Good morning. Thank you for inviting the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
I am a professor at the Royal Military College of Canada. Also, for 10 years I have been a reservist in the Royal Canadian Navy. It's an honour for me to be here.
I will talk about what we have to offer.
Thank you to the Legion for introducing a few of our programs.
We are a research institute. We are 37 universities across Canada working together at arm's length from government, but in service of the government, to provide the government with evidence-based research so they have better informed policies and programs, and not only government but organizations like the Legion or philanthropic organizations that want to invest in some of the programs. We are there to assess these programs and make sure the investments are worthwhile.
On the requirement and why we exist, we were founded in 2010. We were one of the only NATO countries or larger allied countries not to have such an institute for military and veteran health research. Given that we do have more than 700,000 veterans and almost 100,000 serving members, if you include with that all their families, it involves a few million Canadians. The need was there.
The research community was already doing research specific to that population. It is something extremely important for the research community across Canada to make understood to the tri-council agencies, as well as the Canadian population, the specific needs of serving members and veterans when it comes to health needs. These needs are specific due to the service they have, which is different from the service of other countries, and also are very linked to the Canadian warrior culture, if you wish, or non-warrior culture, depending on which point of view you have. At the same time, the research being done for military members and veterans is research that can be used for so many other citizens because it is transferable.
The public interest in supporting research also has been very high. We have had a lot of support, and we are still hoping to have more support from philanthropic agencies so that we can continue the research.
We are 37 Canadian universities linked together. This is very rare. Typically, researchers are in isolated silos. We are working together. We build research teams. It's our mandate. Our hub is in Kingston, which has the biggest community of veterans in Canada. Every time there is a research opportunity or a contract coming up, we link together different researchers from different universities who may or may not know each other yet. They work together, bring their expertise together, bring the research and the knowledge further, and provide better results.
We are also a conduit between Veterans Affairs, DND, and the researchers. At our annual forum, which always happens in November and is always hosted by one of our university members, we have between 400 and 600 researchers and stakeholders. They are all together and they exchange knowledge and build partnerships so that the programs and the policies for serving members and veterans can be better informed.
Our research portfolio is as follows: mental health and treatment; physical health and rehabilitation; social health and well-being; transition, which is the topic of this morning's research committee; novel technologies; occupational health; gender differences; and the ethics of health care and the healing of moral injury. All these topics have been discussed with the government and they are topics that are a need for government.
Both Veterans Affairs and DND have strong research teams. We are there to provide arm's-length research and also to complement their own capacity for research. We have an education program. We also offer webinars. Some of them are at the graduate level, and some of them are public lectures so we can give access to our knowledge to the larger public. When it comes to hot topics such as mental health, it becomes extremely important for the public to have access to these lectures.
We have a lot of knowledge translation mechanisms, one of which is our journal, the first of its kind. It is published through the University of Toronto Press and of course distributed across Canada. It has a very strong college of peer reviewers and a very strong board of directors. The Journal of Military, Veteran and Family Health is the first of its kind and is open access. There's no fee to access it. You can have it through any search engine on the Internet or in any university. We also have a few collections. Some of them are available by a click. Some of them can be accessible by purchasing through McGill-Queen's University Press or in any university library.
We have offered to the government an unprecedented link with the academic community, a venue, a method to highlight the research that the government does and the research that the researchers do and to bring them together. There's a recognition of the implication of the work of the government stakeholder to the first responders, the humanitarians, and also to all Canadians, not only military and veterans, and a very rapid turnaround of research needs. We have a contract with the government through Public Works. The contract is with DND and Veterans Affairs, and as soon as they have a need, an ask—they want to know the cost of this, should they invest in that, is that program good, can you do a lit review on this, has this been done before—they come to us and we go through a peer review committee to make sure we create the best research team to assess the programs and do the research.
The most recent research that has been done on transition is all available online. Some of it has been done by the government, some of it by researchers. For instance, a research team has been built between the University of Manitoba and VAC, Veterans Affairs Canada, on the association between physical health and anxiety in veterans. Research has been done on the link between Veterans Affairs and DND, and these links are extremely important to us in terms of post-military adjustment to civilian life. Some research has been done on the link between post-traumatic stress disorder and the economic status of the veterans.
A big study, a life-after-service study, is being done by VAC and all the studies they are doing are available through our knowledge centres and tools and websites. At the University of Victoria work has been done on the Veterans Transition Network, where the Legion is involved. Our research team is trying to assess how efficient this program is for veterans and how much it's worth to invest in it. There are lots of evaluations of programs. This is one of them. The progressive goal attainment program is another one. Creating a future of strength and hope for soldiers is another program. All these programs are being assessed through the researchers who are linked to our institute.
A lot of research is being done on reservists. We're trying to see what the differences are between the different classes of reservists, the full-time, the part-time, and the reservists with the regular force, the class C, and also to see when a military member is released from the regular force or the reserve, if there is an economic implication. Is their status different from the civilian community's? Are their health needs different from the civilian community's? Research is being done right now where we are looking for identifiers with Statistics Canada and the Ministry of Health of Ontario, where we can see an identifier of veterans and what type of services they ask for when they go to the hospital. This will allow us to see exactly what type of population it is and whether they have different health needs from the rest of the population.
We have both research that is funded by the tri-council agencies or by different grants that the researchers come to us with. We also give research grants through donations like the Legion and Wounded Warriors and True Patriot Love, TPL, through the contract we have with the government.
Right now, there is research on transition that is being requested, so there was a tasking authorization that came to us, and we just sent out a call for participation to our researchers asking who would be able to find the determinants of successful transition outcomes for medically releasing Canadian Armed Forces members.
What we offer is a national capacity for research, to build a collaborative research team and to provide evidence-based programs and policies for the government.