Canadian veterans revealed disturbing stories and frustrations about neglect and premature assisted suicide offers by Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).
“I have a letter saying that if you are so desperate, madam, we can offer you MAID,” said retired Corporal Christine Gauthier.
Gauthier, who is paraplegic, is yet another military member to state that she was taken aback when the government offered her help in ending her life. She’s the third member to say so in the last month.
Gauthier said her VAC case worker offered assisted suicide after years of unsuccessful attempts to have a wheelchair ramp installed at her home.
“They said ma’am, if it’s too difficult for you to continue living, we can offer you MAID, medical assistance in dying.”
“They offered to supply equipment,” Gauthier added.
Gauthier was one of multiple veterans sharing stories and frustrations, some of which left Committee members speechless.
“I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by what I’ve just heard, and I want to extend my deepest apologies. I just – I’m in shock,” said NDP MP Rachel Blaney.
Gauthier also said she had written a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau about being offered assisted suicide. She said her battle is “24 years in the making.” She stated that most of her claims for disability have yet to be addressed.
Gauthier also touched on the $570-million contract the VAC recently awarded to an outside company for rehabilitation services.
Current case managers have expressed concern that veterans’ lives are at stake should the government proceed with the plan.
Another witness, retired sergeant Christopher Banks, stated the delays in responses for his mental health claims by the VAC left him feeling abandoned.
Banks told VAC representatives that his mental health had collapsed and that he was again suicidal, and said their response was “not good enough.”
“This privatisation scheme and this outsourcing scheme is just putting care in the hands of people who have a profit-motive, not a care-motive,” Banks said, adding that it will lead to “further suicides.”
When asked about how vets have been increasingly offered assisted-suicide, veteran Bruce Moncur had a lot to get off his chest.
He said that it is common for soldiers with PTSD looking for help from the VAC to be ignored, leading to what he refers to as “sanctuary trauma”, or PTSD’s “ugly cousin.”
Their “Triple-D policy: Delay, Deny, Die”, is the preferred modus operandi, Moncur said, as “dead veterans cost no money.”
Moncur suggested that a Royal Commission be set up to look into the matter.
On Friday, PM Justin Trudeau said Gauthier’s situation is “absolutely unacceptable.”
“We are following up with investigations and we are changing protocols to ensure what should seem obvious to all of us – that it is not the place of Veterans Affairs Canada, who are supposed to be there to support those people who stepped up to serve their country, to offer them medical assistance in dying,” he said.
The union representing VAC employees is asking Trudeau to fire Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay. MacAulay recently dismissed the suggestion he should resign.
However, MacAulay has acknowledged that one VAC case worker in particular has been identified — and suspended — for offering assisted suicide to multiple Canadian veterans. He said the RCMP has been notified of the individual.
“We expect all Veterans Affairs candidate employees to interact with veterans with care, compassion and respect and the actions of this one employee is simply disgusting,” he told the Veteran Affairs Committee.