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Ombudsman of the DND and the CAF release report recommending better methods to support bereaved military families

Title: Ombudsman of the DND and the CAF release report recommending better methods to support bereaved military families

The Ombudsman of the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF), released a report this week recommending methods to better support and communicate with bereaved military families.

The report specifically takes into consideration the Board of Inquiry (BOI) process and is a follow-up report to a 2015 report, entitled Boards of Inquiry: Families in Focus.

The BOI is an internal, non-judicial military investigation convened by the minister of national defence and chief of the defence staff in the event of a military casualty.

“Previously, there was a distinct lack of clarity in the BOI process with respect to the role of the family, and many were either ill-informed during an ongoing inquiry, or worse, left searching for answers after it was concluded. This lack of closure, especially in the case of a BOI struck to investigate matters surrounding the death of a Canadian Armed Forces member, caused families unnecessary pain and suffering,” stated Ombudsman Gary Walbourne in a statement released April 25.

The 2015 report noted that families should be given the option of engagement through the (BOI) process through a means of their choosing. However, it acknowledged, that there was a lack of sufficient information to make solid recommendations. Instead, the report recommended that the Office of the Ombudsman work with the CAF for a one-year trial period to identify the needs of families and effective methods of communication.

After working closely with the Director of Military Family Services for one year, the Ombudsman released evidence-based recommendations to better engage bereaved families.

Recommendations in the report specify that the need for the CAF and DND to make information readily available, based on frequently asked questions so that bereaved families can easily find information on what to expect after their loved one dies, whether in the context of the CAF or not.

The report also noted that plain-language information with details and the impact of key administrative documents CAF military members are required to complete in the case of serious illness, injury or death are produced for families and CAF members.

Tuesday’s report also outlines the need for guidelines and timelines for commanding officers to meet with families who express a desire to learn about the circumstances of the death of a loved one and providing families with information regarding bereavement and grief support programs and services.

In addition, the report also addresses the need for command teams to be trained for casualty notification and administration and recognizing bereaved families, along with families of the ill and injured, as families transitioning from military to civilian life.

The Ombudsman’s report also recommended methods for DND and CAF to provide the necessary tools to personnel responsible for Casualty Administration.

“These recommended changes are fundamental to fostering a trust relationship between the Canadian Armed Forces and military families during difficult and often uncertain circumstances that both parties find themselves in the event of a military casualty,” noted the report.

The hope is that through these recommendations families will no longer have to chase after information and will be aware of what to expect after the death of their loved one and the different responsibilities and rights they have.

“While Boards of Inquiry are often struck as the result of tragic circumstances, the recommendations coming out of our two reports represent a good news story both by placing a renewed focus on the military family, as well as demonstrating the ability of the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces and this office to work collaboratively on an issue so important to the military community,” said Walbourne.

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MIshall Rehman

Originally from Atlanta, GA, Mishall is a freelance journalist pursuing her passion for writing in her new homeland Canada. She currently lives in Trenton, ON with her husband.

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