Evidence of meeting #40 for Veterans Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was health.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Jitender Sareen  Professor of Psychiatry, University of Manitoba
  • David Pedlar  Director, Policy and Research, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Susan Truscott  Director General, Military Personnel and Research Analysis, Department of National Defence
  • Jean-Robert Bernier  Deputy Surgeon General, Department of National Defence
  • Carlos Lourenso  Director, Treatment Benefits and Veterans Independence Programs, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Gerry Blais  Director, Casualty Support Management, Department of National Defence

4:35 p.m.

Director General, Military Personnel and Research Analysis, Department of National Defence

Susan Truscott

I would just add that we also do surveys. One is called Your-Say. We do that every six months with military personnel. We also do ongoing surveys with spouses. We ask the member questions about things such as their level of confidence that the Canadian Forces will look after them or their family if they're injured.

It's another mechanism in support of those that Colonel Bernier mentioned, to have ongoing evidence about the confidence of personnel that the system will look after them.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Thank you.

You read my mind. My next question was going to be about family and spouses as well. That's excellent.

Lastly, Colonel Bernier, do we have anything to indicate that the remaining stigma is present more in any one aspect of the forces than in others—in the air force or the army versus the navy—or is it pretty much across the board at those levels?

4:35 p.m.

Col Jean-Robert Bernier

The indications we have were that in the lower ranks there were higher levels of stigma, and, as it is in many of these kinds of things in the general population, levels of education are sometimes correlated. But we don't have extensive objective data on that.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

I'd like—

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Thank you very much for that, Mr. Bernier.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Westlock—St. Paul, AB

I just asked because I have both an air force and the PPCLI in my riding.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Now we go to Mr. Lobb for five minutes, please.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Truscott, Mr. Storseth mentioned that you read his mind. Would you care to enlighten the committee as to what else you saw when you read his mind?

4:35 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Maybe that's an “after 5:30” answer.

One thing I wanted to ask was this. Mr. Bernier, you mentioned that the Canadian Forces had one-third the stigma level towards mental health that the U.S. forces had. I just wondered what the U.S. is not doing that Canada has done well. Help us to understand that, because it's important. It's because we're doing something well, but what are they missing out on?

4:35 p.m.

Col Jean-Robert Bernier

I can't speculate, but there are significant differences in the way they have historically viewed and treated mental health conditions. Also, there are significant differences in the support provided to their troops and in the duration of their deployments, for example, and the frequency of their duration. There are just too many variables for us to pin it down to particular things.

But there are many differences in the way the U.S. runs its armed forces, and in particular how it deals with suicide or mental health or stigma, that make it unfair to try to make direct comparisons.

June 12th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Huron—Bruce, ON

Okay.

To any of our guests here today, with the transformation agenda, obviously, there are pillars involved with it, and the final outcome of the transformation is a better outcome for our veterans. One of those in this area, specifically, that we're dealing with today is research. In Mr. Bernier's paper he mentioned working with other NATO countries and—I'll paraphrase—kind of cherry-picking their best practices.

How does that process work? It must be an ongoing process, but just explain to the committee how that process takes place and is actually implemented or at least screened for potential implementation either through VAC or DND.

4:40 p.m.

Col Jean-Robert Bernier

Ms. Truscott can answer some of these questions as well, because of her involvement in the technical cooperation program between Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the U.S., and New Zealand.

I'm the chairman of the NATO medical and health research committee. We have multiple research task groups. The way it works there is that enough nations have to have a common interest, an aligned interest, and all agree on the specific activity that's to be researched, the specific research question that's suitable and addresses a problem that exists in their own countries. Then each will provide what resources it can to collaboratively address the research question, primarily through literature reviews but sometimes through original research as well, but typically applied to military populations.

One example of a research task group is one on military suicides, specifically, that one of our researchers is chairing. That involves about 15 other countries.

Then the results of those are published, so the best practices, the evidence-based results, are published. Then each individual nation applies it individually, based on the specific parameters and social factors and organizational factors relevant to its armed forces.

There's common funding. There's a wide variety of multinational and also bilateral efforts—for example, primarily with the United States, where we'll sometimes put in a small amount of money and a small amount of research effort and the Americans will put in up to 50 times as much.

I'm not talking here specifically about mental health; for example, we're developing biological defence vaccines—vaccines against biological weapons and other medical counter-measures—where, for one of them, we're paying 2% of the bill and the Americans are paying almost all of the rest, with the British paying a part as well. So for a very small contribution on our part in research, sometimes funding an analytical effort, we're getting a massive return on investment in many cases.

But all of these questions are always aligned so that they're based on a common interest with the common research questions that are equally applicable to all of them, and it has to be that way, particularly with our closest allies, because when we deploy, we deploy together. We'll rarely deploy on an operation alone, so there's a whole effort in NATO to try to be interoperable and to try to standardize all our practices and programs, in medical, health, and all other elements of military operations.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Okay. We're up to our time.

I would just point out that we let our witnesses go on at length. We like to get the answers. It's the questioners who we cut off at their time.

That's the end of round one. We'll now go to round two, which is a four-minute round.

I understand that Mr. Chicoine is going to start.

Go ahead, please.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would also like to thank the witnesses for being here to share their knowledge and observations with us.

I have a question about the findings of coroner Hélène Lord, who conducted an inquest into the suicide of a soldier at the Valcartier base. She indicated that the waiting times were much too long. In fact, the wait for care at the mental health centre on the Valcartier base was 120 days.

I would like to know if any action has been taken to reduce the waiting times so that they are consistent with the 30-day standard of the Canadian Forces, instead of 120 days, as was the case at the time of the coroner's inquest.