Politics

Military ombudsman worries for grieving families

Canada's military ombudsman says he's troubled by how the Department of National Defence has treated families mourning the deaths of loved ones who served in uniform.
Soldiers carry the body of Trooper Karine Blais during her funeral in Les Méchins, Que., in 2009. Canada's military ombudsman says grieving military families often don't get the information or support needed to deal with a loved one's death. ((Clement Allard/Canadian Press))

Canada's military ombudsman says he's troubled by how the Department of National Defence has treated families mourning the deaths of loved ones who served in uniform. Pierre Daigle spoke at an Ottawa news conference Thursday about DND's handling of families who have lost a military member in combat or off-duty.

                     
 Read the Ombudsman's message about military families

Canada has no national policy on dealing with military families, and as a result, those who are grieving often don't get the information or support needed to deal with death, Daigle said.

In some cases, families have waited for years for details about the death of loved ones, a delay that is totally unacceptable, according to the ombudsman.

Military ombudsman Pierre Daigle is troubled by how the Department of National Defence deals with grieving military families. ((Canadian Press))

Daigle has been trying to help six families who are struggling with bureaucratic red tape and delays.

"It's not very complicated," Daigle said. "All we ask is when a family suffers the loss of a loved one, that we give the family as much information as possible." 

"This doesn't cost much. They come to us, they need closure. Give them all they need to know, all they want to know until the board of inquiry is done."

Daigle said that families should also have the right to formal standing at boards of inquiry that investigate deaths.

"We inquired about our being present at the board of inquiry, and we were outright refused. That was never explained," said Paul Gibson.  Gibson' son, Cpl. Stephen Gibson, was killed in a car accident seven years ago on his first day on the job as a military police officer in southern Alberta.

The Gibsons had to fight for a copy of the inquiry’s final report. They said they received it five years later and that it was incomplete.

The ombudsman has written to Defence Minister Peter MacKay four times about his concerns, and said he hasn't received a satisfying response.

MacKay told reporters on Thursday that he has told a senior officer to deal with these specific cases and he called the families today. 

"The families need to be satisfied that they've been treated fairly, but you know, investigations take time," MacKay said.

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