The federal Veterans Affairs Department handling of the Garnier matter is a real case of making a bad situation even worse.
Christopher Garnier is the young man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer in Halifax a couple of years ago. At his sentencing, Garnier sought leniency due to suffering PTSD brought on by the trauma of the murder.
There was a significant outcry when it was discovered that the Veterans Affairs Department was covering the cost of his counselling services for the PTSD because his father was a veteran and was receiving treatment for PTSD as well.
Under information released to the Canadian Press under the Freedom to Information Act, it was revealed that dependants of veterans are entitled to receive services as well, as long as the services “address the impacts that the patient's (veteran's) mental health condition is having on the other members of the family unit.” In other words, the family members can receive help to help them understand the veteran's issues.
The FOI documents reveal a concentrated effort to try and develop a credible statement of policy in defence of the younger Garnier receiving the benefit from DVA. Everyone from the deputy Minister down was offering opinion on what might be acceptable to say, with the bottom line being the assertion that family members were only ever granted access to services to “recognizing the important part they play in supporting…veterans.” It is clear that benefits were never intended to cover a dependant whose own actions, such as killing someone, brought on their own PTSD.
Then the DVA minister stepped into the fray and announced that the department would no longer provide any services to veterans' dependants who were incarcerated in federal institutions. So much for the policy of assistance in helping a veterans family address their loved ones issues.
Rather that circling the wagons to protect their rear ends on this one they managed to circle the firing squad and shoot themselves in the foot, making a bad situation even worse.
Frank Likely is a retired Anglican minister who lives in Springhill