All posts tagged Department of National Defence

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

Military suicides: platitudes and rhetoric not enough

Sean Bruyea

The recent spate of suicides by serving and retired Canadian Armed Forces members is indescribably tragic. If we truly wish to live up to our claims as a civilized and compassionate nation, then we have the highest moral obligation to ask tough questions and risk being profoundly changed by the answers.

First, we must remember and honour the most recent four victims of apparent suicide: Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast, Corporal William Elliot, Master Warrant Officer Michael McNeil and Corporal Sylvain Lelièvre. They are casualties of combat and military service. We can only imagine but we must understand the degree of darkness they endured to make such a difficult decision. The official government understanding is less than helpful.

The DND hierarchy after each suicide marches out the platitudes and rhetoric. DND claims Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel have a lower suicide rate than the civilian population or that of the U.S. military. Such cold comfort allows the largest of Canada’s federal departments to sit on its hands, avoiding the deep critical thinking needed to make important changes. In fact, such statistical claims have often been massaged to show a seemingly benign picture of death. For five-year periods, the CF average has been steady at about 19 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, same or slightly more than the civilian population rate of 18 per 100,000 for males (the military is still overwhelmingly male) and approximately 20 per 100,000 for the American military.… Read the rest

A sad lack of accountability on F-35s and transportation safety

In case you’re not Canadian or haven’t seen any news at all this week, the Auditor General released a report in which he blasts the Department of National Defence and Transport Canada. The Canada Revenue Agency also received criticism, but not quite as blistering.

Andrew Coyne has some spot-on comments about the government’s obviously conscious attempt to deceive Parliament and Canadians about the costs of the F-35, so I won’t repeat what he’s said – just go to the link below. Remember that he’s a right-leaning journalist, too, so if he’s damning, well, it’s got to be bad. (I have great respect for his work and commentary, by the way.)

I would simply add that while I believe that the Tories are complicit in this cover-up (and let’s be honest – how different would the Chrétien Liberals have been?) it’s the role of bureaucrats that I have greatest concern about. These people are supposed to be sober, neutral and honest. If anyone is going to take the big risks, it’s supposed to be the politicians.

But clearly they’re not. Clearly, that role of the bureaucracy has been undermined. And I don’t think that it’s just the fault of the Conservatives (and the Liberals before them).… Read the rest