I call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 37 of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted on Monday, October 3, 2022, the committee resumes its study on the national strategy for veterans employment after service.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format pursuant to the order of Thursday, June 23, 2022. We have members and witnesses attending in person and remotely using the Zoom application.
Please wait until I recognize you by name before you speak. I would remind you that all comments must go through the chair.
In accordance with our routine motion on sound tests, I wish to inform the committee that the witnesses completed the required sound tests prior to the meeting.
Now I would like to welcome our witnesses.
Today we are joined by retired Major André Thivierge, co‑founder and co‑chair of the City of Ottawa Veterans Task Force.
Thank you for joining us in person today. I know we ran into some technical difficulties last time.
From Veteran Staffing Canada we also have Jason Wahl, founder and director, by video conference.
From the Veterans Transition Network we also have Oliver Thorne, executive director, by video conference.
Let's begin with the witnesses' presentations.
Mr. Thivierge, as you know, I'm going to signal you when you have a minute left, and then again when your time is up. The floor is yours for the next five minutes.
Mr. Chair, honourable members of the committee, I have the pleasure of co‑chairing the City of Ottawa Veterans Task Force, which is tasked by city council with building bridges between the community and organizations in the national capital that provide services to our veterans.
When Canadian Forces members decide to transition to civilian life, they still have many more productive years to offer. Having a meaningful job has always been an important part of the transition. It's vital to understand that former military personnel have different motivations for seeking out a second career. What motivates veterans transitioning to civilian life isn't salary, rewards and benefits, but rather their desire to accomplish the mission and create a positive impact within their work environment. When a veteran becomes a member of a work team, the concept of serving remains a top priority.
Within the community of employers, there continue to be certain stigmas when it comes to seeing veterans as future employees, all of them related to the idea that veterans struggle with mental health problems. Some employers also seem to underestimate the importance of the skills acquired through military experience and training.
However, veterans also harbour certain perceptions and believe certain stigmas about employers. For example, a veteran may act with the belief that employers don't understand veterans, because they may believe that employers have a negative perception of military service and veterans as candidates for a job. These perceptions pose barriers to employment for the veteran and to recruitment for the employer.
One barrier that has contributed to fuelling stigma about veterans is the lack of dialogue between the ecosystem of support for veterans and employers, particularly those in the private sector. I believe that the next steps should involve bridging the gap between the veteran community and all industry sectors in order to address urban legends among both employers and transitioning veterans and gain a better understanding of their impact on the candidate-recruiter relationship. This type of dialogue would provide a foundation to help build productive long-term relationships between the military community and employers.
Within our task force, a number of initiatives have been developed to ensure that human resources departments apply recruitment strategies that recognize the needs and assets of veterans and are also involved in the process of preparing our veterans for the transition to a second career. These kinds of initiatives will inspire a change in culture, not only by preparing veterans for the transition by communicating information, but also by influencing recruitment strategies.
Watching the committee's meetings last week, I was very surprised to learn that relatively few veterans are employed in the federal public service. But what really shocked me was hearing that only 4% of the federal employees who provide services directly to the military community are veterans themselves. That tells me we have our work cut out for us.
In conclusion, the Canadian Armed Forces transition units have made tremendous progress over the past few years, because they've been able to professionalize their delivery of transition services. These services are now provided based on evidence, such as the domains of well-being.
In terms of all the aspects of the transition, particularly access to employment, we have proven that communities like the city of Ottawa can play a role in bringing people together and fostering partnerships based on productive ongoing dialogue. We will continue to build bridges between the employers operating in our community and the ecosystem of support for veterans.
First of all, I'd like to thank the chair very much for inviting us here today.
I'll give you a quick rundown. Veteran Staffing was launched in 2016 as an arm of Athenian Group, a technical staffing firm that we founded here in Alberta. We have clients across Canada whom we support in their staffing needs.
Part of that means we have clients looking to us for support in hiring veterans and trying to find sources for that. At the time, we had a resource: the Canada Company's MET program, which was a predecessor to the current transition program and which we found very beneficial. It had resources, so we were able to connect with veterans directly. They had a website on which they posted resumes and profiles we could reach out to. When that program was cancelled and VAC transitioned to the new program, we lost the ability to connect with veterans directly. I think that was something of a misstep in the last term.
