NOVA SCOTIA HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Legislative Committees Office
Printed and Published by Nova Scotia Hansard Reporting Services
VETERANS AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
Rafah DiCostanzo (Chairman)
Ben Jessome (Vice-Chairman)
[Rafah DiCostanzo was replaced by Keith Irving.]
Legislative Committee Clerk
Chief Legislative Counsel
Canadian Youth Remembrance Society
HALIFAX, TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2019
STANDING COMMITTEE ON VETERANS AFFAIRS
BEN JESSOME (The Chair): Good afternoon, everybody. I’m Ben Jessome and I’ll be your Chair for this afternoon’s proceedings. Today, we’re visited by the Canadian Youth Remembrance Society representatives Patrick Milner and Jade Hunt.
Before we kick off, I’ll just let everybody know that coffee, tea, water is in the anteroom to my left out the door. Washrooms are there as well. In the event of an emergency, we’re going to depart on the Granville Street side of the building, which is also to my left. We’ll head around the building up to the Parade Square. Capiche? Cool.
Without further ado, I’ll invite Ms. Roberts to kick us off and we’ll make some introductions of the committee members.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
THE CHAIR: If you have some opening remarks, Mr. Milner or Ms. Hunt, feel free to proceed. Before we get started, the way that this will flow is, I’ll ask that you hesitate to be recognized before you begin to speak. Committee members, it’s fair to remind us all, as well. Before you get to speak, I’d like to recognize you so that our folks to my right taking diligent notes can make sure that we get things correct, okay. Awesome.
Mr. Milner, please.
PATRICK MILNER: Our opening statement would be mainly to say thank you to all of you. My name is Patrick Milner, I’m the Chairperson of the Canadian Youth Remembrance Society. I helped found the society in 2003, which I’ll talk about a little more.
This is Jade Hunt. She’s a new board member - she’s very nervous, which is fair. I try to travel with a youth. I’m one of the older youth in the province, so I am in the process of passing the torch to younger people. I try to maintain our vision to create a youth-driven culture of remembrance in Canada.
That would be our opening statement and we are pleased to have provided our presentation before. We are going to try to go through it fairly quickly so that we can talk about some of the requests and some of the questions afterwards.
The main purpose of coming here was we wanted to speak to this committee when we were ready to, so this is sort of a bit premature, but we got the invitation and we wanted to take advantage of it. I’ve put together a presentation that sums up the last 18 years, plus the last several years that highlight some of the ideas and topics and themes that we’ve addressed over the last 18 years and where we’re headed into the future.
We’re titling this Live Forward because, as I’ll explain later, it’s our new tagline and it was developed by young people. We’re hoping that all of you will participate in assisting us getting that started for the next 100 years. That would be our opening statement.
THE CHAIR: Mr. Milner, do you intend to go through the presentation?
PATRICK MILNER: I would like to.
THE CHAIR: Excellent. Proceed.
PATRICK MILNER: Today, we’re going to talk a little bit about the background of the society. We’re going to talk about some of the activities that the society has been engaged in over the last 18 years. The highlight of the presentation will be to discuss our new Live Forward initiative, how that came to be, and how it relates to the commemorative side of the Act of Remembrance. Then we would like to talk to you a little bit about the struggles of young people to be self-driven in the Act of Remembrance, as veterans have called it. When we say, “Act of Remembrance,” we’re really talking about the commemorative programming as opposed to the policy stuff around how we look after veterans. We don’t weigh in on that at all.
The background begins with me, and because Jade is fairly new, I’m going to be doing most of the speaking.
I started the society with a group of young people that I met at Pier 21 when I was working there in 2001. A couple of weeks into my stay there, I was giving one of my first tours. We got to the part about World War II veterans leaving from that location. There was an elderly gentleman on my tour with his fairly large family, and I was explaining that this particular part of the museum is where we pay tribute and recognize that this is where just under half a million Canadian soldiers left for World War II and where almost 10,000 did not return. This gentleman began to cry, and he began to ask me why it was that I was saying thank you by naming a room the World War II room.
This is no diss on the Pier 21 Society, but this was my experience at the time. I was brand new, and I was very embarrassed. He kept pushing and pushing and pushing in front of what grew into about 40 people, what I knew about his sacrifice. He put me on the spot, and I had to admit I didn’t know very much. I thought that I would not be working there very much longer.
He is, for me, an unknown soldier that I had the opportunity to meet. He went back to Alberta after having spent a few days at Pier 21, and he motivated me to get my peers together and do something to correct, in his opinion, a lack of youth engagement in the Act of Remembrance - and he called it the Act of Remembrance.
The remembrance landscape for us, that we have experienced over the last 18 years, is that there are military traditions, there are traditions of those who are retired from the military, and there are traditions that seem to be supported by government. Young people are encouraged to participate in those traditions. That’s where we are today as well.
For the first couple of years, this group of people and I would meet at Pier 21, and we would talk about how we can support those traditions. After a while, we were advised by some of the community leaders at Pier 21 that we should really start our own society, that we should take the plunge and incorporate under the Societies Act. We did so in October 2003. We’ve been in and out of activity in terms of being active with the registry, but we’ve always stayed part of the discussions, and we’ve met. Currently, we’re active, and we’re looking forward to presenting some of the ideas that we have moving forward.
Lastly, passing the torch - that’s really directed at me. It’s time for me to pass the torch. I now have a new experience which I’ve never had before, which is the emotional dilemma of having to give up something that I’m very passionate about and give it over to other people to do whatever they want to do with it. That can be tough for a lot of people, and I’ve seen it in many of these different areas in the remembrance landscape across Canada and certainly here in our province. We’re very passionate about our veterans in the Maritimes and certainly here in Nova Scotia.
The need for the society was simply that young people were being told by veterans that they need to do more. I heard this hundreds of times - if you’re 21, young people don’t do enough, they don’t know enough, we aren’t doing enough to engage them. That was coming from veterans. I’ll leave that thought with you because contrary to that message is young people are doing a lot, and that’s coming from these areas of the landscape in the province where there are programs that pass on a knowledge transfer. There’s really not a youth-driven one where they create and show their own appreciation from within their own ranks in their own initiative. That’s very low and that has always been where we’ve directed our attention.
It’s critical when we meet with young people - I felt it and all of the young people felt it - that they wanted to create their own versions of traditions that currently exist and they wanted to create new ones and they wanted to have support for those initiatives. I’ll probably repeat this, but there really isn’t a lot of room for doing that unless they go out and literally do it on their own without the MLAs, without the associations made up of veterans, without the government departments - federally, provincially and municipally. They are truly on their own if they want to do the initiative.
Passing the torch again is just reminding everyone that there are going to be new people that have never done this before, like Jade, who are going to come up with similar ideas and for the next 10 to 20 years are going to try to initiate them. We’re hoping that this committee can begin a process to have that communication about how we can change the landscape so that there is a protocol. I don’t like that word, as you may know. I believe that young people are very high on the level of protocol in the province.
