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.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Let me put that question to our guest from the RCMP, Mr. Mahar.

My son's a member. It seems to be me that there is active camaraderie, so it is very tight. Post-service, do members continue some kind of an affiliation to any great degree?

4:30 p.m.

Executive Officer, RCMP Veterans' Association

Ralph Mahar

I can tell you that, in the context of our association, we strongly encourage it. We have a membership of about 7,000. There are probably 15,000 to 20,000 former RCMP members and employees out there. As an association we're looking to recruit them. Their willingness to join an RCMP organization afterward is very much a personal choice. The RCMP has, as you all know, had a difficult road the last several years. That has had an impact on members and their readiness and interest in maintaining contact with a veterans' association after the fact.

It's very much a very personal decision. We do have a lot of members who are joining. We're grateful for that. We're empathetic to those who have no interest at this point in time in having anything to do with the association.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Right.

Ms. Fewster, are you at Concordia?

4:30 p.m.

National Director, University Outreach and Program Evaluation, Respect Campaign

Brenda Fewster

Yes, I am.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Bratina Liberal Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

With universities taken as a whole, is there much programming that you've been able to observe that relates to veterans' issues?

4:30 p.m.

National Director, University Outreach and Program Evaluation, Respect Campaign

Brenda Fewster

An important part of what I do with Respect Forum is mapping who's doing what in Canada. Now we already know that the Canadian Institute of Military and Veteran Health Research is doing that on its website right now. You can see the clusters of expertise. You can see individual researchers. We know that in 2014 there was a Canada research chair appointed at Mount Saint Vincent University for community engagement and social innovation. I believe it's Dr. Deborah Norris, who focuses on the families of veterans. At UBC, at the other end, they are the ones who started the veterans transition program in 1998, and thanks to them they got the Veterans Transition Network going in 2012. Then in-between those two we see Queen's University, which is the host institute for CIMVHR, and then you have pockets. I just discovered someone at McGill University who's in psychiatry who focuses on PTSD.

I think CIMVHR is doing that job of mapping expertise. With the Respect Forum, we're looking at how can we bring those experts to meet with practitioners, the shelter people, the people providing day services?

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Mr. Johns, you have six minutes.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Thank you all for your important testimony.

I'll start with Sergeant Webb. First, thank you for your service. Thank you for coming all the way from home, on Vancouver Island, and for you important testimony today. It's really important for the committee to hear your story and the challenges you're facing.

You talked a bit about the veterans emergency fund. Can you elaborate about how that has played out for you?

4:35 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

I've applied three times to access that fund. All three times, I was denied because I was homeless and didn't fit the criteria. The fund itself isn't enough. Where I live, the cost of living is so high that you may as well give me five bucks, because that fund doesn't cover the expenses we face for emergency rent or the cost of living, period, in British Columbia, compared to maybe northern B.C. or another rural area in Canada, such as Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. It doesn't cover anything.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Thanks. That will lead to my next question on the cost of living on Vancouver Island. We've got three bases: CFB Esquimalt, Nanoose Bay and CFB Comox. Can you talk a little bit about how expensive it is to live in Oceanside or the Comox Valley, where we have two bases, in rural Canada; and what the challenges are, even if the fund were to come forward and act quickly? What would that look like with first and last month's rent and the requirements to find a place, never mind with an occupancy rate of .01%? Can you speak a little about what the needs would be to actually get on your feet and what kind of supports are necessary?

I also will cite Cockrell House, because that has been a great place to help veterans out of Victoria. But the need for a Cockrell House in rural communities, especially adjacent to bases....

4:35 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

Where I live, to meet my immediate needs to keep me from being homeless, it would cost upwards of $7,500 for first and last month's rent and to be able to meet basic needs.

Cockrell House and houses similar to Cockrell House—there's a house, a couple of places here—are for hard-to-house people. They're for single veterans. They don't assist people like me with two young boys. I'm excluded from the help and assistance of those facilities. So, emergency funding is primary for me to keep my boys from living in a 20-foot travel trailer in a parking lot and having to pay extra medical expenses because my son's autism needs aren't being met by living in a trailer.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Maybe you can add even having a service dog, which you need. Are there further challenges there as well?

4:35 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

Every day I wake up and go into my community, and I'm challenged by local business owners and government officials because I don't have the B.C. government service and guide dog ID card. We can't, as I said before, get any traction in B.C. or assistance from MLAs, or anybody who was involved with the original committee documents. We're hoping that a dialogue can be set up with Veterans Affairs, and people can have some dialogue with the AG in B.C. You'll realize quickly the protectionist thing going on with regard to guide dogs. That whole system is broken. It causes me to not be able to find accommodation, because of that act.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Yes. It sounds as if it's a task the government needs to address, and I certainly hope Veterans Affairs will reach out to the provinces and find a way to navigate through this.

You talked about nine case managers. Living in coastal British Columbia, we know that sometimes time zones can be a challenge. Can you speak to some of the challenges of not having a wing of Veterans Affairs on the west coast to best service veterans; if that's an obstacle or if that comes up with the Atlantic time zone, or if there are issues with Charlottetown?

4:40 p.m.

As an Individual

William Webb

When we put a phone call in to our case manager, the call centre is in Prince Edward Island. It's on Atlantic time. So if I call at 12:05 Pacific time, it's closed. I can leave a message, and that's it. I can't call my case manager directly. They don't provide us a direct number to the Victoria office. My case manager is 300 kilometres away from where I live. If I need to speak to my case manager, I have to wait two to three days for a reply.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

We talked about housing—

How much time do I have?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

You have 25 seconds.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

We talked about housing specifically for veterans. Cockrell House was fundraised through private money. I know Mr. Mahar talked about Veterans' House and other great projects that are happening. We heard testimony here at committee about the project in Ottawa and that the municipal and provincial piece didn't have the funding to contribute to build veterans' housing and that those governments saw it solely as a federal responsibility. Some of the challenges may be around finding money for housing without the federal government's taking sole responsibility for veterans, funding.

Maybe I'll pass that to Mr. Mahar, because you spoke a little about it.

4:40 p.m.

Executive Officer, RCMP Veterans' Association

Ralph Mahar

I'm sorry, is the question in terms of the challenges?

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

It's on the need for the federal government to come up with 100% funding for veterans' housing.

February 4th, 2019 / 4:40 p.m.

Executive Officer, RCMP Veterans' Association

Ralph Mahar

Is the question, do I believe that they should?

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Gord Johns NDP Courtenay—Alberni, BC

Yes.

4:40 p.m.

Executive Officer, RCMP Veterans' Association

Ralph Mahar

Quite honestly, my own response with respect to that is I think there's a shared responsibility. Our communities need to understand that our veterans have paid a price. Our veterans, particularly with the volunteer army, have put themselves in harm's way of their own accord because of their dedication to our country. I think it's important that citizens, not just government, understand the commitment that has been made and the contribution that has been made. Citizens and all levels of government, including the private sector corporations, should be engaged with respect to providing support for those kinds of facilities.

I would like to see a healthy contribution by government to ensure that it succeeds, but I think if we put it solely and singly on government, then it lets the rest of society off the hook and they don't necessarily feel the same engagement that they should.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Ms. Ludwig, you have six minutes.

4:40 p.m.

Karen Ludwig New Brunswick Southwest, Lib.

Thank you all for your testimony this afternoon.

Thank you to both gentlemen for your service.

Certainly, as the daughter and sister of veterans, the testimony here is quite personal to me. As well, being a mother and a grandmother, my first question is for Sergeant Webb.

You have a son living with autism. We have not heard about your other son. He must be about 20 years old.