Ombudsman Releases Annual Report: Delivering Results for Canada’s Defence Community

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
 
Ottawa, June 28, 2012
- The Ombudsman for the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces, Mr. Pierre Daigle, today released his 2011-2012 annual report, entitled Delivering Results for Canada’s Defence Community.
 

In his annual report, the Ombudsman provided an overview of the more than 1,900 individual cases handled by the office over the past fiscal year, the most common of which related to benefits, release from military service, medical issues, recruiting, redress of grievance, military postings, and harassment.  “I am extremely proud of the real and positive results that our dedicated staff has delivered for the members of Canada’s Defence community,” stated Mr. Daigle.
 

In releasing his annual report, the Ombudsman also highlighted a number of issues of concern that were brought to his attention during his extensive outreach efforts or as recurring individual complaints. For example, during his many outreach visits, the Ombudsman heard from Canadian Forces members across the country that the Integrated Relocation Program is causing a great deal of frustration. Widespread criticism has been focused on the way in which the program is administered and on its restrictions, which are causing significant strain – particularly the door-to-door requirements.
 

Over the past year, the Ombudsman’s office also received a number of complaints related to financial losses when Canadian Forces members are posted and have to sell their homes in certain areas of the country. After reviewing these complaints, the office identified serious concerns with the Home Equity Assistance policy within the Canadian Forces Integrated Relocation Program.  “When posted, Canadian Forces members can be faced with volatile market conditions, a lack of availability of military housing, limited housing options in the open market, low rental vacancy rates and a short time-frame in which to decide where to live,” stated Mr. Daigle. He added,  “As a result of the Home Equity Assistance policy, a number of Canadian Forces members have incurred significant financial hardship through no fault of their own.” 
  

In his annual report, Mr. Daigle also outlined his serious concerns regarding delays with military claims and grievances, delays in getting access to the Reserve Force pension plan, and delays with civilian classification grievances.
 

In addition to addressing individual complaints and a number of issues of concern, the Ombudsman’s office also initiated and continued to work on a number of broader investigations.
 

For example, in 2011, the Ombudsman launched a third follow-up investigation into the issue of post-traumatic stress disorder and other operational stress injuries in the Canadian Forces. The investigation will determine the status of the nine recommendations contained in the 2008 report, entitled A Long Road to Recovery: Battling Operational Stress Injuries, and the seven recommendations included in the companion report, The State of Mental Health Services at CFB Petawawa.
 

As part of the investigation, Ombudsman staff conducted more than 200 interviews with over 425 individuals, including senior leaders at National Defence Headquarters and within the Canadian Forces Health Services Group. The investigative team also travelled to Canadian Forces Bases Edmonton, Gagetown, Halifax, Petawawa, Shilo, Trenton, Valcartier and Wainwright in order to meet with medical staff and other caregivers, Integrated Personnel Support Centre staff, Operational Stress Injury Social Support program staff, Military Family Resource Centre staff, unit leadership, Canadian Forces personnel, military families and others. In addition, during their collection of data, the investigative team accumulated and assessed more than 650 documents. The investigation will be completed and released in the summer of 2012.
 

In early 2012, the Ombudsman’s office began a follow-up investigation to assess the status of the recommendations made in the office’s 2008 special report entitled Reserved Care: An Investigation into the Treatment of Injured Reservists. This investigation is expected to be finalized and published in the summer of 2012.
 

In his annual report, the Ombudsman also announced that the office will be undertaking a comprehensive review of the issues and challenges facing Canada’s military families across the country. The office’s most visible intervention in recent years has been related to the care and treatment of military families who have lost a Canadian Forces loved one while the member was serving their country. The focus on this issue, however, shed light on a number of other concerns that affect the lives of Canada’s military families, including operational tempo, operational stress injuries, housing, medical concerns, and social and community support.
 

At the same time, since the Ombudsman’s office was established in 1998, more than 1,000 military families have come forward with complaints and concerns (more than 100 over the past 12 months) regarding these and other issues. Moreover, through the Ombudsman’s extensive outreach efforts, the office has also encountered and documented dozens of similar complaints from military families across the country.
 

As part of its review, the office will be looking at whether the Canadian Forces have the appropriate policies, programs and resources in place to properly care for Canada’s military families. The office is also interested in working with provincial ombudsmen from across the country in order to look at best practices and see if some collective recommendations can be put in place to improve the quality of life of Canada’s military families. Finally, the office will also be talking to military families and looking at the care and treatment they have received throughout their experience with the Canadian Forces – from the time their loved ones joined the military, to the initial and ongoing training periods, to the various postings, to the operational deployments, and to when they decide to leave the Defence community.
 

In launching this comprehensive study, the Ombudsman stated, “Canada’s military families are national entities and have a key role to play in maintaining the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces.” He added, “They also sacrifice a great deal for their Canadian Forces loved ones and we want to see if we can help address some of their most pressing concerns and challenges.” 
 

It is expected that this review will be completed and published in fiscal year 2012-2013.
 

More information on the office’s investigations and special reports, including the 2011-2012 annual report, is available on the Ombudsman’s website at: www.ombudsman.forces.gc.ca.

 

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For additional information, please contact:
 
Michelle Laliberté
Communications Advisor
Office of the National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman
Tel: (613) 995-8643
E-mail: Michelle.Laliberte@forces.gc.ca

 

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