Ombudsman writes to BASE Commander concerning visit to CFB EDMONTON

20 December 2016

Brigadier-General S.C. Hetherington
Commander 3rd Canadian Division
3rd Canadian Division Headquarters
700 Vimy Avenue
PO Box 10500 Station Forces
Edmonton, AB  T5J 4J5


Dear Brigadier-General Hetherington:

I am writing to follow up on our visit to 3rd Canadian Division Support Base Edmonton from 28 November to 2 December 2016.  I want to thank your command team for their hospitality throughout our visit.

My staff and I were pleased to have had the opportunity to engage with more than 700 members of the Defence Community. We heard concerns and positive feedback from military personnel, civilian employees, Non-Public Funds / Personnel Support Program employees, caregivers and military family members.

This letter is to expand upon the end of visit debrief I provided to your command team on 2 December and highlight some of the concerns raised during the visit.  I recognize that you and your staff are aware of these issues; however, I thought it would be helpful to detail them 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 the sharing of best practices can lead to long-lasting positive change.

Military Family Resource Centre

The team at the Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC), led by Ms. Roza Parlin, is a motivated, dedicated and caring group that truly makes a difference. The MFRC puts together close to 1000 welcome packages a year, when new families are posted to Edmonton. This helps families know what services are available, and helps ease the disruption that comes with “yet another posting.”

With the 3rd Division being in a high state of readiness, one concern expressed by the MFRC staff has particularly caught my attention. It concerns the important documents associated with the injury or death of a CAF member. The families, and

sometimes CAF members, do not realize the importance of those documents and what they are intended to do. I shared the link to our recent online education product What Happens After a Canadian Armed Forces Member Dies, to help families engage in such conversations.


We had excellent turnout at the Families engagement session on 1 December. While many issues and complaints were personal in nature, there were two that I am compelled to share with you:

  • Complaints about the lack of mandate to enforce by-laws for Residential Housing Units (RHUs) occupants, as RHUs are on federal land; and,
  • Some military families from 3rd Canadian Division are using food banks to help make ends meet.

Families of the Fallen

While in Edmonton, I met with members of the Memorial Cross Network. During these discussions, I learned about the efforts of 1 Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (1CMBG) to improve communication with bereaved families. Since at least 2012, 1CMBG has advised the command chain of a continuing problem with CAF regulations that preclude commanders from providing information to the families of CAF members killed in action or who died of wounds while on operations. I understand that specific shortfalls and recommendations for improvements have been taken at least as far as the Commander of the Canadian Army, but that no concrete action had yet been taken.

I consider this unacceptable. Families of those who have made the maximum sacrifice for this country deserve compassion, respect and to support, which includes the provision of timely and accurate information.

Families of the Fallen can access CAF support through the IPSCs Services Managers and family liaison officers; I encourage you to ensure that this information is shared with all stakeholders.

As you may already know, the Families in Focus Working Group, chaired by Director Military Family Services would be an ideal forum in which to share best practices and recommendations.

Sexual Misconduct, Operation HONOUR and Workplace Harassment

  • Some members voiced concerns about being “guilty by association”
  • Members and civilians also expressed a general desire for increased advocacy surrounding sexual misconduct and harassment.

Moves and Post Living Differential

There were a number of issues raised surrounding relocation and related benefits. Members lacked information on pending changes to the national contract for relocations, and how these might affect them. The lack of flexibility within the Home Equity Assistance program and the freeze of the Post Living Differential rates since 2008 were pointed out as problematic.

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 of 3rd Canadian Division. 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 members and families will suffer.

Physical, Mental and Spiritual Care Providers

I met with members and staff associated with the chaplaincy, medical practitioners and social workers. They shared the following concerns:

  • The lack of continuity for health and dental care coverage for families when members are posted from one province to another;
  • Health care workers including physicians in the Western Area are under pressure in supporting a high-readiness organization. Reservists are being hired to mitigate the shortage of Regular Force medical officers;
  • Deployments of 9 to 12 months duration are more common, instead of the six months, which can be very taxing on members and their families;
  • It is difficult to fill vacant positions in Wainwright. Fixed tours (with an end date) could facilitate postings in and out.

Integrated Personnel Support Centre and Health and Safety

The staff and members of the Joint Personnel Support Unit (JPSU) and Integrated Personnel Support Centre (IPSC) contributed to very open and productive conversations. Some of the challenges we heard about are the same across the country and I will be sharing these concerns with JPSU Commanding Officer, Brigadier-General Corbould, in separate correspondence.

I would also like to highlight a specific health and safety concern at the Edmonton IPSC. We heard about and saw the physical conditions of the IPSC (Building 201), where ill and injured members are expected to report and obtain support. There are reports of Asbestos and other health and safety issues which negatively affect the provision of transition services to those who need them the most. While I understand that there is a plan to move the IPSC to another building, perhaps some time in 2019, but in the interim, this environment is not conducive to helping members focus on getting better. A delay of two years or more does not, in my opinion, indicate that this move is a priority.

The members we met reported difficulty in accessing the Integrated Personnel Support Centre. A member suggested that a posting to JPSU should be like a prescription, including the “when and where.” In reality, for members we met, being posted to the JPSU had been a struggle for some, a fight for many. This is in addition of the necessity to “be your own advocate” during the many steps before one releases from the Canadian Armed Forces. One member stated: “It’s like I am the first person going through the release process… I just want to make it easier for the next one.”

Civilian Employees

My team and I had a very productive session with 3rd Canadian Division 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—not receiving pay, receiving partial pay, failure to reinstate pay after sick leave, and failure to pay overtime, to name a few;
  • Significant issues remain surrounding classification and outdated work descriptions. While this is not a new issue, I will be launching a systemic review on the classification process in the near future.

These two particulars are not unique to 3rd Division, but remain of significant concern to my office.

Brigadier-General Hetherington, I would like to highlight that many of these concerns echo complaints we have heard across the Defence Community. 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, beyond your control. I encourage you to continue to address the local concerns within your Division. 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.


Gary Walbourne

c.c.:     Lieutenant-General C. T. Whitecross
            Commander of Military Personnel Command

            Lieutenant-General P.F. Wynnyk
            Commander of the Canadian Army

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