I've been recruiting across Canada and the U.S. since I retired from the forces many years ago. One thing I've found is a general lack of ability to source veterans, beyond finding folks on general websites, be it Indeed or Workopolis, where they identify themselves. Organizations, be they public or private, no longer have the ability to reach out to these individuals specifically. That's definitely a shortcoming, in our minds.
The current CTS program provides valued resources to veterans, such as resume writing and interview preparation guides, but it doesn't provide support to the employers for sourcing veterans. That's the area we need to focus on, if you're looking at a new transition program.
One of the other areas we were looking at was trying to find out how many veterans are presently leaving the Department of Defence. A while ago, CBC reported that in the 2021 census, approximately 461,000 veterans self-reported. Veterans Affairs Canada, using a mathematical equation, came up with 617,000 veterans. I think finding the actual number will greatly help us figure out how we can help transition these folks who are moving into the public sector.
Previously, we've had success supporting veterans moving into the public sector, but I think the biggest issue we have is finding the veterans themselves, when they're looking beyond the number of different non-profits that are supporting them.
We've come up with some suggestions and resources that we think would be beneficial.
One of these is a wage subsidy program similar to what's in place for students, newcomers to Canada or under-represented people in the workforce. That would give companies an incentive to go out and source these people.
Secondly, the biggest thing to take away would be a tool or website, run either by Veterans Affairs or externally, that organizations could access to source individuals directly. I think that's a tool we've been missing and desperately in need of since the program was cancelled a couple of years ago.
I look forward to any questions. Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for the opportunity to be here today.
My name is Oliver Thorne. I'm the executive director of the Veterans Transition Network, which is a registered Canadian charity that provides counselling and transition programs for members and veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces. We deliver these programs across Canada for men and women, in English and French.
I just want to apologize to the francophone members of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs, because I'll be delivering my opening statement in English since my time is limited.
While employment is a common topic of discussion on our programs, the focus of the programs we deliver at VTN is on mental health, family relationships and the military-to-civilian transition. While I'm not by any means a subject matter expert in veteran employment, I can certainly provide the perspective of an organization that has provided transition services for veterans for over a decade.
With that in mind, I want to focus my testimony on two major topics today: access and cultural transition.
In the first place, in our experience delivering services to veterans across Canada for 10 years, a key issue they face in the success of any service they receive is the issue of access. A good employment program will not be effective if it is not accessible to veterans, and particularly if it's not accessible to veterans who struggle the most in transition.
We know from the research that there are a number of criteria associated with a greater difficulty in transition, including a longer service history, involuntary release, service in the junior ranks, service in the army and deployment. These are all associated with greater difficulty in transition after service.
My first recommendation is that if a veteran employment strategy is going to be effective, it must be built with the needs of these veterans in mind. To go even further, with these veterans specifically, for those who are struggling the most it is very likely that they will need other, more immediate transition and rehabilitation services before they are ready to receive employment services.
My second recommendation is that there should be a strong relationship between the veterans rehabilitation program and the services provided through the employment strategy, so they can refer back and forth and ensure that veterans don't slip through the cracks.
The second issue is cultural transition. For veterans, their employment transition occurs at the same time as a significant and major cultural and lifestyle transition. A good employment strategy has to acknowledge this fact and provide the appropriate supports to help veterans navigate that cultural transition so they can be successful in their civilian education and employment after service.
In our experience as a service provider, we see veterans reporting two major gaps. The first is a skills gap in certain skills that are required in a civilian environment versus those in the military. We see this particularly in professional communication style, and in financial literacy as well. These are pieces that both the private sector and the education sector do a very good job of preparing people for when they go out into the working world after post-secondary education, but the requirements in these areas in the military and civilian context are quite different.
Once again, for an employment strategy to be successful, it must consider that and it must provide practical training to help bridge that skills gap.
The second gap that we see reported is around social support. Particularly for veterans moving from a service environment to post-secondary education, we see that very often their experience—where they are in terms of their personal transition and lifestyle—is quite different from the environment of other people around them in that context. Providing the appropriate supports so that their needs can be met and they have a place where they can interact with peers and receive social support is going to be critical to the success of those education and employment programs.
With that, thank you again for the opportunity to present. I welcome your questions.
Thank you, Chair, and I thank you for your service, Mr. Wahl and Mr. Thivierge.
I'll start with you, if that's fine.
I am curious about your program. I see that you are partnered with Veterans Affairs, Soldier On and the Multifaith Housing Initiative here in Ottawa, which I think is wonderful.
