Ministerial Question Period: Information Sharing

By: The Hon. Rodger Cuzner

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Hon. Rodger Cuzner: Thank you. It is good to see my friend and former colleague.

I, too, would like to weigh in on the Desmond inquiry and the recent study that was tabled.

In December 2015, Corporal Lionel Desmond had his firearms licence revoked after he had been arrested because of a domestic dispute with his wife.

Five months later, in May of 2016, his licence was reinstated, even though he was in a federally funded care program. Through the inquiry, the staff said that at that particular time Desmond had been mentally unstable.

My question is about the chain of communication and the gaps — or, as referred to by Senator Patterson, silos — in the transition of the information from Veterans Affairs caseworkers to mental health workers to front-line workers. Did you see that before the inquiry was tabled?

Hon. Ginette Petitpas Taylor, P.C., M.P., Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence: Thank you so much, Senator Cuzner, for that question.

I will reiterate that what happened in Upper Tracadie, Nova Scotia, is nothing short of a tragedy. Our heart goes out to all the families and community members who have been impacted by this tragedy.

As indicated, the judge in charge of the inquiry published a lengthy report. Three recommendations were made that were specific to Veterans Affairs Canada: first, that a case manager be assigned to veterans transitioning out of the Canadian Armed Forces; second, that individuals diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder or other health issues be provided a copy of their health records, to be ingested into the Nova Scotia records; and finally, to improve the transfer of health records into each other’s records database. We recognize that sharing of information and health records has been flagged with respect to the inquest and inquiry.

My department is doing a deep dive with respect to these recommendations and looking forward, in the weeks to come, to providing more details with respect to that.

I want to add that shortly after the inquiry report was launched, I reached out to the Province of Nova Scotia because, again, there are recommendations on both sides — on behalf of Veterans Affairs but also on behalf of the Province of Nova Scotia. We want to ensure that we do all we can to prevent any such tragedy from happening again.

Senator Cuzner: Thank you very much. I apologize for having to be scolded by the Speaker.

Madam Minister, Recommendation 12 states that they want to ensure that front-line professionals in multiple systems — such as health, mental health and mental health education professionals, social services and people in the justice system — are up to date on current information, particularly with respect to intimate partner violence, and that they are developing risk assessments and risk plans going forward.

The study would have brought all of this to light, but there must have been discussions within the department about these gaps in information. Were there steps being taken prior to the study?

Ms. Petitpas Taylor: Once again, thank you so much, Senator Cuzner.

With respect to your question, first of all, I want to be clear that we certainly followed the inquiry very closely. We did not wait for the results of the inquiry to come forward with the report. As such, some changes have been made at Veterans Affairs Canada. One example is with respect to mental health services.

Again, we have to make sure that we do a deep dive with respect to these recommendations, indicating that we want to do all we can to prevent this type of tragedy from happening. Sharing of information is certainly a key component with respect to the recommendations and something that we will have to look at very closely.


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