Fantino: cloudy priorities in sunny Cyprus

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Fantino: cloudy priorities in sunny Cyprus

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:04

At potentially $7,500 per person, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s Cyprus junket cost just over $100,000 for 14 individuals.



The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino is being criticized for taking a junket to Cyprus to commemorate the UN mission’s 50th anniversary.
By SEAN BRUYEA | Published: Monday, 03/17/2014 12:00 am EDT



On March 12, 2014, the flag lowered in Kabul, Canada’s most costly mission since World War II. Not a single Conservative MP attended. The next day, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino flew to Cyprus to commemorate the UN mission’s 50th anniversary.

In an email, Veterans Affairs Canada indicated Fantino would be accompanied by “a staff member, five veterans from the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association, five veterans from the Canadian Association of Veterans in United Nations Peacekeeping and two program officials.”

Retired captain Perry Gray was contingent commander in Cyprus from 1996-1998. He is chief editor of VeteranVoice.info, an internet community of 100,000 subscribers. “Why are they going to Cyprus? It is unresolved, a black mark. Nicosia is the only remaining divided capital of Europe,” said Gray, adding, “we were never consulted on this trip.”

It appears that only CPVA and CAVUNP were asked to nominate individuals. CAVUNP had approximately 375 members in January 2013 and CPVA is considerably smaller. However, both would not respond to repeated email questions about the trip or their membership numbers, which include more than just peacekeeping veterans.

VeteransofCanada.ca (VOC) is a community of more than 7,500 members with at least 640 peacekeeping veterans. Don Leonardo, president and founder of VOC, said his organization was not consulted, “We are in budget constraints. It’s a matter of priorities. Couldn’t that money have been allocated to help prevent suicide, provide greater benefits, makes changes to the New Veterans Charter?”

Veterans Affairs declined to provide any cost estimate for the seven-day trip, but confirmed “VAC is paying the full cost of airfare, travel, accommodation and daily incidentals for the 10 [veterans].”

In 2013, Fantino billed $5,173.54 for a two-day trip to London and $9,306.37 for three days in Korea. At potentially $7,500 per person, Cyprus could cost just over $100,000 for 14 individuals.

Jerry Kovacs, of Canadian Veterans Advocacy, said his organization was not consulted. “The optics look bad…budget cutbacks, office closures, staff reductions and then you have a junket to Cyprus during March break while it’s snowing and cold. Who’s advising this guy? The money is better spent elsewhere, like on veterans, especially the homeless, their families, research on helping veterans, service dogs; you know, on services that directly benefit veterans and their families.”

For the 2014 commemoration of 70 years since D-Day, Canada has allocated funding for 180 veterans at $2,000 each. The Conservative government has come under attack for its commemoration of the dead while the injured and their families remain neglected.

Commemoration for the War of 1812 ran to more than $28-million.

In a presentation during a meeting with veteran organizations in October 2013, Fantino failed to mention the planned trip to Cyprus.

A PowerPoint slide indicated, “The large majority of Canadians [89 per cent] believe that the service of post-war or modern-day veterans should be recognized.”

How are Canadians to recognize, let alone participate 8,600 km from Ottawa where a captivatingly haunting peacekeeping monument rests silently? Could not a fraction of that money host a brief outdoor ceremony at the monument followed by hundreds of Cyprus veterans and the public including children on March break expressing appreciation in many of the nearby conference venues?

The Royal Canadian Legion is Canada’s largest veteran organization, with more than 90,000 post-WWII veterans. At least 3,500 of its members served in Cyprus.

Dominion Secretary Brad White wrote in an email to me, “[t]he legion was not consulted on the commemoration trip to Cyprus, nor does it know of the intended plans,” adding, “[t]here does need to be a balance on how much is spent as compared to the amount of monies set aside to look after those who have been injured in the service of their country.”

