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Evidence of meeting #27 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 vac.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Commissioner Daniel Dubeau  Acting Chief Officer, Human Resources, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Sergeant Michael Casault  National Executive, Staff Relations Representative Program, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
William Gidley  Executive Director, RCMP Veterans' Association
Sergeant Abraham Townsend  National Executive, Staff Relations Representative Program, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Lynn Lemieux  Acting Director General, Occupational Health and Safety Branch, Royal Canadian Mounted Police

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, RCMP Veterans' Association

William Gidley

We'd stay with the pension act, as it is now. We would still stay with the pension act.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Then you feel that your members are better served under the pension act than they would be if they were treated the same as our veterans under the new Veterans Charter?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, RCMP Veterans' Association

William Gidley

I would say definitely so. I know a lot of improvements are being looked at for the new Veterans Charter, but as it is today, sir, no. We'll stay with the pension act, as we decided in 2006.

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

We hear that from a lot of veterans as well.

Monsieur Dubeau, you referenced priority hiring in your comments. Last month, when I had the opportunity to have a round table with a group of veterans in Bedford, Nova Scotia, I heard some terrible things about priority hiring, but that was from the perspective of a forces veteran. From your seat with the RCMP, is it working?

4:05 p.m.

A/Commr Daniel Dubeau

It's working, sir. However, since we don't medically discharge many people from the organization, we often accommodate them in serving functions, and we bundle tasks differently. We don't have many medically discharged members with disabilities; when they are discharged, it's usually at the end of their service or they've come to a point where they want to discharge them and they're retired.

So yes, it's working. I believe we've had nine referred, but we don't get many referrals, because most of our members, when they do retire, have reached the end of their service and are ready to retire. It is working only because we're not medically discharging our people; we're taking care of them in the organization as much as we can.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Greg Kerr

Thank you very much, Mr. Casey.

We now go to Mr. Harris for five minutes.

April 3rd, 2012 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and folks, thanks for coming and giving us this insight into how the system works or doesn't work for yourselves.

Listening to your presentations, I'm really getting the idea that it is very difficult for retired RCMP members who have transitioned out of service with an injury or who later develop an injury that can be traced back to service. It's hugely difficult for them to find out where to go to inquire about what services are available to them. Am I reading this right? Is this a huge problem?

4:05 p.m.

Executive Director, RCMP Veterans' Association

William Gidley

Part of what's behind it is that lot of times, when you go back in a member's file—a member of my vintage or older—you'll see that a lot of these places where people were stationed were small centres with no doctors. Some of them were hurt—I hope I'm answering the question—and their doctor was their wife or someone else. There's no real record of their falling down that crevasse, or falling into the water, and that sort of thing.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Apart from information in that respect being difficult to get to make assessments, is there a problem for these members trying to find out where they go to get a process started with their case in the first place? You mentioned that your organization has 4,600 members, but there are another 16,500 who have retired.

4:10 p.m.

S/Sgt Abraham Townsend

To help with an answer, of the 16,000 retired members, 4,600 are connected to the RCMP Veterans' Association, so they have their own network. That leaves another 10,000 retired members who are just out there. Some may have some knowledge of Veterans Affairs; others may not.

Traditionally we haven't had the transition interviews, so there wasn't that opportunity when they severed from the force to even learn about VAC. Some may know just by virtue of local awareness, but I can't help but think there are many out there—many, many—not unlike our serving members, who have a minimal awareness of Veterans Affairs and what services they may be able to offer to serving and retired members.

4:10 p.m.

S/Sgt Michael Casault

Just for example, I sent an email off to Veterans Affairs last week and told them I was interested in a certain portion of it. They came back and told me to contact my local regional office. Where's that? They didn't ask where I was from or tell me whom to contact. They just said I should contact my local office. It wasn't even accommodating to a veteran that may or may not have a working knowledge of Google or laptops. It's unfortunate that it didn't expand on....

Anyway, I tested them.

4:10 p.m.

Executive Director, RCMP Veterans' Association

William Gidley

I have a cellphone number at the office, but then you have to contact me. You can phone that number anywhere in Canada, and it will ring in the office nearest where you're phoning from.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

I don't understand this business of someone who's been identified with an occupational stress injury getting put into a desk job and accepting that assignment rather than having the condition treated. Is that a common thing within the RCMP? Would it happen in the Canadian Forces?

4:10 p.m.

S/Sgt Michael Casault

I can only speak for the RCMP. The mindset out there now is that if we speak up on, say, post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, there's a possibility of getting a Veterans Affairs pension or settlement. In that case, you might be flagged as a possible risk to the organization and you are put into an administrative role because of the risk to the community. There is the fear of getting that.

I joined to be a cop. I wanted to be a cop for 35 years and I wanted to put bad guys in jail, but if I were to self-identify during my last five years, I might be driving a desk or doing some other administrative duty, and that's not what I want to do. I want to be a cop.

If you're in a small community, you're moved to a larger centre because of the duty to accommodate. That becomes an issue, because I love small towns. I don't want to go to the big city and just suffer in silence.

