Thank you, Minister.
Specifically, we're going to grow the size of the medical branch so there is more first-line care for people on bases, on deployment. We will have more capacity to treat people forward—the best place to deal with the beginning of a mental health challenge—as well as taking care of them at home and, as importantly, invest in mental health care through the process of transition out of the armed forces.
People leaving the armed forces in the past have gone through a bureaucratic process that was essentially designed to get them out and move them on. We need to professionalize that. I've spoken about this before. People will go not only through detailed health screenings, but we will make certain that if there are residual mental health injuries that need to be dealt with—that is a hot hand-off—those people will be properly cared for.
At the same time, because the armed forces will grow, we will have more room to retain people inside the armed forces for longer periods of time if they are dealing with a long-term injury. That way, there's a better chance that we will be able to treat them, help them recover, and perhaps they'll go back to duty inside the armed forces.
At this juncture, our timelines to release someone on what we call a “permanent category”, with their being permanently disabled, need to change. So if someone will take longer than what we've prescribed right now, but they will recover, maybe we'll give them more time.
We have a suicide prevention strategy. We have a mental health strategy. We're going to ensure that all of what we do, including transition, deployment support, and redeployment support, includes the families, because family mental health is very important. Money is going to be assigned to great research through Status of Women grants on family violence and gender-based violence.
All of this will combine with a concerted effort to alter the structure of a member's career path, so it doesn't become an overriding concern and members will not avoid seeking mental health treatment when they ought to, for fear of losing their jobs.
There's no question about it, sir, that if you cannot be a productive member of the armed forces, then at some point, we have to part ways, but I think a great deal more can be done over a longer period of time to ensure that they can, and there are ways we intend to use to retain people, so they can serve. All of that, I think, will help relieve people of the inordinate stress that goes on.
One final thing is that we need to work on resilience. Military duty is hard. It's hard for a reason, because we're put in challenging arenas, and people must be able to handle the rigours and stress of military operations. At the same time, we need to make military life and family life far more consistent and far more even and, quite frankly, we need to recognize the fact that it's special. It's part of the service too and we need to ensure that there is the correct compensation and benefits, and that family support services are in place that directly address the unique characteristics of military life.