Why were only two organizations asked to provide candidates? On its website, CPVA, one of the organizations sending five individuals, indicates CPVA organized two previous commemoration trips in 2011 and 2012 wherein they intended to seek funding from VAC.

During VAC stakeholder meetings in February and December 2012, president of CAVUNP, Ron Griffis, advocated for a trip to Cyprus.

Mike Blais, president and founder of CVA, was seriously injured in Cyprus; “Our time in the meetings would have been better served focusing solely on the real issues such as seriously injured veterans and their families rather than commemoration. I do not think [VAC] should have approached this on an organizational level. VAC has an obligation to the wounded. They should have offered the injured the opportunity to go back. Instead [the wounded] were largely abandoned.”

Ron Cundell, webmaster of VeteranVoice.info, said he remembers Griffis advocating for the Cyprus trip. “Are you the president of your veteran organization to improve veterans’ quality of life or for free trips?”

It is sad that government forces veterans to scavenge for fiscal scraps. It is equally sad that some veterans willingly participate in this trip.

Sean Bruyea is vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, a retired Air Force intelligence officer and frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

http://www.hilltimes.com/opinion-piece/2014/03/17/fantino-cloudy-priorities-in-sunny-cyprus/37849?mcl=684&muid=1435

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Feds Dilly-dallying with Disabled Veterans

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:06

The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
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The last Canadian soldiers returned from Afghanistan last week, pictured arriving in Ottawa. Veterans’ advocate Sean Bruyea says, spread over 41 years when the benefit ceases at age 65, the 24-year-old corporal takes home $23,193 annually in actual income loss. The Statistics Canada low-income cut-off in 2011 was just over $30,000.
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By SEAN BRUYEA THE HILL TIMES-Published: Monday, 03/24/2014 12:00 am EDT Last Updated: Monday, 03/24/2014 12:03 am EDT
OTTAWA—Disabled veterans and their families have been told to wait yet again while the House Committee on Veterans Affairs holds further hearings on the New Veterans Charter. Although the government has been inundated with unanimous calls to act, it’s dilly-dallying, distracting and distorting instead.

Government-appointed advisory groups since 2006 have supplied more than 300 recommendations for change to the department and the New Veterans Charter. I provided the committee another 55. The government has chosen to play far too much politics with the recommendations or has ignored the elephants in the room.

One recommendation looks to increase the level of the Earnings Loss Benefit, which currently provides 75 per cent of an injured member’s salary at time of military release. The languishing of this recommendation serves as a sad example of how most substantive recommendations are being thrown into the trash bin.

In response to this recommendation, elected officials and senior bureaucrats have been quick to march out one scenario from a 2013 report. Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino testified: “In fact, according to the Veterans Ombudsman, a 24-year corporal who is medically released from the military will now receive upwards of $2-million in total financial benefits because of improvements our government has made.”

Two million dollars sounds impressive, until it’s broken down. This amount includes a lump sum of $240,000 for pain and suffering as well as special allowances to compensate for the impairments of disabilities as well as $343,443 in taxes.

The actual take home income loss benefit is $950,937. Spread that out over 41 years when the benefit ceases at age 65, the 24-year-old corporal takes home $23,193 annually in actual income loss. The statistics Canada low-income cut-off in 2011 was just over $30,000. Even if the VAC income supplement of $12,000 annually is added, the actual income related to income loss is just over the low-income cut-off defined “as the minimum salary by which a family can maintain a basic standard of living.”

Why would any government be proud of providing the “minimum…to maintain a basic standard of living” to those who sacrificed their careers, health and often the well-being of their families for the benefit of Canadians?

This is not just morally repugnant; it is considerably less than that provided by most civilian workers’ compensation plans. A 2013 study by the Institute of Work and Health noted that, “for every category of physical impairment, the average after-tax earnings replacement rate was at least 90 per cent.” For those civilian workers with greater impairment, the average “after-tax earnings replacement” was 126 per cent. This is because workers’ compensation schemes must not only take into account lost income, but also lost potential of expected average career progression. And all benefits increase fully with inflation. The VAC’s earnings loss caps increases at a maximum of two per cent per year whereas the MPs’ disability plan increases at three per cent.

