On 22 March 2018, we had the pleasure of attending a forum hosted by the Friends of the Canadian War Museum that discussed perspectives on “Today’s Veteran” as explored through three informative presentations.
Dr. Andrew Burtch, the Canadian War Museum’s post-1945 historian and curator of Gallery 4 (From the Cold War to the Present) provided the first. This gallery has recently been upgraded to reflect the theme of “New World Disorder,” capturing the story of Canadian veterans between 1990 (where the old gallery more or less left off) and 2014 (when Canada’s mission in Afghanistan concluded). The gallery aims to tell the story of how Canadians navigated the evolving international environment during this time, and to create a space for contemporary veterans to contextualize their recent experience. The main message of the gallery is hope for the future, which informed the selection of missions included in the exhibits. The museum is continually exploring ways to keep its galleries current, and the upgraded Gallery 4 exemplifies this ambition.
Ms. Amanda Jane, Director of Strategic Research and Analysis at the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman, discussed issues veterans face in their transition from military to civilian life. At present, Canada supports 67,100 veterans and will welcome another 8,700 in coming years. To ensure Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is addressing the needs of veterans, the ombudsman conducted extensive surveys and interviews to assess the specific issues and challenges affecting transitioning veterans. The findings revealed that one-third of respondents found the transition very challenging. Maintaining financial security was a primary stressor, combined with concerns about health issues and maintaining family life. Other challenges included finding a new sense of purpose outside of the military since most had spent the entirety of their career in service. In particular, younger veterans were concerned about transitioning into the civilian workforce and how to transfer their skill set to find stable employment. The stigma around obtaining treatment for mental health issues also created challenges, adding to the difficulty of the transition process. The role of the ombudsman is to assist and advocate for veterans, and being aware of the challenges veterans face today helps the office perform its function more effectively.
[Readers interested in the research and findings referenced above are encouraged to consult Transitioning Successfully: A Qualitative Study available at http://www.ombudsman-veterans.gc.ca/eng/reports/reports-reviews/transition– eds.]
Mr. Akos Hoffer, the Chief Executive Officer at The Perley and Rideau Veterans’ Health Centre, gave the final presentation. Perley Rideau provides care and services to aging veterans, with the goal of providing care to individuals before they need to permanently relocate to the facility. The centre provides a wide range of care programs, including respite and convalescent care, as well as long-term services and accommodations for those who need higher levels of support. Recently, the centre expanded its programs and services, aiming to accommodate seniors and veterans at their individual level of need. The Seniors Village is one outcome of Perley Rideau’s expansion strategy, with accommodations that include access to a range of community programs and services that adapt to individual needs. The expansion of programs at Perley Rideau highlights the need for flexibility in care programs. Access to care is a concern for all veterans, and having a range of care options has become increasingly important.
Overall, the forum shed light on many salient topics facing Canadian veterans today. The presentations demonstrated that veterans represent a broad group of individuals who experience a unique set of challenges. Programs in Canada must therefore reflect the diversity of needs represented in not only our aging population of veterans, but also those currently in the military who will eventually transition to civilian life.
Eva Luc & Hannah Delaney, CDA Institute Research Interns