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.

Just Posted

Northwest B.C. wildlife shelter rescues particularly tiny bear cub

Shelter co-founder says the cub weighs less than a third of what it should at this time of year

Gitga’at and LNG Canada announce new Marine Emergency Response and Research Facility in Hartley Bay

LNG Canada providing financial support as committed in 2014 Impact Mitigation and Benefit Agreement

Former Burns Lake mayor gets two years for sexual assaults against minors

Banned from taking work involving young people for five years

Prince Rupert man who killed foster parents in 2017 receives three-year sentence

A Prince Rupert man convicted in the deaths of his foster parents… Continue reading

VIDEO: Federal Liberals’ throne speech welcomes opposition’s ideas

Trudeau will need NDP or Bloc support to pass legislation and survive confidence votes

VIDEO: John Lennon’s iconic Rolls Royce rolls into Vancouver Island college for checkup

Royal BC Museum, Camosun College and Coachwerks Restorations come together to care for car

VIDEO: Rockslide closes part of Highway 93 in Fairmont Hot Springs

Geotechnical team called in to do an assessment after rocks fell from hoodoos

Petition calls for appeal of ex-Burns Lake mayor’s sentence for sex assault

Prosecution service says Luke Strimbold’s case is under review

BC firefighters to help battle Australian bushfires

Canada sent 22 people, including 7 from B.C.

B.C. NDP touts the end of MSP premiums

Horgan, James held news conference to reiterate that people will get their last bill this month

Illicit drug deaths down, but B.C. coroner says thousands still overdose

Chief coroner Life Lapointe says province’s drug supply remains unpredictable

Trustees ask for more help after tearful meeting on B.C. school’s ‘toxic’ stench

Enforcement has ‘no teeth,’ school trustee says, while kids become sick

One of B.C’s last surviving strip clubs baring all again for Christmas charity

25th annual event is Sunday and raises money for the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows Christmas Hamper Society.

Most Read