiving 44 million doses of vaccine in the coming months.
Have you considered giving Quebec and other provinces the opportunity to ask veterans with health care experience to participate in the vaccination process? Often the issue isn't the number of vaccines but the work force.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you very much, Luc.
It's so important that we use anybody who is available in order to make sure that the vaccines are administered into the arms of people right across the country. But I think, Luc, you're fully aware of where the responsibility is for administering the vaccine to Canadians. That is a provincial jurisdiction, but I would be open to listening to anything that anybody would have to say in order to make sure that we make this thing move faster. It would be important, but I'm not about to give an indication that I want to overrule any province.
Thank you, Luc.
View Luc Desilets Profile
BQ (QC)
We don't want to interfere in provincial jurisdictions, but we do want to work together, as do you. This type of offer would be a possibility. I would strongly suggest it, because some provinces lack workers.
I have another suggestion, should you decide to make this offer to the provinces. I would suggest that you remove the $20,000 maximum that veterans can earn each year without having their benefits reduced. A veteran in my constituency came to lend a hand to the health care system and earned $26,000. We don't know what the amount will be yet, but she'll need to pay it back.
Should you decide to use the services of veterans, I would encourage you to reach an agreement with the provinces to remove this harmful provision.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Thank you, Luc. The point is well taken.
Of course, we have worked with the provinces very well during the pandemic and are still working with the provinces very well and will continue to work with the provinces to make sure that we address this issue and bring this pandemic to an end and get back to whatever normal is.
Thank you.
View Rachel Blaney Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hello again, Minister.
As you well know, our committee is currently doing a study on caregivers. One of the concerns we've heard again and again from families and caregivers is that they're still feeling there's a lack of support for them and for the mental health and well-being of children and for the caregivers themselves.
It's especially concerning when they're dealing with veterans who have PTSD. We're hearing a lot about how they're modifying their behaviour and trying to be supportive, but they don't know how to support people well with PTSD. They're doing the best they can, but they certainly don't receive any training from Veterans Affairs to support them and to help their families.
Now we have caregivers and often partners who are dealing with children who are frustrated and exhausted. They are exhausted. Also, in some cases they're not able to work as much, and sometimes not at all, because they're supporting this person who is really struggling.
We know there is the caregiver recognition benefit, but this is not enough, especially for partners who are now unable to earn a living because of the reality that they are living with in their own home and dealing with those mental health supports.
I'm wondering if VAC will step up and start to support family members with actual resources, therapy and supports to address the issues the veterans and their families are facing.
View Lawrence MacAulay Profile
Lib. (PE)
Ms. Blaney, I'm sure you're fully aware that we have done that, and you're one who pushed hard for this. You mentioned the caregiver recognition benefit, which is so vitally important, and it has to help some. Of course, there's always more to do.
The caregiver recognition benefit gives over $12,500 tax-free to the caregivers. That's helpful, but of course, we're always open to more options that will make it better for veterans and veterans' families. That's what we're about; that's why we have the committee, and that's why we have so many round tables to listen.
I fully agree with you. Anything more we can do within the mandate, I would be very open to seeing happen.
Results: 1 - 60 of 116 | Page: 1 of 2

1
2
>
>|
Export As: XML CSV RSS

For more data options, please see Open Data