You mentioned the problem with the public service and how there's a limited scope, it seems, of employed veterans within VAC itself. Recently the Public Service Commission—which is responsible for administering the hiring priorities within the public service—indicated that only 330 appointments out of 64,796 hires in 2021 and 2022 were veterans. That's less than half a percent.
You indicate that you're doing a lot of preparation; a lot of work has been done to build strong and enduring relationships, and a number of initiatives have been developed.
Are you indicating, then, that the City of Ottawa Veterans Task Force has articulated these initiatives and that you have them available in writing?
We are a registered service provider for Veterans Affairs Canada. We have been for almost a decade now.
What it means is that veterans with an eligible claim can attend our program and have those costs covered by Veterans Affairs. I would say that 30% to 50% of the veterans who access our program do not have a claim with Veterans Affairs, for whatever reason. Our organization is engaging with a segment of the veteran population that has been either unable or unwilling to access service from Veterans Affairs, so I would say it's partly a necessity.
It is partly by design that we seek charitable funding to support those veterans, because we never turn them away. They're always put through the program at no cost, but it's also a growing necessity because, although we're a registered service provider, we have seen the rate of approval for veterans who are eligible drop drastically, particularly over the past three years.
We see a number of veterans who are eligible to be funded by Veterans Affairs. They have the correct claim, but that paperwork is not being completed, and we are unfortunately not receiving those funds. As a matter of policy, we'll never turn them away, so we have to then lean on our charitable funding in order to ensure they get the program.
First of all, there's a misconception on the mental health problems. The stigma that we're talking about is that most veterans—most of the military members getting out of the forces—have some mental problems. That is not exactly the truth. The vast majority of members, when they get out, even those who served on many missions, don't have mental health problems. Some of them do.
Before going to a strategy, it is important to understand and have that open discussion with the different employers about the perception they have of mental health problems. Some vets don't need accommodation. As we are enlarging our programs, many of them are fully employable.
In terms of strategy, I think this has to be an ongoing dialogue between the veteran support ecosystem and the community of employers.
Yes. In particular, to perhaps highlight some examples of where I think this type of service is being provided, out here in British Columbia, where our organization is headquartered, there are two organizations that immediately spring to mind.
The first is the Institute for Veterans Education and Transition, also called IVET, and it is based at the University of British Columbia. It is a specialized program, the aim of which is to make UBC a veteran-friendly campus. The idea is that for those leaving the military and accessing the education and training benefits, they can go through this program, receive academic credit for some of their experience and service in the military, and essentially move along a fast track towards a certificate.
The idea here is that it's an opportunity for people to engage with post-secondary education but have a wraparound peer support experience. They are embedded with a group of their peers and they can support one another in that context, which may be culturally quite different from their experience in the military. The idea here is to increase the rate of success and the rate of retention.
There's a similar program at the B.C. Institute of Technology, called the Legion military skills conversion program. There are other programs like this across Canada.
I very much think that is what is needed. We see from many folks, and particularly if you look down in the United States.... Oh, I think I'm out of time.
I would like to say hello to my colleagues and thank the witnesses for being here.
Mr. Thivierge, you mentioned earlier that for veterans, the salary, rewards and benefits aren't that important. You said that veterans are actually motivated by their desire to serve, just like when they were in the armed forces.
What we've heard is that the unemployment rate is 4.5% among veterans, compared to 6.6% in the Quebec and Canadian populations. Also, veterans are apparently more likely to express job dissatisfaction if they're not employed to their full potential.
Can you help me understand that?
On the one hand, unemployment among veterans is low, although I don't have the latest data with me. On the other hand, their interest in a job doesn't match their aspirations.
Mr. Chair, I thank the member for his question.
One thing you need to understand is that when veterans retire, they're in their prime. Their potential and skills are at their peak, so they're looking for a challenge. For them, a challenge doesn't mean pay or benefits. They're looking for the kinds of challenges they tackled when they were in the Canadian Forces.
When someone serves in the Canadian Forces, they have to carry out missions involving significant risks with very few resources. If they're in a leadership role, they're responsible for the lives of the men and women they're serving with. They're asked to take on a mission that calls for creativity. When that person leaves the Canadian Forces, they're still fuelled by that feeling. What veterans want is a challenge to overcome.
For a veteran, success is defined by their ability to take on challenges. That doesn't mean they're willing to accept a lower salary, though.
