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Pilot project aims to provide support for N.S. veterans facing incarceration

A veteran adjusts his medals in this 2014 file photo. Officials are hoping the province's new pilot project can help support veterans who end up in contact with the justice system.
A veteran adjusts his medals in this 2014 file photo. Officials are hoping the province's new pilot project can help support veterans who end up in contact with the justice system. Ryan Remiroz/Canadian Press/File

A pilot project is set to get underway in Nova Scotia to provide additional support to veterans who come in contact with the criminal justice system.

The Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative was announced Thursday by federal Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr. The initiative is a partnership between Veterans Affairs Canada and the Nova Scotia Mental Health Court.

According to a news release, the goal is to “better identify, track and explore alternatives to incarceration.”

“Unfortunately, due to the often-traumatic nature of their service, we’re seeing more and more veterans in this type of situation,” said Pamela Williams, chief judge of the Provincial and Family Court of Nova Scotia.

In a 2015 study by Correctional Service Canada, approximately three per cent of federally incarcerated individuals identify themselves as veterans.

The partnership will work with both veterans as well as law enforcement, and justice and correctional systems representatives in Nova Scotia to “help them understand the unique challenges faced by veterans” who are living with operational stress injuries that are a result of their service.

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Hehr said in the release that should the pilot project be a success in Nova Scotia, his department will pursue similar partnerships across the country. He said he will be in contact soon with officials in other jurisdictions to “gauge their interest.”

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