Letter to Colonel Cook: Follow up on Visit to 17 Wing Winnipeg from November 14-18 2016

7 December 2016


Colonel Andy Cook
Wing Commander
17 Wing Winnipeg
CFB Winnipeg
P.O. Box 17000 Station Forces
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3J 3Y5


Dear Colonel Cook:

I am writing to follow up on our visit to 17 Wing Winnipeg from 14-18 November 2016. I want to thank you and Chief Warrant Officer Mike Robertson for extending such incredible hospitality throughout our visit.  Your open-door policy, coupled with your encouragement of all members of the Defence Community in Winnipeg to engage openly with my office resulted in a very successful visit.

During this visit, my staff and I were pleased to meet with and listen to concerns and positive feedback from military personnel, civilian employees, Non-Public Funds / Personnel Support Program employees, caregivers and military family members. Overall, I was extremely impressed with their passion for service and their candour during my outreach sessions.

This letter is to expand upon the end of visit debrief I provided to you on 18 November and highlight some of the concerns that we heard about. I recognize that you and your staff are aware of these issues, but I thought it would be helpful to detail them nonetheless and to offer you our assistance should you wish to follow up on any of these matters. I am a firm believer that collaboration and sharing best practices can lead to long-lasting positive changes.

Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC)

The team at the MFRC, led by Colonel (retired) Joel Roy, is a dedicated and caring group that truly makes a difference, connecting with families so that they feel part of the community. I heard repeatedly from members and their families that the Winnipeg MFRC represented the gold standard for the country, and I have to say that I was thoroughly impressed during my short visit.

During our visit to 17 Wing, we heard about the following issues:

  • There is a general sense that Francophone services / resources are lacking in the Winnipeg area;
  • MFRC staff and families expressed concerns related to future funding uncertainty for key MFRC programs and services, and felt that they were not being prioritized by the senior chain of command in Ottawa;
  • There are growing concerns about the lack of social workers / counsellors specializing in children and youth;
  • Communications and outreach need to be improved, especially in the area of educating military families about what programs and services the MFRC provides;
  • There is a lack of standardization of certain services, programs, and forms within MFRCs across the country.


We had a great turnout at the Families outreach session on the evening of 17 November. While many issues and complaints were personal in nature, there were three that I am compelled to share with you:

  • There were complaints about the quality and upkeep of Residential Housing Units – including issues of air quality and perceptions of unfair market value for lower-quality units;
  • There is a lack of public transportation that services the base, and therefore MFRC, CANEX and PSP services;
  • There are military families from 17 Wing who are actively using food banks to help make ends meet.

I acknowledge, Sir, that you shared these concerns when I brought them to your attention.

Sexual Misconduct and Workplace Harassment

  • Members wanted to be better informed about the reporting mechanisms for sexual misconduct;
  • Members and civilians also expressed a general desire for increased advocacy surrounding workplace harassment.

Overworked Members

  • There were multiple complaints relating to workplace health and safety for members who do shift work:
    • For example, there was an instance where one member reported of having to work six consecutive 80-hour work weeks due to the requirement of minimum staffing;
  • These complaints were compounded with the lack of compensation for increased work hours, and its impact on family and childcare;
  • Some members felt as though they were approaching “burnout.”

Moves and Post Living Differential

There were a number of issues raised surrounding relocation and its associated benefits. Primarily, pending changes to the national contract for relocations (lack of awareness of changes and potential impact on members); relocation-related directives e.g.: changes to the Intended Place of Residence policy and a lack of flexibility within the Home Equity Assistance program; the freeze of the Post Living Differential rates since 2008.

While these are national issues that I will continue to raise personally with the Minister of National Defence, it is important that you be aware that these issues are of significant concern to the members at 17 Wing. The approach that successive governments have taken on these issues has been neither member-centric nor based on a sound policy rationale. The longer they remain unresolved, the more Canadian Armed Forces families will suffer financially.

Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) / Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU)

The military members and civilian employees of the local IPSC are extremely professional and passionate about the work they do. During our session, they raised the following concerns:

  • There should be a more robust assessment process when staffing positions within the IPSC to ensure “right fit” and suitability to work on the front lines. It was noted that due to the lengthy staffing process, they were losing high-quality candidates;
  • There should be an increased awareness from the senior leadership on the functions of the IPSC as stigma can be reduced through increased awareness;
  • Medical employment limitations (MELs) are not being adequately fleshed out, especially for certain services. This has created confusion in the Return to Duty process;
  • The lack of a firm prognosis from the Base Surgeon could result in Career Managers refusing a posting to the JPSU, especially if a trade is in short supply. Career managers are more apt to have the member work at 50% than accept the necessary posting. A clear prognosis is required in order to eliminate this grey area.

Maternity Wear

As discussed, there were a number of female members who complained about combat maternity clothing.

It is our understanding that the standard inserts for female pants are no longer being provided, and that men’s underwear were being given instead. Oversized garments were also being recommended as an alternative. This is an issue that I will be raising at the national level, as I do not believe it is unique to your command.

Physical, Mental and Spiritual Care Providers

It was with great pleasure that we met with members and staff associated with the chaplaincy, the Operational Stress Injury clinic, and PSP. They shared the following concerns:

  • There are inconsistencies in the annual briefs provided to current members and veterans about the types of programs services available themselves. There is a strong feeling that effective communication by senior leadership will lead to a greater understanding from members and civilians at all levels;
  • The PSP staff shared concerns about losing space designated for recreational programs;
  • There is a duplication of services between the MFRC / HR-Civ and PSP, and greater collaboration is needed;
  • There was a general request for more outreach and communications activities to increase awareness of services provided by all three organizations;
  • Historically, there has been a key strategic dialogue missing between the OSI Clinic and the Wing Commander;
  • The OSI clinic staff is often forced to assist a member in navigating a health system that they have no administrative or procedural control over.

Health and Safety

  • We heard about reports of asbestos on the 4th floor of an occupied building; Members and civilians reported that they were instructed not to sweep to prevent the disturbance of particles;
  • In another building, a water test conducted failed as water was contaminated with high levels of lead:
    • Upon secondary testing, the lead was still present at higher than acceptable levels and failed yet again.
    • The member indicated that he was told to simply “live with the results.” 
    • To the member’s knowledge, this has not been remedied.

Civilian Employees

My team and I had a very productive session with 17 Wing, 1 CAD / 2 CAD civilian staff. While we heard a number of individual stories, I felt that it would be appropriate to share the following concerns with you:

  • A number of employees have been affected by the Phoenix Pay System ranging from not receiving pay, receiving partial pay, overpayments and subsequent claw-backs, improper deduction of taxes, and failure to pay overtime, to name a few;
  • There remains significant issues surrounding classification and work descriptions:
    • While this is not a new issue, I will be launching a systemic review on classification grievances in the near future.
  • There were significant concerns with military-to-civilian job roll-over. There is a concern that some high-paying, high-skilled civilian positions are being “reserved” for predominantly male members of Canadian Armed Forces through the writing of overly prescriptive Statements of Merit Criteria:
    • This issue is not unique to 17 Wing Winnipeg, but remains of significant concern to my office.

Colonel Cook, I would like to remind you that many of these concerns echo complaints we have heard across the Defence Team. Some of these issues will feed into our systemic reviews and are part of my engagement with the senior cadre within the DND/CAF.

In closing, I would like to commend you and your senior leadership team for your deep commitment to the men and women who serve under your command. I recognize that the issues and challenges you are confronting are, to some extent, outside of your control. I encourage you to continue to address the local concerns at your Wing. Please do not hesitate to contact the office or myself should you require assistance.

I would also like to thank you and your staff for your help in the organization and implementation of a very successful constituent engagement visit. In particular, please extend my appreciation to Ms. Lisa Pelzer, 17 Wing Commander Administrative Assistant, who provided excellent support and facilitation for our visit.




Gary Walbourne



c.c.:     Lieutenant-General M.J. Hood

            Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force

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