The marquee events often do not allow for young people - certainly the ones that happen at associations that are made up of veterans. Young people are generally not 19. There is gambling and drinking involved. There is a need for something for an additional piece. We’ll talk about that in a bit.
Live Forward - this is our new tradition, and this came from young people. I tried to stay out of it. I find I’m a little biased, but I remember my younger self and I know how important it was for me to want to show that appreciation after having those experiences at Pier 21.
Words of a Dying Soldier was an exercise that we did leading up to the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. There was a board of directors meeting and we discussed - if you could go back 100 years and have the last 60 seconds of a dying 17-year-old, what would that soldier tell you to do for remembrance? What would be their advice or gift to you in the last minute of their life? We talked about two things. One was, “please don’t forget me” - because that would be a scary time. Ultimately, I think they would say, “live a good life” - have a good life, live it to the fullest, be happy, take advantage of all that we have to offer in our country and in our communities. That was very powerful. We wrote down, live a good life.
Then we reversed it and we wondered what were remembrance activities going to look like for young people in 100 years. We knew that 2018 was the end of the First World War so we focused on the First World War and we talked a little bit about if we were going to make an impact 100 years from now, today, what would we do? How would we go about creating something that showed that young people appreciated veterans? I’ll talk a little bit about what that means to veterans in a moment.
Again, that’s something we feel is missing, so we want to create some new traditions that we can pass forward. I think the idea was that young people felt they deserved to inherit the torch of remembrance and had the right to pass it on to future young people. That has become the idea of passing the torch, like a remembrance ceremony; youth creating a passing-of-the torch ceremony in any community, organization, or school, and doing it in whatever way is meaningful to them.
We wrote that down, ‘passing it forward’, and we selected the word forward - hence, the two put together: Live Forward. I think that’s pretty wise for a group of 20-year-olds. Some of them are not Canadians; one was from Egypt and he was involved with a tremendous amount of upheaval in Egypt when he was a little guy. Now he’s a structural engineering student at Dal. He’s given a presentation on Live Forward in the past.
We know that young people are on social media and we want to grow our crowd of young people, so we’re going to be focusing largely on a social media campaign that explains how each individual that participates lives their lives forward. It can be anything, anything at all. It doesn’t have to be about remembrance.
Live Forward is a modern tagline of the Canadian Youth Remembrance Society. It is an invitation to all Canadians to live their lives to the fullest as an ultimate form of appreciation and expression of thanks to veterans - Canadian Forces and RCMP members - and their families, for their sacrifices. It is a forwardly-driven call to action for the engagement and participation of young Canadians in our military stories and the Act of Remembrance.
This is Jade Hunt’s presentation. Jade is a new director, as we said. She’s on the board of directors and this is her first experience giving presentations and getting to know what we’re all about - it was very mean of me to put her in this situation. Anyway, Jade’s Live Forward is: “I #Live Forward . . . by waking up every day with a positive outlook.” Very simple. Very powerful. Very meaningful. This will be posted on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and put out there in the world for her to share with her friends and encourage them to do one, as well.
This is Patrick Milner’s - mine. I’m the chairperson of the board of directors and my Live Forward quote is: “I #Live Forward . . . by being a positive and kind person to everyone I meet, all while helping to create a better country, by promoting greater support for youth driven remembrance activities in Canada.” Of course, that’s meaningful to me.
Roland Lawless is a veteran. You may know of Roland. He is a Canadian veteran of 20 years and he is a veteran’s health advocate. I gave him that title, so I don’t know if he sees himself as that or not. His quote it: “I #Live Forward . . . by advocating for special Veterans walk-in health and wellness clinics and by promoting peer support programs and initiatives, all while setting an example by looking after myself and believing in hope.”
We’re hoping to have many veterans participate in this as well. What I’ve been told by those who have seen Roland’s Live Forward profile is that he’s very proud of it. It’s made him feel uplifted. He feels that young people are paying attention to him, and that’s important.
This slide is a summary of what I think young people on the board were saying is that there’s really a what’s-in-it-for-me factor that’s causing some problems with young people fully engaging. This is about remembrance as being bigger than ourselves - bigger than all of us really, because we had to solve a problem. Why do these things? What is the point? Does it make you feel better? Does it uplift veterans? Does it make your community stronger? What is the point of a young person getting up on November 11th and going and watching?
In 2017, when we did a youth remembrance-driven wreath-placing ceremony, one of the suggestions was that maybe we should make our own wreaths and then have the young people who made them place them on the cenotaph in Grand Parade square. I know at least one of you was there. It was very meaningful for those young people. We had a young woman who was the master of ceremonies and she did an amazing job. If we had one of those in every community every year, I think it would be a tremendously stronger country. I think we would have really strong members of the Legislature in the future, which all of you are, and we would see the world differently. I certainly did.
I wish I would have had my experience at an earlier age - I was 28. I did an interview on Information Morning with Don Connolly - I was 33 when I did that - and he said, you’re a very young man for this line of work. So it goes to show that it’s incredibly important to acknowledge that there is a missing piece in our country. Jade and I were talking on the way down, why isn’t there a Canadian Youth Remembrance Society that’s almost 100 years old by this point in our history, after what we’ve been through? Why is it that the protocol in our country seems to not have that piece? It’s more important for us to have them plug into something else that is becoming, in all fairness, less and less valuable to our current young citizens - in my view.
This comes to your role. I’ve spoken here before and it was an intimidating experience. I’ve had that experience, it was very valuable, and I know it will be very valuable for Jade. It will be very valuable for future young people when they come here. I hope that they will because there isn’t really a lot of places for young people to have these experiences. It’s very valuable, even now for me, to speak to a formal standing committee made up of MLAs, elected representatives. You’re very important people. You’re symbolic of something that is part of the Act of Remembrance.
We would like you, if you haven’t already received the message, to be a part of the Live Forward campaign. We’d like to have a category of community leaders that sets an example for veterans and youth. It’s simple. You take a picture of yourself and you do a quote. We’d like to have all of you do one - all the MLAs, all of your legislative colleagues, no matter who they are. In this case, I don’t give them any rank. You’re all equal. You’re representing your constituencies and we need that as part of this type of campaign.
This committee is really interesting. I’ve thought about this committee a lot and the mandate of the committee. The board of directors would like you to consider including youth remembrance as part of your mandate. I don’t know how that happens, but it would be a wonderful thing. We’re not asking you to make the Canadian Youth Remembrance Society a part of your mandate. We’re asking you to do the broader strokes of youth remembrance so that any group could be called upon to speak about what they do in their community. We’re just one.
We have a vision to create a youth-driven culture of remembrance in Canada. We talked a lot on the board about being secret about our ideas because somebody will steal them. I said, what is our vision? It’s to create a youth-driven culture of remembrance in Canada. If an association that’s made up of veterans creates a youth-driven initiative, that’s increasing that vision. If a school in Ontario does something completely different, that’s increasing our vision.