4:10 p.m.

A/Commr Daniel Dubeau

When we look at whether to place a person in an administrative role, it's usually based on whether there's a risk to the public or a member. It could be a matter of public safety. There could be a risk to the member himself or herself. That's where we make those determinations. It's not based on a fat pension; it's more based on our occupational health program and how we look at what you need to be a police officer.

We're still trying to get over that stigma. If a member is feeling at risk, he should tell us, so that we're able to treat him and ensure that there's no risk to the public.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Greg Kerr

Mr. Harris, I'm sorry, but we're way behind time. You can talk to him later. Thank you. You did try.

Now we're over to Ms. Mathyssen.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you very much.

I have a few more things I want to clarify, but then I'm going to pass it over to Monsieur Ravignat.

Staff Sargeant Casault, you talked about the differences in occupational stress injuries that a member of the Canadian Forces suffers compared with what RCMP members suffer. I wonder if you could tell us about those differences—how police injuries are different from military injuries—and the impact this has on the individual.

4:15 p.m.

S/Sgt Michael Casault

Not knowing 100%, because I've never been in the military, I'll just speak from what I see and have been told by veterans and RCMP members who have gone into theatre in Afghanistan or to the different places that we police.

They're there for a year or less the majority of the time, whereas our members are exposed to the bad that society has to offer for 25 or 35 years. We never get called for cake and tea or that type of thing; it's always for the bad. If you're in a small community or in a large community, you're dealing with everything from barking dog complaints to murders, and you just never know what's going to happen next. I refer to it as cumulative stress.

They deal with it day in, day out, day in, day out, and a majority of the time, possibly because of resourcing issues, our members don't have the ability to lift their head above water and take a deep breath and talk to somebody about it, because they are working by themselves in the smaller communities.

So they have nobody to talk to, and then it's off to the next file, and then they forget about it. Then something will spark it: a smell, a sound, a spouse at home barking at you about how you forgot to put your cup in the sink. Then you just go off, and it's unfortunate.

I can say that it's hard to pinpoint for most members, unless it's a very obvious traumatic event like Swissair or one of those types of scenarios. It's cumulative from the start of their service to the end. Going back to our training, I remember being told not to talk about anything with your spouse. I'm lucky in that I have a twin brother in the RCMP, so I have the ability to speak with him.

You speak to close friends, but if they're not nearby or you don't have somebody you can feel comfortable talking to, you're carrying that baggage for years and years.

In the military, they have surrounding bases. They're in larger centres and they have the ability within their organization to speak to psychologists nearby, whereas the last time.... I've never been to Tuktoyaktuk, but I understand we're going pretty close next week; I don't know what's available up there, but I'm going out on a limb and saying there's probably no psychologist in some of our northern communities, because they just don't live there or there's not the need.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen NDP London—Fanshawe, ON

Thank you.

I'll pass over to Monsieur Ravignat.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

I want to begin by thanking you for your service. When we are elected as MPs for the first time, we are surprised to see Canadian Forces' veterans and former members of the RCMP at our constituency offices. We are also shocked to see how cruel the system can sometimes be toward those people. We expect our veterans to be treated better by all government authorities. I am not saying that to criticize the government; I am simply talking about how the system works.

Mr. Gidley, you talked about the overly legalistic approach. As confirmed by certain officers that have dealt with the tribunal, that court is more intimidating than criminal courts. I find that very alarming.

Could you tell us more about how that process can intimidate people and how it could be enhanced to provide better service to former RCMP members?

4:20 p.m.

Executive Director, RCMP Veterans' Association

William Gidley

I've never actually been at a VRAB meeting myself, but I'm told by other people who have that in order to introduce something new, it has to be new evidence and nothing else. It can't be anything that's been written or brought up in the past, because that's already been considered, and that's why you've been turned down; otherwise, you wouldn't be there at the VRAB deliberation.

It has to be new evidence. It has to be something different, outside the VAC policy, but more or less new evidence. They find it quite intimidating. That's really the only example I can give you, sir.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Greg Kerr

Thank you very much. Our time has gone.

We're now going over to Mr. Chisu for five minutes.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much for your appearance here, and thank you very much for the great presentation on the issues that you have with your own veterans.

I want to ask you a question regarding the process. When somebody is retiring from the RCMP, what is the process that is followed? I know that in the army, the compulsory retirement age is 60—on your birthday you are out—but there is an entire process before retirement. You need to pass your medical examination and you need to go to various interviews with social workers, with VAC representatives. It's an entire process that gives you information on what you have to do when you are no longer in the forces.

It is a similar process in the RCMP when people are retiring. Am I correct that your retirement age is 65?

4:20 p.m.

A/Commr Daniel Dubeau

Yes, but we don't have a mandatory retirement age anymore.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Conservative Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Okay, you don't have a mandatory retirement age. If somebody wants to retire, there is a process in place; they go through the medical exam and the interviews, because that is useful when you want to ask about some issues that could surface later on.