Speaking in Stephenville, N.L., on Tuesday during a trip with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, Trudeau noted an investigation is underway into the incident, which has sparked anger toward the government department assigned to provide supports to former military members.
“That is not the duty of care we have toward veterans,” the prime minister told reporters.
“There is a full investigation going on as to how that happened, and we are going to ensure it never happens again.”
The remarks were Trudeau’s first since Global News reported on Aug. 16 that a VAC service agent had brought up medically-assisted dying, unprompted, during a conversation with a combat veteran who was seeking treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.
Global News is not identifying the veteran who was seeking treatment due to privacy concerns but has spoken directly with the individual, who says the service agent brought up MAiD repeatedly, even after the veteran asked the service agent to stop.
The veteran said he felt pressured as a result.
VAC said last week it was looking into the matter and promised the “appropriate administrative actions” would be taken, without providing further details.
On Aug. 19, a spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said that the minister “has directed his Deputy Minister to undertake a full and thorough investigation into this matter.”
MacAulay is also ordering that “all front line staff at Veterans Affairs Canada are given formal training, direction, and advice on how to approach issues around MAiD,” the statement added.
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The department and its staff do not have the ability to provide the resources for an assisted death, which under Canadian law can only be discussed between a primary care provider like a physician or psychiatrist and their patient.
Veterans advocates have raised serious concerns about the mental health impact of even raising the subject with veterans, particularly those already suffering from traumatic brain injuries and PTSD.
The Conservatives have called for a public inquiry into the incident to determine if the offer of MAiD has been made to any other veteran seeking care — and whether any veterans acted on such a suggestion.
Tweets by anti-racism consultant 'reprehensible'
Trudeau was also asked about the other controversy swirling around his government, after Ottawa suspended funding to an anti-racism project over what have been called antisemitic tweets by a senior consultant involved in the strategy.
The prime minister also called those comments “absolutely unacceptable” as well as “reprehensible,” and promised his government will press for further action.
“We will continue to follow up, because that is not something that we can accept as a government,” he said.
The Community Media Advocacy Centre, which had been tasked with building an anti-racism strategy for Canadian broadcasting, had received $133,000 from the Heritage Department that has now been frozen, Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen said Monday.
Hussen called the tweets sent by Laith Marouf, a senior consultant on the project, antisemitic as well as “reprehensible and vile.” He called on the centre to explain how they hired Marouf and how they plan on rectifying the situation.
Marouf’s lawyer draws a distinction between his client’s tweets about people he calls “Jewish white supremacists” and Jews in general, saying Marouf harbours no animus toward the Jewish faith as a collective group.
A screenshot of one of Marouf’s tweets reads, “You know all those loud mouthed bags of human feces, aka the Jewish White Supremacists; when we liberate Palestine and they have to go back to where they come from, they will return to being low voiced bitches of thier (sic) Christian/Secular White Supremacist Masters.”
Trudeau was wrapping up a three-day trip with Scholz that included the signing of a hydrogen supply agreement and meetings with Canadian and German business leaders.
— with files from Global News’ Mercedes Stephenson and Amanda Connolly