Certainly, Karen. Thank you.
Alone at CFB Esquimalt, Ms. Nash faced a culture of discrimination and harassment because she was a single mother. She was ultimately removed from the six-month long MARS course with only three days remaining because, according to the training review board, she had way too many “family matters to deal with”. This decision was also based on false evidence provided to the board in a grievance that was never corrected.
When Ms. Nash applied to change to another occupation that would not require long stints at sea and allow time for Ronin, this request too was denied and she was told that “everyone” has stuff to worry about “when they deploy”. When I deployed, she was told, I had to worry about changing “my cellphone plan”.
Ms. Nash repeatedly asked to transfer positions within the military so she would not be away from home and her child for extended periods of time; however, these requests were never granted.
As a result of the discrimination, harassment and separation from her child, Ms. Nash's mental health deteriorated to the point that she contemplated taking her own life. Sadly, Ms. Nash's plight was borne out in the 2013 Statistics Canada report, which found that women in the Canadian Armed Forces are 815 times more likely to commit suicide than are women in the general population.
On November 29, 2013, Ms. Nash filed a complaint with the Canadian Human Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, marital status and family status. However, the Canadian Human Rights Commission declined to hear the complaint until Ms. Nash had exhausted the grievance and review procedures that were available through the CAF. This is despite the fact that those grievances would be heard by the very individuals responsible for perpetrating the harassment and discrimination—with no expertise in human rights.
Laura Nash filed two grievances accordingly. One challenged the decision to remove her from the MARS course on the basis that it was unjust, unfair and based on false information. That was filed on February 11, 2014. The second was on February 28, 2014, when she filed a policy grievance alleging that the policies of the Department of National Defence and the CAF were discriminatory and adversely affected single mothers.
It took over two years to get a final determination of Laura Nash's grievances from the CAF grievance system. Ultimately, neither was successful. The internal CAF grievance process failed to acknowledge that the decision of the TRB was biased and did not find that the policies of the department or CAF were discriminatory.
On June 26, 2016, I wrote to the Canadian Human Rights Commission advising that both of the grievances had concluded and formally requested to have her discrimination complaint heard. The CHRC responded by stating that they needed to assess whether the allegations had been fully determined by the CAF grievance. We later discovered through a Privacy Act request that the CAF had been advising the CHRC that Ms. Nash's grievances had not been finally determined.
On July 31, 2017, Laura Nash was released from the regular force after having been diagnosed with a “service-related condition”, namely, chronic adjustment disorder. This designation meant that the CAF had deemed her medically unfit to serve in active duty because of a chronic failure to adjust to military life.
Because of her pregnancy and choice to be both officer and mother, Laura Nash was forced to give up a bright career in the military and is unable to work due to the severe anxiety and depression that she developed as a result of the deplorable treatment she received in the military.
Currently living with her son, she receives disability benefit payments from Veterans Affairs and SISIP Financial. Despite her diagnosis and her status as a veteran having served our country, over the course of time, Ms. Nash has had to continually fight to receive support, including therapy and medical and dental care. The resources provided to veterans have been shockingly scarce.
The CAF inexplicably failed to respond to the commission's final deadline of January 19, 2019, to provide them with the final authority decision. Instead, the CAF waited until the commission had issued a report with its recommendations before finally producing this long-awaited decision, which has caused years of delay with respect to Ms. Nash's complaint.
The CAF is now taking the position that the CHRC should not hear Ms. Nash's complaint because they have allegedly dealt with it, concluding that Ms. Nash had not been discriminated against. Ms. Nash's claim is for discrimination on the basis of sex, meaning that the comparable group are males in a position similar to Ms. Nash's. She has experienced adversely differential treatment as compared to her male counterparts.
Ms. Nash's claim is also for discrimination on the basis of family and marital status. The policies and programs that the CAF has are clearly designed for military parents who have a partner and are not single parents. CAF policy that provides flights for military members disadvantages single parents. In addition, when it provides monetary assistance to relocate furniture and personal effects, it provides higher compensation to married members, rather than single members with children.
Ms. Nash's case was covered extensively in the media in the summer of 2017 by the CBC. I was interviewed, as was Ms. Nash, and I expressed that this was a despicable situation, after which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the following:
It's very simple: The choice Laura had to make is not acceptable. It is not acceptable in Canada.
This is a very difficult situation for Laura, but we also know it's one that has to end. It's not the first time, I can only imagine, in the history of the Canadian military [that] this has happened, but I certainly hope it will be one of the very last times.
Since then, elated with Mr. Justin Trudeau's words, we wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau, yet we have heard absolutely nothing to date.
Thank you very much.