CAF Ombudsman announces retirement

National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces Ombudsman Gary Walbourne is leaving the post after more than four and a half years as the military’s watchdog.
The ombudsman, who is responsible for investigating complaints and acts a neutral third party on issues involving a current or former member of the Canadian Forces, cadets or civilian employees of the military, will complete his term on Oct. 31. His office is independent of the military chain of command and reports directly to the minister of national defence.
In his final message sent on Sept. 12, Walbourne said it was with mixed emotions that he leaves the job expressing his gratitude to the Defence Community adding that to have had this opportunity has been the most rewarding part of his career.
“I have often heard about how professional and dedicated the men and women of the Department of National Defence, and the Canadian Armed Forces are,” said Walbourne. “Well I can confirm these are not just words, they are indeed the fabric that holds this all together. And as I travel across the country, I really see the Canadian Armed Forces for what it is. An absolutely incredible organization filled with amazing people. People who care and are dedicated. For this, we should all be so grateful. To the past I look to learn. At present it is the work that invigorates. To the future I look with hope. The future trials, tribulations and successes will be a direct outcome from the decisions of the present and getting it right is vitally important.”
The office of the Ombudsman is a direct source of information, referral, and education for the men and women of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces. Its role is to help individuals access existing channels of assistance or redress when they have a complaint or concern. In addition, the Ombudsman may investigate and report publicly on matters affecting the welfare of members and employees of the Department or the Canadian Forces and others falling within his jurisdiction. The ultimate goal is to contribute to substantial and long-lasting improvements to the Defence community.
Walbourne finishes a distinguished career in the public service and the private sector. He joined the Office of the Veterans Ombudsman as executive director operations and deputy ombudsman in 2011. He also had stints as director general executive secretariat at Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and before that was the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Shared Support Services at DND. Walbourne holds a Masters Degree in Business Administration, a Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation, and a Certified Management Accountants (CMA) designation.
In his final communique, Walbourne thanked members of the media for their interest in defence matters, as well as elected and appointed officials for their hard work. He also had a special message for military families.
“Few know the sacrifices that you make for yourself and your families on a daily basis and the opportunities you miss because of the lifestyle you follow. You have been called the “strength behind the uniform” and I’m not sure this really describes the impact you have on national security and continuity of operations. More than any group, you have moved me most. From the families of the fallen to playing tic-tac-toe with the children to comforting a distraught family member, I have learned the most.
“My tenure has been, at times, chafing to the Department and I still believe we only get better when we challenge the status quo and call out unfairness at every opportunity. In humility, I have tried the best I know how, I have collaborated when there was opportunity, I have challenged where required, and I have pushed as hard as the system can take. I have learned that this is not a popularity contest and at times when you challenge, there will be pushback. All we have ever done, through evidence-based research, is to recommend ways to improve the system. I am proud of the work we have done.”

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Sean Chase

Sean Chase is a newspaper journalist with 25 years experience. He also serves in the Canadian Armed Forces as a battery sergeant-major at 42nd Field Regiment in Pembroke, Ontario

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