All posts tagged Canadian Armed Forces

Less pretty words, more substantial action needed for military families

General Jonathan Vance

Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

This piece was first published in the Hill Times on May 31, 2017.

They have been called our “best kept secret.” Will the current government’s defence policy review and decades of tight-fisted budgets continue to relegate the centres that serve our nation’s military and veteran families to social and fiscal obscurity?

It has been more than 30 years since the current 32 Military Family Resource Centres (MFRCs) began to take shape. The initiative was born in opposition to the failure of Canada’s military bureaucracy to acknowledge the importance of military families, long labelled dependants.

Spouses who showed bravery that even the military had to begrudgingly admire, fought in the courts and political arena to have a say in how the military affects the lives of military families.
Arguably, spouses still have little voice on military matters affecting the lives of their families. MFRCs were not created, and arguably still do not operate, to address their needs. Although mandated to be “managed independently of the chain of command,” reality still hinders MFRCs’ arm’s length aspirations. As Dr. Deborah Harrison, Canada’s leading expert on the impact of military life and culture on families, points out in her 2016 book, Growing up in Armyville, MFRCs are still an “arm of the CAF [Canadian Armed Forces] and, as such, their overriding goal is the operational readiness and retention of CAF members.”

True, each MFRC operates as a charity, governed by a board that must include at least 51 per cent civilian spouses of military members.… Read the rest

Parliament Has No Obligation to Fight for Veterans, even though Veterans Fight and Die for Us

Sean Bruyea

In the coming days, Parliament will release a highly-controversial report on the embattled veterans legislation known as the New Veterans Charter (NVC). Will this report help repair or will it contribute to the immense broken trust government has provoked within an increasingly-disillusioned veteran community?

The forthcoming report is part of a legally-mandated “comprehensive review” in spite of the attempt by the minister claiming that he personally called for this review. Such politicking of veterans’ issues has plagued far too much of the Conservative questioning during the hearings. In place of substantive investigation, many Conservative members of committee, such as Parliamentary Secretary Parm Gill, have asked politically rhetorical questions, especially of those witnesses who questioned the government’s inaction: “Can you tell us you are aware that more money is spent today under the new Veterans Charter than under the Pension Act?”

The question was directed to Jim Scott who heads up Equitas Society, which is spearheading a lawsuit claiming the NVC violates fundamental Canadian rights while disadvantaging those veterans under the new legislation compared to the previous Pension Act. Scott obviously did not have internal departmental statistics, leaving this categorically incorrect assertion uncontested. However, in 2012-13, Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) paid out $1.6-billion under the Pension Act and only $552.3-million under the New Veterans Charter.… Read the rest

Canadian Forces can’t sweep sexual assaults under the carpet, again

National Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, right, and General Tom Lawson, Chief of Defence Staff

Two weeks ago, L’actualité, and its sister magazine, Maclean’s, broke a major story on sexual assault in the Canadian Armed Forces. The numbers were stunning: it estimated an average of five assaults every day. What was worse, the victims reported being intimidated into not making or dropping complaints, being harassed if they persisted, and assailants getting off scot-free. The Minister of National Defense immediately ordered an investigation. Senior officers claimed to be shocked by the report.

Even I was surprised. The figures must be too high, I thought. They mean that a little over 2.6% of members would be assaulted in any given year – a rate about two times higher than that estimated for the general public, depending what figures are used. But a review of statistics from the U.S. and a lengthy conversation with a journalist convinced me that it was accurate. I also recalled a conversation with a colleague who said that he believed every woman in the Forces deals with either serious sexual harassment or assault at some point.

The military brass cannot have been surprised – or, if they were, they were negligent.… Read the rest