Letter to Wing Commander Bagotville: Following Ombudsman’s Visit

3 June 2019

 

Colonel William Radiff
3 Wing
Commander
PO Box 5000, Stn Bureau-Chef
Alouette, QC  G0V 1A0

 

Dear Colonel Radiff:

I am writing to follow up on our visit to 3 Wing at Canadian Forces Base (CFB) Bagotville from 25 to 29 March 2019. I want to thank your command team, as well as staff from 2 Wing, for extending such warm hospitality during our visit. We were pleased to meet with, and listen to concerns and positive feedback from military personnel, civilian employees, caregivers, and family members. The willingness and openness of all Wing personnel to engage with my team resulted in a very successful visit.

I would also like to make special mention of Sub-Lieutenant Simon Gauthier, who provided excellent support and facilitation for our visit. His professionalism, kindness, and thoughtful accommodation of our needs were very much appreciated.

The purpose of this letter is to expand upon the debrief I provided to you on 16 April 2019 and to highlight some of the key concerns and improvements we heard during our visit. I recognize that you and your staff are already aware of the issues, but 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 can lead to long-lasting, positive change for the Defence community.

English Isolation

Despite all of the superb efforts of your team in providing bilingual services, it was shared with us that Anglophones experience a variety of challenges at 2 Wing and 3 Wing because CFB Bagotville is a unilingual francophone base. For instance, health care and social services are offered exclusively in French and community integration is slow or not successful; adding to family stress and leading some members to request not to move their family and to proceed to their place of duty unaccompanied. These concerns were echoed across all ranks, as well as with Military Family Resource Centre Staff and families.

Medical Support and Considerations

It was felt that the city of Bagotville did not have an adequate amount of resources to handle the influx of 250+ members and families when 2 Wing was added to the base. The inability of families to access health care (including mental health care) and other social services was a concern we heard consistently during our visit. As you may gather, these issues are further complicated for Anglophones. We were also informed that some doctors in the region are hesitant to take on military families due to the unique set of challenges they often present.

Medical staff shared with us that the Personal Readiness Verification (PRV) pre-deployment screening process done by the “Departure Administrative Group (DAG)” is one of careful consideration and includes an analysis of medical as well as personal social and economic issues. Their concern was that the medical portion of the DAG is viewed as a recommendation only, resulting in opposing decisions sometimes being taken by the chain of command. Although it is recognized that current personnel shortages are a large contributor to this problem, it can significantly and, sometimes unfairly, tax the system as well as the member.

Medical staff highlighted concerns regarding the denial of training required to maintain certain accreditation across Canada because they are not required in Québec. This was felt to place important skill sets in jeopardy and also leaves military doctors posted to Québec at a disadvantage when they eventually move to/begin work in another province.

Lastly, the medical staff were deeply concerned about the Wings’ ability to absorb and medically support the arrival of hundreds of cadets over the summer. I should note this is not the first time our office has heard this concern during a wing or base visit. Medical staff strongly feel that they do not have the resources to provide the level of care required by some cadets, who are minors and who often arrive with various and complex medical needs. This is compounded by the fact that medical staff are not trained in pediatrics, the screening of cadets is viewed as insufficient, and that parents may be under the false impression that medical care for their children will be robust and responsive. I have tasked my team to look into the screening for cadets who are selected to participate in camps on the wings and bases across Canada, in order to gain a better understanding of the process.

Staffing

Our team was made aware of challenges relating to the practical application of national Public Service Commission staffing standards, especially with limited or non-existent human resources support at the Wing. This concern has been raised consistently at each base and wing we have visited in the past couple of years. There is a general lack of understanding on the part of civilian employees and military staff alike, regarding staffing processes, policies, and tools, as well as a real desire for meaningful training and transparency. I acknowledge that requests have been made to secure training and information sessions at the Wing; we stand ready to assist and facilitate in any way we can to ensure this happens. 

More generally, our team heard about resource shortages across the Wing. We realize the Canadian Armed Forces are currently facing both recruitment as well as retention challenges. Manning levels at the Wing appear to be further impacted by non-deployable military members, high operational tempo, and protracted/complicated staffing processes on the civilian side. I will highlight here that I am in regular contact with the Assistant Deputy Minister Human Resources (Civilian) regarding the kinds of concerns and challenges we are hearing at the bases and wings. It is hoped that these discussions will sensitize senior leaders to the ongoing impacts of policies and decisions across Canada, and aid in both mitigating and addressing these issues over the longer term.

I feel it important to underscore that the majority of concerns shared with us during our visit are echoed at bases and wings across Canada. We recognize that many of the larger issues you and your team are confronting (ex: BGRS, Home Equity Assistance, barriers to family medical care, linguistic isolation, etc.) are outside of your control. These matters are of great importance; they have an enormous impact on the health and well-being of the Defence Team and strongly influence our systemic work, which seeks to prompt meaningful and long-lasting change.

In closing, I encourage you to continue your good work in pushing to address the local concerns at your Wing. I and the staff at the Office of the Ombudsman remain available to you and your team. Please let us know if and how we may be of assistance in supporting your efforts.

Sincerely,

 

Gregory A. Lick
Interim Ombudsman

 

c. c.

Lieutenant General A. D. Meinzinger
Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force

Lieutenant General C. A. Lamarre
Commander of Military Personnel Command

Colonel J. R. L. Guillette
2 Wing Commander

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