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Has a well-intentioned minister of veterans affairs been co-opted by a cliché?

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Has a well-intentioned minister of veterans affairs been co-opted by a cliché?

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 15:17

Secrecy reflexively defended with misinformation is the Veterans Affairs way of doing things over the past decade. Nothing has apparently changed under the new Liberal government.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter emphasizes ‘inclusion, honesty, and generosity of spirit,’ but so far Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr’s, pictured right with Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, first steps with his advisory groups has been anything but, writes Sean Bruyea. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright


PUBLISHED : Monday, April 11, 2016 12:00 AM

OTTAWA—”Plus ça change…” the more things stay the same is a humiliating truism for veterans. Has a well-intentioned minister of Veterans Affairs been co-opted by a cliché?

This past week, a ministerial advisory group met under highly surreptitious circumstances. Identity of members, their credentials, agendas, minutes, remuneration, confidentiality clauses and nomination process are all concealed as if this were a CSIS operation. Sadly, veterans whose future is affected by such meetings have been widely excluded.

Veterans Affairs and Associate Defence Minister Kent Hehr and his department have applied this template to five more advisory groups and to the closed-door discussions with the class-action lawsuit, Equitas. I have learned that most participants have been notified. Nevertheless, in an email to me on the eve of the first meeting of the policy group, the Department audaciously claims, “membership in these groups is still being finalized and will be made public in the coming weeks.” Secrecy reflexively defended with misinformation is the Veterans Affairs way of doing things over the past decade. Nothing has apparently changed under the new Liberal government.

Yet this is not what Prime Minister Trudeau promised. In a welcome breaking of precedent, cabinet ministers’ mandate letters were made public. They are an inspiration of open and accountable government. “It is time to shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it serves. Government and its information should be open by default,” the mandate letter stresses.

Even under the Conservatives, almost every other federal department established advisory groups which often seek public nominations of individuals with an expertise in the relevant area. Advisory groups to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hold open hearings, accepting public input. The Ottawa Police Board holds monthly public meetings during which the public may express their “needs, concerns and priorities.” Isn’t such openness and transparency the bare minimum to ensure government “remains focused upon the people it serves”?

Unlike post-World War II, current Veterans Affairs programs predominantly serve only injured and disabled veterans. Yet, Hehr has included individuals who are neither disabled nor departmental clients. The usual suspects continue to participate after being complicit in the current mess. Many come from organizations that refuse to divulge their membership numbers. Three of the veteran organizations combined have 500 members or less. They provide no evidence that any of their membership is disabled. Others have no membership and no expertise in the group they sit on. Yet they are included with a sycophancy to government as Perry Gray of described to me during a recent telephone conversation, “they’ll do anything government wants because the policies and programs don’t affect them.”

We do know that Canada’s second largest veterans’ organization with 7,800 verifiable veteran members, VeteransCanada(.ca), is excluded from the minister’s secretive groups. Its national president, Don Leonardo, is a registered lobbyist, a veteran representative who has followed the open and accountable government rules. Further excluded are and its sister community, Canadian Soldier Assistance Team (CSAT). The CSAT community has 900 registered members sharing information and support on dealing with their injuries an average of 4,500 instances per month.

Along with Don Leonardo, excluded are Perry Gray, Harold Leduc and Wayne Johnston, injured veterans with some of the most recognized and respected expertise in injured veterans’ policy and programs. They are also the A-list of individuals who, along with me, have had their psychological injuries involuntarily or voluntarily disclosed. Senior Veterans Affairs bureaucrats and non-injured veterans have long stigmatized and misunderstood those with injuries, especially the psychological kind. Is Hehr falling victim to prejudice against psychologically injured veterans?

Imagine white burly male lumberjacks secretly meeting to advise the government of Canada on the status of aboriginal women. Absurd, yes? Veteran status does not confer insight into disabled veterans. It’s quite the opposite. Military culture has been and continues to be grossly insensitive to the injured, particularly the psychologically wounded. The veteran community is rife with malicious attacks on the wounded when they speak out. Yet speaking out is precisely what is needed for change to occur, including in the compassion-challenged senior bureaucratic culture at Veterans Affairs. Processes to create programs are as important as the programs themselves.

There is nothing about veterans that requires secrecy other than their personal files. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mandate letter emphasizes “inclusion, honesty…and generosity of spirit.” Thus far, Hehr’s first steps with his advisory groups has been anything but. Secrecy, insensitivity, and exclusion would be an apt de facto mission statement for Veterans Affairs Canada. Let’s hope this does not become the Liberal legacy.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.


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Re: Has a well-intentioned minister of veterans affairs been co-opted by a cliché?

Post by 6608 on Thu 14 Apr 2016, 09:04

Here is another opinion/update on what's happening...........

