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O’Regan the Next Julian Fantino?
By Perry Gray, Chief Editor
VVi 12 Oct 2017 pd db
“When you need help, put up
your hand and we will be there for you.” Seamus O’Regan
The title question is being
asked because the newest minister seems to have adopted some of the
bad habits of Julian Fantino.
Minister O’Regan was given the
position after Kent Hehr failed to fulfil the majority of his
mandate letter objectives (4 of 15 as described in an earlier
periodical). Now he must try to prove the commitments of his
government will be achieved before the next election.
To date, Minister O’Regan has
been shy in giving public statements, which is odd for a former
journalist. Does he believe that no news is good news? If the answer
is yes, then he is following the trend of Julian Fantino.
“Veterans Affairs Canada
officials felt former minister Julian Fantino’s public relations’
disasters had “intensified” what was already a glut of “bad press”
that had “taken its toll” on the department’s reputation, internal
The documents are part of a
secret briefing binder delivered to current Veterans Affairs
Minister Erin O’Toole upon his appointment to replace Fantino in
January. They highlight the degree to which officials believe bad
publicity, exacerbated by Fantino’s tenure, is to blame for many of
the department’s problems.
According to the briefing
documents, Veterans Affairs’ reputation problems preceded Fantino’s
appointment. They say the “roots” of the department’s “current
public environment” can be traced back to 2006, when massive changes
were made to veterans’ benefits and supports with the New Veterans
Charter.” (National Post 1 June 2015)
It remains a challenge to find
any public statements from Minister O’Regan.
He has addressed suicides at
“The new Minister of Veterans
Affairs says the government has taken the triple murder-suicide by
an Afghanistan war veteran "very seriously," but he would not say
whether he believes a fatality inquiry should be called to learn
from the tragedy. “ (The Globe and Mail 22 September 2017)
He was present for the
announcement of the joint DND/VAC suicide strategy, but he did not
speak during the CBC and CTV news items covering the event on 5
October 2017, so Canadians do not know his thoughts on the subject
unless they watched the announcement event (a challenge as it was
not well publicised). His Facebook page statement was “Read our full
Joint Suicide Prevention Strategy here…” It was posted between all
his other political duties including “Newfoundland and Labrador is
ready to do our part for Canada's energy future” and “We can become
a supercluster for ocean sciences.”
Kent Hehr also loved Facebook
but not concentrating on his mandate.
What has energy in
Newfoundland and Labrador, and ocean sciences have to do with
The Veterans Community might
appreciate a few words about whether or not the new minister will
complete the 2015 mandate. If the answer is yes, when will he
complete the tasks?
I preferred reading the
comments from Veterans on his Facebook page.
Several Veterans asked
questions on his Facebook page. Minister O’Regan did not respond.
Inspired by the Invictus
Games, Minister O’Regan posted this comment:
“Veterans have trained longer,
pushed harder and dug deeper. It's what makes them such valuable
employees. We must ensure that all Veterans are seen as they are:
valuable to Canada, and valued by Canadians”
He also announced another
initiative to provide more employment for Veterans. What he failed
to do was explain why Canada needs another program.
The answer is obvious, the
government’s previous attempts flopped with his own department
failing to be a role model. A total of 115 Veterans in a staff of
more than 2700 (roughly 4.26%).
Go to any VAC office and ask
how many vacancies exist that should be filled by “valuable
In the Ottawa district, where
I live, the district director wears many hats. She is responsible
for north-eastern Ontario, Nunavut and is listed as the senior
client services manager. She would probably appreciate some help.
Ottawa has a lot of Veterans, but only a fraction of the total
number actually is served by the VAC staff. It is quite likely that
many Veterans fall through the cracks because there are not enough
staff to do “excellent work”.
I have tried repeatedly since
Seamus O’Regan was appointed to schedule a meeting. His office has
not acknowledged any of my e-mails or telephone calls. I may have to
resort to chasing him through the many hallways on Parliament Hill.
If this becomes a reality,
then he will definitely have become a worthy successor of Julian
Perry Gray is a Regular
Force veteran, serving as the Chief Editor of VVi. Perry has been
with VVi for 16 years.
