Message from the Ombudsman (April 20, 2016)

Progress Update on Ombudsman’s Boards of Inquiry: Families in Focus Report

My office has been tracking and reporting on issues related to the Canadian Armed Forces’ engagement of families during a Board of Inquiry process for the past 10 years.

The Boards of Inquiry: Families in Focus report was published in April 2015.  Although the Department has made clear incremental progress over the past five years, the Board of Inquiry process remains military-centric and difficult to understand for many families.

Existing mechanisms surrounding the Board of Inquiry process appear insufficient for those families who are seeking answers while also navigating the emotional fallout from the loss or serious injury of a loved one.

It remains my view that families should be given the option of engagement throughout the Board of Inquiry process via a means of their choosing.  However, insufficient data and family feedback currently exists to credibly recommend a definitive way forward.

To that end, I recommended that a family coordinator position be established for a one-year trial period to help identify the needs of families and effective methods of communication and liaison.

The Chief of the Defence concurred with my recommendation and accepted the offer to provide a member of my team to work in collaboration with department officials. A collaborative working group was stood up in the summer of 2015.  A report on the findings will be finalized before the end of 2016.

Gary Walbourne

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