July 7, 2018 2:07 pm
Updated: July 7, 2018 4:06 pm

Peter Watts: A new initiative to ease relocation of military families in Canada

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan displays his service medals as he leaves a ceremony in which the Royal Canadian Air Force were presented with new ceremonial flags in Toronto on Friday, September 1, 2017.

The Canadian Press/Chris Young

Canada’s defense minister, Harjit Sajjan, has brought together representatives of the federal, provincial and territorial governments on behalf of military families.

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“We’ve begun a discussion to try and improve the coordination of services across Canada,” he told me. “Throughout their careers, Canadian military members are required to relocate to bases and wings across the country. When a family moves, there are questions to be addressed. Where do the children go to school? Do I need a new health card? Can my spouse get a new driver’s license?

“We’re calling this initiative Seamless Canada. We hope it will help families adjust to a move so that the service member can concentrate on his or her duties and not worry about what is happening at home.

“We think the Seamless Canada initiative will help Canada’s Armed Forces to retain its most talented members while ensuring their well-being and that of those closest to them.”

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In the years following 9-11 and especially Afghanistan, Canada’s military has been accorded more respect and support by ordinary Canadians. There is a fistful of events and organizations across the country working through the Military Family Resource Centre to provide assistance. The Breakfast on the Bridge event held every year in June in Calgary has raised half a million dollars to support this enterprise.

On Monday, Alberta’s military liaison to the Canadian Armed Forces, MLA Nicole Goehring, will announce a new pilot project to support military families moving to Alberta. With the garrison in Edmonton and with extensive military bases in Wainright and at Suffield, there is a constant flow of troops and families through those facilities.

“Whatever we can do to ease the stress and make it easier for families, is a priority of this government,” the Minister told me.

It might seem like a series of small things. But if it makes a positive difference in the lives of those who serve, then it is well worth the effort and cost. Alberta and New Brunswick have been the leaders of this program so far. Let us hope that, in the case of Alberta, that leadership continues.

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