January 8, 2017 12:20 pm
Updated: January 8, 2017 1:27 pm

Not helping veterans could turn into national security problem: Military Ombudsman

WATCH: Military Ombudsman Gary Walbourne tells Vassy Kapelos the government does not need to wait for its defence policy review to take action for military members and veterans who are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

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Canada’s approach to transitioning Canadian Forces members out of service is fundamentally flawed — and, if it’s not addressed, could lead to national security problems, said Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman Gary Walbourne.

The root of the problem is the fact many Forces members are released before adequate support is set up, he said in an interview on The West Block.

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“I think … the service delivery model we’re using for the transitioning member, I think it’s fundamentally flawed,” Walbourne said. “And I think the major flaw is that we release people before they’re ready or before the systems are in place to help them.”

READ MORE: Family ‘trying to hang in there’ following Nova Scotia murder-suicide

He says he’s already recommended that no member of the armed forces be released until all benefits, including pension and their contact with Veteran’s Affairs, are put in place.

“If we don’t change the position and the approach we have, I think the conversation is going to change away from transitioning members to national security,” he said.

“I do believe that if we could get back to that one recommendation of holding the member until everything was in place, I think we could have a different conversation next year.”

The apparent murder-suicide of a Nova Scotia veteran and his family last week left the country reeling.

Lionel Desmond shot and killed his wife Shanna, 10-year-old daughter Aaliyah and mother Brenda, before turning the gun on himself, RCMP say.

WATCH: Latest news on Lionel Desmond 

His family said he suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and sought help.

Asked why the recommendation hasn’t yet been considered, Walbourne said it’s up to the Forces to step up.

“I’m as beguiled and bewildered as you,” he said. “Why is that there’s a tragedy before we start having the conversation? Why aren’t we doing something different?”

He also said these changes could be implemented before the Defence Policy Review, which is expected to come out in the spring.

He says the changes he wants are “well within the purview of the authority of the Minister of the National Defence and the Chief of Defence Staff.

“So I don’t know why we need to wait for an overarching strategic document or I think we know what needs to be done. I’d just like to see some action.”

Recent reports say that at least 54 Canadian military members have committed suicide in the past three years.

Catherine Hartline, Desmond’s wife’s aunt told Global News Desmond had asked for help for his PTSD.

“He didn’t get the help. He should have had the professional help he needed and it was not done right away. When the man showed the signs he should have been put somewhere to have a full recovery,” Hartline said.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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