The federal government treats our most disabled veterans as if they are frozen in human potential on the day of their military release. How can Ottawa’s miserly approach to income replacement not be a major contributor to the often abysmal self-esteem of disabled veterans not to mention dramatically worsen the financial stresses of the family?

As far back as 2006, the VAC Special Needs Advisory Group comprised of some of the more seriously disabled veterans got this. They recommended “annual increases to the ELB based upon current rates of pay and annual CF pay rate increases.” The government did nothing.

This recommendation would be expanded upon in the 2009 report from the VAC New Veterans Charter Advisory Group, which also recommended to put the earnings loss at 100 per cent of military salary following expected career path earnings. The government did nothing.

Parliament agreed with the advisory groups. The same committee holding hearings on the issue today, in 2010 recommended “the earnings loss benefit become a non-taxable benefit representing the equivalent of 100 per cent of a veteran’s net income at the time of release, where that release is the consequence of a service-related injury.” The committee also recommended that the earnings loss be adjusted annually with inflation.

The bureaucracy snubbed its nose at Parliament and did nothing.

Since1996, before well-justified pay increases in the Canadian Forces, military pay is now almost 80 per cent higher for any given rank whereas the consumer price index has increased only 38 per cent. However, there have been eight years where inflation was greater than two per cent resulting in the earnings loss benefit limited to an effective increase of 30 per cent.

During a February 2012 Veterans Affairs Canada stakeholder committee meeting, the VAC bureaucracy was asked to politely leave the room. Veterans groups hammered out unanimous endorsement of the advisory group reports specifically pointing to the need to assist the most seriously disabled veterans with income assistance. The government did nothing.

A few months later, the Royal Canadian Legion admirably brought together representatives from a dozen veteran organizations known as the Veterans Consultation Group. The group called the government’s bluff and put forward three recommendations “requiring rapid resolution by the government.” The first of the three states “the Earnings Loss Benefit (ELB) must be improved to provide 100 per cent of pre-release income, continue for life and include increases for projected career earnings for a Canadian Armed Forces member.” The group would follow up with three more letters repeating the same recommendations. The government did nothing.

A few months later, the Royal Canadian Legion admirably brought together representatives from a dozen veteran organizations known as the Veterans Consultation Group. The group called the government’s bluff and put forward three recommendations “requiring rapid resolution by the government.” The first of the three states “the Earnings Loss Benefit (ELB) must be improved to provide 100 per cent of pre-release income, continue for life and include increases for projected career earnings for a Canadian Armed Forces member.” The group would follow up with three more letters repeating the same recommendations. The government did nothing.

In 2013, the Veterans Ombudsman Office put forward a similar recommendation, but, in the spirit of compromise, pegged the earnings loss benefit at 90 per cent instead of the current 75 per cent. The government did nothing at first and then called for another review by a Parliamentary committee.

True to a history of words and no action, Fantino requested of the committee that, “you should focus the review on how the new Veterans Charter serves the most seriously injured, how our government supports Canadian veterans’ families, and how Veterans Affairs delivers the programs that have been put in place.”

How long do seriously injured veterans and their families have to wait for government to act? Brian Forbes of the National Council of Veteran Associations proposed that the Veterans Consultation Group encourage the minister to recognize its “time for a heroic moment.” The veterans ombudsman would later use these same words.

Veterans have been more than heroic in sacrificing for Canada. Why is the government acting cowardly in repaying the “debt” owed to our men and women in uniform and their families?

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

https://www.hilltimes.com/opinion-piece/politics/2014/03/24/feds-dilly-dallying-with-disabled-veterans/37924?page_requested=1

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CAF Needs to Diminish the Rhetoric & Act on Health Care

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:08

By Sean Bruyea-ESPRIT DE CORPS-April 2014



When it comes to mental health and suicides in the military, the Canadian Armed Forces can do much to come clean and diminish the self-serving rhetoric.

