Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets’ relatives

Liberal government ordered officials to adopt a more critical eye

The Trudeau government sought to defuse weeks of outrage by ordering officials to adopt a more critical eye before approving funds and services for the family member of veterans — particularly relatives convicted of serious crimes.

Yet it wasn’t immediately clear what impact the order will have on the case of Christopher Garnier, the Halifax man convicted last year of killing an off-duty police officer whose receipt of financial assistance for PTSD treatment from Veterans Affairs Canada has sparked widespread anger.

A Halifax court heard last month that Veterans Affairs Canada was covering the cost of Garnier’s psychologist because his father was a veteran who has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

The revelation that taxpayers were footing the bill for Garnier’s treatment has sparked widespread condemnation, and Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan promised last month to look into how and why the decision was made.

RELATED: Ottawa proposes $100M class-action settlement for disabled vets

On Tuesday, he told the House he had reviewed the findings and was directing official “to ensure that services received by a family member of a veteran are related to the veterans’ service and where they are not, that they be reviewed by a senior official.

“I am directing the department to immediately address its policy on providing treatment to family members under extenuating circumstances,” he added, “such as conviction of such a serious crime.”

The minister also said benefits will not be provided to a veteran’s family member who is incarcerated in a federal facility; responsibility for the provision of such services rests with Correctional Services Canada.

But when it came to Garnier’s benefits, O’Regan repeatedly cited privacy considerations for refusing to discuss the case while indicating the order would not be retroactive.

“The policy is to provide scrutiny with all future decisions,” O’Regan said outside the Commons. “All future decisions will now have an elevated level of scrutiny when we are dealing particularly with extenuating circumstances like this.”

Liberals subsequently voted down a symbolic Conservative motion demanding an immediate end to the provision of Veterans Affairs benefits to Garnier, who never served in uniform.

The minister also sidestepped a reporter’s questions about whether the new policy would prevent similar situations in the future if the department deemed the relative of a veteran should get benefits.

“I’m not going to get into hypotheticals,” O’Regan said.

Conservatives appeared unimpressed with the move. During a heated question period — and on social media — several Tory MPs demanded the government take immediate action by stripping Garnier of his current benefits.

RELATED: Veterans still facing difficulty accessing benefits, ombudsman says

Garnier, 30, was convicted in December of murdering 36-year-old Catherine Campbell, an off-duty Truro police officer and dumping her body in a compost bin, and his lawyer had argued his client’s mental illness was brought on by the murder.

His conviction carries an automatic life sentence, but a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice ruled last month that he would be able to apply for parole after serving 13 1/2 years — less 699 days for time served.

The Halifax man has since appealed his sentence, calling it “manifestly excessive.” He had also earlier appealed his conviction, in part because he says police interview tactics elicited a false confession.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Strathcona Regional District has applied again for funding for RE-CREATE project. File photo
Second round of grant funding ‘last chance hotel’ for Strathcona Gardens reno — Commissioner

Commission thinks streamlined application, lower funding ask gives better shot at success

Brighter Day, a youth-led initiative based out of Volunteer Campbell River, is looking to connect seniors and youth with a new pen pal program to help make everyone more connected during this socially-distanced time. Photo by Mike Davies/Campbell River Mirror
New pen-pal program looks to connect seniors and youth in Campbell River

Hope is to ‘make both parties feel less isolated through these challenging times’

As part of NSG, the Vancouver Foundation recently awarded a grant to an Abbotsford resident to organize a socially distanced driveway dinner party for neighbours to get to know each other. Grant applications for such projects can be made with the Campbell River Community Foundation before Oct.26, by residents of Sayward, Quadra and Campbell River. (Neighbourhood Small Grant photo)
Campbell River Community Foundation announces its first Neighbourhood Small Grants program

Grants up to $500 available for projects that comply with physical distancing guidelines from Campbell River, Sayward, Quadra among others

Village of Sayward
Mayoral candidates announced for Sayward ahead of Nov. 21 local byelections

The three positions that will be filled includes a mayor and two councillors

Campbell River Arts Council Executive Director Ken Blackburn was one of a dozen or so divers who took part in the McIvor Lake cleanup day put on by the Campbell River Tide Rippers dive club Oct. 4. Photo courtesy Campbell River Tide Rippers
Campbell River dive club takes 200kg of trash out of McIvor Lake

‘Sometimes we come across things that make you wonder what people were thinking’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry presents modelling of COVID-19 spread in B.C., March 25, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. sets another COVID-19 record with 203 new cases

up to 1,766 active cases in B.C., two more deaths

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
British Columbia man dies during ski trip near glacier west of Calgary

Kananaskis Public Safety and Alpine Helicopters responded around 2:30 p.m.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrives on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Monday, Oct. 19, 2020, following a week-long break for the House of Commons. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
One crisis after another for Trudeau since last federal election one year ago

It has been a year of unprecedented calamity and crisis

Members of the Sipekne’katik First Nation load lobster traps on the wharf in Saulnierville, N.S., after launching its own self-regulated fishery on Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Vancouver Island First Nations back Nova Scotia’s Indigenous lobster fishermen

Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council calls for action before lives are lost

Skiers line up to start the Royal LePage Comox Valley Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race. Photo by Tim Penney
Popular Comox Valley adventure race cancelled for 2021

COVID forces Comox Valley Royal LePage Snow to Surf Adventure Relay Race cancellation again

Most Read