Good morning, Mr. Chair, vice-chairs, and members of the committee.
My name is Faith McIntyre, and I'm the director general of policy and research with Veterans Affairs Canada. I am also the co-chair of the ministerial advisory group on families, with Sergeant, retired, Alannah Gilmore.
I am pleased to be here today with my colleague Robert Cormier, who is the director of strategic affairs for field operations; as well as my colleagues from the Canadian Armed Forces and the Department of National Defence.
We're very pleased to speak to you today on a very important topic in regard to your work on transition, and specifically in the area of families. Robert and I will briefly touch on research on families, the ministerial advisory group, and programs and services available to families.
A critical part of Veterans Affairs Canada's mission is to provide exemplary client-centred services and benefits that respond to the needs of veterans, our other clients, and their families. Our goal is for veterans and their families to receive the care and support they need when they need it.
Veterans Affairs Canada recognizes that family members play an important role in supporting members of our armed forces while they serve and as they transition to civilian life. The most successful transitions occur when a veteran has a positive state of well-being—a balance of financial, mental, spiritual, physical, and social factors, with family supports being critical.
Research has shown that most veterans transition well from military to post-military life and that military families tend to be resilient, loyal, resourceful, and proud. However, for some, it can be an especially difficult time on the member and the family. Negative impacts of service-related conditions, and military service, in general, on families have been identified. They include divorce, financial insecurity, stress, low life satisfaction, mental health problems, among others. Recent research has focused on the role of interventions aimed at improving family resilience in mitigating the impacts of service-related conditions and military service in general.
In 2016, on behalf of Veterans Affairs Canada, Statistics Canada conducted the Life After Service Survey, which included new content on families. The data were gathered through telephone interviews with veterans who had released from the Regular Force between 1998 and 2015. The family questions that the veterans were asked concerned a variety of subjects.
The majority of veterans, specifically 87% of them, said they were satisfied with their family support. Spouses or partners are the main source of social support for 71% of veterans and the main source of support for daily activities of living for 76%. However, it's worth noting that 28% of veterans reported that their spouse or partner had difficulty adapting to the transition, and 17% said the same about their children. We also reviewed the documentation on the impacts that operational stress injuries have on family mental health and well-being.
In doing so, we found more and more clear proof of the negative effects that operational stress injuries, primarily post-traumatic stress, have on families.
Further to this literature review, Veterans Affairs Canada initiated a qualitative study. Twenty-seven in-depth interviews and three focus groups were conducted. The study examines family impacts of Canadian Armed Forces veterans with mental health problems and whether their families are accessing supports and, if so, whether they are beneficial.
The report will be issued in the coming months. The initial indications support and validate previous findings and anecdotal information: families are resilient; they are important to veteran well-being and to adjustment to civilian life; they can feel isolated and misunderstood; and, families want information and support directly provided to them, not through the veteran. We expect to also see new findings that will help us focus on how best to engage with families and how they can help us to better understand their needs.
Veterans Affairs Canada has six ministerial advisory groups. The one pertinent to note today is the ministerial advisory group on families, whose mandate is to provide advice to the Minister of Veterans Affairs to ensure that families of the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP veterans are considered when developing policy, programs, and services and that family members are treated with care, compassion, and respect. You have heard from members of this group, including Nora Spinks and Jenny Migneault.
The advisory group identified several recommendations grouped under three themes: recognize and compensate; inform and engage; and, serve and support. These recommendations were presented in October 2016 at a stakeholder summit. The important insights of this group, along with the recommendations of these individuals, who all have a very distinct background, helped shape policy development and programming and will continue to do so in the future.
I will now pass this over to my colleague Robert Cormier, who will speak in particular about the Veterans Affairs Canada programs and services that are available to veterans and their families.