Speech From VVi's Chief Editor / Given at the Stakeholders Summit
9-10 May 2016
by Perry Gray on Tue 10 May
This is the speech that Perry
Gray was allowed to make during the Stakeholder Summit 9-10 May,
2016. It was fueled by 14 years of frustration trying to collaborate
with VAC. It was also inspired by a lot of people including Sean
Bruyea, Jenny Migneault , Louise Richard, Romeo Dallaire, the staff
of Veteran Voice, and the members and supporters of the Veterans
Once again you have gathered
us under false pretenses. You call this a stakeholders summit, and
yet you really do not want us to participate in the event. Our input
is limited to a few minutes during the break-out sessions and the
observers among us are not allowed to speak at all. How is this
truly a part of the consultation process? Rather it is a very bad
example of Canadian democracy. Are we not entitled to the same
respect as your colleagues in Parliament, who are allowed to speak
in committees and in the respective houses?
You were mandated to have
constructive dialogue with Canadians, civil society, and
A stakeholders summit should
be about the stakeholders priorities and not VAC priorities.
You want to be treated with
respect as an honourable minister. Such respect must be earned
first. Veterans know that they may salute the rank of their
superiors, but they expect those same superiors to earn the respect
of their subordinates. It is known as leadership by example.
Start treating us with
respect, and we may reciprocate. Instead this event is a form of
intimidation with a smile and you are marginalising the clients who
you supposedly serve.
There is much fluff, no
substance and certainly no accountability regarding ideas put
forward from the last meeting. This is not the agenda of a
stakeholder summit that seeks to address the most pressing concerns
of injured veterans and their families. Does that mean that all the
breakout group efforts that were worked upon in the last summit are
thrown into file 13? This is clearly about stakeholder control and
distraction. For those who don't really care about addressing the
issues affecting the most important stakeholder, i.e., injured
veterans and their families, this summit is a perfect sit back and
feel good, feel nice, like you're part of something that looks
important but means nothing.
Are these summits along with
the six announced advisory groups about meaningful stakeholder
consultation that produces needed and timely change or merely public
relations exercises to ensure media and stakeholder control?
We do not know what is meant
by the word stakeholder and few have been contacted by your
Stakeholder Engagement and Outreach team to explain why we were
selected and what to expect from these summits. Frankly this is
typical of the poor communication skills exhibited by your
According to your staff, there
is no definition of stakeholder, but this is not true:
are restricted to registered lobbyists, their employees and
corporations employing lobbyists as well as “individuals employed
in, contracted by, or who otherwise represent corporations and
organizations that have current or anticipated official dealings”
Given this definition, either
most of us should not be here or you have incorrectly labeled us.
You have included the
* clients like me
research groups like CIMVIR
Corps of Commissionaires
* private groups
* advocacy groups and individual advocates
You had better explain why we
were selected and what we are doing here.
If these summits and groups
are closed to most veterans, then participation should require a
minimum of either an actively involved community directly affected
by VAC policies and programs or a recognized expertise and/or
knowledge-base to understand the importance and impact of such
policies. Arguably, many invited organizations have neither.
You keep doing the same thing
over and over again expecting a different outcome, but this is
insanity. It does not matter who says things, they are repeating
what other VAC personnel have already said. Every new minister has
to have sufficient time to settle into the job before we should
expect anything. Again this is a fallacious argument because most
ministers are never in the job long enough. It is likely that you
will move on before fulfilling your mandate.
I was told that the agenda was
only finalised last Friday, despite the fact that this summit has
been planned for over a month. Do you expect us to believe that the
agenda was not ready after the speakers for this summit were
selected? If they had enough time to prepare for this, then why were
we not given the same respect? The agenda was also developed from
the last summit and yet there is an obvious lack of continuity. This
is the same format as the previous summit that I attended in April
2015. How is repeating the format of the previous government an
example of the Prime Minister's statement that you will be held
accountable for your commitment to bring a different style of
leadership to government. Many of the most important issues are not
being addressed and the subjects of the presentations seem odd
choices as replacements.
