The men and women who serve in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) willingly accept the risks to their health and life that are inherent to military service. But, while they accept these risks, the realization that one’s professional military career and way of life is over because of injury or illness can be devastating and can put significant stress on the individual and his or her family as they contemplate an uncertain future.

The government of Canada has an obligation to help these injured or ill service personnel rebuild their lives and restore, to the greatest possible extent, their health, financial independence, and quality of personal and family life. That is why improving the New Veterans Charter is so important and why it needs to be included in discussions of national security. We cannot deny that how we treat our veterans affects the ability of the CAF to successfully recruit and retain its members. So, does it not make sense to start taking veterans issues into account in the national security continuum for both strategic and planning purposes?

What do we need to do? We need to be able to communicate clearly to every potential and current member of the Canadian Armed Forces that no matter what type of service-related injury or illness they sustain, there are opportunities ahead for them. We need to strengthen the transition process and create more and better opportunities through world class vocational training and partnerships with industry. We need to help families so that they are better informed, supported and compensated for the critical, behind-the-scenes support they provide to our men and women in uniform and our veterans. And above all, we need to provide injured and ill veterans with financial security during the transition from a military to civilian career, or for life for those who are unable to return to work because of their disability.

We need to do these things so that transitioning veterans can look forward to the future with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose rather than feeling overwhelmed by the present. For too many veterans today, support shortcomings and inadequate communications are creating a dissatisfaction and disillusionment with how Canada supports them.

These issues are a priority for me and for the veterans’ community; they also need to be front and centre for the security and defence community. If we want Canadians to serve in the CAF, they need to be confident that, should they be injured or become ill because of their service to Canada, they will receive the support they need.

What are the next steps? After a broad-based consultation with veterans and veterans’ organization last spring, the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman researched and published a review of the New Veterans Charter to serve as a common factual reference to guide discussion about the Charter. In early fall, we followed-up with a report with recommendations and an Actuarial Analysis to channel action on specific New Veterans Charter program areas that need improvement.

The report’s analysis of benefits and programs pinpoints exactly where the current suite of New Veterans Charter benefits are failing some veterans today, and will continue to fail more tomorrow unless changes are made quickly. If we address and fix the shortcomings related to financial support, vocational rehabilitation and family support, I believe that we will make a significant difference for veterans and their families and at the same time enable Canada’s national security objectives

If we do not deal with the shortfalls in how we support veterans now, we know from history that more improvements will be required in the future because as the nature of conflict changes, so too do the needs of men and women in uniform.

This is why I am recommending that a regular two-year review of the New Veterans Charter be enshrined in the legislation so that it continues to adapt to the evolving needs of serving men and women, veterans and their families and that it continues also to live up to the government’s affirmation that it is a living charter.

We have built on the past to get to the present. Let us now build on the present to get to the future. All the tools are in place to do it now without undue delay. It affects our national security and our veterans and their families deserve no less.


Chief Warrant Officer Guy Parent (retired) was appointed as the second Veterans Ombudsman in November 2010, for a five-year term, following almost 50 years of serving Canadians in many military and civil functions.