Chief of the Defence Staff Tom Lawson claims the public focus on military suicides could be aggravating the crisis in having “brought a slight honour to the act of suicide.” This unfortunate attempt to closet away debate on an extremely serious issue has little basis in scientific research. The ‘suicide contagion’ effect has been validated amongst hyper-connected and highly self-conscious teens, with the greatest vulnerability amongst 12- to 13-year-olds. There is scant basis to believe that mature professional adults in the military may be subject to this contagion.

Even with unprecedented public attention on the issue, the military still drags its heels in both hiring sufficient mental health-care staff as well as completing outstanding suicide investigations. Nevertheless, the CAF’s director of mental health, Scott McLeod, claims “no other organization in Canada, and probably the world, has got a program that intensive to learn from these suicides.”

One month later, in January 2014, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson announced that the military was finally going to clear a backlog of 50 uncompleted suicide investigations. There are approximately 50 suicides every five years in the regular force population. How could the military “intensive[ly] learn” from any suicides over the previous five years if apparently none of the investigations are complete?

In May 2012, the military cut almost half the research staff and epidemiologists who analyze mental health issues such as depression, PTSD and suicide. Instead, the Forces would rely on research from Veterans Affairs Canada. VAC has a directorate of 11 employees representing an annual expenditure of perhaps $1.5-million. The last research report available on the Internet is dated 2011. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs had a research budget of over $1-billion in 2012.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the 2008 suicide of Corporal Stuart Langridge languished for years before a Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) was initiated in 2011. It has yet to release its findings.

The military maintains that Langridge’s suicide was not due to military service or PTSD in spite of testimony from his closest relatives and friends to the contrary. The military insists that substance abuse was the cause. Amongst the American veteran population, 91 per cent of inpatient PTSD sufferers experienced substance abuse and 73 per cent of Vietnam veterans with PTSD suffered alcohol abuse.

The Langridge case shows military culture intent upon blaming the victim and defending the perceived institution’s reputation rather than addressing the large gaps in mental health care. This is perpetuated by senior officers such as the chief psychiatrist, Rakesh Jetly, who claims some soldiers are not coming forward because they are “self-stigmatizing.” Most research into self-stigma and mental illness focuses upon sufferers of psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia: the military screens out such serious mental illnesses. The research jury is still out when it comes to self-stigma as it relates to PTSD and depression. The shame and low self-esteem of self-stigma are also key symptoms of these two conditions; separating the stigma from the illness is difficult if not irrelevant.

Soldiers already experience much shame in their condition, but now it is their “self-stigma” which prevents them from seeking help. Surely this is a recipe for negatively affecting their willingness to come forward. Self-stigma cannot exist without external stigma. When soldiers suffering psychological injuries know that they could be booted from the military, this is known as “structural stigma” writ large. An institution that refuses to employ certain psychologically injured is clearly stigmatizing.

The military indoctrinates its employees unlike any other secular institution. It refers to itself as the “military family” and calls its employees “members.” Most of all, the Forces persistently and vehemently reinforce an ethos of “mission, soldier, self” — a deep psychological commitment by each and every member to place the institution and its goals first, care of one’s fellow soldiers second and then care of oneself last.

How do psychologically-injured soldiers come forward for personal care let alone experience success after being kicked out of this all-encompassing military ‘family’ when their own care has been the last thing on their mind for sometimes decades?

In this military-first culture, is it surprising that sending uniformed individuals to investigate suicides fails to find a link between uniformed service, PTSD and suicide? The military link is crucial to receiving veterans’ benefits.

