Veterans minister looking into payment for killer's PTSD treatment

The minister responsible for veterans affairs says he's going to look into why a man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in Halifax is receiving post-traumatic stress disorder treatment paid for by his department.

Seamus O'Regan indicates surprise at case, but also support for policy in general

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan says he's going to look into why his department is paying for the psychological treatment of a convicted murderer who did not serve in the military. (Danny Arsenault/CBC)

The minister responsible for veterans affairs says he's going to look into why a man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in Halifax is receiving post-traumatic stress disorder treatment paid for by his department.

"I think I reacted like most Canadians reacted — how could this happen? How could this happen? And we are going to look into how and why this decision was made," Seamus O'Regan told CBC News ahead of a veterans town hall meeting in St. John's on Wednesday evening.

Christopher Garnier, 30, of Halifax, was convicted in December of second-degree murder for killing Catherine Campbell. ​An expert at the trial testified Garnier developed PTSD as a direct result of strangling Campbell.

Christopher Garnier, seen here on Nov. 21, 2017, was convicted of second-degree murder in the 2015 death of off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Garnier's father served in the military and said in court that he also has PTSD. He was able to use his mental health benefits through Veterans Affairs Canada to get treatment for his son.

Ahead of the town hall, O'Regan also acknowledged the issue on Twitter.

"While I completely understand people's frustration with this story, these supports for family members are not new — they've been in place for many years," he wrote on Wednesday. "I will be looking into how and why this decision was made."

O'Regan tweeted there was a silver lining to the backlash.

​"Even in the past few days, as people are reacting to this story, we've been able to connect more veterans and their families with mental health supports," he said.

Veterans Affairs has been funding treatment for Garnier from a private psychologist. The court heard during proceedings that because Garnier's father also has PTSD, getting treatment for his son helps them both, and Veterans Affairs covers the psychological help.

Earlier, Veterans Affairs said it stood by its policy in paying for Garnier's treatment.

While she wouldn't directly comment on Garnier's situation, citing privacy reasons, the chief of psychiatry for Veterans Affairs said the benefits aim to help the rehabilitation of veterans by supporting their families.

O'Regan echoed that sentiment.

"What I can say is that we have a policy at Veterans Affairs Canada, that when we are helping a veteran, for instance, with PTSD, we are there not only for them but for their family," O'Regan said.

"And if by counselling, helping their family, helps the veteran — then we will do that."

O'Regan said each case the department handles is dealt with on an individual basis. He said individual situations come down to the psychiatrist, the mental health professional, the veteran and their family.

With files from Danny Arsenault