Veterans Affairs report confirms 4 inappropriate cases where MAID raised with veterans; other allegations ‘unfounded’


2023-03-10 22:35:00

An investigation by Veterans Affairs Canada has confirmed a now-former employee had inappropriate conversations with four veterans about seeking medical assistance in dying (MAID), while all other allegations were determined to be “unfounded.”

Veterans Affairs released its findings on Friday from an investigation it carried out into the inappropriate conversations.

The department says these incidents were isolated to one employee, who no longer works for Veterans Affairs, and are “not a widespread, systemic issue.”

Veterans Affairs says it has referred the incidents to the RCMP and that it “deeply regrets what transpired and understands the seriousness of these completely isolated incidents.” The report also has been provided to the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs.

While more allegations have since been raised, the final report says Veterans Affairs “thoroughly” investigated them and concluded they were “unfounded.”

“As I’ve said from the very beginning, what happened to these veterans is totally unacceptable,” Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said in a news release.

“The report clearly confirms that these four cases were isolated to a single employee and we have referred this matter to the RCMP. Our front-line employees are completely dedicated and care deeply about the veterans they serve each and every day. Veterans can trust that VAC is always available to support their needs in a respectful and compassionate manner.”

Officials from Veterans Affairs, speaking to reporters on background during a technical briefing Friday morning, said they have not confirmed whether any of the four veterans identified in the report have pursued MAID as a result of their initial discussions with the former employee.

They said they are aware of one veteran who has since passed away, although they have not confirmed a cause.

Asked how many allegations were determined to be unfounded, the officials said they couldn’t provide a definitive number but that there were fewer than 20 and more than four.

The final report says the investigation began after a veteran contacted the department’s call centre on July 21, 2022, to file a complaint alleging that an employee inappropriately brought up MAID during a phone conversation they had earlier that day.

The veteran alleged that the employee mentioned having provided information about MAID to another veteran.

The department says it took “immediate action” by apologizing to the veteran and reassigning their file to the employee’s manager.

Management began a “fact-finding process” on July 22, the report says, and the files of other veterans assigned to that employee were reviewed to see if any other conversations about MAID had occurred.

Minister MacAulay then instructed the department on Aug. 19 to do a full investigation.

A few days later, the department confirmed a second incident where MAID was inappropriately discussed with a veteran, the report says.

The department says it then offered written guidance on MAID to all staff who serve veterans and held five sessions over the following weeks to stress that starting a conversation with veterans about MAID “is completely unacceptable.”

The file review grew to include another 2,153 files that the employee had worked on since 2016, the year MAID became legal in Canada.

Veterans Affairs later became aware in November of two more veterans who had conversations about MAID with the former employee.

The department, meanwhile, says it reviewed all 402,000 files in its client databases, dating back to June 2016, and found no instances where MAID had been raised, with the exception of the four that were already identified.

With files from Senior Digital Parliamentary Reporter Rachel Aiello

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