This is just an idea, but one thought is that there could be a special subcommittee of this committee that would deal with youth remembrance as an item and really zero in on it. It’s very unique in Canada, this committee. I think it’s a wonderful committee. I think that you should share it with lots of young people. I think that there should be a space for young people to get to where they’re going.
With the Live Forward campaign, we would like to do a launch event with the MLAs. This is sort of a soft launch; it’s on the record, so we’re kind of rolling out slowly. We wanted to take advantage of this opportunity. Normally you would sort of collect all these profiles and roll it out after the launch.
We did approach the Speaker of the House and we talked about a date of March 6th, a Wednesday. My initiative was to do it when the MLAs are in Halifax and do it somewhere where it would be easy for them to drop in and participate in a launch type of event. It was deemed that it would be awkward when the House was in session to do something like that. It may be possible to revisit that with your assistance and perhaps use the Red Room at a time that would be suitable and fitting. We could certainly help with that in terms of its logistics and organization and things like that.
The last point, in terms of the standing committee, as we slowly close our remarks is this: The Minister responsible for Youth happens to be the Premier - it could be somebody else. We really want that person, and all those associated with that minister, to really find a space within the landscape annually for young people to build a marquee event - marquee meaning one of the important ones.
I give this example all the time and this is what I’ve learned philosophically from doing this and I’m proud that I learned it on my own by piecing it together. You are all the embodiment of the democratic process. Without veterans, certainly in World War II, the world would undoubtedly be a very different place if it worked out differently. We don’t know, we can debate. Historians have debated what it would be like, but it would be different.
The Premier - we’ll take Nova Scotia as an example - is the representative of the embodiment of the highest level of protocol of the democratic process. That’s an important figure. The Lieutenant Governor is the embodiment of our ideals and outranks pretty much everything, according to our constitutional monarchy. This topic that we’re doing right now, to me, is a remembrance activity. We are discussing an important topic. This subject matter, in terms of a protocol, in my view - I’ve had a lot of time to think about it - lands somewhere in between the Premier and the Lieutenant Governor.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs, as an example, would be a custodian of that incredibly symbolic gesture that we all take. It should be the number one job description that’s hardwired into every one of your job descriptions, I feel. It should transcend all politics. It should be all equal.
There is a term that I would like to say - I promised myself I would bring it up. There is this term that historians use, and I think it has prevented civilians from fully taking ownership over the act of remembrance in the fullest way possible. It’s referred to as historical real estate. The way that the history professors that I spoke to summed it up was, and I quote: Because I was there, I have more ownership over it than you do. That’s a scary thing to say on the record, but that’s getting in the way of what we’re trying to accomplish as an organization.
When we launched this society, we had a ceremony at Government House with the Lieutenant Governor. We had high expectations for being free to have tremendous events with young people saying thank you. We have reached out to the people you would think to reach out to, and we have been met with, “That’s not something we can get involved with”, simply because there is no list where there’s youth remembrance that comes somewhere in the order of precedence.
If we organized a youth remembrance ceremony at 11:00 a.m. on November 11th somewhere, it would be unlikely that the Lieutenant Governor would go to that event. They would be somewhere else. The Premier would be somewhere else. The military brass would be somewhere else. You go down the list of the order of precedence - they would all be somewhere else. So we have often had this statement: have you thought of organizing your ideas on a day other than November 11th? I have always looked at them and said, well, that’s somewhat contradictory in terms of a message because it’s the day that we have set aside traditionally to honour and show that appreciation to our veterans and their families. I don’t want to do it the hard way, and the board doesn’t want to do it the hard way, but we feel that the Minister responsible for Youth should address Remembrance Day with the powers that be and find a space for young people.
We could build our own monuments. As an example - I don’t want to run on here - on Remembrance Day in your communities, the last time that you heard a high school girl being the master of ceremonies at the local remembrance ceremony, when would that be? There is no one who owns the act of remembrance. There are those who care greatly about it, is my observation, but nobody owns that. I think if you look back at our question about why there isn’t a youth-driven remembrance organization in Canada - the Royal Canadian whatever. Why isn’t there one of those? I think it’s because of this idea of historical real estate. There are many people who would like to see that whittled down a little bit - just allow them to support young people and appreciate that that was there.
Again, that was our conclusion. Thank you very much for that and we really appreciate the opportunity to be here. We prepared quite a bit for it, and a lot of time has gone into getting to where we are today.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Hunt and Mr. Milner, thank you for your time and your presentation this afternoon.
We’ll now commence our questioning. The way this part of the proceedings will go, we’re going to go from the NDP to the Progressive Conservatives to the Liberal caucus successively. Each member will ask an initial question followed by a supplementary. We’ll ask questions for a little while, and then depending on how much time we have, we’ll whittle it down a little bit to one question if it gets to that point. Just a reminder, we’ll try to speak after you’re recognized by the Chair, please and thank you.
PATRICK MILNER: I just want to let you know that Jade has to be somewhere at four o’clock. She has to be at work.
THE CHAIR: Okay. I’ll encourage members to be concise with their questions. Ms. Roberts.
LISA ROBERTS: I would be interested, just to start really generally - Jade, I don’t know if you would be comfortable introducing yourself and explaining how you came to be associated with this. I’m interested to hear a younger youth perspective. I’m still young too.
JADE HUNT: Basically, just talking with Patrick throughout the house - he kind of got me excited about the idea of becoming a part of the Canadian Youth Remembrance Society. His ideas and his passion really made me want to be a big part of this.
LISA ROBERTS: I guess as Patrick talks about passing the torch, I guess if you’re speaking with your peers about this, what are some of the challenges in translating Patrick’s passion for this project to other young people who may not have that personal connection?
JADE HUNT: I’ve been talking to a lot of my friends about it and just trying to get them excited about the idea of remembrance because we often spend such little time focusing on the act of remembrance, especially at our age and at this point in the world. It has been different trying to get everybody interested, but I have had some pretty positive feedback and I have a lot of people going to do the Live Forward campaign with us and taking pictures and saying how they live forward. They are just more interested in the social media aspect and really expanding and showing everybody what we can do.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Masland.
KIM MASLAND: My question is: How do you see your organization playing a role in youth remembrance with school age youth and teenage youth? I’ll just add, this past Remembrance Day, there was a group of students in north Queens that went to Vimy Ridge, and one of the young ladies really took what she learned and the impressions that it left on her and she took it out to the community, providing presentations. She actually was the guest speaker at the Liverpool Legion. I was just absolutely taken aback by her passion.
I know you talk a lot about 19- and 20-year-olds, so where do you see your organization taking that at a younger age - maybe junior high?
PATRICK MILNER: We believe, actually, that generally we focus on two chunks - 15 to 25 was the target area. However, we’ve talked with a lot of teachers at events and they suggest that the junior high students are probably even more impactful to address it there with them because they’re at an age where they are interested in doing those types of things and we often don’t.
We’ve been very good at being a small group of people that have reached out to key influencers to try to bring these activities into the communities across - for now - Nova Scotia. In 2005, we had a Year of the Veteran. We put this patch that’s circulating around on the jerseys of every minor hockey player, or 18,000 hockey players, in Nova Scotia and that was one example of something we did and the Province of Nova Scotia got behind that and we had some support from Tim Hortons that purchased those badges.
