Minister Hehr launches Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative
Partnership established between Government of Canada and the Nova Scotia Mental Health Court
May 4, 2017 – Ottawa
A new initiative announced today by The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, will provide additional support for Veterans who come in contact with the criminial justice system in Nova Scotia, with the long-term goal of better outcomes for Veterans across Canada.
The Veterans Justice Outreach initiative is the first project of its kind in Canada. The goal of the initiative is to better identify, track and explore alternatives to incarceration. A successful implementation in Nova Scotia will allow Veterans Affairs Canada to pursue similar partnerships in provinces and territories across the country.
In addition to working directly with Veterans themselves, Veterans Affairs Canada will consult with law enforcement and representatives of the justice and correctional systems in Nova Scotia to help them understand the unique challenges faced by Veterans living with the impact of operational stress injuries resulting from their service.
“This initiative will help Veterans with mental health issues at a time when they need it most. I intend to be in contact soon with officials in jurisdictions across Canada to gauge their interest in implementing similar programs. It is my job, and the job of Veterans Affairs Canada, to do the very best we can on behalf of each and every Canadian Veteran, including those who find themselves appearing before the courts.”
The Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence
“Nova Scotia’s Mental Health Court provides a collaborative environment where therapeutic and restorative practices are used to help people struggling with mental health and addictions issues, who find themselves in conflict with the law. Unfortunately, due to the often-traumatic nature of their service, we’re seeing more and more Veterans in this type of situation. Our team is pleased to be working with a Veterans Affairs case worker on individualized support plans that will help these men and women get their lives back on track.”
The Honourable Pamela S. Williams, Chief Judge of the Provincial and Family Court of Nova Scotia.
"Allowing Veteran Affairs case workers to participate on mental health court interdisciplinary teams, when cases involve Veterans suffering from Operational Stress Injuries, is an inspired way of ensuring Veterans are treated equitably and that they have access to the resources that are available to them. The Chief Provincial Court Judge of Nova Scotia is to be applauded for taking the initiative on this idea in the Mental Health Court of Nova Scotia. As well, those of us who worked on this issue over many years congratulate Veterans Affairs Canada for adopting this progressive policy approach in assisting our Veterans. It is a capital idea that will hopefully spread across the country."
Lt.-Gen. The Honourable Romeo A. Dallaire, O.C., C.M.M., G.O.Q, M.S.C, C.D. (Retired)
The Veterans Justice Outreach Initiative is presently focused on criminal justice diversion programs such as Mental Health Courts. However, the goal is to work toward a standardized model that will include other sectors of justice and correctional systems across the country.
Nova Scotia’s Mental Health Court is located in Dartmouth. The Court’s team is made up of professionals from the provincial justice and healthcare systems, including a Crown attorney, defence counsel from Nova Scotia Legal Aid and a dedicated Judge (currently The Honourable Pamela S. Williams, Chief Judge of the Provincial and Family Courts of Nova Scotia). A Veteran Affairs case worker will work with the team to screen applicants and work with those eligible for the program.
Veterans Affairs Canada staff at area offices across the country currently support Veterans in contact with the criminal justice system by doing such things as attending bail/sentencing hearings, providing letters to the courts as part of the mental health diversion process and working with probation and parole officers.
This program is modelled after a successful program that has been operating in the United States since 2009. The program incorporates the Veterans military experience into decisions regarding Veterans in conflict with the law. The program promotes and facilitates referrals to Mental Health Courts.
A recent study (2015) by Correctional Service Canada (CSC) indicated that approximately three percent of federally incarcerated individuals identify themselves as Veterans. In 2012, Veterans Affairs Canada established a memorandum of understanding with CSC to better facilitate access to treatment and benefits concerning mental health and other health services for Veterans who are federally incarcerated.
Office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
Veterans Affairs Canada
Nova Scotia Judiciary
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