If military service is not to blame, why would any soldier come forward for help if both the illness is the soldier’s fault but also their reluctance in coming forward? How can any soldier trust an institution, which even after witnessing shame-filled, self-destructive deaths would completely absolve itself of any responsibility?

http://www.seanbruyea.com/2014/04/caf-needs-to-diminish-the-rhetoric-act-on-health-care/

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Veterans bang heads against Parliamentary, bureaucratic wall

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:10

The government is clearly not holding up its end of the bargain on veterans.

The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Veterans pictured last year in Ottawa on Remembrance Day. Sean Bruyea says MPs have never debated or given serious independent and binding consideration of the dramatic changes that the NVC made to the relationship between Canada and those who were and are prepared to lay down their lives in her service.
By SEAN BRUYEA
Published: Monday, 04/14/2014- THE HILL TIMES
The hue and cry from veterans and their families has not dimmed but grown stronger since 2005 when Parliament passed the legislation we now know as the ‘New Veterans Charter’ or NVC. Will Parliament take up veterans’ torch and finally make bureaucracy work for veterans? As the unaddressed recommendations accumulate, will the NVC become increasingly unfit to provide adequate shelter for our veterans and their families in the coming years?

Last week, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs wrapped up hearings on the NVC. We must remember that elected Members of the House of Commons have never debated nor given serious independent and binding consideration of the dramatic changes that the NVC made to the relationship between Canada and those who were and are prepared to lay down their lives in her service.

In good faith, far too many accepted the shoddy construction of the NVC because government promised to keep the renovations going. Near stagnant ‘incrementalism,’ a dirty word in the first 50 years of veterans’ benefits in Canada, has become the sad new social contract between Canada and, our veterans and their families.

Veterans Affairs Canada made pretenses to the glory of Canada’s post World War II veterans’ benefits. The original aptly-named Veterans Charter provided a host of programs for all veterans, whether injured or not. The NVC is not a charter at all but a cynical repackaging of already existing programs with few limited additions.

It took four years before the Veterans Affairs Committee wrote its first report in 2010 with 18 recommendations. Four years later, we are at it yet again with witnesses fighting to implement many of the same recommendations such as boosting the income loss program to 100 per cent matching projected career earnings, not just a fraction of true inflation as is now the case.

Bureaucrats claim to have implemented 10 recommendations from the Parliamentary report, including “ VAC ensures that family members who take care of severely disabled Veterans are compensated appropriately.” VAC’s basis for this claim: the Forces have a “Canadian Armed Forces Attendant Care Benefit.” Perhaps being so far away in Charlottetown, VAC senior bureaucrats do not realize veterans are ineligible for CF benefits. Misleading justification is repeated in most of the 160 recommendations that VAC claims to have implemented.

Canadians go to war, fight, die, lose limbs, minds and families, all at Parliament’s orders, for our values, our nation. They sacrifice for all Canadians. The military does not do all of this for bureaucrats even though bureaucrats may think differently. Then, why is it that Parliament, through either inaction or inability, has failed to stand up to the bureaucracy?

There are greater problems with the NVC than just the empty and specious rhetoric coming from Charlottetown. I tabled 30 recommendations for this Parliamentary review in a report titled, “Severely Injured Veterans and Their Families: Improving Accessibility To Veterans Affairs Programs For A Better Transition.”

As both sides of the committee table observed during witness testimony, at Veterans Affairs Canada, availability of programs does not equate to accessibility. Why for instance should widows or spouses of incapacitated veterans be time-limited on any program?

In legislation which pre-dated the NVC, the Pension Act, all programs were payable effectively on date of application. The NVC income loss program is payable when “the minister determines that a rehabilitation plan or a vocational assistance plan should be developed.” Application for review of any decision must be made within 60 days of VAC’s decision. The Pension Act did not place time limits on review.

Such pettiness is endemic in the New Veterans Charter.

Government is quick to march out the hypothetical 24-year-old corporal from the veterans’ ombudsman report who is projected to receive $2-million from VAC over his lifetime. Ignoring that $340,000 must be repaid in taxes, when none of the Pension Act benefits are taxable, this corporal represents fewer than 77 individuals, or 0.1 per cent of Canadian Forces VAC clients.

