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On the Homefront: Assessing the Well-being of Canada’s Military Families in the New Millennium

November 18, 2013 Comments off

On the Homefront: Assessing the Well-being of Canada’s Military Families in the New Millennium
Source: National Defence and Canadian Forces Ombudsman

Canadian military families have changed.
Canadian military families have changed, just as Canadian families generally have changed. Today’s CF family is patently different than that of previous generations – changes that in many ways reflect shifting Canadian societal norms and expectations. Increasingly, traditional family structures have given way to more complex and transitional arrangements.

Defining the modern family has become increasingly complex, and there is little consensus on a single characterization. This systemic review found that DND/CF does not have a single definition of ‘family,’ but rather uses multiple definitions depending on the policy, program or office.

Canadian military families are similar to civilian Canadian families, but differ in several distinctive ways.
Three characteristics shape the CF lifestyle for both serving members and their families. These impact the vast majority of serving members over major portions of their careers and are central to military life.

Mobility
Military families are required to geographically relocate on a recurring basis. These relocations occur at the discretion of the CF in response to its organizational and operational needs. The CF decides when a family will be posted, where it will be posted to, and the length of time it will spend there.

Most CF members relocate repeatedly throughout their military service to locations and during timeframes over which they have little input.

Separation
As with postings from one region to another, CF members are required to be away from their families frequently throughout much of their careers. These separations can last from a single day to up to 15 months at a time. Some CF members are away more often than others, though almost none are never away. Separation is an integral part of military life.

Risk
The notion of risk, including the possibility of permanent injury, illness or even death, is accepted as a central tenet of the profession of arms. Contrary to popular belief, this risk is not limited to far-flung missions. Preparing for combat operations requires intensive, realistic simulation, employed in all types of environments, conditions and scenarios, pushing individuals to their physical and mental limits. This can be a perilous combination, and training injuries and deaths do occur despite the many precautions and safety measures put in place.

In isolation, none of these three characteristics is unique to CF members and their families. When combined, the distinctiveness of the military career becomes more obvious. Few occupations or professions expose the overwhelming majority of its people to recurring geographic relocation, relentless separation and elevated levels of risk as a matter of course throughout much of their careers.

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CA — Communications Security Establishment Commissioner: 2012-2013 Annual Report

September 5, 2013 Comments off

Communications Security Establishment Commissioner: 2012-2013 Annual Report
Source: Office of the Communications Security Establishment Commissioner

Each year, I provide an overall statement on my findings about the lawfulness of CSEC activities. With the exception of one review described below — in which I was unable to reach a definitive conclusion about compliance or non-compliance with the law for certain CSEC foreign signals intelligence activities — all of the activities of CSEC reviewed this past year complied with the law.

As well, this year, I made four recommendations to promote compliance with the law and to strengthen privacy protection. The recommendations, which are described in the following review summaries, relate to reinforcing policy guidance and expanding an existing practice on privacy protection to other circumstances, as well as providing the Federal Court of Canada with certain additional evidence about the nature and extent of the assistance CSEC may provide to CSIS.

Additionally, I forwarded to the Chair of SIRC, for information, certain general points relating to CSIS that arose out of the recommendations I made and that SIRC may wish to examine as it deems appropriate. This demonstrates how existing review bodies can, in the spirit of the recommendations of the commission of inquiry led by the Honourable Justice Dennis O’Connor, collaborate under existing legislation in the conduct of reviews of activities involving more than one security and intelligence agency.

Two reviews this year — the review of certain foreign signals intelligence activities and the review of CSEC assistance to CSIS under part (c) of CSEC’s mandate and sections 12 and 21 of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (CSIS Act) — identified the absence of certain historical information in a CSEC system and database relating to foreign signals intelligence collection. This system and database support the process by which CSEC determines that entities of foreign intelligence interest are indeed foreign and located outside of Canada, as required by the National Defence Act. The absence of the information limited my ability to assess the lawfulness of the CSEC activities in question, and could also affect review of other activities of CSEC. Due to the seriousness of this development, I directed my employees to conduct an in-depth examination of the issue to determine the implications and advise on a resolution. This issue added to the time required to complete these two reviews. It is encouraging that CSEC has already taken action and continues to do so to ensure the availability of information that is required for accountability and to demonstrate compliance with the law. The Commissioner’s office will monitor developments.

In last year’s annual report, I expressed frustration about a reduction in CSEC support to my office resulting in excessive delays in being able to proceed with some reviews. CSEC has taken steps to correct this situation and I am optimistic that these will result in a productive year ahead.

Canada — From Combat Stress to Operational Stress: The CF’s Mental Health Lessons from the “Decade of Darkn ess.”

December 13, 2012 Comments off

From Combat Stress to Operational Stress: The CF’s Mental Health Lessons from the “Decade of Darkness.” (PDF)

Source: Canadian Military Journal

Today, the care provided for members of the Canadian Forces (CF) and veterans who experience mental health problems as a result of military service is arguably as good as it has ever been in our history. This enviable situation came about because of many improvements to the ways the Department of National Defence (DND) and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) treat those with mental health problems, based upon lessons learned from the ‘Decade of Darkness’ – a time in the 1990s when the CF’s reputation in this area was at a historic low. The publication in 2000 of the findings of the Croatia Board of Inquiry (Croatia BOI) was the catalyst for many of these changes. It drew public attention to the shameful way Canada treated its wounded service personnel, suffering from both physical and mental wounds, in economically challenging times. Together, these changes resulted in a paradigm shift in how those suffering from mental health-related problems were dealt with by DND and VAC. The adoption by the CF of the term “Operational Stress Injury” (OSI), to encompass a wide range of mental health issues, and to reduce the stigma associated with mental illness, was symbolic of this paradigm shift, and it represents the progress made in addressing these issues.

However, the CF and veterans may be facing a new decade of darkness, as ominous economic circumstances and declining government support for the military have already reduced funding to all government programs, but especially defence – the government’s largest discretionary expenditure.5 This is to be expected, given the cyclical nature of public support for defence spending in Canada and that fact that, “Defence policy will receive, except in emergencies, what funds that are available and not funds white papers and rational strategies and commitments demand…” These cuts have already affected both serving members’ and veterans’ health programs. Furthermore, these cuts only address the current deficit in government spending, and it is widely recognized that, in the face of future efforts to reduce the national debt, current long-range defence spending plans are “unaffordable.”

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