We tried to do sort of a blanket approach where we’ve encouraged communities across Nova Scotia through another - we had a Year of the War Bride one year. I can’t remember what year that was. We also have proposed for the last six years running a year of youth remembrance, which we would sort of tag into the Live Forward initiative. We haven’t been able to do one of those.
An example of that would be the province proclaiming a year of youth remembrance and the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development sends out to all the schools in the province: encourage your young people to organize something in your schools and invite your local municipal leaders and the associations made up of veterans and reporters and show what you can do at your school. That’s just a simple thing that one person or group of people can do: you just write a letter.
We’ve done that for six years in a row. There’s a lot of mechanics that need to be discussed, but it just can’t be done for some reason. I’m not really sure why. I’ve sent some frustrated emails out; some of you may have received copies. I think those types of activities are important. It’s important to let them put their take on it, the teacher, as an example. Schools are good places because there’s a lot of young people that congregate every day. It’s good organizational strategy to utilize schools.
There are other youth organizations - Girl Guides, Boy and Girl Scouts, cadets - lots of people that communities can incorporate into that. Wear your uniform to school day; a lot of schools do that. I think something like that is very simple. It doesn’t cost any money, I don’t think, unless you wanted to promote it through Communications Nova Scotia. So that’s one thought as opposed to us going to every community - that retail operation and talking to every MLA one at a time. The local communities are the experts. I don’t know, I hope that answers your question.
KIM MASLAND: Respecting the time, and other members, I’ll pass it on to the next question.
THE CHAIR: Thank you very much. Mr. Horne.
BILL HORNE: Thank you. I’ve been sitting here listening to you talk for a while and I know you have a passion for this, you can tell that. I would think you would be considering things like a Youth Remembrance Day on Remembrance Day. You can go to any of the Legions and I think there’s no problem in laying wreaths.
I’m a member of the Legion in Waverly and I find it very important to be there that day. There’s also a lot of possibilities of getting involved with cadets, as you mentioned. Air, Sea, and Army Cadets and there’s quite a few cadet groups in Sackville, Bedford, and I’m sure all across Nova Scotia. I think there’s certain reserves - Army reserves and so on - that meet on a regular basis. You get a lot of training from the cadet ones. You might even be able to participate with them in that; participating in music and playing in bands and groups.
I think there are a lot of opportunities there. Visit Legions, too, and you’ll be given a time to be able to meet the community, whatever it may be, for Legions and possibly if you have a large group, to go there for meals and so on just to get to know some of the reserves and the Legion people.
There are not a lot of veterans around now as far as World War I and World War II. I know in our Legion, there’s probably three people that are still alive. One’s in Camp Hill and two are in the local area. Having said that, I think there is a new group of younger people that are running the Legions - not necessarily veterans - and I think it’s important that they do participate to carry on. Maybe they would sponsor a group of youth besides reserves and cadets and so on.
I guess a question would be, how big is your organization? How many members would you have across Canada, if you know that? What are some of the things you do to get together to discuss these issues?
PATRICK MILNER: We have a board of directors made up of, currently, seven people. Those would be the body count, so to speak. The Live Forward initiative is to grow our crowd of youth supporters. We’ve reached out to a lot of folks, and they have suggested that if that’s where young people are, then that’s really where a lot of individuals in terms of financial support areas and things - people who would want to have a return on their investment so to speak.
We try not to get into the sponsorship too much in terms of corporate sponsorship. We look at donations and things like that. Those are viewed as being our potential membership. At the right time, we have a lawyer who used to be a board member, and she has introduced us to other lawyers. The advice we get is, keep your board very small for now as you start to become an independent organization that organizes your own activities.
We have reached out to the Royal Canadian Legion, Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command. There is an openness to do some pilot projects where youth can organize a remembrance ceremony potentially with a local Legion that is selected by Provincial Command as being a good one to start with, maybe several of them. That’s positive. They have also said to us that they have a very specific way of doing things and would not be able to participate in those activities that we discussed.
That’s it. That’s my response.
BILL HORNE: I guess I would suggest that most Legions and Remembrance Day would allow anybody in the community to lay a wreath after the main features are through. That would be a good opportunity. Also poppy days, the days before, whether donations of poppies are getting at different locations - malls, airports, and so on. They could certainly use your help if you had opportunities, and maybe some way to show yourself as being separate yet together - more of a comment, I guess.
THE CHAIR: Mr. Milner, do you want to respond?
PATRICK MILNER: That’s a good point. We have attempted that before. Some of us have gone out independently of a more formal arrangement with the poppy committee, I guess it would be. There’s lots of room for really strong partnerships with the Legion and veterans associations, I always say, associations made up of veterans. There is no singular identity responsible for upholding the Act of Remembrance. That’s my position.
The Royal Canadian Legion is one of the many veterans organizations that have given us some feedback. It’s a range of opinions on what young people should be doing and what 100 years from now might look like. How will we remember World War I? I’m really excited about the discussions that we have had as an individual with the Royal Canadian Legion, absolutely.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Roberts.
LISA ROBERTS: I think a little bit like Mr. Horne, I certainly can hear and appreciate your passion for this area of work. It has left me thinking about the landscape of non-profit societies and non-profit organizations and charities in Nova Scotia, where we have many. I think the trick is often to figure out where the sweet spot is, where your need meets your ability and meets your passion. I wish you luck with that.
Also, it strikes me that youth today - and I expect I’m somewhere close to your age maybe - are facing a lot of their own challenges. Just as those young men - primarily during World War I and World War II - were facing great challenge and peril at that time.
I had a meeting in my constituency just last night with a community advisory committee and we talked about how my office could leave space to youth to show leadership and to create what is meaningful for them in the community. I think at this juncture, it’s probably not going to be youth remembrance because they’re trying to figure out where they can show their cultural expression. They’re trying to figure out where they can create spaces where they feel safe and are able to mentor or assist youth who are younger than them. They’re looking for places to start their businesses.
There are so many things that aren’t obvious as a young person at this particular moment as you face a housing market you can’t get into, post-secondary education that can feel quite daunting when you look at the loans that you have to take out to start, climate change - all of that. It’s a lot to ask them to focus on this subject that is your passion.
I guess my honest question is whether you’ve considered letting this go and how have you made the calculation that it makes more sense to persist and continue emailing and knocking on doors or maybe sometimes pounding your head on a wall?
PATRICK MILNER: Those are all good points. The first one is, young people are very busy. Independently, they have important things to them. That came out in our Live Forward discussions where that came from. If you could live your life to the fullest, what would you be doing for 364 days of the year, and some people may be pursuing their passions and has nothing to do with remembrance. Young people generally are not interested in the blow by blow history of war. They’re more interested in peace. They’re more interested in positivity.
