Letter to DM: Findings regarding a civilian injured in Afghanistan

18 June 2019


Ms. Jody Thomas
Deputy Minister
101 Colonel By Dr. 13NT-DM Suite
Ottawa ON K1A 0K2


Dear Ms. Thomas,

I am writing to share with you the findings of my Office's investigation into a complaint from an injured former public service term employee and to enlist your leadership in recognizing the former employee's contribution to Canada's mission in Afghanistan. Additionally, I seek your support to ascertain if other employees/former employees face similar challenges as a result of their employment alongside deployed Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members in Afghanistan, and to ensure appropriate assistance is made available to them.


In 2005, the constituent who contacted my Office was approached by a senior officer in the CAF intelligence community to solicit the constituent's interest in working as a Language and Cultural Advisor (LCA) in Afghanistan. As a proud new citizen of Canada, the constituent viewed this as an opportunity to assist his adoptive country, as well as a change to help his country of origin. Inspired by a sense of duty, and fluent in the region's languages and culture, he left his management job, his home, and young family to work alongside CAF members on operations in Afghanistan.

The constituent’s work spanned seven consecutive deployments over five years. He endured hardship, witnessed casualties, and longed to return to his home and family in Canada but, when asked to continue his work by successions of Task Force leadership, he remained. All the while, he earned outstanding performance reviews and strong accolades from the CAF officers for whom he worked.

Upon returning home to Canada in 2011, our constituent declined further employment with the Public Service. Unfortunately, after his repatriation, his wife recognized he was not well and urged him to see his doctor. He was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Unable to work, he sold his home and depleted savings to support his family.

The constituent explored disability benefits, ultimately leading him to the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) compensation application process, in accordance with the Government Employees Compensation Act. With no specific date of injury and an inability to describe sufficiently the work performed (for reasons of national security), the application process stalled and the constituent sought legal representation in hopes of obtaining some assistance.

Investigation Findings

Our investigation revealed that the delayed onset of injury and the constituent’s reduced capacity to navigate the application process alone, presented significant barriers to the WSIB disability benefit application process. In July of 2018, and following numerous queries by this Office, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Human Resources (Civilian) [ADM HR (Civ)], Manager of Foreign Services Program advised that the constituent's WSIB claim was approved. However, further inquiries showed that while supplemental health benefits were funded through WSIB, income replacement has not been paid because the effective date of disability (used to determine benefits) coincided with the post-employment diagnosis (i.e. the constituent was no longer working and, therefore, no longer receiving an income).

Our investigation also allowed us to confirm that, in 2005, a draft policy to limit the frequency and duration of civilian employees' work in operational theatres had stalled due to departmental re-organization. Work on the policy only resumed in 2014, and it was finally promulgated in March of 2018. Additionally, in the absence of more permanent policy, interim PERSTEMPO policy for deployed CAF members was introduced in May 20071. Similar interim policy imposing limits for deployed Public Servants (and LCAs in particular) was not introduced until November 20112, after the CAF' combat operations in Afghanistan had concluded.

We also looked into whether the LCA program continues, given the conclusion of operations in Afghanistan. Our inquiries revealed that the LCA program, under Canadian Forces Intelligence Command, continues to recruit and employ civilians as LCAs for other areas of operation.


I am encouraged to note that ADM HR (Civ) now has taken tangible steps to mitigate risk and exposure for civilian employees working in support of current and future international operations. The new policy promulgated in March 2018 imposes limits on both frequency and duration of civilian employment on such operations. The policy also provides guidance and key responsibilities surrounding pre-deployment health assessments, plus post-deployment follow-up care and support for employees, including briefings about operational stress injuries. The new policy does not add to–nor alter–employee disability insurance benefits themselves; neither supplemental health services nor income replacement, as the department has no such mandate. I also acknowledge ADM HR (Civ)'s establishment of the Office of Disability Management, aimed at assisting employees to navigate provincial workers compensation schemes, as they can be a daunting barrier for employees suffering from employment-related injuries. 

Our investigation revealed two other former employees in similar circumstances to the constituent mentioned herein. That said, the approximate 65 LCAs and other civilians employed in Afghanistan during CAF operations leaves me concerned that other former employees are in need of assistance for similar health and welfare challenges resulting from their employment in support of CAF operations.


While an LCA's ethnicity and cultural background vary, depending on the specific area of operations, the constituent in this case is representative of a cadre of LCAs that tended to be newer Canadian citizens, knowledgeable of the culture, and fluent in several languages native to regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan. While the moral obligation to care for and support military members is prominent in contemporary Canadian consciousness, there is less consideration evident of similar obligations for civilian employees who can suffer injuries or illnesses similar to those suffered by CAF members, as a result of their contributions to the same international operations.

The nature and (sometimes) delayed onset of mental health injuries can present significant barriers to accessing disability benefits. In cases like the constituent's, term employees who left Public Service employment and had health challenges manifest subsequently are left to their own devices and resources to access required support and benefits. While military personnel undergo the training and socialization process that serves, to some degree, to inoculate them against the hazards associated with the profession of arms, such is not the case for civilian employees who deploy on international operations with only a minimal amount of pre-deployment training.


Based on my finding outlined above, concern for the health and welfare remains for other employees and former employees within this cadre. As such, I recommended that ADM HR (Civ) contact former civilian employees who deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan, to ascertain their welfare and to provide information and resources to those in need of assistance as a result of injury or illness stemming from such employment.

My Director General has also raised this in regular discussion with Deputy Vice Chief of Defence staff and the concern for this cadre of employees that contributed significantly to CAF operations was evident.


In closing, I am also informed that during this investigation, my staff received superb cooperation and noted genuine concern and effort within ADM HR (Civ)–in particular, Director Civilian Labour Relations and Directorate Total Health Management–to assist the constituent. There has also been positive response regarding the moral responsibility to reach out to other employees/former employees to ascertain their welfare and to offer assistance as appropriate.  I look forward to learning of their success and progress and recommend this be afforded due priority and resources. Along with my staff, we remain at your service should you require additional information or support regarding this matter.




Gregory A. Lick
Interim Ombudsman

c.c. :    ADM HR (Civ)



1 CANFORGEN 082/07

2 CANFORGEN 205/11

Date modified: