An arrangement by Veterans Affairs Canada to help cover the PTSD treatments of a convicted murderer — a man who never served in the military — is prompting outrage among veterans’ advocates and members of his victim’s family.
Last year Christopher Garnier, 30, was convicted of second-degree murder in the strangling death of off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell, 36.
Campbell’s body was found in September 2015 underneath the Macdonald Bridge in Halifax.
At his parole eligibility hearing, Garnier’s lawyer filed documents arguing he was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of Campbell’s death.
Testimony from an expert during the same hearing revealed that the treatment is being covered by Veterans Affairs Canada, the federal department that is responsible for benefits and services provided to veterans, as a result of his father’s status as a veteran.
The court heard Vince Garnier, who had served in the Canadian Forces also suffers from PTSD and that getting treatment for his son helps both of them.
It’s a decision that has not been welcomed by veterans advocates.
“I’m outraged. Quite simply outraged,” said Colin Saunders, a retired sergeant in the Canadian Armed Forces.
“How is it that veterans are waiting a year or a year-plus to get treatment, some of whom who never do, but we have a guy who has committed murder and is now getting treatment on behalf of Veteran Affairs.”
Veterans Affairs Canada said they are not able to comment on a specific case as they are legally bound to protect client privacy and confidentially but said that the organization does provide services to veteran’s family members.
“When a man or woman serves in Canada’s armed forces or the RCMP, their whole family serves with them. That is why the government of Canada has made it a priority to not only improve benefits and services for our nation’s veterans, but for their families as well,” the statement read.
“Access for family members of veterans to counselling and other services may be provided in circumstances where it is determined that the provision of these services will assist the veterans in achieving their rehabilitation goals.”
Veterans Affairs also provides marital counselling, family counselling, and access to social work services on a short-term basis.
Saunders says the decision to provide Christopher Garnier with treatment should not be backed by Veterans Affairs.
“The onus is on the family members to prove that it somehow benefits the member as well and a lot of the time guys are getting denied. I really am shocked, truly shocked that someone who committed murder is getting help and our tax dollars are paying for it,” he said.
LISTEN: ‘The veteran community is outraged,’ said retired Sgt. Colin Saunders
Campbell’s aunt wrote in a Facebook post that veterans should be outraged by the incident.
“There are actual veterans who returned from war, or multiple wars and they are killing themselves because they can’t get help for the PTSD they suffer from through no fault of their own,” Mandy Reekie Wong wrote on Aug. 14., the day of Garnier’s eligibility hearing.
During his trial, Garnier repeatedly told the jury he did not remember using a large green compost bin to dispose of the body near the bridge, where it stayed undetected for nearly five days.
The 30-year-old was also sentenced to serve a concurrent four-year sentence for performing an indignity to human remains as a result of his actions.
He had met Campbell for the first time that night at a downtown Halifax bar, and hours later she was dead in a north end apartment.
“On Sept. 11, 2015, as shown on the surveillance video from the Alehouse, Catherine Campbell was expecting romance and affection on the evening she was murdered. She was vulnerable,” said Justice Joshua Arnold in his decision.
“For reasons unknown, Mr. Garnier punched her in the face, broke her nose, strangled her to death, and then, in an effort to hide his crime, treated her remains like garbage.”
Earlier this month Garnier was sentenced to life in prison, with parole eligibility set at 13.5 years.
Garnier is appealing his conviction.