I hope that answers the question, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Chair, and I thank all of you for testifying today in front of this committee.
My first question will of course go to Mr. Thivierge.
First of all, I want to thank you for your many years of service. Thank you for that service already to this country and for continuing this important work in Ottawa. I think that's very commendable. I appreciate your working so hard to make it a friendlier place for the people who have served us.
In terms of my first question, we heard really clearly in the testimony last week that one of the biggest challenges when military personnel leave the military and move into the veteran stage in their lives is that there is not a document that meaningfully explains, in a way that the civilian world can understand, the amount of training and knowledge they have. We heard from veterans who talked about leaving the service and then having to be retrained in things they were already experts in, simply because that translation of those amazing skills cannot be carried into the civilian world.
I'm just wondering if you have any feedback or thoughts on how we can make that a little different and better for veterans.
In the past many years, there has been a lot of effort put towards recognizing the skills, competencies and training of military members. I refer to the military civilian recruit training accreditation program of many years ago. At that time, it was the genesis of the PLAR initiative.
I know that over the last few years the transition group and the different organizations within the forces have put together a catalogue of skills and competencies. It's like a dictionary, a catalogue of the skills that are being recognized in the civilian world, with the equivalent in terms of what level of training they have and what corresponds in a civilian trade, for example, but it's still quite a bit of a challenge.
Again, there are some misconceptions about the military training. That's why in terms of solutions it is important to have that continuous dialogue in order to better understand how all those skills and competencies are transferable to the civilian world. A lot of times, it's with the small private enterprises, and this is where the dialogue with that community will help to better understand how those skills are transferable.
The other way around is to have the member who is initiating a transition being able to translate the skills in a language that can be understood by the employer community.
Mr. Thorne, I want to get your thoughts. When I was released from the military, I believe I had a day-long seminar with Veterans Affairs about benefits. I'm thinking along the lines here that for someone who has been in the military for 15 years, 20 years or 25 years, a day-long seminar is not going to cut it.
We have been hearing that veterans have a resumé that probably needs to be translated into the civilian world, to maybe help integrate....
What are your thoughts on being able to assist veterans with more than just a day-long seminar, as I said? Maybe I'm wrong, but that's what I recall. I think it was a day long, and you got sandwiches. Then you were on your way and told goodbye. You were told what you could access, but you were never given the tools at that seminar.
What are your thoughts?
I'll try this once more with the mike a bit closer. Hopefully, that's helpful.
Yes, a day is not enough. My understanding is the CAF transition group is going to provide services that will occur throughout a member's service cycle—from the beginning and during service, then ramping up, certainly, as they prepare to release.
I think you touched on two points.
One, the information needs to be provided multiple times, and over a longer period of time, in order for it to sink in. Again, this relates directly to accessibility.
Two, regarding any other component somebody trains for, in the Canadian Armed Forces, a PowerPoint is not enough. You would learn that information, but then you would rehearse it. You would practise applying it. I think the same is true of communication skills, the translation of military skills to civilian-relevant skills, and all of those pieces that are part of a successful transition. They must be rehearsed. They must be actively worked on by the member, both during and after service, in order for them to be successful.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to pick up right where you left off, Mr. Thorne.
I don't know if you were there at the time, but back when committees used to travel, I was a member of the veterans committee and had the honour of visiting your establishment in Vancouver along with the full committee. It was a memorable visit. It's apparent that your organization has come a long way since then. For that, I congratulate you.
I'm going to start with this: There was a study done in 2019, called the “Life After Service Survey”. It showed that the largest post-release employer for veterans, by far, was the public service.
What does that tell you? What conclusion would you draw from the facts that, one, veterans after service are drawn to the public service and, two, they are successful in landing jobs within the public service, in large numbers?
I think in order to understand well what that metric is telling us, we need a really accurate profile of who those folks are.
The largest single employer, according to this study, is the public service. I think Mr. Thivierge spoke about this earlier. We see that those who served in commission roles as officers are drawn to that work. They have project management experience and experience working with levels of government that might give them a natural affinity for that work. I certainly think it's good to see.
Often, what's missing when we look at that data is who's fallen through the cracks. I don't have data in front of me to back this up, but I would be comfortable going out on a limb and saying that for those folks I spoke about earlier, who struggle in their transition from junior ranks, combat arms, deployment and the army...from my experience, we don't see those folks in large numbers going into the public service. It's great that we see a group that is transitioning and transitioning well into public service, but we also need to look at who's slipping through the cracks.