The veterans’ ombudsman noted of all the recipients of the permanent incapacity allowance, only one receives the highest grade of $1,724.65 monthly. As for the highly controversial lump sum which now stands at $301,275.26, only 148, or 0.35 per cent of all lump sum recipients have been awarded this amount in eight years. Currently, only two per cent of the 42,000 lump sum recipients have any long term economic assistance.

Contrary to VAC’s claims, the NVC does not offer opportunity with security. Canada Pension Plan disability, once accused of being insensitive and lacking compassion now allows disabled recipients to earn up to $5,100 annually without reporting this to CPP. The VAC extended income loss program deducts 100 per cent of earnings. Troublingly, the most seriously ill veterans are also not supported to pursue education.

VAC derogatorily and deceptively claims veterans were focused on disability not ability under the pre-NVC system. However, the Pension Act guarantees, “no deduction shall be made from the pension of any member of the forces because the member undertook work or perfected themself in some form of industry.” The Pension Act offered much security for the veteran to explore opportunities. Sadly, the NVC incarcerates our most suffering veterans in a lifelong psychological and financial prison of frozen human potential.

Would it not be better to provide access to life-enriching education and opportunities to seek employment without penalty while these veterans in turn begin to pay more taxes, hence offsetting some of their disability costs? Does that not make better economic sense?

All veterans and their families especially the most seriously ill, fulfilled their obligation at government’s orders without delay, without complaint, without excuse. All they rightly expected was that government honour its end of the contract immediately, expeditiously and for as long as those veterans and their families live.

For our most seriously injured veterans and their families, miserly constructed and administered programs have soundly violated this quid pro quo. Government is clearly not holding up its end of the bargain.

This dire situation wherein even the most loyal and timid of veterans organizations speak out is a very loud alarm clock for our elected officials to stand up to the bureaucracy and stand up for our veterans once and for all.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues. For Sean’s report and testimony visit www.seanbruyea.com

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

https://www.hilltimes.com/opinion-piece/2014/04/14/veterans-bang-heads-against-parliamentary-bureaucratic-wall/38146?mcl=713&muid=1435

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Yes, We Can Trust Ottawa Again

Post by Guest on Wed 13 Apr 2016, 14:12

All oversight bodies need to be strengthened with impartial non-bureaucrats to manage them.
By SEAN BRUYEA -THE HILL TIMES-Published: Monday, 04/28/2014

OTTAWA—Holding government accountable has been granted a ray of hope. Democracy Watch may proceed with a private prosecution of Nigel Wright for the secretive payment of $90,000 to Senator Mike Duffy. This initiative has much wider implications for greater accountability of Ottawa’s oversight agencies rendered largely ineffective by design and or management. The end result could be a federal government that actually becomes more transparent and accountable.

Duff Conacher of Democracy Watch accuses the RCMP of “covering up” any justification the federal agency may have in failing to prosecute Wright. The RCMP is one of the penultimate agencies of accountability and oversight in Canada. How do we, as Canadians, safeguard democracy and the rule of law if these watchdogs fail to do their jobs?

Politicians have exhausted our trust that they seek good governance in Ottawa. Meanwhile, MPs have been complicit or apathetic to the increasing ineffectiveness of offices created ostensibly to ensure accountable and transparent government.

Politicians and their parties come and go, but the bureaucracy is the eternal rock beneath the immature antics of Parliament. In spite of increasing autocratic tendencies in our current government, MPs appear unwilling or unable to make public servants accountable, let alone make government transparent.

Secrecy is a darkness that allows apathy, self-interest, incompetence, and all species of corruption to scurry about. Canada’s access to information and privacy regimes are sold as the light to disinfect these ailments. However, both are grossly outdated and have failed, especially the Access to Information Act. Hundreds of recommendations to improve both legislation and the offices have been put forward by Parliament and information commissioners themselves. Senior bureaucracy ignores most.

