$10M more announced for veterans; opposition calls it 'too little too late'
Published Monday, November 24, 2014 1:38PM EST
Last Updated Monday, November 24, 2014 3:50PM EST
The federal government and a private foundation will jointly donate up to $10 million for research devoted to health and wellness issues facing veterans and their families.
The announcement comes on the same day opposition MPs in Question Period accused the government of cutting services for veterans -- despite having money budgeted to pay for them.
Health Minister Rona Ambrose announced the new funding Monday afternoon alongside Michael Burns, co-founder and vice-chair of the True Patriot Love Foundation.
The government’s half of the funding, $5 million, will go to the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) “to mobilize and promote the uptake of research to better address the health and wellness of Canadian Forces personnel, Veterans, and their families,” a government statement said.
The other half of the funds, collected through private donations to True Patriot Love, will support research and programming “designed to improve the mental health and well-being of this important and significant population.”
Funding research will lead to “evidence-based practices” and improved health care services for veterans, Ambrose said.
“Working together, through public and private partnerships like this, we can all help to make positive changes in the lives of our soldiers, Veterans, and their families,” she added.
The new funds will support the work of more than 1,000 researchers across Canada, Burns said.
The announcement comes a day after the federal government pledged $200 million in new funding to expand mental health services to veterans and their families, as well as to current Canadian Forces members.
Those funds will be spread out over the next six years.
The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces also announced that about $16.7 million in ongoing funds will be made available to support soldiers and veterans.
In Question Period Monday, opposition MPs linked the announcements to $1.1 billion in funding for Veteran Affairs that went unspent over seven years and was returned to the treasury.
Both the Liberals and New Democrats said that money should have been spent.
“The minister closes regional offices to save money,” said NDP MP David Christopherson. “And yet there was hundreds of millions of dollars earmarked for veterans going unspent every year?”
Liberal MP Frank Valeriote called the new funding “too little too late.”
“Do you know what they could have done with that $1.1 billion? They could have easily kept all of the nine veterans offices open,” he said. “Why do they make veterans beg for the services they need and they deserve?”
“Can the minister tell us now,” he added, “of this $200-million announcement, how much do they plan to lapse?”
Conservative MP Parm Gill defended the unspent funds and the new announcements. He said that lapsed funding is a “normal practice” and that the Veterans Affairs returned $111 million in the last year that the Liberals were in office.
“Our veterans’ mental health is something our government takes very very seriously,” said Gill.
The new initiatives announced Sunday include the opening of a new Operational Stress Injury clinic in Halifax, which will open in the fall of 2015. The clinic will provide assessment, diagnosis and treatment services for any veterans and soldiers living with operational stress injuries, as well as their families.
Additional satellite clinics will be opened in St. John’s, N.L., Chicoutimi, Que., Pembroke, Ont., Brockville, Ont., Kelowna, B.C., Victoria and Montreal.
In addition to the clinics, the funding will also go toward:
• Programs designed to raise awareness about mental health issues and support Canadian Armed Forces members and their families;
• Brain-imaging technology, to help researchers diagnose and treat soldiers, as well as technology to help digitize CAF members’ health records;
• A new four-year pilot project that will expand access to Military Family Resource Centres at seven different locations across the country;
• Research on issues including: new treatments for soldiers with mental health conditions, how to transition soldiers from military to civilian life, and veteran suicides and suicide prevention.
The funding announcements follow years of calls from veterans for increased funding for mental and physical health services. Current and former soldiers face a variety of mental health challenges, including post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, substance abuse, panic and anxiety disorders.
In August, Statistics Canada reported that one in six full-time members of the Canadian Forces reported experiencing symptoms of a mental disorder or alcohol abuse within the past year.