I'll go over to Mr. Wahl. In your opening remarks you mentioned that two things that would be helpful are a wage subsidy for the hiring of veterans and some sort of program that helps identify veterans.
I want to pick up on the first one, if I might. I'm going to refer back to that study that was done in 2019. Right now, the current rate of unemployment in Canada is at about 6.6%. The current unemployment rate among veterans is about 4.6%. Compared to the general population, the data indicates that they're doing better in terms of being employed.
The other thing that the study indicated was that post release, there are about three years, on average, when they take a reduction in income. Their income then steadily rises until about the 10th year. That's what the data says.
Given that data, how would you square that with the necessity for a wage subsidy?
Mr. Thorne, you said, as did Mr. Thivierge, I think, that the proportion of the department's employees who are veterans is low. It's around 4%.
We have recently seen that the criteria for the position of chancellor in a university have been narrowed, and the number of factors specified increased, to the point that the opening has shrunk significantly.
Mr. Thorne, do you not think there should be some kind of policy or special hiring criteria that would reflect the fact that we want veterans to work for the department?
I will ask Mr. Thivierge to answer as well.
Thank you, Mr. Thorne. That's the end of this panel.
I'd like to remind members that we have an hour for each panel, but that depends upon how many witnesses we have with opening statements and if there are technical problems. I'm also pleased to let witnesses complete their sentences, so concerning our routine motion, the first round of six minutes is clear, but for the second round I'll have to deal with the time in order to stay within one hour.
I'd like to thank our witnesses for their remarks and their input today.
I will start with André Thivierge.
He is a retired major and co-founder and co-chair of the City of Ottawa Veterans Task Force.
Thank you, Mr. Jason Wahl, founder and director of Veteran Staffing Canada, and Mr. Oliver Thorne from Veterans Transition Network, executive director.
Thank you so much for your participation.
The meeting is suspended.
I call the meeting back to order. We can now proceed to the second panel of witnesses.
I have a quick reminder for our witnesses. Before speaking, please wait until I recognize you by name. When speaking, please speak slowly and clearly.
I would now like to welcome our witnesses. We have, from Challenge Factory, Ms. Lisa Taylor, who is the president.
From Quatre-Chemins, we have Cassandra Poudrier, Executive Director.
You will have five minutes for your opening remarks.
I will start with Ms. Taylor.
Please, go ahead.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for asking me to be here. It's time Canada had a national strategy for veteran employment after service.
As this is the first time I'm appearing before you, I'll take a minute to introduce Challenge Factory.
Challenge Factory is a research agency and workforce consultancy focused on the future of work. We have worked across North America, in Singapore and Norway, and with career practitioners and policy analysts from more than 32 countries.
As a certified B corporation, we are audited by an international body for the impact our work has on employees, communities, suppliers, governance and the environment, and our audit report is available on a public website. The process is rigorous. Only 665 out of almost 1.5 million organizations in Canada are B corps. We focus on using business as a force for good and advancing the UN sustainable development goals.
For more than 10 years, Challenge Factory's research, consulting and training have been supporting veterans, raising awareness about the benefits of hiring veterans, giving employers tools to make hiring easier and drawing on veterans' knowledge to make sure we get it right.
Our research study on veteran workplace characteristics profiled veteran employees and quantified employer bias in Canada. We have published The Canadian Guide to Hiring Veterans, developed an employer online masterclass to create veteran-ready workplaces, and produced the Hidden Talent podcast, in which veterans and employers discuss the challenges of post-service career transitions and employment from both sides of the interview table. These resources are publicly available, thanks to the support of the veteran and family well-being fund.
Personally, I am proud to sit on the Canadian Special Operations Regiment Association board.
My comments will focus on Challenge Factory's area of expertise, which is the formal field of career development within a changing labour market.
We have three recommendations for this committee to consider.
One, use a career development model and adhere to the national competency framework for career development professionals in your strategy.
Two, focus on equipping veterans with career ownership, rather than identifying specific jobs for them.
Three, make it easier for small to medium-sized enterprises in the private and non-profit sectors to hire veterans.
Career transitions always impact identity and sense of self. For veterans, the impact on identity is more extreme. Career development offers the intersectional frameworks needed to support veterans in this transition.
You already know that for many veterans, finding a job is not the challenge. However, many struggle to find purpose and a meaningful career that does not include chronic underemployment and job-hopping.
