Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for West Nova.
I appreciate the opportunity to discuss how our government cares for and supports Canada's men and women in uniform, our veterans and their families. I feel strongly about the importance of caring for and recognizing a group of individuals that has sacrificed so much, but had asked for so little in return from our nation.
Our government is providing veterans with the support they need, when and where they need it. That includes supporting them as they make the transition from military to civilian life.
The members of the House are all aware of the unprecedented amount of money budgeted over the last six years to support veterans, be it for the implementation of the new veterans charter and its enhancements, the expansion of the veterans independence program, or the network of operational stress injury clinics located across Canada. All of these efforts will make a lasting difference.
What about the families of veterans, those who may not wear a uniform but serve our country nonetheless? They are the strength and foundation of the Canadian Forces member both while in service and when he or she transitions back to civilian life.
When an individual joins the Canadian Forces, he or she does so by choice. However, that choice can take a heavy toll on the family of the veteran. Whether it is being left alone while their loved one is deployed or trying to transition to civilian life after years of being a military family, in many cases, it is the spouses and caregivers who provide stability and balance at home while the veteran recovers and finds her or his place in the civilian world.
Our government understands that and that is why we are proud supporters of the new veterans charter.
When the charter was first introduced in 2006, its goal was to get the best results for our veterans and their families. I want to stress that it is for our veterans and their families. The needs and expectations of these veterans and their families are evolving. As the minister has clearly stated, we need to evolve with them. To keep the status quo would be an enormous disservice to those who have put their lives on the line for our country. Therefore, in recent years our government has made substantial changes to the programs and services to bring about the well-being and stability of our veterans in their civilian lives.
I want to take the opportunity this debate presents to look at what we are also doing for our military families and to remind Canadians that these families deserve our support and respect.
The best example of this care and support provided comes in the form of case management and rehabilitation services available to veterans and how the family plays a major part in developing their individual case plans. It is crucial that spouses, parents, children, or ideally all of those individuals, be full partners in a veteran's recovery. They are a critical support system, and they need to know what their loved ones are going through, how they are progressing and how the family can help. They are involved every step of the way through the transition process.
At the same time, families also need to know that there is help for them to have their own support systems. The military family resource centres are wonderful places to start, as is our network of family peer support coordinators. I had the great privilege of meeting with many of them last week.
Both Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence have created a very successful network known as the operational stress injury social support program. Specially trained peer support coordinators who have first-hand experience with operational stress injuries and the loss of loved ones provide vital personal support. We met with the spouses of veterans and we met with the spouses of Canadian armed forces members. These are the very folks providing the peer-to-peer counselling. Family members have said that having someone to talk to who has already been there is incredibly supportive and comforting.
Our government has also invested more money in the network of operational stress injury clinics. These are the clinics that serve our veterans and Canadian armed forces members who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. Veterans Affairs Canada and National Defence have worked together on this initiative to create a network of 17 mental health clinics throughout the country. While continuing to live in their community, veterans attend appointments at the OSI clinic. They are offered a clinical assessment and a variety of treatment options, including individual therapies, group sessions, psycho education sessions and other resources.
The clinical teams are made up of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, mental health nurses and other specialized clinicians who understand the experience and needs of our veterans. The team works closely with other health care and community organizations to ensure that there is appropriate follow up within our communities. Loved ones can be involved in the treatment and eligible family members can also receive these services.
As of today, there are 10 of these clinics operated by Veterans Affairs Canada. The Canadian Forces offers its support through 7 operational trauma and stress support centres. Support like this brings back stability and strength to the family unit. As a result, veterans can make better use of the other services we provide, services such as career counselling, vocational assistance and job placement. The spouse of a deceased or severely injured veteran can get the training he or she needs to find work and help bring financial stability back to the family unit if the veteran is unable to benefit from these services. That means everyone can focus on what matters most: getting better and getting stronger.
The initiatives I have mentioned represent only a few of the actions taken by our Conservative government to provide assistance to Canada's veterans and their families. When it comes to easing the transition from military service to the civilian world, we believe families, first and foremost, are the most critical social support system. Knowing their families' interests are important, understood and supported keeps our existing forces strong.
I want to assure Canadians, veterans, servicemen and women and their families that we are working hard to provide them with the services and benefits when they need them and where they need them.