A message from the National Defence and
Canadian Armed Forces Ombudsman

Submitted

Posted on Thursday February 11, 2021

 


It is easy to see the vital role the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) play in keeping Canada safe and secure. Families are a major source of support and strength to CAF personnel and integral to military success. They also face challenges and make sacrifices; it’s not just the member who enrols and serves.

Families act as a support system for members as they deal with the unique challenges of military life. My office is the only formal recourse mechanism for issues related to the Department of National Defence (DND) and CAF available to them -- a role we take seriously. We address military family concerns through a variety of means, including answering calls through our toll free number and investigating complex issues. We can help get processes back on track and ensure family members are treated fairly by the DND and CAF.

We help connect military families with resources to address their concerns as well as regularly update information on our website and social media channels to help them navigate the complex DND/CAF system. We hope this helps them better understand their eligibility for services and benefits.

When issues arise that appear to be more systemic in nature, we consider an investigation to dive deeper into the issues. We produce public reports with recommendations to the Minister of National Defence, as necessary, and follow up with progress reports on our website.

The recommendations made in our reports are intended to bring long-lasting positive change to the Defence community.

In 2013, we released our first report on families, On the Homefront: Assessing the Well-being of Canada’s Military Families in the New Millennium. This report focused on the vital role played by military families. We made 18 recommendations to address issues such as continuous employment for military spouses, access to housing and health care as well as long and short term financial well-being. Over the years, we have worked closely with the DND and the CAF to implement these recommendations. Our progress report is available on our website.

Last year, we looked at issues affecting Defence Team personnel and their families posted outside Canada (OUTCAN). All postings, whether within Canada or international, can disrupt and put strains on military families, triggering many challenges when they must relocate. An OUTCAN posting allows participants to develop unique skills, knowledge and expertise. It also provides personnel and their families with the opportunity to live in a foreign country. However, there can be some issues that are unique to the OUTCAN experience for which they were not prepared. We look forward to a formal response from the DND/CAF to our 13 recommendations.

In the coming year, we will begin our next systemic investigation which will look into compassionate postings. CAF Members and their families experience unique challenges resulting from frequent relocations, which are part of the military lifestyle. They must remain mobile and able to deploy at all times. Exceptions may arise that temporarily limit a family’s ability to move.

In these often challenging personal circumstances, special consideration may be granted following a specific administrative approval process. It is important that the policy and process in place to support members during these challenging times does so to the fullest extent possible.

We all have an interest in a happy and healthy Defence community—and part of that is a well-supported family. If you feel you have been unfairly treated or have questions on any of our reports, more information on our office is available at www.ombuds.ca.

We are ready to help.

Gregory A. Lick is the National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces Ombudsman