Evidence of meeting #37 for Veterans Affairs in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was employment.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

André Thivierge  Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Major (Retired), City of Ottawa Veterans Task Force
Jason Wahl  Founder and Director, Veteran Staffing Canada
Oliver Thorne  Executive Director, Veterans Transition Network
Lisa Taylor  President, Challenge Factory
Cassandra Poudrier  Executive Director, Quatre-Chemins

4:30 p.m.

Co-Founder and Co-Chair, Major (Retired), City of Ottawa Veterans Task Force

André Thivierge

Absolutely. Each community has its own culture. It has a number of employers. It has a certain industry, and that industry.... Each industry carries a culture. It's something that has to be done by each transition unit.

That could be a good collective project. The thing is that you also have to engage the business community to do that. The biggest challenge is to engage the community and also to develop the partnership and keep that communication continuous. I think this way a lot of progress could be accomplished.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Rachel Blaney NDP North Island—Powell River, BC

Thank you.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you, Ms. Blaney.

Now we're going to start a second round of questions. Six members will be able to ask questions.

I'm pleased to start with Mr. Fraser Tolmie for five minutes, please.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.

Obviously, we got started about 20 minutes late, due to votes and various other things. We're at what would have been the midway point if we had started on time.

I want to get your sense as to what our plans are, because we have a second panel. When would we start that second panel? When would we conclude the second panel?

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Well, we have two hours for the committee. The first panel is one hour, and then we have one hour. We started exactly at 3:50 p.m., so we're allowed to go until 5:50 p.m. We will have our two-hour meeting.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Thanks.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

You're welcome.

Mr. Tolmie, go ahead for five minutes, please.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Fraser Tolmie Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Thorne, I want to get your thoughts. When I was released from the military, I believe I had a day-long seminar with Veterans Affairs about benefits. I'm thinking along the lines here that for someone who has been in the military for 15 years, 20 years or 25 years, a day-long seminar is not going to cut it.

We have been hearing that veterans have a resumé that probably needs to be translated into the civilian world, to maybe help integrate....

What are your thoughts on being able to assist veterans with more than just a day-long seminar, as I said? Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I recall. I think it was a day long, and you got sandwiches. Then you were on your way and told goodbye. You were told what you could access, but you were never given the tools at that seminar.

What are your thoughts?

4:30 p.m.

Executive Director, Veterans Transition Network

Oliver Thorne

Yes, absolutely. I would entirely agree with that statement that a day is insufficient.

My understanding is that with the establishment of the CAF transition group, those services will be occurring—

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Chair, I have a point of order.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Excuse me, Mr. Thorne.

4:30 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

The interpreter is telling us that the sound quality is not adequate.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

I think you have old equipment and we're having a little problem with the sound. Can you speak louder and try to keep the microphone...?

Let's try again. Go ahead, Mr. Thorne.

4:30 p.m.

Executive Director, Veterans Transition Network

Oliver Thorne

Okay, I'll try this again. I'll speak more loudly and slowly and see if that helps things.

Yes, absolutely. I agree with the statement that a day certainly is not enough.

4:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

No, Mr. Thorne, again. Could you keep the microphone up with your finger while you speak, please? It's a problem for the interpreters.

Let's try again, please.

February 13th, 2023 / 4:30 p.m.

Executive Director, Veterans Transition Network

Oliver Thorne

I'll try this once more with the mike a bit closer. Hopefully, that's helpful.

Yes, a day is not enough. My understanding is the CAF transition group is going to provide services that will occur throughout a member's service cycle—from the beginning and during service, then ramping up, certainly, as they prepare to release.

I think you touched on two points.

One, the information needs to be provided multiple times, and over a longer period of time, in order for it to sink in. Again, this relates directly to accessibility.

Two, regarding any other component somebody trains for, in the Canadian Armed Forces, a PowerPoint is not enough. You would learn that information, but then you would rehearse it. You would practise applying it. I think the same is true of communication skills, the translation of military skills to civilian-relevant skills, and all of those pieces that are part of a successful transition. They must be rehearsed. They must be actively worked on by the member, both during and after service, in order for them to be successful.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Fraser Tolmie Conservative Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan, SK

Thank you.