If you go to a remembrance ceremony and you reflect on the amazing year you had living your life, that makes more sense to say, I’m going because I’m thankful I got to do all that stuff. I have seen the goodness and the benefit to veterans. It’s becoming more well-known - part of the benefit of commemorative programming is that injured veterans - whatever type of injury it is - and their family members are uplifted and the physical/spiritual/psychological well-being is greatly increased when young people - the ones that don’t have any push to do something - come together and show that group of people, like Roland Lawless who is feeling really good about the fact that he’s being promoted by young people and he’s taken seriously.
You multiply that by thousands of times over, that’s good for them. You can see it on TV. They feel good, that’s what we’ve heard. I don’t know if that’s quite answering your question.
In terms of letting go, I’ll tell you this. This is interesting; I’ll make this really quick. We were encouraged to apply for registered charitable status so that we could give taxable receipts for income tax purposes, providing the legal infrastructure for us, having an easier time raising our own dollars to do our own initiative and be our own organization. Young people wanted that. The board said they wanted to continue, and we were initially not successful. We needed to provide more information and we didn’t provide the charities directorate more information in time.
The crux of it is, we learned that commemorative programming in and of itself is not charitable. It is not a charitable activity. We stalled for a minute and said, that just erases all value in terms of what we thought we were doing. However, education and putting young people in leadership positions is charitable. If you provide the infrastructure for a young person to sit at a committee, to make a wreath, place that wreath, speak with MLAs, speak with the Premier - we’ve had young people speak with the Premier, and that was a big deal. The Lieutenant Governor has hosted.
Those are all things that would not have happened if there was not an organization that did that. I think those individuals that we met 16 years ago, who got to speak at the Lieutenant Governor’s house where we did a little launch celebration, they went on to do great things and they went on to join Legions. I’ve seen them at Legions.
I’m going to try my best as an individual to get those components lined up where there’s some professional support like bookkeeping, accounting, and sometimes legal. It’s difficult for young people to do the administrative side of things. I find it difficult to raise money. We’ve often discussed if you could get every young person in Canada, en masse, to do something together, just one thing, what would you want it to be? Would you want it to be fundraising?
We obviously have to stay away from November 11th or the last Friday in October onwards because there’s another fundraising campaign going on and that competes against each other. When that all happens, I’m just going to go hands-off, and what will be will be. I have the courage to do that. That’s where I am on that one. I won’t be doing this when I’m 50, sorry.
LISA ROBERTS: Maybe I’ll just reply to that with a bit of a comment. I feel like we’re kind of there with you, because frankly, this committee meets to talk about veterans affairs, in part, because we value veterans and because politically, we want to show that we value veterans. Yet, the Province of Nova Scotia has no role regarding veterans.
We’ve had committee hearings here. We’ve had Paws Fur Thought. We’ve had somebody here from the Department of Veterans Affairs to talk about medical care and long-term care for veterans. Yet really, as a group of legislators, we are as lost as you are in terms of how we are meaningfully contributing to either remembrance or the care for veterans because we don’t actually have a role here.
As much as I appreciate the position that you’re in, that you feel like this is important and also, you’ve found your personal calling - kind of stumbled on to it when that man stumbled into your tour group - sometimes the clear path forward from that doesn’t always present itself.
I guess my follow-up question would be, what organizations have you helped to strengthen and learn from, be it by serving as a volunteer or as a director on a board of directors? Have you connected with other organizations through your own effort in a way that maybe would inform the work of the Youth Remembrance Society?
PATRICK MILNER: I think I heard two points: the first one is, yes, we have often been stuck in between the federal and provincial governments somewhere. There’s no question. The province has the role of educating our youth, so at some level, there’s some educational component. Veterans Affairs, I feel their core mission - I could be a little bit wrong on this - is the policy, looking after veterans. There’s not a lot of money.
Somebody whispered in my ear there was $40,000 for all of Atlantic Canada for commemorative programming to a maximum of $5,000 for one year, et cetera. That’s not a lot for the Maritimes. Newfoundland wasn’t a part of Canada back then, but the Maritimes was approximately a third of all the serving members that went overseas. They came from the Maritimes, so we have very strong connections to the military. I have spoken with military leaders in terms of this committee. Getting veterans hooked up with doctors and people who come to Nova Scotia for the first time - it’s difficult for families to get set up.
There is some value - again, I have reached out to veterans associations. I have been connected with them for a while. I also believe in those organizations. I’ll have the courage to say that I have had some struggles hanging out in veterans associations. I think darts is fun and cribbage is fun, but there’s also a lot of alcohol and a lot of gambling, and I struggle with that. I have a keen awareness that there is a struggle to provide that opportunity for young people to be in a leadership position. For a lot of the years, I was learning in real time. I was younger, and I was benefiting from experiences sort of on an ongoing basis. At a certain point, I think I started to repeat a lot of it.
I don’t know where to draw the line in terms of where this organization fits. I just think that if young people wanted to gather and say thank you to veterans, I think that is tremendously valuable for them. I’ve seen the value that they have gained from it. I have also listened to a lot of young people who have laid wreaths at the ceremonies, and they would like to do more. There are two youth who are officially in every - yes, I don’t know.
I have reached out to the big veterans associations that we know of, and there are newer ones - they’re all very supportive. I have been doing some different approaches. I got involved with painting, and I raised $9,000 last year selling paintings and prints that I think resemble poppies. There’s a different group of people who are engaged who have never been engaged before. They don’t want to have anything to do with remembrance activities; it’s just not their thing. Somehow through art - something creative and beautiful - they are instantly lifted into a new place for them, a new understanding and appreciation.
I think there’s room for this organization and I think there’s a lot of organizations that want to support what we’re doing. They simply want the foundations to be laid and to see a little bit more - if there’s a constructive criticism - involvement on a more significant level from the traditional organizations that you would expect to be involved. I’ll leave it at that.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Adams.
BARBARA ADAMS: I want to say thank you for all of those years of effort. I think what you’re experiencing is what every other non-profit around the province and country is experiencing. We’ve got over 100,000 non-profits in this province and an aging population. Of all those non-profits, I think very few are youth-driven and those that are not youth-driven are run and supported by 70- to 90-year-olds. In 20 years when there’s twice as many seniors and half as many youth, we’re going to be in real trouble to keep any non-profit going.
I want to applaud you for continuing the battle, and because I’m a member of the Legion and all the other ones, I know they’ve got their own mandate and focus and they’re probably thinking, keep going, but we’ve got our issues there.
What I’m wondering about is to sustain something like this, especially on a national level, I think there has to be some kind of a partnership with a group that has a similar stake in this. I’m thinking, considering that Nova Scotia has almost half of all military personnel, the military personnel themselves I would see would have a big stake in this. The Legion may not because they may have a different mandate.
Certainly, in my community we have a military base in Shearwater, and we have lots of cadets, so we have a big presence on Remembrance Day, and they do things around the community and they help sell poppies. I don’t know that there’s a consistent effort around the province for youth doing a particular task, but something that Mr. Horne said is that you never see youth selling poppies. Even if it was something structured that was task oriented.