Career development is about more than jobs and training programs, and it is the cornerstone for successful strategies in addressing identity-based transitions.
Recommending veterans into specific jobs is not sound career development. It doesn't put the veteran at the centre, and it sets them up with a weak foundation for solving future career challenges, despite having great skills.
Direct job matching from military to civilian environments has led us to today, when veterans transition with an initial awareness of exactly four types of work. These are the public sector—as if that's a singular job—security, coding and cyber, and starting a business.
Job satisfaction and retention involve how roles and organizational culture align with personal motivation and reward. For example, a veteran may have the skills for security work, but the reason they thrived in the military, where they learned those skills, was the camaraderie, collective understanding of a mission and continued opportunity to learn. These key elements may not be present in the civilian job market.
That brings me to the labour demand side of the equation. Of the Canadians who work in the private sector, 90% do so within SMEs, not the large companies often involved in consultations. Small businesses do not know how to find, hire or retain veterans. Veterans do not know what small businesses do, nor how to find jobs or what can be offered.
According to the OECD, Canada has underutilized and overlooked high quality adult career services. Lifelong career engagement for veterans is a defined and solvable problem. Done well, this strategy can demonstrate how we can get career services right for all Canadians.
In summary, we offer these three recommendations: Use career development models and competency frameworks. Focus on equipping veterans with lifelong career ownership. Make it easier for small and medium-sized enterprises to hire veterans.
Thank you, and I welcome your questions.
Thank you for taking the time to hear the views of people working in the field and for taking them into consideration.
As I thought about this speech, I took the time to talk with my colleagues and with the veterans, the men and women, we help. It is important to me that I tell you our observations, with the intention of contributing to your consideration of the potential creation of a national veterans employment strategy.
Since this is the first time I have appeared before you, I am going to talk a bit about our organization. Quatre-Chemins, formerly La maison des champions, is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to transform the transition experience of people coming from fields in which great importance is placed on performance, such as elite sport, the armed forces, business, and the performing arts.
We aspire to a society in which each individual lives in harmony with their inner nature, a society in which we have learned to redefine ourselves beyond our uniforms and our successes. Over the course of a year, we coach these people, be they athletes, veterans, entrepreneurs or business people, in their transition process. We spend about 60 hours listening to them and helping them in their quest for identity.
So it is in this position as a privileged observer that I can tell you about certain findings regarding the experience of veterans. It is extremely important to tell you about one element in particular: in every case, whether for medical reasons or not, the effect of the process of release from military service on the person's identity has a direct effect on self-esteem and contributes to their trouble reorienting themselves outside the armed forces.
For some veterans, this search for their identity, along with the feeling of abandonment, has caused them to lose their bearings. They are disoriented. This loss of direction has led some to accept jobs and then end up changing places several months later. It is therefore essential to continue to address the idea of identity in the transition process when we talk about employability, since it is directly related to an individual's psychosocial capacity to commit to their next life cycle. It is difficult to commit to a project, a job, or even their family when they are not able to recognize their own value without the uniform.
It would also be wise to accept the possibility that this support should not be offered only by military members to military members. I will offer the example of a sergeant-major who retired after 34 years of service in the Royal 22nd Regiment, whom we are coaching. Two weeks ago, he chose, on his own initiative, to call a "full civilian", a retired vice-president of a Canadian bank, to talk to him about the real conditions associated with the transition. People gain perspective by opening up to other people who are experiencing transitions.
One of the last points raised with me in talking with veterans is the release from military service on medical grounds following the rehabilitation program. In some cases, it was concluded that the person was unable to hold equivalent employment in the civilian world. The person therefore experiences a reduction in their earning capacity and will receive compensation until the official age of retirement.
I'm going to tell you about Alain, a veteran of Bosnia with whom I worked last year. This summer, I found him a job with a firm that works with us. Alain first asked me how many hours of work the company wanted. The thing was that it needed a full-time employee. However, as a pensioned veteran, Alain was limited to $20,000 in additional income. As a result, the company, which needed stable employees, was not able to accommodate him. Alain wanted to do his part, but he found himself in a position where he could not accept the job because of the direct tax consequences it would have for him. Pensioned veterans now believe that working costs them more than not working.
In closing, I urge us, in this conversation, to expand the idea of employability to take into account what happens before a person is capable of embarking on a new project or the next stage of their life.
