Message from the Ombudsman (October 27, 2016)


Ombudsman Recognizes Four Extraordinary Members of Canada’s Defence Community with the Liz Hoffman Memorial Commendation


On October 27, 2016, in a ceremony in Ottawa, I presented the Liz Hoffman Memorial Commendation to four dedicated members of the Defence community.

The Liz Hoffman Memorial Commendation recognizes individuals and groups who have gone the extra mile and exceeded expectations in helping their colleagues resolve a difficult problem or in bringing about positive and lasting change to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Many distinguished guests attended the ceremony to highlight the extraordinary dedication and inspiration put forth by the recipients. The Honourable John McKay, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence; Lieutenant-General Christine Whitecross, Chief Military Personnel, as well as several parliamentarians including members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs and the Standing Committee on National Defence were present.

It was an honour to recognize Sergeant (Retired) Charles Gutta, Master Corporal Sébastien Grimard, Mrs. Trish Jacobs, and Mr. Yves Dubé for their outstanding leadership.

Sergeant (Retired) Charles Gutta

On July 30, 1974, during a classroom training session on explosive devices at a cadet summer training camp, a misplaced live grenade detonated killing six young cadets and injuring dozens of others. As a regular force member overseeing the summer camp that day, Sergeant Charles Gutta (Retired) was entitled to services through Veterans Affairs Canada as were other Canadian Armed Forces personnel affected by the same explosion. But because his cadets were not members, they did not have access to the same benefits and compensation. Sergeant Gutta (Retired) found it unfair that he had access to such benefits, but the young cadets who suffered the most did not. Although it was not his responsibility, such unfairness did not sit well with Sergeant Gutta (Retired). Through his constant efforts, persistence and spirit of altruism, the Ombudsman’s Office launched an investigation into the treatment of those affected. The Minister of National Defence accepted all recommendations from the investigation, agreeing to fund the medical expenses of former cadets and to discuss financial compensation. Sergeant Gutta (Retired) recognized an injustice and demonstrated courage and integrity as he fought to right the wrong. His actions are bringing hope, healing and closure to the many individuals affected by this tragedy. 

Master Corporal Sébastien Grimard

As Deputy Commandant on assignment with the Valcartier Deployment Support Group, Master Corporal Sébastien Grimard handled many critical situations involving families of deployed Canadian Armed Forces members and did so with compassion, diligence and professionalism. Ready to respond any time of the day or night, Master Corporal Grimard’s direct actions helped de-escalate many family disputes. Over an 18 month period, Master Corporal Grimard answered more than 100 calls for help, intervening in cases of family and spousal violence, suicide attempts, medical emergencies and legal proceedings. His ability to quickly understand emergency situations and take appropriate action was quickly recognized by his peers and allowed senior officers to make informed decisions. Even after being confronted with his own health challenge, Master Corporal Grimard continued to actively help his peers, stepping in to ensure they received the support they needed. His personal approach has made a difference in the lives of a number of Canadian Armed Forces members, dispelling the stigmas attached to mental health problems, sexual orientation and suicidal thoughts. He continually encourages his peers to tackle the most difficult part of problem solving – taking a step forward and talking about it. 

Mrs. Trish Jacobs

As Employee Assistance Program Manager and Referral Agent with Maritime Forces Atlantic, Mrs. Trish Jacobs works tirelessly to advance the health and well-being of her colleagues. With unwavering commitment, Mrs. Jacobs displays a deep sense of courage and compassion in helping employees faced with difficult situations. Her comforting personality and open-door policy welcome hundreds of employees a year into her office to discuss their problems. Despite an already busy workload, Mrs. Jacobs makes every effort to accommodate the unanticipated meeting times of her clients in an atmosphere that is non-judgmental and supportive. Her leadership ensures concerns are immediately addressed before they can escalate. Mrs. Jacobs was the catalyst in establishing base activities in support of Mental Health Awareness Week.  As a result of her leadership, it is now an annual event providing a forum for discussion from a diverse group of service providers. Mrs. Jacob's ability to find innovative solutions to engage stakeholders in the program has been a consistent theme throughout her career. On many occasions, Employee Assistance Program coordinators from across Canada have looked to her for best practices that can be applied to their regions.  Mrs. Jacobs demonstrates leadership, commitment, passion and a keen ability to make a difference. She inspires, encourages and promotes others in the Department to strive for excellence. 

Mr. Yves Dubé

As a civilian employee at the Joint Personnel Support Unit in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, Mr. Yves Dubé is highly committed to the well-being of Canadian Armed Forces members. Responsible for the Return to Duty Program, Mr. Dubé is not afraid to address issues surrounding ill and injured members and does so with tactfulness and empathy. He often acts as a mediator to sort out misunderstandings and ensures harmonious collaboration between members and their chain of command.  With his ability to come up with innovative ideas, he sets up committees to resolve conflicts using first-level resources, preventing issues from escalating. In addition to his regular duties, Mr. Dubé meets with members to ensure their applications for disability benefits to Veterans Affairs Canada are complete and substantiated. With his vast knowledge of Veteran Affairs Canada programs and services, he is highly regarded as a resource person. Service partners refer members to him directly for help. Mr. Dubé cares deeply about the well-being of our ill and injured Canadian Armed Forces members, bereaved families and veterans. He dedicates himself to his work and performs his duties, including those outside his regular job, with professionalism. His involvement, recommendations and direct actions have made it possible for thousands of dollars to be awarded to Canadian Armed Forces members with service-related illnesses or injuries.

I would like to once again thank these outstanding individuals for their hard work and dedication in improving people’s lives.  They are a true reflection of the high standard for which Canada's Defence community strives. 

Gary Walbourne

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