Boards of Inquiry - What happens after a Canadian Armed Forces member dies?
The contents of this series on a Military Casualty are for general information only and are not meant to take the place of competent legal advice. The contents are not a complete statement of the law or policy in these areas.
The purpose of this education piece is to:
- Provide an overview of what happens after a Canadian Armed Forces member dies from the point of view of the family.1
- Describe what documents speak on the member’s behalf after he or she dies and how often these documents need to be updated.
- Provide additional information in the “Did You Know” section.
What is a military casualty?
A military casualty is the term used to describe a Canadian Armed Forces member who is ill or injured, reported missing, who is killed or who dies,2 while serving in the Canadian military.
Although the majority of serving members will have a successful career and never be seriously injured or die while serving, the risk still exists.
Canadian Armed Forces members should be prepared for all eventualities; they should keep their documents up to date as well as keep a copy of their documents. Canadian Armed Forces members should inform the persons close to them of the location of the documents.
What happens after a Canadian Armed Forces member dies?
Following the death of a Canadian Armed Forces member, there is a series of events/processes that the surviving family will typically experience:
1. Notification of the Emergency Contact (normally within 24 hours of a Canadian Armed Forces member’s death).3 The Commanding Officer, or his or her representative, and a chaplain will notify the Canadian Armed Forces member’s emergency contact, as designated by the Canadian Armed Forces member in the Emergency Contact(s) Notification (CF 742 Form). Should the emergency contact be located at a great distance from any Canadian Armed Forces unit, the notification is made by local clergy and federal offices, such as Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or provincial/municipal officials.Footnote 4
If a Canadian Armed Forces member choses the option “do not notify”, only written correspondence will be exchanged with any next of kin. In the event that a civilian police force and/or medical organization did provide the initial notification (after a car accident, for example), the Commanding Officer’s responsibility will be to determine the actions taken by that civilian organization and either confirm or complete the notification process based on the Canadian Armed Forces Emergency Contact(s) Notification (CF 742 Form).Footnote 5
2. A Designated Assistant is assigned to the next of kin (as soon as possible after notification). The Designated Assistant is a Canadian Armed Forces member tasked to be the main point of contact between the military and the next of kin as designated in the Next of kin (NOK) Identification (DND 2587 Form). The Designated Assistant, in collaboration with the Chaplain, provides administrative support regarding benefits (funeral arrangements and burial), and advice on services such as peer support and referral to professional counseling, and assists in obtaining those services. He or she also assists the next of kin with travel arrangements and claimsFootnote 6 related to military funeral and attending meetings of a board of inquiry, for example.Footnote 7
3. The Designated Assistant informs the family of available supports:
Peer support through Helping Our Peers by Providing Empathy (HOPE).Footnote 8 The family may be contacted by a peer or choose to make contact themselves. The HOPE program endeavors to match peers with volunteers who share a similar set of circumstances and experiences to the extent possible.Footnote 9 Bereaved family members can find a HOPE representative in their community by calling 1-800-883-6094 or by email HOPE-ESPOIR@forces.gc.ca.
Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program Bereavement Services is a 24 hour, bilingual telephone service, available 365 days a year to a parent, a spouse, children and step children, a fiancé, and any other person of significance to Canadian Armed Forces members who died while serving. These services provide access to a professional counsellor by telephone from anywhere at any time. An appointment will be arranged within a maximum of 48 hours. Short and long-term counselling options are available and are free of charge.Footnote 10
For more information or an appointment, call 1-800-268-7708, or 1-800-567-5803 for the hearing impaired.
