Dear Mr Ferguson,
I request your office conduct a Performance Audit of Veteran Affairs Canada Stakeholder Summits and Ministerial Advisory Groups. The “Stakeholder” process is a serious matter that potentially affects the financial welfare of all 600,000 plus Canadian Armed Forces Veterans. Ensuring appropriate Government of Canada (GoC) engagement with its citizens is in the best interest of Canada.
In Oct 2016 the GoC concluded the current round of the “Stakeholder” summits. The “Stakeholder” process has many flaws and constitutes a GoC engagement failure. The GoC will now make decisions based on the flawed or corrupted information provided by this process. The flaws are obvious, and they include but are not limited to:
- The criteria for participation were never made clear to the greater veteran community. Some “Stakeholders” have openly admitted that they do not know why they were chosen to be part of the “Stakeholder” process. The interesting collection of individuals representing veterans (some of which are not veterans or their spouses) and organisations at the stakeholder meetings baffles many in the veteran community. The result has been anger between participants and non-participants, a fracturing and disheartening of the veteran community due to the division, and confusion has undermined any faith in the system by those excluded. Bluntly, a poorly defined participation criterion has undermined VAC’s efforts to engage its veteran population.
- A government-driven agenda is worrisome in that it fails to address some key issues within Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA). These including, but not restricted to:
- Chemical, radiological or other environmental contamination of veterans while deployed internationally or domestically;
- Restructuring of the failed Veteran Review and Appeal Board;
- The lack of a useful Office of the Veterans Ombudsman;
- A culture of denial within Veteran Affairs Canada; and,
- Inconsistent activities within DVA have led to lawsuits.
- The GoC claims they have “consulted” with veterans through veteran organisations (VO’s) such as the Royal Canadian Legion (RCL), ANAVETS, Canadian Veteran Advocacy (CVA) and other “engaged” individuals. However, the stakeholder meetings do not constitute “consultation” in that many veteran organisations have accepted monies from the government and therefore may have a vested interest in the outcome. Furthermore, veteran organizations are not “Clients” of VAC like individual disabled veterans, their spouses, widows, and families are:
- VO’s have acted as agents of government by advertising and promoting government policy (RCL promoted the New Veterans Charter (NVC) for a fee). By doing so, they are in a conflict of interest and may not always act in the best interest of veterans.
- VO’s have received payment for services provided to the government. For example, the GoC provides funds for RCL and ANAVETS to provide Service Officers to assist veterans. By doing, so these organisations are in a conflict of interest. As a recipient of government largess they cannot appropriately advocate on my behalf especially since not all veterans belong to any such organisation.
- VO’s do not represent all veterans: merely their members.
- VO’s are not the clients of VAC; disabled veterans, their spouses, widows, and families are. RCL, ANAVETS, CVA, and other VO's should not have input into veteran welfare when they are not directly affected. Meaning, VO’s are interfering with the rights of veterans to consultation as per Department of Veteran Affairs Act Section 4.
Time is of the essence. GoC will deliberate and act on the material provided by the Veteran Affairs Canada Stakeholder Summits and Ministerial Advisory Groups in spring 2017. I would appreciate your early consideration of this request and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss it further.
David T MacLeod CD MA