The Ministerial advisory Groups started under Erin O'Toole, met in Charlottetown in July, and then in Ottawa in December. I was part of the July and December meetings. So were Mark Campbell, Jody Mitic, Aaron Bedard, Bruce Henwood, Brian McKenna, Bruce Moncur, Brian Forbes (Equitas society lawyer), Alice Aiken, David Mack, and probably a couple others whose names elude me. There were originally two groups, one on policy/legislation, one on service delivery. They have now expanded to six groups, adding mental health, long term care, family, and commemoration. Only the policy group has met in the new round of meetings, the rest of us are still awaiting confirmation on group composition and the next meetings, prior to the next stakeholders summit on May 9th.

Secrecy has not been a part of this, the department merely doesn't have its crap together on publishing info to us, never mind to the broader veterans community. We as participants are beginning to push for formalized and published agendas and minutes to avoid exactly this kind of conspiracy theory nonsense.

The ministerial advisory groups were originally conceived by O'Toole to bring together people working within the veterans' community to get some ground truth about what is happening out there unfiltered by bureaucracy. The advisory groups are not making decisions, we're not writing policy or legislation. It's a lot of 'here's what we're seeing and hearing, and here are some issued we can identify with x, y, and z'.

We are not paid or remunerated in any way. There are no honourariums. We get reimbursed for travel, meals and accommodations.

The July meetings have resulted in considerable reductions in forms and paperwork for veterans seeking benefits. After that most of what was being talked about got kyboshed because of election mode. The December meeting was mostly a get-acquainted session and accomplished little. We hope to see each of the groups meet before the May stakeholders' conference in order to provide meaningful input to same. The biggest issues on the radar will include the pension option - which we all knew would not make it in time for this budget - the mental health inpatient facility, probably the education benefit, and continued work towards more efficient and effective client services, plus whatever some of the other newly established committees choose to focus on.

The participants in these groups were chosen initially by Erin O'Toole last spring. We were all retained by Kent Hehr, and the ministry (we do not know who the OPI is, but Walt Natynczyk - deputy minister of veterans affairs - has been closely involved the whole time and is a good speculation) has picked out new people to expand the breadth of the groups.

What it is NOT is some 'ABC' love in, particularly as this was originally created by O'Toole. Most of the loud noise makers are not in anyw ay involved. LArgely it's people whohave been knuckling down and simply doing work with vets that put us in a position to have some situational awareness.

I am more than happy to answer questions within my arcs on this. We have nothing to hide, and as participants are frustrated that other vets are starting to rip our throats out on this due to poor comms.,122743.0.html

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Re: Has a well-intentioned minister of veterans affairs been co-opted by a cliché?

Post by czerv on Thu 14 Apr 2016, 11:20

Walt Natynczyk? There is a 'nice' article about his directives re: treatment of Shaun and Sheila Fynes, parents of Cpl. Stuart Langridge.
And he is looking after interests of veterans?

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Re: Has a well-intentioned minister of veterans affairs been co-opted by a cliché?

Post by bigrex on Thu 14 Apr 2016, 12:54

I'm sorry, but how does the group not contain those making noise? Of the people who are invited, includes at least two plaintiffs, and the lawyer from the Equitas Society lawsuit. You can't get much louder than actively suing the Government. To me, they could be using their participation as a roadblock for the lawsuit, because if they have to sign any privacy agreements, the contents of the meetings cannot be used during a possible court case. The rest of the more vocal advocates, want Veterans issues in the media, so are not likely going to sign any possible nondisclosure agreements, that might be required for inclusion of these groups.
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Re: Has a well-intentioned minister of veterans affairs been co-opted by a cliché?

Post by Dannypaj on Fri 15 Apr 2016, 07:55

From a truly deserving of the title "Your Honourable"
Pat Stogran ret'd

April 13 at 4:28pm ·
You know folks, it never ceases to amaze me how many veterans come to me to complain about how well Canada might be treating the refugees from the mess we created in the Middle East when we have Veterans suffering by a disingenuous and ineffecutual governmenthere at home. I am quite sure that Sharia Law doesn’t have a hope in hell of displacing our laws, and I am not afraid of terrorists. And let me emphasise at this point that I and my family, whom I treasure more than life itself, are not any less vulnerable than the self-professed “tuff-guys” — I use that in a politically correct gender neutral sense — who like to post pictures of themselves with assault rifles and handguns and/or complain that we should be "fighting them over there.” That is as stupid as the idea that building a wall will keep desperate people out. I spent over 30 years of my life putting myself in danger and inconveniencing my family in order to make life better for people, and I don’t think that we can only help refugees if we disadvantage veterans, or for that matter our indigenous Canadians, handicapped Canadians, Canadians suffering from mental illness, poor and unemployed Canadians, or our sick and elderly. The real enemy we face is ignorance, selfishness and fear. And before the Veterans community rises up in arms against me for “turning my back on my comrades-in-arms", I have as little time for the veterans who message me privately to complain that I am supporting a bunch of loud mouthed malingering veterans who were not terribly good soldiers as those disadvantaged veterans who think their plight is worse than that of any other struggling Canadian. Which camp do you fit into? Let’s stop fighting amongst and for ourselves and, in the spirit of mission-team-self ethos that I think characterizes the commitment of true warriors, take up the fight for all Canadians, whether they are still serving, a veteran, or a proud and faithful and perhaps less-fortunate Canadian. P@
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