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Federal study will help women veterans — NDP Veterans Affairs critic

North Island-Powell River MP wants to look into women veterans’ experiences
Rachel Blaney speaks in the House of Commons on Oct. 3. Photo courtesy Youtube

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney is trying to help current and future women veterans, through a first-of-its-kind study about their experiences in Veterans Affairs.

More information must be collected about women’s unique experiences both during and after serving in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the RCMP if more women are going to be recruited, and much-needed cultural changes are going to take place within those organizations, a press release from Blaney’s office says.

The study was announced on Monday, April 17.

“Women who served our country risked their lives every day to protect Canadians,” said Blaney. “For decades governments have done nothing to check in with women in the Canadian Armed Forces. We really don’t have a lot of information on how they suffer from physical and mental illnesses differently, or how best to support them once they leave their jobs.”

The study will investigate the treatment of injuries and diseases that affect women differently, the mental and physical health aspects of veteran women, professional and economic challenges they face, retirement and the long-term care process and finally the initiatives that have been developed in other countries to help support women veterans.

Blaney says this study could help improve veterans’ services and future recruitment practices. According to employment statistic from the RCMP in 2022, women account for just over 21 per cent of active officers.

In the CAF, recruitment numbers show women making up only 16 per cent of new enrollment for the same year.

“We are not going to see the cultural shifts in the CAF or the RCMP that are badly needed unless we listen to women veterans’ stories. How were they treated when they served? What particular challenges did they face? And what are their struggles in accessing services as veterans?” asked Blaney. “If we want thing to change for the better, we have to start by asking women with lived experience to tell us how.”

Veterans also spoke to Blaney about their experiences with Veterans Affairs. Christine Wood is a former Air Force reservist and a survivor of military sexual trauma. She is also a veterans’ advocate.

“Veterans Affairs Canada has been the single greatest barrier to my recovery from PTSD because the department refuses to acknowledge the different ways that women experience and cope with pain, be it physical or mental,” Wood said. “The two cannot be separated, yet VAC’s outdated policies designed by and for men are not inclusive of women’s specific needs. In effect, waiting for help is killing me. Stress is physically destroying my body one system at a time. I don’t have much more to lose, and women veterans have everything to gain by finally receiving the focus and attention of this massive study being done by this committee.”

RELATED: LGBTQ2S+ veterans speak to Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs

North Island-Powell River MP questions federal government’s Veterans Affairs contract with Loblaw-owned company

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