In calling the system broken, Information Commissioner Suzanne Legault joins the ranks of her predecessors Robert Marleau, John Reid, and nearly every commissioner since the creation of the regime in 1983.

Governments “would much prefer to operate in total secrecy. It’s in their nature, ” Rick Mercer rants. “Money and secrecy: what could go wrong? It’s such a good duo. It’s right up there with gasoline and matches.”

The Privacy Act is equally flawed and, along with the ATI and public service ethics legislation, is lacking teeth. No one can be prosecuted for violating these acts. In my case, even though the privacy commissioner ruled that Veterans Affairs broke the law in an “alarming” and “entirely inappropriate manner,” not one of the senior bureaucrats involved was sanctioned. Most received performance bonuses during the breaches and after the privacy commissioner’s findings.

Senior bureaucrats’ arrogance is the crux of the problem. They write the laws and install colleagues to oversee other senior bureaucrats. Senior mandarins have a deeply indoctrinated culture to what insiders call “play nicely in the sandbox.” Senior executives don’t finger point at other senior bureaucrats.

The inept management of the Office of the Public Service Integrity Commissioner is a perfect example. The auditor general, which is perhaps the only oversight agency with any structural independence, has condemned both the offices of Christiane Ouimet and Mario Dion. This independence is principally due to the hiring of chartered accountants, an occupation accountable first and foremost to their ethical and professional standards, not to their public service buddies.

Bureaucratic collegiality and oversight are dangerous collaborators in the destruction of ethical and therefore accountable government.

David Hutton, of FAIR Whistleblower, explains protecting those in the senior public service is a “career-enhancing prerequisite.” Dion has repeatedly refused to publicly name those few senior bureaucrats he determined broke the law even though these bureaucrats have destroyed whistleblowers’ lives.

The door must be open in Ottawa for private prosecutions. All Canadians have a right to initiate a private prosecution for an indictable offence. However, laws overseeing the public service and MPs have no consequence for breaking the law. Those that do, such as the Lobbying Act, have witnessed only a single prosecution.

The Department of Justice website explains that a “feature of the English common law was the view that it was not only the privilege but the duty of the private citizen to preserve the King’s Peace and bring offenders to justice.”

Empowering the citizen is key to a successful democracy. Senior bureaucrats and politicians have done great damage to democracy in disempowering Canadians’ right to hold Ottawa accountable outside elections.

Appointing impartial non-bureaucrats to manage them must strengthen all oversight bodies. Their respective legislations need to be thoroughly reviewed publicly and include mandatory minimum penalties for violating the law. Canadians could then initiate prosecutions of bureaucrats and MPs when oversight agencies fail to do so.

Ottawa’s bureaucracy numbers about 400,000 persons, about one per cent of Canada’s population. The 5,600 senior bureaucrats comprise just more than one per cent of the bureaucracy. More than two millennia ago, Aristotle cautioned that democracy unchecked would devolve into oligarchy and self-interest. Most of our watchdogs are much worse than lapdogs. Their ineffectual existence has been a PR red herring to mislead Canadians that Ottawa is keeping self-interest in check.

Holding government accountable is much more than just how it spends our money. Our system of government and all it stands for is the umbrella under which we gather as a society to weather difficult times, the soil which cultivates opportunity and the air which facilitates an atmosphere of trust.

We have rightly lost trust in a system that operates with impunity and wherein the one per cent of the one per cent decides our destiny in secrecy. Trust cannot exist without accountability and transparency. Without trust in government, we can lose trust in one another. Trust stemming from a truly accountable and transparent government is the ethical bedrock that once made our nation a model of hope to which other nations aspired.

Sean Bruyea, vice-president of Canadians for Accountability, is a retired Air Force intelligence officer and frequent commentator on government, military, and veterans’ issues.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times

http://www.hilltimes.com/opinion-piece/politics/2014/04/28/yes-we-can-trust-ottawa-again/38331

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