Representatives from Canada’s provinces and territories and military spouses met with DND and CAF leadership and other notables at the second Seamless Canada meeting in Ottawa on Dec. 5 and 6, 2018. (Photo Credit: Private Tori Lake, Canadian Forces Support Unit (Ottawa) Imaging Services © 2018 DND-MDN Canada)
Seamless Canada initiative progresses with provinces and territories during the Ottawa symposium
Posted on Thursday, January 10, 2019
Canadian Armed Forces members and their families are now one step closer to experiencing a “Seamless Canada”, when they relocate across the country during the course of their careers.
Department of National Defence (DND) and Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) representatives met for two days in Ottawa on December 5-6, 2018 with counterparts from all 13 provinces and territories to advance the Seamless Canada initiative, first initiated this past summer.
National Defence launched Seamless Canada on June 27 to improve the coordination of relocation services across the country, when CAF members and their families move to a different province or territory. The Ottawa symposium focussed on finding ways to streamline and enhance services across governments on issues specific to CAF members and their families.
CAF members are required to relocate across Canada throughout their careers. A Canadian Forces Ombudsman report released in 2013 found that relocation is a major cause of stress and strain for military families, who can expect to move three times more frequently than the average civilian over the course of a member’s career in the CAF. Specific stressors include access to healthcare, employment, child care and education, which all come under provincial and territorial jurisdictions.
General Jonathan H. Vance, Chief of the Defence Staff and Ms. Jody Thomas, Deputy Minister of National Defence, set the tone for the December meetings with their opening remarks.
“Improving services across Canada for Canadian Armed Forces members and their families is a must,” General Vance said. “Moving is a challenging experience even in the best conditions, and I am committed to helping make things easier and less stressful when they relocate across the country.” Ms. Thomas added, “With military families moving frequently in service of their country, relocation is absolutely one of the most difficult parts of military life.”
The Ottawa roundtable discussions centred on health care, spousal employment, and education and childcare. The participants also worked on shaping the governance of the Seamless Canada framework and deciding on a strategic, long-term path to improving how military families can better transition between the provinces and territories.
A number of military spouses, both male and female, have also featured prominently in shaping the Seamless Canada dialogue. They spoke to the assemblies in June and again in Ottawa this month about their personal experiences with relocation and how it has affected their families over the years.
Seamless Canada builds on steps already taken by provincial ministries in Alberta, Ontario, and New Brunswick that enhance services for military families. Several other provinces have also worked hand in hand with Military Family Resource Centres (MFRCs) in the past to streamline some services in those jurisdictions. Following the Toronto meeting in June, New Brunswick reiterated its support for Seamless Canada and announced a joint pilot project to help military families, according to a news release issued by the province.
The Ontario government has announced that it will set up a new “hotline” in support of military families, to help them navigate provincial government services when they are transferred to Ontario bases.
The Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of National Defence, also emphasized his support for the Seamless Canada initiative during the two-day Ottawa symposium.
“The wellbeing of the women and men of our Canadian Armed Forces and their families is my priority. Relocations can be a difficult experience for members and their families, and we are committed to resolving issues and easing that burden. We thank the provinces and the territories for working collaboratively to find solutions that will improve the lives of Canada’s military families.”
The Seamless Canada working group has agreed to continue meeting regularly to improve services across provinces and territories to help ease the burden placed upon CAF members and their families when they relocate.
Seamless Canada supports Canada’s Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE) by helping the CAF retain the talented people it recruits, while ensuring their wellbeing and looking after the best interests of their families. For additional information on how military members will be supported under Canada’s defence policy initiatives from when they join, throughout their careers, and after they become veterans, go to: Chapter One of Strong, Secure, Engaged (SSE).