For example the budget, we
have no input in this. Why do you think that this should be the
You would need days to fully
explore your budget. It would be better to discuss Re-establishment
of lifelong pensions as stated in your mandate letter.
Why are you presenting on
medical marijuana when there is a departmental review going on? You
are projecting the outcome of the review with your own opinion by
discussing it. Why is it okay to talk about this but not other
topics? Why are we expected to be here for a second day while your
staff fiddle about to have a 90 minute Facebook session. What is our
role, to amuse ourselves? You do not need us as a captive audience
when you could do this undefined activity at any time.
There is also no discussion of
what has happened since the last summit. And it would be nice to
know what you have been doing behind closed doors contrary to the
Open and Accountable Government. I draw your attention in particular
to the Ethical Guidelines set out in Annex A of that document, which
apply to you and your staff. For example, you and the Justice
Minister recently entered into an agreement to dismantle the VAC
stand-alone, legal services unit - in existence since the department
was formed. It appears you agreed to transfer responsibility for
providing VAC legal services to a federal department in Ottawa -
Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Why???
It would be nice if everyone
here was privy to the contents of “Open and Accountable Government”
so that we can monitor your compliance.
What about homeless vets, the
seamless transition from DND to VAC, the Equitas lawsuit, hiring of
staff, the six advisory groups and other very important issues?
On the topic of hiring or
re-hiring, will you ensure that Veterans are given a priority for
all jobs? And if not, why not? How many people have been hired and
what are their jobs? Why do you continue to employ people who have
not satisfactorily performed their assigned duties? What have you
done to reduce the stressful working conditions for front-line
On the topic of the advisory
groups, why do we not know their composition, mandates, terms of
reference and other important information. Why did the members have
to sign non-disclosure agreements? Again this is in contravention of
your government's policy on transparency and accountability.
One concern that I have which
affects all of your clients, is the ongoing privacy scandal. You are
allowing the Royal Canadian Legion access to client personal
information. Rather than improving security, you have been a
collaborator in reducing security. Having had unauthorised people
examine my own file, I am again shocked by this recent revelation.
Here we are years after your department was to have solved its
privacy problems and the solutions have not been implemented fully.
If you are not competent to safeguard our information, it is highly
likely there are other problems.
These summits should be the
forum in which you report to Veterans on your progress toward
fulfilling your commitments and to help develop effective measures
that asses the impact of the organisations for which you are
answerable. If the format of the two summits of which you have been
minister are examples of your leadership and response to your
mandate from the Prime Minister, then you have failed to provide a
change in leadership and failed to obey the Prime Minister. Do not
blame your failures on lack of time or others. The buck stops at
your desk, no one else's.
If you want to immediately
prove me wrong then scrap this agenda and have a frank conversation
with us. Tell your subordinates to take notes and be prepared to
help you provide us with information. Tell us why you deserve to
continue as our minister. Tell us when you will complete your
mandate and what else you will do, not plan to try, to lay the
building blocks for a higher standard of service that will address
our needs. Tell us that you are truly listening to Veterans and
I strongly disagree with your
philosophy that this is a game and that it is less important whether
win or lose, but it is the exercise. No, it is important that
Veterans are winners and they are not playing your game. I watched
your inspirational video on Youtube.
Remember Kent for whom you
work. You work for your clients, and we do not work for you, but we
can work with you, if you earn our respect and trust.
I will not belabour you
anymore with such concerns, but this is what I expect from you:
a letter to all veterans
apologising to them for your failure to deliver on the mandate
letter from the Prime Minister in a timely manner;
a letter to me apologising for
aggravating my medical conditions;
compensation for this
aggravation and wasting my time; and
a private meeting with you so
that we can discuss at length my other concerns.
If you are unwilling to do
this, then I expect your letter of resignation to the Prime
Minister. You can go try to be a minister of another department more
suited to your abilities.
This will not be the only time
that you will hear this veteran's voice.
Perry Gray is a
Regular Force veteran, serving as the Chief Editor of VVi. Perry has
been with VVi for 16 years.
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