4. Funeral and Burial ArrangementsFootnote 11 are coordinated with the assistance of the Designated Assistant and the Chaplain. The Director Casualty Support Management administers funeral expenses, family travel expenses, and headstones. Director Casualty Support Management staff can be reached at 1-800-883-6094.Footnote 12
5. Possible Investigations and Board of Inquiry.Footnote 13
In addition to casualty administration, three different investigations can take place. In case of:
- Sudden death. “The Canadian Forces National Investigation Service investigates all sudden deaths which occur within their jurisdiction. The investigator gathers evidence and works with the coroner who then determines the cause of death. These investigations are conducted in accordance with Canadian police standards. Sudden deaths outside of Canadian Forces National Investigation Service jurisdiction are investigated by local police authorities.”Footnote 14
- Suicide. “In the event of a Canadian Armed Forces member’s suicide, within a few days after the death, the Canadian Forces Health Services conducts a medical review, often before confirmation from a coroner is received by the Canadian Armed Forces. This is usually followed by the initiation of a Medical Professional Technical Suicide Review. This is an in-depth medical review conducted by a two-person team typically composed of a General Duty Medical Officer and a psychiatrist. These clinicians interview family, friends, colleagues, the chain of command, and health care providers in order to gain an understanding of the circumstances surrounding the death. Lessons learned can be used to improve the Canadian Armed Forces suicide prevention program or other health services programs.Footnote 15
- Deaths. A Board of Inquiry is convened within 30 days of the death of a Canadian Armed Forces member and generally completed within nine to 12 months. “Boards of Inquiry are used to determine: the cause and contributing factors of the death; whether the deceased officer or non-commissioned member was on duty at the time of the death; and whether the death was attributable to military service.”Footnote 16
The Canadian Armed Forces member’s personal representative is notified by a letter that a Board of Inquiry will be convened and the Board of Inquiry president meets with the member’s representative to explain the process, discuss the participation, timelines and type of information that can be expected. The president provides updates and also discusses the release of a severed copy of the report at the final briefing.Footnote 17 The report is severed in accordance with the Access to Information and Privacy Act.
6. The family support is transferred from the Designated Assistant to the Integrated Personnel Support Centre Services Manager and the Military Family Liaison Officer (generally for one month following the Canadian Armed Forces member’s death, up to a maximum of three months). This process is referred to as the “Designated Assistant Disengagement” phase.
7. Board of Inquiry Report (within nine to 12 months after the Board of Inquiry was convened). This is the final briefing with the Board of Inquiry president.
“Upon being notified by the Approving Authority that the report has been approved, the Convening Authority will prepare a letter of Board of Inquiry completion for the Canadian Armed Forces member’s representative. This letter will provide a short synopsis of the investigation and review process, including any non-concurrence by the convening or approving authorities with respect to the findings or recommendations.
The Convening Authority who orders the Board of Inquiry will then task the president to do the following:
- formally meet with the Canadian Armed Forces member’s representative;
- provide the Canadian Armed Forces member’s representative with the letter of completion;
- provide the Canadian Armed Forces member’s representative with a severed copy of the investigation report (less annexes), and severed copies of (as legally required by the Access to Information and Privacy Act) associated approval and endorsement letters; and
- answer questions that the Canadian Armed Forces member’s representative may have.”Footnote 18
8. The Integrated Personnel Support Centre remains the point of access for support to bereaved families, for as long as needed. The Integrated Personnel Support Centres are a network of “one-stop” support centres that provide ill, injured, or fallen Canadian Armed Forces members and their families access to comprehensive, standardized, and coordinated support services, regardless of location.
The contacts and different locations are available at: http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/caf-community-support-services-casualty-support/contact-info.page
What documents speak on behalf of a Canadian Armed Forces member after he or she dies?
Canadian Armed Forces members are required to complete specific forms that direct casualty support delivery should they die or become seriously ill or injured. The member chooses who will be a beneficiary, who the Canadian Armed Forces will invite to attend any Board of Inquiry, and who will have access to benefits and services.
1–Emergency Contact(s) Notification (Form CF 742)
- Is to identify up to three persons whom the Canadian Armed Forces member wishes to be notified, in order of priority in the event of his or her death, of a serious illness or injury or if he or she is reported missing.
- These persons must be of 18 years or older.
- Should a Canadian Armed Forces member not want anyone to be immediately notified, the member will check the box indicating “DO NOT NOTIFY”.Footnote 19 If this option is chosen, only written correspondence will be forwarded to any next of kin the member has identified in the Next of Kin (NOK) Identification (DND 2587 Form). This includes communication regarding events, memorials, and initiatives related to the member’s death, or injury, for issuing commemoratives of service, and providing access to bereavement services. When completing this form, the member should discuss the choices for notification (or choice not to notify) with the persons who are closest to him/her.
2–Next of Kin (NOK) Identification (DND 2587 Form)
- Is to identify whom the Canadian Armed Forces member considers to be his or her next of kin. Usually the Canadian Armed Forces member considers someone from his or her immediate family or persons closest to him or her. These persons may or may not include blood relatives and may include minors.
- “The CAF member must check one of the mandatory checkboxes: I designate my next of kin in Section 3 or I decline to designate any next of kin”.Footnote 20
- The next of kin should be identified in order of importance beginning with the next of kin identified as the first on the form as the most important.
- The Canadian Armed Forces will use the information on this form in the event of the Canadian Armed Forces member’s death, or very serious illness or injury.