I have a second question: Do you agree more veterans should be working for Veterans Affairs? If so, why?

4:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Veterans Transition Network

Oliver Thorne

Absolutely. It's difficult to see how that could not be a positive thing.

Part of the entire reason my organization exists is this: In the late nineties, our program founders discovered veterans were often not well served by many available civilian services, because there was such a massive disconnect in terms of those providing the services not understanding the experience. Having veterans embedded in the department creates an immediate understanding between the service recipient and the person providing those services. I would see that as a very positive thing.

To add to Mr. Thivierge's comments earlier, one of the major issues is the relationship veterans have with Veterans Affairs. I can only imagine it would discourage many of them from applying for jobs there.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you, Mr. Thorne. Keep going like this until the end, please.

I'd now like to invite Mr. Sean Casey for five minute or less.

Go ahead, Mr. Casey.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I'm going to pick up right where you left off, Mr. Thorne.

I don't know if you were there at the time, but back when committees used to travel, I was a member of the veterans committee and had the honour of visiting your establishment in Vancouver along with the full committee. It was a memorable visit. It's apparent that your organization has come a long way since then. For that, I congratulate you.

I'm going to start with this: There was a study done in 2019, called the “Life After Service Survey”. It showed that the largest post-release employer for veterans, by far, was the public service.

What does that tell you? What conclusion would you draw from the facts that, one, veterans after service are drawn to the public service and, two, they are successful in landing jobs within the public service, in large numbers?

4:35 p.m.

Executive Director, Veterans Transition Network

Oliver Thorne

I think in order to understand well what that metric is telling us, we need a really accurate profile of who those folks are.

The largest single employer, according to this study, is the public service. I think Mr. Thivierge spoke about this earlier. We see that those who served in commission roles as officers are drawn to that work. They have project management experience and experience working with levels of government that might give them a natural affinity for that work. I certainly think it's good to see.

Often, what's missing when we look at that data is who's fallen through the cracks. I don't have data in front of me to back this up, but I would be comfortable going out on a limb and saying that for those folks I spoke about earlier, who struggle in their transition from junior ranks, combat arms, deployment and the army...from my experience, we don't see those folks in large numbers going into the public service. It's great that we see a group that is transitioning and transitioning well into public service, but we also need to look at who's slipping through the cracks.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Thank you.

I'll go over to Mr. Wahl. In your opening remarks you mentioned that two things that would be helpful are a wage subsidy for the hiring of veterans and some sort of program that helps identify veterans.

I want to pick up on the first one, if I might. I'm going to refer back to that study that was done in 2019. Right now, the current rate of unemployment in Canada is at about 6.6%. The current unemployment rate among veterans is about 4.6%. Compared to the general population, the data indicates that they're doing better in terms of being employed.

The other thing that the study indicated was that post release, there are about three years, on average, when they take a reduction in income. Their income then steadily rises until about the 10th year. That's what the data says.

Given that data, how would you square that with the necessity for a wage subsidy?

4:40 p.m.

Founder and Director, Veteran Staffing Canada

Jason Wahl

What we're looking at with the idea of a wage subsidy is more about encouraging employers to go out and hire veterans in certain areas. There is trepidation within the private sector to hire veterans. Is there some issue that we may come across? How can we fit this person in? Is there an advantage to hiring a veteran versus someone else who's out there and applying?

That's the point that we're getting at. The veterans who are having the hardest time finding employment are the ones who need as much encouragement to be hired. That's what we're trying to work on. It's asking, how do we get these folks transitioning into the private sector?

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Emmanuel Dubourg

Thank you, Mr. Casey.

Mr. Désilets, the floor is now yours for two and a half minutes.

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Thorne, you said, as did Mr. Thivierge, I think, that the proportion of the department's employees who are veterans is low. It's around 4%.

We have recently seen that the criteria for the position of chancellor in a university have been narrowed, and the number of factors specified increased, to the point that the opening has shrunk significantly.

Mr. Thorne, do you not think there should be some kind of policy or special hiring criteria that would reflect the fact that we want veterans to work for the department?

I will ask Mr. Thivierge to answer as well.