Evidence of meeting #106 for Veterans Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was homeless.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

William Webb  As an Individual
Stephen Gregory  Founder, Respect Campaign
Brenda Fewster  National Director, University Outreach and Program Evaluation, Respect Campaign
Ralph Mahar  Executive Officer, RCMP Veterans' Association
Karen Ludwig  New Brunswick Southwest, Lib.

4:40 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

My autistic son is nine and my other son is six.

4:40 p.m.

New Brunswick Southwest, Lib.

Karen Ludwig

They're young. How do you explain to them the situation they're in, and are there other services that you're able to reach out to or that are reaching out to you for your children?

4:40 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

The only other service that was reaching out to my children was the director of the Ministry of Children and Family Development for an apprehension order because of our living arrangement. That's the only outside agency that has stepped in, and it wasn't pleasant.

4:40 p.m.

New Brunswick Southwest, Lib.

Karen Ludwig

Sergeant Webb, were you eligible for a lump sum pension?

4:40 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

I was eligible for a lump sum pension. Some of that was invested into my kids' well-being. A large portion of it was taken by my now ex-wife, because the strain for support was so great that we're no longer together.

4:40 p.m.

New Brunswick Southwest, Lib.

Karen Ludwig

Thank you for sharing that. I know that's quite personal.

The reason I ask that question is that one of the things we have heard about the difference between a lump sum versus the pension for life is that Veterans Affairs is better able to track a veteran who may eventually become homeless when they are receiving the pension for life. That's something I just want to highlight. I think there's someone here who can probably talk with you separately about your circumstance at the end of this meeting.

Thank you.

To my friend from the university, as a long-time university and college educator.... One of the things we have heard consistently at this committee is about self-identification of a veteran who is homeless. I'm wondering how you're able to collect the stats on that. In terms of consistency and reliability, are you collecting them in the same format and sharing them the same way as other post-secondary institutions, and researchers in general, are?

4:45 p.m.

National Director, University Outreach and Program Evaluation, Respect Campaign

Brenda Fewster

My exposure to this is more with municipal point in time counts. For example, Montreal conducted its count, Je Compte Montréal, in 2015. At that time one number about veterans came out, that 6% of them consisted of homeless veterans, which seemed higher than anywhere else in Canada. Of course, the problem with that type of data is that there is no validation. That's very problematic. If you consider the average rate of adult homelessness in Canada of around 2%, you'd look at 6% and think there was a huge problem with veterans in Canada, that they are overrepresented in the population.

It is really important for us to understand the scope of the problem to obtain valuable data. On that note, I recently got in touch with the scientific director for the 2018 count, and we're hoping to see the data set become available so that we will see the demographic data, including the length of time and how many times people have been homeless.

We're really missing validated data.

4:45 p.m.

New Brunswick Southwest, Lib.

Karen Ludwig

Thank you for that because I think that somewhat ties it together. As raw and objective as data sounds, when we are looking at developing policies, such as for the RCMP, the data does need to be collected in an authentic format.

One of the areas we have not heard much about has been members who have served for such a long time and have families. The familial part of it is an important piece to tie in, as well as for the healing. Sometimes in a very proud culture there is reluctance on the part of people who have served their country to ask for anything back, and it's very difficult to come forward to say that you're homeless or are in need of services—and certainly when families are involved.

We have heard from some organizations regarding guide dogs, and I thank you, Sergeant Webb, for raising that. It is an important example, if we take it completely outside the issue of homelessness. I represent New Brunswick Southwest, where in 2018 we had flooding that was ranked as one of the top 10 catastrophes in Canada. The fact that people didn't have a place to take their dogs meant that too many people stayed in their own homes. As we know with guide dogs, they are family members and on any given day, for those of us who have dogs, that might be the best friend we can rely on. The guide dog is an issue that we need to look at.

I thank you, Mr. Mahar, for your service with the RCMP and for raising the importance of collaboration among different levels of government and different services. It isn't one government takes all.

The committee has heard of the challenges with municipal housing. First, under our national housing strategy, veterans have priority. The challenge seems to be that there's a bit of a black hole sometimes, because different organizations and different levels of government may say that it's not their responsibility, but Veterans Affairs' responsibility. Ultimately it is the responsibility of us all. Your words today, Mr. Mahar, certainly offer that encouragement and the importance of our working together collaboratively, not just for the sake of talk but so that the outcome will be that people will be better off tomorrow than they were today. Thank you for that.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Mr. Samson, you have six minutes.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Thank you very much to all of you for your presentations.

Sergeant Webb, I want to thank you especially for your service and your testimony today. It is extremely important for us to be made aware of some of those issues. It's very hard to understand the situation you're in and that you are not receiving the help you need. I hope we are able to do something quickly on that front.

Mr. Mahar, thank you for your service as well. Your organization does some great work.

Mr. Gregory and Ms. Fewster, thank you for your support and the work you do for your organization as well.

Sergeant Webb, I'd like to learn a little more about some specific areas. What year were you released?

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

It was February 16, 2016.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

That was 19 and a half years of service. What happens between 20 plus years and less than 20 years, or 19?

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

Once we receive 20 years of service, we get a fairly substantial jump in our pension. Because I didn't receive that extra six months and didn't meet that threshold, I'm not eligible to meet that pension bracket.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

I thought I heard you say that it's $12,000. Is that it? It's substantial, but what would be your pension with less than 20 years, in general?

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

My pension right now is about $14,400 a month. Now that there's the clawback for the top-up on my pension, it's more like $9,800.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

I'm sorry, did you say per month?

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

I meant per year.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Yes, per year.

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

If it were per month, I wouldn't be here.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

That clawback is effected because of the insurance versus...?

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

It's effected because of Manulife's policy that we file for early CPP.

February 4th, 2019 / 4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Which we've....

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

Which Veterans Affairs doesn't require its members to do.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

Darrell Samson Liberal Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook, NS

Yes, I've heard about that. Thank you for sharing that piece; it's extremely important.

You talked about service dogs. Are you aware that we've put in a tax credit for service dogs? Does that help in any way, shape or form?

4:50 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

No. It's so minimal that it's a drop in the bucket. It doesn't alleviate the pressure that the disability tax credit would. The disability tax credit would be far more beneficial to people with complex PTS and OSIs, or injuries, than the service dog credit.