1st Session, 42nd Parliament,
Volume 150, Issue 108

Tuesday, April 4, 2017
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker

Ministry of Veterans Affairs

Services and Benefits for Veterans

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Minister, welcome to the Senate of Canada.

At the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, we have been looking at ways to create a defined, professional and consistent system for veterans as they leave the Canadian Armed Forces. Basically, what we’re looking at, the professional way in which they’re able to join the Armed Forces, they should have the same professional way when they leave. You know this better than I ever will. For example, their assessments, their pensions and all the services they are entitled to are not all in place when they leave. I’ve been asking the ombudsman, when they have appeared before our committee, why do we not wait until all this is in place before the soldier is discharged? From what I understood, he said it was an issue of governance.

Why can’t we wait to discharge a person who has served our country with great sacrifice until all the services he or she is entitled to are in place? Is this an issue of governance?

Hon. Kent Hehr, P.C., M.P. Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence: Honourable senator, great question. I will say that’s why the Prime Minister has named me Associate Minister of National Defence. There’s a clear separation between my role and the current Minister of National Defence. He’s busy on certain things around national safety issues, what we’re going to do throughout the world, where my role is specifically to work with him on closing the seam and ensuring we have a smooth release process for people leaving the military.

Here’s one of the real things all of us should know: Twenty-seven per cent of the men and women who leave the Canadian Armed Forces struggle in some way through either lack of appointment, lack of shelter, inability to personalize and get back on track. We believe that because of this role of creating me as Associate Minister of National Defence, we can close the seam and professionalize a release service that the Chief of the Defence Staff Vance so readily talks about.

We do a great job of bringing people into the army, of getting them into basic training, deploying them on missions, sending them abroad and getting them the training and techniques they need to do great tactical work on behalf of the Canadian people. We don’t do a good job of releasing them. It has become incumbent upon us to do that, not only for their benefit, but our benefit in attracting people to the military. We don’t want the Canadian public with the belief that when a person leaves the military, their lives are in disarray as a result of their service.

We’re committed to getting this right. We’re committed to keeping people in the military longer, to allow them to have things lined up with Veterans Affairs Canada so they have all the information about the communities they’re going to, to better support them in this transition. That’s the work we’re doing right now, and our hope is to land this within the time frame we have as government.

But the hard work has been done. It’s not easy, because we’ve developed this system over the course of 40, 50 years. In my department, I have veterans who are 20 years old and some who are 104. It’s a wide variety of services, and the military has done things in this fashion for a long time. This is not as easy as it sounds, but we’re working on it and I believe we’ll get there.