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Afghanistan committee  Thank you, Mr. Chair. General Milner, there might be a mute button on the headset as well, if you received one from the Government of Canada. Even if you unmute in the program, there may be a little remote along the wire that might be the issue. Mr. Chair, and ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

February 14th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Afghanistan committee  I have a few suggestions along that line. These are in order of preference, if you will. I talked earlier about risk aversion. I think that's one of the big challenges that's getting in the way of bringing people to Canada. The way that challenge manifests is in biometric verification for applicants to the special immigration measures program.

February 14th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Afghanistan committee  Thank you, sir. I think General Fraser summed it up admirably. The only piece I would add is to really hammer that question of biometrics. What is the solution to biometrics? What is on the table? Again the ideal solution is to bring people to Canada without biometrics and do that after the fact.

February 14th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Afghanistan committee  Thank you very much for the question. It's absolutely one that's important to be asked. With a great deal of frustration, in some cases desperation, our day-to-day job for the last six months has been helping veterans with mental health issues. Already throughout the process and the fall of Afghanistan we saw the impact of that on their mental health, on their well-being, to the point where we brought together our clinical network from across Canada to do some additional training and consultation on this, because the topic was coming up again and again in the programs that we continue to run.

February 14th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Afghanistan committee  I would actually defer to my colleagues, General Fraser and General Milner, as they have had more direct communication with the government on this.

February 14th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Hello, everybody, and thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Oliver Thorne. I am the executive director of the Veterans Transition Network, a registered Canadian charity headquartered in Vancouver but operating across Canada, which provides transition and counselling programs for Canadian Forces veterans.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  Yes, absolutely. This was actually a concept that was discussed at one of the centres of excellence role groups. I'd love to take credit for it, but it's not my term or phrase; another colleague came up with it. There is a difference with an injury caused by the institution. For example, we can look at military sexual trauma, which, in our women's programs, is typically the central topic discussed when people are talking about their barrier to transition and their traumatic injuries.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  Absolutely. The million-dollar question is how we make these services more accessible. In the first place, we should reduce in any way we can the paperwork barrier between an individual putting their hand up and then sitting down with a counsellor, for instance. Veterans Affairs has recently announced that they will automatically approve certain services at the time of application.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  Absolutely. Anecdotally, I can say that we get a lot of our emails at 2 o'clock in the morning from people expressing their interest in the program. That is when individuals often reach out, and we've talked about military culture. We've talked about that element of hyper-masculinity.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  Absolutely. For the past 20 year, up until the start of COVID, we delivered something called the veterans transition program. This is a 10-day group-based counselling program. It's delivered in a retreat format and it's built around the concept of soldiers helping soldiers. Something that the founders of our program discovered very early on was that the needs and experiences of veterans and soldiers were often not well served by the existing psychological services that were out there in the community.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  We're a registered service provider. Essentially what that means is for clients who attend our program, who are clients of Veterans Affairs and who have a particular type of claim that is eligible to cover our program, Veterans Affairs pays for the cost of their attendance. They pay us on a per-client basis for eligible veterans who attend our program.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  Absolutely, we have approximately 175 to 200 veterans per year who attend our program. Each veteran who attends receives roughly 50 hours worth of counselling. We deliver the program over a five-day period. It is fairly intensive. We are continuing to expand; we want to serve more.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  First and foremost, have the eligibility criteria changed? I believe so, yes. I'm not entirely sure in what way or in what way the processes have changed, but what I can say is that historically 25% to 30% of the clients who have attended our programs have been covered by Veterans Affairs funding.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne

Veterans Affairs committee  We have an unofficial motto. We say that we're transition focused and trauma informed. Everything we do through our program is with the aim of aiding that transition from military to civilian life. For the recommendation, I would absolutely echo what Mr. Ross said. We need earlier intervention in that period when people are transitioning from the Canadian Forces to the status of veterans and to Veterans Affairs Canada.

March 4th, 2022Committee meeting

Oliver Thorne