I love the idea of the hashtag; I wrote mine out for you guys as we were talking. I know in our community, with the grant that they get to hire students, they mow lawns and they visit people and they go to nursing homes. I know from all the vets that I’ve worked with, they like to be remembered but they’d far rather have a visit or a phone call or a letter or somebody come over and help with some kind of household chore that might be done.
I think the wreath thing is great - that would send a really strong message - but I’m just wondering, outside of that day, is there one specific action or activity that you’ve wanted youth to do to show veterans that you remember?
PATRICK MILNER: I would have a hard time picking one of the many things. Where most strategic thinkers are with this is that there needs to be - to use a military term - a bridging vehicle for young people to connect what’s important to them in their lives to the Act of Remembrance, to the history that they get some exposure to in school.
We felt two things: one, that the social media campaign was where a lot of remembrance discussions and initiatives can happen. It’s measurable, so when people want to know how many people tweeted this or how many people posted this or how many people used the hashtag, you can measure that much like the Bell Let’s Talk campaign; it’s similar in nature.
We talk about two minutes of silence and one of the modern versions of that is let’s stop all social media for two minutes on November 11th. What most young people say is that it should be the exact opposite. It should be like let’s get the hashtag of the year trending in Canada, and the people that really are going to drive that are young people.
I don’t want to be a disruptor or a contrarian, but I like it when there’s something new. There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come - Victor Hugo, I think. There is no historical real estate with World War I; there are no veterans left in Canada so that’s a place where young people can go.
In terms of one activity, we really believed that having a society - we’re one piece of real estate in our country and we can run our little piece of real estate any way that we choose to run it. I don’t see how Veterans Affairs, for example, should dictate to Nova Scotia how its citizens choose to appreciate their citizens that sacrificed immeasurably.
We felt that having a year of youth remembrance, like the Year of the Veteran - I can tell you that I still talk about that now because we gained so much from that year. I was told by the then Minister responsible for the Year of the Veteran, Cecil Clarke, that they had a stack of something like 2,000 letters that all started with the same line: “Because it’s the Year of the Veteran, you should fund this,” and they came from the widest places in scope and scale. There were small little events, there was everything that you could think of, was what I was told.
I feel, based on what I’ve heard, is that having a year of youth remembrance where communities encourage their young people and say, we’re passing the torch to you, I think that would be something that even the organizations that are organized by adults like the Scout leaders, the Girl Guide leaders, the cadet leaders - those folks - they can step back, much like I do, and allow young people to build something and give them advice and let it take shape.
I don’t know if I quite answered your question; I sort of rambled there a bit. But I would say the greatest gift to this cause would be to have some proclamation where the communities in our province get together to assist young people take that half-step - that bridging vehicle - and I don’t think it would cost very much money, really.
BARBARA ADAMS: Thank you. I appreciate that. I’m wondering if you could help me understand - I’ve looked at the Facebook page and I didn’t find a web page, so I’ll ask if there is one.
I’m wondering, because it’s listed as a national organization, how many chapters you have, and do you have a membership. I see the list of board of directors, but is there a membership for each chapter and if so, how many chapters are there and how do you recruit people to be part of each chapter?
PATRICK MILNER: There are no chapters. When we founded the society, we wanted to come up with a name and we said, well, we’re Canadian. We’re youth. It’s a remembrance and it’s a society. That’s really all that happened.
We’ve run into scope and scale issues. For example, to get support from the Province of Nova Scotia, generally speaking it should be of provincial scope and scale. We, as an example, have written in the past for the Lieutenant Governor to be a patron of our organization and the response was ‘You’re national so you should go to the Governor General’. I was like, I don’t think we’re big enough to do that, we’re not significant enough for that - I didn’t feel. We did it anyway and they said no - there was no reason - at this time, we’re unable to do that.
There are no chapters because we’ve always received advice from lawyers not to do that until you’re in a position to do that because at that point you have to answer to members and you have to have a different kind of annual general meeting. Young people haven’t wanted to do that. It’s not me driving it, as a person - it’s the board of directors as an organization meet every month that we can. They come up with ideas and they vote and it’s supposed to happen, otherwise, why do they bother to take the energy to come and meet?
Many people have said that you have to do what’s good for your organization, and whatever you decide is what you decide. There is a point where it will make sense to recruit membership. There is a game plan to doing that kind of exercise, if the board wants to do that. One of it is financially. We did think of the possibility of raising money via a crowd-funding initiative to do some event and to start it in Halifax and grow it out. That obviously leaves out a lot of young people initially, but it could be an economic driver piece to contribute several hundred dollars to each junior high school, Grade 9 class reps and they could start their own little organization and it would go where they would go.
It’s a lot of administrative work with chapters. Instantly, you have to have a common vision and a common message and a common roll-out. It’s complicated. Legions and those groups all struggle with that kind of stuff. I think that’s why we’ve approached provincial command and they’re going to take some baby steps with us, we hope, to do some of the more traditional aspects of remembrance activities, as well as create some new ones. That makes sense and I think that will help.
I will say, the Royal Canadian Legion is a national organization - sometimes the only service organization in small communities across Canada. They do a lot of charitable work.
I think if we could have discussions with groups like that or you could, in the future, raise these issues with those organizations - for example, my understanding in terms of money is that - I have it at home and I’m paraphrasing - I believe that giving money to youth organizations is not part of the Poppy Fund’s mandate.
I have no problem with young people distributing poppies. I think that’s great. We’ve approached former provincial command representatives and they felt at the time - and it’s nothing to do with today - that wasn’t something they felt they were interested in having happen.
There were four student unions: Dalhousie, Saint Mary’s, Mount Saint Vincent, and the Nova Scotia Community College that wrote a letter of support saying they would be interested in getting their students to run a Shinerama-like campaign that we used to see on the streets and do that for the Poppy Fund and it would have been massive. Again, at that time, it was deemed not to be an appropriate activity or relationship coming together of young people.
In terms of frustration, that at the time was one. Again, I’m shifting into negative stuff and I don’t want to, but we were dissuaded from doing a march with those same students from their schools on campus to the Grand Parade square. The simple fact was there’s not enough room so it would be disruptive, so don’t do it, but they were ready to do it and they were ready to engage in something. A fraction of those students would have become board members and would have become wreath placers.
I sort of take my marching orders from the veterans that I’ve met - and I’ve met hundreds of them. They’ve had a very common voice and it’s that young people have a duty to do that. They have a duty to be participants.
THE CHAIR: In the interest of time, I’m going to suggest that we finish our questioning with Mr. Irving for a question, a supplementary, and then invite our guests to make some closing remarks. Mr. Irving.
KEITH IRVING: It has been an interesting discussion and it brings back a lot of memories for me. First of all, I want to thank you, Mr. Milner, for taking on this role in terms of passing the torch of remembrance. Thank you, Ms. Hunt, for being inspired by Mr. Milner and going to take on the torch of remembrance. That was actually a phrase that I used at Remembrance Day a couple of years ago.