- Uses may include but are not limited to:
- sending the next of kin letters of condolence
- notifying the next of kin of events, memorials, and initiatives related to the member’s death or injury
- issuing to the next of kin commemoratives of the member’s service
- providing access to bereavement services for the next of kin
- determining next of kin under any regulation or instruction under the National Defence Act
- other uses consistent with the above.
Note: There may be a limit to the number of letters and commemoratives that are sent out by the Canadian Armed Forces. Some benefits and services may be limited by Treasury Board guidelines.Footnote 21
3–Will (DAOD Form 7012-1A, CF 30-1) and Affidavit of Execution of Will (DAOD Form 7012-1B, CF 30-2)Footnote 22
- Is to appoint the executor and trustee liquidator of the succession, who will pay all funeral expenses, debts, and taxes of the deceased Canadian Armed Forces member.
- To determine items of the property the executor shall transfer to beneficiaries and to pay or transfer the remainder of the deceased Canadian Armed Forces member’s estate.
4–Will Certificate (DAOD Form 7012-1C, CF 30-3)Footnote 23
- Is “to be completed by all Canadian Armed Forces members on enrolment, or if the will or its location is changed.
- Is to provide a record, as applicable, that a Canadian Armed Forces member:
- does not wish to complete a will; or
- has a will but has decided not to place it with the Canadian Armed Forces for safekeeping; or
- has a marriage or civil union contract that contains testamentary dispositions; or
- has not made a will because the Canadian Armed Forces member resides in the province of Quebec and has not reached the age of majority.”Footnote 24
5–Supplementary Death Benefits Plan (DND 497 Form)
or Death Gratuity–Reserve ForceFootnote 25
- Is to designate, change, or cancel a beneficiary. Should a Canadian Armed Forces member wish to cancel a previous beneficiary, he or she must submit a new form.
- Only one beneficiary may be named at a time.
- A beneficiary can be designated or changed at any given time, as often as a Canadian Armed Forces member wishes.
- The beneficiary must be over 18 years of age on the date of naming.
- Other possible beneficiaries:
- The Canadian Armed Forces member’s estate;
- Any registered charitable or benevolent organization or institution (name, address and registration number of the institution are required); or
- Any religious or educational organization (name and address are required).
6–Designation of Memorial Cross Recipients (DND 2105 Form)
- The Memorial Cross is granted as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice with respect to the death of a member or former member of the Canadian Armed Forces resulting from an injury or disease related to military service.
There are specific eligibility criteria detailed on the Memorial Cross page.
- A maximum of three persons can be designated.
- A Canadian Armed Forces member may complete a new form at any given time.
7–Life insurance (if applicable)
- Private or
- Service Income Security Insurance Plan Term Life InsuranceFootnote 26
- Life insurance is not mandatory. Insurance can be purchased by Canadian Armed Forces members.
How frequently do Canadian Armed Forces Members update their documents?
With the exception of the life insurance, Canadian Armed Forces members are required to update these forms at least once a year.Footnote 27Footnote 28 Base and Wing support staff are responsible for assisting members with the proper completion of these forms. This process is called the Annual Personnel Readiness Verification. Updates are also required on other occasions such as:Footnote 29
- when being posted
- when screening for a deployment
- for specific life events, such as a marriage or common-law relationship change, a birth or adoption
Once forms are completed, members are provided with a copy and the originals are kept in their personnel file.Footnote 30
Did you know?
1. What happens when the next of kin is not the personal representative?
When the personal representative is not the next of kin, the personal representative is the person who will make all decisions about funeral arrangements. The next of kin and the personal representative should consult each other to obtain, whenever possible, a consensus that is acceptable to all parties. It is crucial that the Chain of Command identifies the personal representative as soon as possible.Footnote 1
2. The Canadian Armed Forces will is a very basic form of will that may not suit the member’s personal circumstances.
The Canadian Armed Forces Will (DAOD Form 7012-1A, CF 30-1)Footnote 31 is a very basic will that is appropriate primarily for single Canadian Armed Forces members. It does not provide for complex personal circumstances such as those set out below. A Canadian Armed Forces member should consult civilian legal counsel, or if in the province of Quebec, civilian legal counsel or a notary, if the member wishes to:
- include instructions for guardianship of a minor child of the member in the will;
- set up specific trusts under the will, and should consider establishing a trust if a minor child or children are named as beneficiaries
- use the will for tax planning purposes
- ensure that a benefit will only be given to a beneficiary who survives for a certain period of time following the death of the member
- specify the law of a particular province or country that will apply to the distribution of the estate
The Affidavit of Execution of Will (DAOD Form 7012-1B, CF 30-2) is to be completed by one of the witnesses to the Canadian Armed Forces will.”Footnote 32 Otherwise, the Will Certificate (DAOD Form 7012-C, CF 30-3) is to be completed indicating the decision not to execute a will, or the decision to make arrangements by means other than a Canadian Armed Forces will.