First I'd like to thank both of you. I see at least one of our previous witnesses is still with us to listen in on this panel. I want to thank each of you for excellent contributions in terms of your testimony and responses.
To the two of you currently at the table, I look forward to asking you questions and to other members of the committee being able to do so as well, but first I have to interrupt us for a minute with a motion that I'd like to move.
For your understanding, I want to explain to the two of you that as members of the committee, we have the opportunity to have the floor only at this point in the meeting. We get one opportunity, so it's the only opportunity I have. I have to move the motion and interrupt us, for hopefully a very brief period of time.
Hopefully it won't require a lot of debate or anything to move this motion and get it passed and then carry on, so that we can come back to hearing from you. I want to apologize to you and hope I still get the chance to ask you a question.
I will move this motion, which I put on notice on February 7:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(1)(a), the committee order that Veteran Affairs Canada provide, and if necessary, create, a transcript of the recorded telephone conversation of July 21 (providing for the redaction of any personal information that would identify a veteran) referred to on page 230 of the documents submitted to the committee on January 26, 2023, within 14 calendar days of the adoption of this motion.
I won't speak to this. I think it's pretty self-explanatory. We're all aware that we received a package of documents. There was a telephone conversation referred to in those documents. It was a conversation that we were all under the impression did not exist previously. It's one that we should all have access to. We should understand what was part of that conversation and further our look into the matter for which the documents were provided.
I will point members to one thing. I've clearly indicated that we should redact any information that would identify a veteran. That is also the reason I indicated we should receive a transcript rather than the recording itself. We wouldn't want anything that might identify a veteran. A transcript would make that easier. I think it's pretty straightforward, and I hope we can pass it.
I've moved it, and I hope we can carry through and pass it quite quickly so we can get back to our witnesses. I'll leave it at that.
I have no problem with correcting the typographical error.
The suggestion that the committee didn't know of the existence of a recording is one that I do not accept. We knew that there was a call initiated by the veteran; there was a call initiated by the department. We knew it was the policy of the department to record those types of calls. The suggestion that this is somehow a surprise, I reject.
However, I have no problem with the tenor of the motion. The only concern I have is with the limited scope of the redactions in the motion. Therefore, I would propose an amendment to expand on what can be redacted.
My amendment would be to delete all the words contained between parentheses and to add wording at the end of the motion that reads:
furthermore, that Veterans Affairs Canada redact from the transcript any personal identifiable information of the veteran or Veterans Affairs Canada employees, and any personal medical information.
The purpose of the amendment is to ensure that the identity of the employees of Veterans Affairs Canada will not be divulged, and that any personal medical information will not be divulged over and above the information that Mr. Richards suggested should be redacted.
That will give you time to think.
Personally, I have no problem with either the amendment or the motion. What I find problematic, as I told you last week or two weeks ago, is the way we are going about things. We are interrupting the discussions and debating subjects that do not concern our guests.
Two weeks ago, I was told that it was not possible to do things differently. However, if we unanimously decide to do it, the Conservatives could table a motion today, but 10 minutes before the end of the meeting, so we can release our speakers and our witnesses, and talk among ourselves to resolve the issue. This is just one example.
We could proceed that way if everyone around the table consented to it. I think this would be much more practical and respectful. I'm not aiming this at my Conservative colleague; there may have been discussion around the table earlier.
I would very much like the way we do things to change.
I would support the spirit of what Mr. Casey is suggesting. I also have no trouble with the idea of not providing the personal information that would identify the employee, despite the fact that, potentially, it could be an employee who did something inappropriate. I'm comfortable with that.
The last part of that amendment deals with medical information. We would have to find a way to indicate that it would be medical information that would identify an individual. The reason I would indicate that is because something like that comes down to a matter of how the department chooses to interpret it.
It could choose to interpret that to mean leaving out anything about the subject of medical assistance in dying, because you could indicate that as medical information. That is the subject matter that we're talking about. It would then, therefore, redact anything that would be useful to this committee. I don't think that was Mr. Casey's intention, but it could be interpreted that way by someone who chose to interpret it that way.
We need to find a clearer way to word that. Perhaps it would be providing further redaction of any information, including medical information that would identify a veteran. I forget the wording he used regarding a Veterans Affairs employee. In that way, it can't be interpreted so broadly that it would leave out any information that could be useful to the committee.