I’m going to tell you this little story because I think it is somewhat at the root of what you’re trying to do in terms of passing the torch. I had the opportunity to take my son to tour the war graves in France and Belgium a couple of years ago. He still talks about it as one of the best trips he’s ever done. It was a very profound experience to walk through those gravestones 17, 22, 25 with your 22-year-old son.
I think when Ms. Masland talked about students being inspired with a trip to Vimy Ridge, one of the challenges that we have with youth and connecting them to the act of remembrance is unfortunately, we buried our veterans in France and Belgium, and we don’t live it and go by them each day as they do in Europe. So I think finding that connection to make it real - we are now saying goodbye to our veterans of those two World Wars and so that real estate, as you talk about, is fading away.
Your board and your organization will decide where it wants to go, but my sense is your organization is challenged right now with getting some footing going forward. You had some success and I think you’d like to have more success. I was involved with a youth organization that had grown to $2 million and was trying to take young Canadians, expose them to the developing world and bring them back to connect with Canadians on how important international development was. A similar kind of model in terms of if we developed ambassadors to remembrance by giving them that first-hand experience of Vimy Ridge or the Menin Gate tour, I think that’s where we can perhaps have your objectives take hold.
I guess I’m challenging your board, perhaps, to think a bit bigger here. Maybe it’s not alone. There may be other organizations in Canada that have similar goals and objectives that may become strong partners or somewhere that you can learn if they have been able to elevate youth remembrance in a different part of the country or the world - in the U.S. or whatever.
I guess my question is, in your strategic planning process, have you done a strategic plan? I think you need to take it to the next level, I guess, is my sense. Have you explored any other organizations that are trying to do youth remembrance and find what has worked for them and factored that into your strategic plan? Or have you decided not to go there?
PATRICK MILNER: There are two levels of that. The law firm doing the research for the charitable status were looking for similar organizations and their mandates and they couldn’t find any youth formally organized. Incorporated under a societies Act that had a board of directors, there wasn’t anything like that. There may be clubs, et cetera, but there weren’t any formal youth-driven organizations.
A couple that came up were the national organizations that I don’t think govern, but they support, the cadets like the Navy League of Canada. There’s a national body that is made up of retired Canadian Forces members that I think support some of the cadet movement and that was one idea because that would allow, in a way, the federal government to connect us to some funding channels.
I met with Geoff Regan, a long time ago at the very beginning, and I’ve always remembered him saying, what you’re looking for, we just don’t have any pigeonholes for you - we don’t have any way to provide this type of funding for what you’re trying to accomplish. He said $5,000 is not going to go very far with what you’re trying to do.
All of the veterans associations, and there are many of them - I’ll have the courage to say this because I know some of you are connected with the Royal Canadian Legion - there seems to be a big group of a whole whack of veterans organizations in one area, and then over here is the Royal Canadian Legion. I don’t understand why it’s not all together. There seems to be a separation somehow and there’s a very specific expectation from individuals like yourselves and decision makers - maybe this is happening, I have no idea - who will reach out to those organizations like the Legion and they’ll get a response and it may not be one that’s favourable to what we’re trying to propose. I have no idea.
I don’t know that. I know it’s not a fact, but the literature I’ve read - an organization like one that’s made up of veterans, I really think that’s where one logically sends people. That’s where MLAs send us, ministers, Premiers - that’s where it seems you really should go is the Royal Canadian Legion because they would love to hear this. Mr. Horne talked to me about that earlier, and I agree. I think that the discussions we have had will open up some very basic, simple projects that we can work with them on. Again, there are some issues that I think need to be worked out.
I would love to approach the student unions again. Some years, they’re very favourable. Other years, they’re dead set against being involved with anything to do with it because it’s war-related. To have that kind of initiative where a lot of young people were doing a lot to help support veterans directly, I think would be really amazing. We thought of it way back in 2005.
There has been some feedback about what the Poppy Fund is for, where the money goes. It’s unattainable information, so we have had some advice to - much like people who are going to get involved with us, where does your money come from, who are your board members, and what have you done? I think there’s an expectation that we understand that. That’s a discussion that I know I’m going to get in a lot of trouble for raising and putting on the record. I sincerely, in terms of being passionate, I really like the veteran associations, and I wish that we could have, as part of our special event - whatever signature event that might be one day - five logos that show, including the Royal Canadian Legion, that we’re all equal.
I don’t know other organizations other than Veterans Affairs Canada or National Defence - the Canadian Forces members are very supportive, but they have to formally request permission to support civilian projects. They don’t just arbitrarily say, I support this. They have to call an office in Ottawa and say, this is the scope and scale, this is the outcome, and this is the cost.
We’re right there, and I think me saying some of the scary things is going to help. I have had discussions with provincial command. I have had certain discussions that I feel are really positive, and they can offer a tremendous amount of advice within the scope of a youth-driven organization that has to make a decision as to whether to partner with that organization or not. I just do what I’m told. I joke that I’m only the Chair at this point. It’s not me doing everything. I listen to what they have to say.
THE CHAIR: Thank you, Mr. Milner. I would like to invite you to make some closing remarks right now. We do have some committee business to attend to as well, and I know Ms. Hunt may make a quick exit here in a moment, so maybe you could keep your remarks to about three minutes or less, please.
PATRICK MILNER: The outcome of the meeting is to leave behind some record about the activities and concerns and some of the challenges that we have faced both on a short-term basis and on the longer term that I’m able to speak about. We would really like to make the request - we could send a letter to each of you requesting that you participate in the Live Forward campaign. They’re going to get put out there. They’re really important to us. We think it’s where we’re going to collect our membership by way of reaching young people where they exist. That’s what young people have told us, and I agree with that. We didn’t have social media when I began.
Second, we’d like you to consider, as a group, hosting a launch event with us. You don’t have to decide today, obviously, but it would be nice if somebody could discuss with the Premier’s Office and the Speaker’s Office if we could do something like that. That would be very meaningful to young people and we could get young people to be in positions where they could speak and present things.
We’re very interested in continuing to push for some kind of a proclamation for a year of youth remembrance. I think that’s very important. With that, we will take the questions and interest and ideas that you’ve put forward and we’ll bring them back to the group and we’ll do our best to continue to be positive and open to working with all of the groups that we should be engaged with.
I encourage all of you to make this committee a place where young people can be heard when it comes to this. It’s good for veterans. Thank you.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Hunt, Mr. Milner, thank you both for your time and efforts here this afternoon. We’re going to break for a couple of minutes.
[3:36 p.m. The committee recessed.]
[3:39 p.m. The committee reconvened.]
THE CHAIR: I call this meeting back to order and, with the committee’s permission, I’m going to take the liberty of remarking that we don’t have a compiled list of agenda topics set for today as is, so after a brief conversation with our committee clerk as well as our chair, Ms. DiCostanzo I would suggest that while we do have a topic scheduled for our next meeting, can we kick our agenda setting to November 19th? Sound good?
Excellent. Thank you very much everybody.