3. Inquiries about a Canadian Armed Forces member’s Will
“Inquiries from any person, other than a Canadian Armed Forces member, who claims to be entitled to the Will of a Canadian Armed Forces member, shall be referred to the Director of Estates for reply."Footnote 33
Visit the Service Estate page for more information.
4. Families do not have a right to the health information of a deceased Canadian Armed Forces member.Footnote 34
Unless the consent has been previously provided by the Canadian Armed Forces member in his/her documents. The deceased Canadian Armed Forces member’s medical information is protected according to the Privacy Act, sometimes for up to 20 years after the death.Footnote 35
5. Notification is sometimes not done by the Commanding Officer or the Commanding Officer’s representative but by a civilian agency.
“For a death in Canada, although the responsibility of notification remains a Command responsibility, based on Canadian law, the civilian responsibility vested in individual jurisdiction of the local police force or attending hospital physician cannot be overridden. In some circumstances, a civilian agency may be required to notify the family member(s) before the Canadian Armed Forces chain of command.”Footnote 36
6. The executor of the will is not necessarily the deceased’s next of kin.
“The executor or liquidator of the succession named in a will is, subject to provincial law, entitled to the custody of the remains. The executor or liquidator of the succession is not necessarily the deceased's next of kin.Footnote 37
As stated at page 33 of the Designated Assistant Guide: “Disposition of the Member’s Remains and Funeral Arrangements. It should be noted that decisions on the disposition of the remains and on funeral arrangements do not form part of the administration of the service estate. The personal representative for the estate has the legal authority over the disposition of the remains. When there is no personal representative and no one has yet been appointed, the law provides that the next of kin has the right to make the decision about the disposition.”Footnote 38
“The Designated Assistant should consult the unit legal advisor for assistance regarding the person with whom the Designated Assistant should consult regarding disposition of the member’s remains. Provincial law determines the order of priority for the various levels of next of kin. When more than one next of kin wishes to make funeral arrangements, the funeral director will give priority in accordance with the law.”Footnote 39
7. Families may be eligible to access financial assistance.
The next of kin / family may need immediate financial assistance to deal with unexpected expenses. The regional financial advisor from Service Income Security Insurance Plan Financial Services can provide advice and assistance in this matter (1-800-267-6681).Footnote 40
8. Spouses, children, parents and any other person of significance to the deceased Canadian Armed Forces member may access a professional counsellor by phone from anywhere at any time.
Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program Bereavement Services can provide immediate counselling assistance by phone and/or arrange an appointment with a local clinician within a maximum of 48 hours following initial contact with Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program. Short or long-term counselling options are available.Footnote 41 For more information or an appointment call: 1-800-268-7708 (or 1-800-567-5803 for the hearing impaired).
9. Casualty Support Child Care is available.
Military Family Resource Centres are authorized to fund up to 168 hours of Casualty Support Child care Services under any of the following circumstances:
- to facilitate family attendance and participation at medical, mental health, or social support service appointments that will help in the military member’s recuperation
- to provide family respite
- to allow family participation in repatriation services
- to support the family throughout the funeral.Footnote 42
10. The Family Liaison Officer, is the family’s (including the Canadian Armed Forces member’s parents) point of contact to navigate through and link with local community resources.
You can find the Family Liaison Officer at the closest Integrated Personnel Support Centre at the following link: http://www.forces.gc.ca/en/caf-community-support-services-casualty-support/contact-info.page or by calling the Family Information Line at 1-800-866-4546 (North America) or 00-800-771-17722 (Europe).
11. The person(s) notified of the death of a Canadian Armed Forces member is not the decision of Canadian Armed Forces authorities.
The notification is made in accordance with the decision the member made in his or her Emergency Contact(s) Notification (CF 742 Form). Although a member may select “Do Not Notify," members should be aware of “the potential consequences of notification by letter only or through the media and the distress that this could cause to persons closest to him/her.”Footnote 43
12. The supports for the next of kin(s) are provided in accordance with the CAF member’s designated next of kin.
The next of kin, in order of importance, are designated by the Canadian Armed Forces members in the Next of Kin (NOK) Identification (DND 2587 Form). Although a member may select to decline to designate any next of kin, members should be aware that this “may cause distress to persons closest to him or herFootnote 44 as he or she may not be entitled to benefits and services because of this decision.
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