Support to Bereaved Military Families

The Office of the Ombudsman has been tracking and reporting on issues related to the Canadian Armed Forces’ engagement of families during a Board of Inquiry process for the past 12 years. In short, engagement of families varied wildly from case to case, often unnecessarily resulting in heartache and confusion for those simply trying to understand next steps in the investigation and if, at all, they have a role to play in it.

Report


Progress report on the status of recommendations:

Recommendation 1

It is recommended that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces take concrete steps to better meet the information needs of families by:

  • Producing plain language information for families on the specifics and impacts of key administrative documents that Canadian Armed Forces military members are required to complete in case of serious illness, injury or death; as well as make this information available to Canadian Armed Forces members as part of the Annual Personnel Readiness Verification
  • Providing readily-accessible information based on bereaved families’ frequently asked questions. This needs to be consolidated into a single access point where families can find information explaining what to expect after a Canadian Armed Forces member dies; whether in the context of Canadian Armed Forces operations or not
  • In addition to the information being provided as part of the board of inquiry process, developing clear guidelines and timelines for Commanding Officers to meet with families who express the desire for information about the circumstances of the death of a loved one, in a setting outside the board of inquiry process
  • Providing families with information regarding bereavement and grief support programs, and services available for families
  • Committing the resources required for the development and implementation of a communications plan. This would include activities, products, timelines, and metrics to better reach and inform family members on all the above documents, processes, benefits and support for families

Recommendation 1 status:  Accepted   Partially Implemented

Since we released this report, the Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces have undertaken a number of key initiatives, such as the implementing of a communications strategy designed to address the informational needs of bereaved families. As some initiatives related to this recommendation are still underway, including the revision of the Shoulder-to-Shoulder Guidebook, our office continues to monitor the implementation of this recommendation and will provide future updates.

Recommendation 2

It is recommended that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces take concrete steps to provide the necessary tools to personnel responsible for Casualty Administration, inquiries and bereavement services by:

  • Reviewing and updating simultaneously all Casualty Administration guides, investigations directives, the related references and training material to: accurately reflect the roles of the stakeholders, investigations, authorities, expected timelines, benefits entitlements for bereaved families, key service providers
  • Providing adequate support to Designated Assistants, including: training, trained Casualty Support Administration Officers and earlier collaboration with Family Liaison Officers (before Designated Assistant disengagement)
  • Building transferable expertise with regards to providing Casualty Support within Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces
  • Reviewing employment competency requirements, workload, and training of Integrated Personnel Support Centre Services Manager positions to ensure they are provided with the necessary tools to assist individuals dealing with crisis

Recommendation 2 status:  Accepted   Partially Implemented

The Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces have made progress in reviewing and updating some Casualty Administration reference materials, such as the Designated Assistants Guide. However, there are several other initiatives related to this recommendation that are still pending, including the complete review and update of all Casualty Administration reference materials and investigation directives. Our office continues to monitor progress and will provide future updates.

Recommendation 3

It is recommended that the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces take concrete steps to enhance collaboration among stakeholders with a family-centric focus by:

  • Ensuring all Command Teams are trained for casualty notification and administration upon assuming a command role
  • Establishing a permanent Families in Focus working group, extend participants to operational commands, to meet a minimum of once per year to ensure policies, guides and training are consistent and remain responsive to needs
  • Formally recognizing and including bereaved families, along with families of medically released ill and injured members, as families who are transitioning from military to civilian life

Recommendation 3 status:  Accepted   Partially Implemented

The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces have put forward key initiatives aimed at enhancing collaboration among stakeholders with a family-centric focus. This includes establishing a permanent working group dedicated to improving services for bereaved military families. Given some initiatives are still underway, including the alignment and implementation of training courses, this recommendation is deemed partially implemented.

Definitions

Accepted

DND/CAF have indicated that they accept the recommendations.

Not Accepted

DND/CAF have not indicated that they accept the recommendations, or have indicated that they do not accept the recommendations.

Met / Implemented

Work completed to date fully or largely meets the intent of the recommendation, including circumstances where the recommendation has been implemented to the extent demonstrably possible within existing DND/CAF authorities.

Partially Implemented

Work is underway to address the substance of the recommendation, and it is reasonably probable that additional progress will be made;

Work began to address the substance of the recommendation, but one or more aspects of the recommendation have since become objectively un-implementable or overtaken by events.

Not Met / Not Implemented

Work to address the substance of the recommendation has not begun;

Work completed to date does not largely meet the intent of the recommendation, work started on implementation of the recommendation.

Unable to Assess

Insufficient information is available to make an assessment, including circumstances where DND/CAF has not yet provided adequate responses.


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