The initial item on our committee business was inspired by a motion from our last meeting. It was submitted by our friend, the Honourable Alfie MacLeod, the motion being: “That this committee look into the possibility of making it easier for veterans and their spouses to be together in facilities that they need to be in. If that is Camp Hill, then that is Camp Hill.”
Would anybody like me to go through any of the background to refresh the discussion that we had, or can we just jump into the conversation? Ms. Adams.
BARBARA ADAMS: I wasn’t here when this motion was made, but as the critic for seniors in home care and long-term care, and right at this very minute, the critic for veterans, the Veterans Memorial Building has empty beds and the veterans who are in there, the feds have designated it as a long-term care facility. There are non-veterans in the building who are overflow from the Nova Scotia Health Authority who are taking up some of those beds. They are there waiting for long-term care placement. Even though it’s not a provincially designated long-term care facility, somehow they’re allowed to be in there while they’re waiting for a long-term care bed.
I know that several veterans and supporters have advocated to this government that the spouses of veterans be allowed to be united with their spouses. The rationale that the government has given for not allowing that to happen - and this is more than a decade-long battle that Peter Stoffer has been championing - the rationale for not doing that is that the feds pay for those beds, but the feds only pay for beds that veterans are in. So if we have a spouse that goes in, that is a provincial funding responsibility, so we can do that; we’re going to pay for them to be in a long-term care bed somewhere.
The reason for not putting them into the Veterans Memorial Building is that initially the Minister of Health and Wellness said that it was the responsibility of the feds, but it isn’t - it’s the responsibility of the Province of Nova Scotia. So my understanding of what it needs is for there to simply be an assessment of the facility to give a certification that it can be a long-term care facility so that we can have non-veteran Nova Scotians be in the building. There aren’t that many. It’s not a real hardship to make that change.
The other two barriers that have been mentioned is, where would you put them? We don’t want to take away a spot from a veteran, but most of the veterans in that building have their own room, so to put a spouse in, ideally you would put the spouse in the room with the veteran. There is room in there because I’ve worked in that building. We’re not taking away a bed from a veteran; we’d simply be allowing two spouses to be reunited.
The third argument is that in this province, long-term care priorities for who gets into a bed are: (1) an adult in need of protection is number-one priority; and (2) if you have a spouse in a long-term care facility somewhere, you get priority as a number-two priority over those who are in hospital and sitting in an acute care bed.
The province has already made it clear that if you are a spouse of somebody in a long-term care facility, you have more of a priority to be reunited than somebody who is sitting in an acute care bed, but it doesn’t happen for anybody who happens to be the spouse of a veteran. That doesn’t make any sense to me or everybody who is asking for that.
Given the limited number of people we’re talking about, we would like the government to find a way, between them and the feds, to designate Veterans Memorial Hospital and any other place where there’s a barrier, and allow veterans and their spouses to be united in those facilities.
THE CHAIR: Ms. Roberts.
LISA ROBERTS: If I can speak to the motion - can I ask for some clarity from the Chair? Are we discussing the motion?
THE CHAIR: We’re having a discussion right now based on the intention of Mr. MacLeod’s previous motion.
LISA ROBERTS: I don’t disagree with anything that Ms. Adams just said. In fact, I’m just looking quickly at the Hansard record from our May meeting when there were some representatives here from Veterans Affairs, and it was stated very plainly - this is Sandra Williamson from the Department of Veterans Affairs, who said:
“. . . it’s very clear in all our agreements that the provincial government - the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness - are able to use any vacant bed for anyone, whether they are a veteran or a non-veteran.”
It’s simply a matter of the government deciding that it wants to, in fact, use those beds for the spouses of veterans as it currently does use them for spillover. I know I had a constituent and friend who ended up in Camp Hill because she was on the neurology unit, was no longer acute, and was waiting for a long-term care placement and so she ended up at Camp Hill. There’s isn’t a lot of debate. It’s a question of, is it government priority or is it not government priority, to make that choice?
Given that the government has finally announced that it is going to build some long-term care beds in different locations around the province, I don’t see why the government wouldn’t decide to spend money on the fastest build of a long-term care bed possible, which is to just buy the rights to put somebody in a bed that is vacant. Thank you.
THE CHAIR: Mr. Irving.
KEITH IRVING: Obviously, I don’t sit on this committee normally and did not participate in the conversation, so I’m at a little bit of a loss. It would seem to me that the committee’s got some opinions from your previous witnesses. I think it would be fair for us to actually ask the department to provide more information whether those opinions or that presentation of information, that they concur with that and provide perhaps some more information into current policies.
Mr. Chair, I’d like to propose that we seek some more information from the Department of Health and Wellness. I’d like to make a motion for the Standing Committee of Veterans Affairs to write a letter to the Department of Health and Wellness, asking the department to explain how veterans and their spouses are placed in long-term facilities and provide information why the current policies exist and whether other options can be considered.
THE CHAIR: There’s a motion on the floor. Any discussion? Ms. Adams.
BARBARA ADAMS: Thanks. I agree with the motion in part, but asking them to explain the policies that already exist is only a part of this. I think if we’re going to do this, then why don’t we take the extra step and ask if the Department of Health and Wellness is willing to reconsider allowing spouses to be united with veterans? We already know what the policies are; they’re what’s in place now and that’s blocking this from happening. Can we just plainly ask them: Are you willing to entertain a change in the policies so that we can allow spouses and veterans to be reunited?
Just asking for a regurgitation of what policies already exist isn’t going to get us any further ahead. I think we need to come right out and say: Are you willing to look at a policy change that would allow these spouses and veterans to be reunited?
So, I’d like to suggest a change.
THE CHAIR: I do believe that was in the motion.
BARBARA ADAMS: It wasn’t clear to me.
THE CHAIR: If I may, Mr. Irving, could you please reread the motion, if that’s okay?
KEITH IRVING: I went on the fly.
THE CHAIR: What I understood was that in addition to receiving information on current status, that the department additionally propose alternative solutions that would accommodate the intent of our conversation today, which would be to unite spouses with their veteran partner.
KEITH IRVING: I think the wording I used was to explore any policy options - provide information on policy options that might be explored to bring veterans and their spouses together.
BARBARA ADAMS: I appreciate that clarification because initially when you said explore all options, it didn’t specifically state that we were exploring all options that would result in a specific outcome, which is to unite veterans and their spouses. I’m happy to support that as long as it includes that as the intended purpose of this letter.
THE CHAIR: Sounds good. We’re going to have to stick-handle the formality of this, but we’ll refer to our Hansard friends and put something together. In terms of the intent, do I have the unanimous consent of the committee? Excellent.
Moving ahead, that is all for today’s committee business. We have our friends from VETS Canada coming to join us on November 19th and then we’re going to carry out our agenda-setting topics and I expect that Ms. Henry will be sending out a request for topics in the not-too-distant future. We’ll make an effort to get those to her as timely as possible so that we have time to review them and we can get off to the races following our meeting with VETS Canada.
Again, November 19th is our next time together. If there is no further business, we are adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 3:52 p.m.]