I do apologize, again, for interrupting some of the time you would have been provided. We'll move as quickly as we can and get into some questions, so that we can get as much information from you as we can. I appreciate your presentations.
Probably the big thing I would like to touch on with both of you is that we heard a lot in the last few meetings about the challenges that some veterans—for example, those who are medically released, sometimes those who've had a longer time in service, even the ones with very short terms of service, things like that—face over others. There can be some barriers that don't exist, necessarily, for every veteran.
I wonder if you could speak a bit about those and about what services and supports are needed to help those veterans. What I'm talking about is that, before they even get to employment services, there are often other services, rehab services, etc. What's needed there? What are the gaps in what's provided now by Veterans Affairs, and what can be done better and differently to make sure we get veterans to a place where they can get to post-military service more quickly and more successfully?
I'm not sure who wants to start, but it's for either one of you if you'd like.
It really touches on the intersectional nature of employment. Everybody comes at employment from different perspectives and has different capacities and challenges in order to be able to engage in their work.
The research is clear that there are groups that struggle more after release, but it also aligns with areas in the general Canadian population where we see challenges with employment and career transition. That's where general frameworks and strategies that recognize there are different groups that need to be treated differently should be a part of the strategy from the very beginning.
In terms of the service they receive, they need to start early and focus on how it's going to feel when they can no longer put their uniform on and introduce themselves with their rank and title. That focus on who they are is the very beginning part. That recognizes all the different pieces of their identity, including their family status, where they want to live, what part of the country they're in, and all those kinds of things, in addition to gender, number of years of service and medical status.
That's an excellent question.
Yes, something simple could be done: expand the meaning of the word "training". It is limited to something that leads to a diploma. That limits access to this envelope, which means that an application by a member of the military, for example, who wants access to the services we offer is going to fall through the cracks, because it is an employability preparedness program.
We have been in talks for two years now to find out how that can fit into the right slot. We are recognized by Revenu Québec as an educational institution that leads to achieving learning outcomes that enable the person to return to the labour market. Our one-year program does offer coaching, but, technically, it extends over 13 months. There are ten five-hour meetings.
At first, we talk about the identity aspect: who are they, beyond the uniform?
That enables the person to develop their psychosocial skills, for conversation and interpersonal relationships, whether with family or with other employees. Next comes the step where they have to ask themself questions; now that they are demobilized and have a bit of perspective, how can they get involved in something new? What are they going to say yes to, and why? What makes them feel valued for themself?
It is true that those are groups that the research shows struggle more. I'll also reiterate that those are the same groups that also struggle in general employment conditions across the country in different situations and are not veterans as well.
I will say that one of the programs we have implemented and run and that demonstrates a good, strong connection is where the programs are not “veteran only”, where we actually can be providing transition support services that combine both veterans and employers, who learn about each other together, at the same time. Women veterans going through the transition program have a chance to talk with others who are in human resources or in a company, so that the very first time the veterans—especially those who are in marginalized groups or groups that are struggling—have their first civilian career conversation is not at an interview.
The more that we can be integrating the populations and not isolating veterans as they go through the important identity work, psychosocial work and career exploration work, so that they know even where they want to go next, the stronger their sense of confidence will be and the better we'll prepare them.
I would say just about the same thing.
It's important to open up the conversation to make sure we create groups that are heterogeneous, and that's what we do, right? We put veterans who are in that transition process with athletes, with people from the business world and with artists as well. What happens and what they tell us is that they realize that the civilian world—those are the words they use—is not as bad as they would have expected.
At the same time, the ones who are civilians also get connected to the experience of veterans, and that opens up the conversation. That also makes them realize that in going through those struggles there's a certain level that's higher for veterans, based on their experience, but it's also similar to that of a lot of other people, and that breaks the isolation and really opens up the conversation.
That's one of the biggest points that we have to take into consideration: really opening up that conversation.
Thank you very much. I know that you time yourself. Thank you for exactly four minutes.
That's the end of this panel. I'm sorry for the interruption, and I'd like to offer that if you have any other information, please do not hesitate to send it to our clerk.
Ms. Lisa Taylor, president of Challenge Factory, thank you so much for coming.
I also want to thank Cassandra Poudrier, the executive director of Quatre-Chemins.
Thank you for coming.
I would also like to thank the analysts, the clerk, the technical team and our interpreters.
Is it the pleasure of the committee to adjourn the meeting?
There being no objections, the meeting is adjourned.