HALIFAX — documents recently disclosed, give an overview of the conflicts of senior officials of the federal government regarding how to react to the revelation that the department of Veterans affairs funded the treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder of a man from Halifax found guilty of the murder of a policewoman in civilian clothes.
E-mails obtained by The canadian Press under the laws on access to information and protection of personal information reveal that many individuals within the office of Veterans affairs Canada – including the deputy minister, policy analysts and communications officers – have helped to shape the message transmitted to the media about the services offered at Christopher Garnier.
The new was brought to light during the hearing on the sentencing of Garnier for the second degree murder of Catherine Campbell, a police officer Truro, Nova Scotia. It has been said in court that the department of Veterans affairs paid for the care of a psychologist, given that his father is a veteran also diagnosed with a disorder of post-traumatic stress disorder.
Among the hundreds of pages of e-mails of discussions on how to respond to the numerous requests from the media, the officials discussed the policy and messages that have the potential to support the rationale for including family members in a plan of care for the veterans.”
Trevor Nicholson, a senior policy analyst at department of Veterans affairs, explained to several of his colleagues in the operation of the policy of the mental health of the ministry.
“That may be included in the plan of treatment or plan of rehabilitation of a veteran… is at the discretion of the decision maker on the recommendation of the health professional depending on the veteran and in consultation with the veterans,” says Mr. Nicholson, in an email sent on 28 August.
“(Veterans affairs Canada), may include family in the treatment sessions with the patient, veteran, and/or offer a session to the members of the family themselves in order to take account of the consequences of the mental health status of the patient on the other members of the family unit “, he adds.
Differing views as to the ministry
In an email sent to nine of his colleagues the next day, Sandra Williamson, a senior manager at the ministry, wrote that’it must be clear that the full range of benefits and services available to veterans is NOT available to members of the family.”
Mary Nicholson, program director of health care and rehabilitation at department of Veterans affairs, agreed with the approach of Ms. Williamson.
“I am sure that this is part of your message, but it is also important to note that the members of the family have never been allowed for other reason than to recognize the important role they play in supporting veterans who are ill or injured,” she wrote by e-mail on 29 August.
Even the deputy minister of Veterans affairs, Walt Natynczyk, and the assistant deputy minister, Lisa Campbell, commented that the department had said to the media.
In a statement to The canadian Press about the case of Garnier, Veterans affairs Canada had argued that communications media are developed and reviewed regularly in the context of a daily work process.
In September, the Trudeau government ordered the officials to adopt a more critical look before approving of funds and services for the family member of a veteran, especially veterans convicted of serious crimes.
The minister of Veterans affairs, Seamus O’regan, said in the House of commons that the benefits would not be provided in the future to the members of the family of a veteran incarcerated in a federal institution.
However, in the case of services offered to Garnier, Mr. O’regan has on several occasions invoked considerations of confidentiality to refuse to discuss the matter, while stating that the directive would not be retroactive.
Many letters from the public
The federal government would have also been flooded with letters from the public, then the outrage grew because of the financial assistance granted to Garnier for a psychological state caused by the murder of the police.
In an email sent on August 30, with several other officials from the department of Veterans affairs, Anick Bédard wrote that Mr. O’regan has received a “large number of e-mails” in response to the new.
In response to a letter, the liberal federal of Nova Scotia, Sean Fraser, has admitted that his initial reaction was one of disbelief.
“It was difficult from the outset to understand how a person with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of a murder should be eligible for health care benefits from Veterans affairs Canada,” says Mr. Fraser, the 30 August in an e-mail attached to the file.
“In spite of my first reaction, I want to be extremely cautious as to the possible evolution of the policy response to the extraordinary events of this case. The system that provides health insurance to veterans and their families is a good system, and a political reaction impulsive in this case has the potential of denying care to veterans and family members who need it, which is not the result desired by anyone according to me “, he adds.
Garnier – who has strangled the wife of 36 years and used a compost bin to get rid of his body – appealed his conviction for second-degree murder and his sentence.
The conviction automatically results in a sentence of life imprisonment, but a judge of the supreme Court of Nova Scotia decided in August that Garnier would be able to apply for parole after serving 13 and a half years — less than the 699 days had already been spent in prison.