National Council of Veteran Associations supports Veterans' Ombudsman



    Veterans' Ombudsman Proposed in 2007 Budget

    OTTAWA, March 20 /CNW Telbec/ - The National Council of Veteran
Associations (56 member groups) today wrote to Prime Minister Stephen Harper,
expressing the Council's support for the proposal to establish a Veterans'
Ombudsman, to which reference was made in the budget speech.
    "This is a proposal which has been discussed on many occasions with
officials of the Government of Canada. It was first broached in the minority
report of the Woods Committee to investigate war disability pension reform
(1968-1971). Currently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper made reference to the
objective of a Veterans' Ombudsman in his campaign leading up to the 2006
federal election," said NCVA Chairman, Cliff Chadderton.
    This was mentioned in the letter to the Prime Minister from Mr.
Chadderton.
    The text of this letter, as well as that of the submission made under
date of October 2, 2006, follows:

    March 20, 2007

    Prime Minister:

    Reference is made herewith to the proposal in the 2007 budget calling for
    the establishment of a Veterans' Ombudsman.

    This proposal has been on the agenda of the National Council of Veteran
    Associations (56 member groups) since it was first proposed in a minority
    report of the Woods Committee to Survey the Organization and Work of the
    Canadian Pension Commission, which delivered its report to the Minister
    of Veterans Affairs in 1967.

    For reference, we enclose herewith a copy of the proposal made to the
    Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs by the undersigned on October 2,
    2006.

    Yours sincerely,

    H. Clifford Chadderton, CC, O.Ont., OStJ, CLJ, CAE, DCL, LLD
    Chairman


    
               OMBUDSMAN FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS

    The committee is requested to consider the appointment of an Ombudsman to
make final decisions in respect of applications to benefits available under
the Department of Veterans Affairs legislation.
    This matter was the subject of an extensive review at meetings with staff
of the Prime Ministers office, as well as the Minister of Veterans Affairs. A
synopsis of the remarks made by Cliff Chadderton at these meetings follows:

    - There was considerable favourable reference during the recent election
      campaign to the appointment of an ombudsman
    - The public/media appears ready to embrace this proposal, particularly
      because of its simplicity
    - The Swedish word 'Ombud' refers to a spokesperson or representative
      speaking for another person. It is generally considered as a substitute
      for lengthy and/or complicated issues normally handled by tribunals
    - It would appear that the public is expecting some action on an urgent
      basis in this area
    - The minority report of the Wood Committee (the Committee to Survey the
      Organization and Work of The Canadian Pension Commission) was named for
      its Chairman, the late Mr. Justice Mervyn Woods who served as Dominion
      President of the Royal Canadian Legion
    - The minority report was the distillation of many months of work under
      the guidance of a member of the Committee, Judge Walter Lyndall. He was
      a man of Icelandic origin who was acknowledged as a world-renowned
      expert on the Scandinavian application of the role of Ombudsman in
      matters of adjudication and administration
    - The reference in the Woods Committee Report, which was generally
      considered as an alternative to the major recommendations of the
      committee, would be the indication that an Ombudsman had the support of
      Veterans Organizations
    - The Woods Committee recommendation was generally considered to be an
      alternative to the current system of adjudication which involved
      (a) entitlement boards at the first level of appeal; and (b) a review
      board to adjudicate upon more difficult cases and/or provide
      interpretations to the legislation
    - A reference of support was included in the Woods Report as follows:
      In 1963, J.F. Garner, Senior Lecturer in Law of the University of
      Birmingham gave the following interpretation:
      The Council is an advisory and consultative body only, having itself no
      adjudicatory or executive powers, and it is in no sense a super
      tribunal, nor a court of appeal from tribunals.
    - The Honourable Mr. Garner's interpretation is generally considered as
      the most recognized definition of Ombudsman.

    Other considerations reviewed by the Woods Committee were:

    - Time required to establish an Ombudsman would involve the development
      of simple rules of practice and would dispense with formal procedures.
    - The Ombudsman could serve a most useful purpose in handling complaints
      concerning administration. This would be in addition to his primary
      function of adjudication
    - The process of the Ombudsman would not involve an adversary proceeding
    - The relationship with the office of the Minister of Veterans Affairs
      could develop into a useful working relationship under which the
      Ombudsman would provide advice
    - An effective but informal relationship could be established between the
      Ombudsman and the Veterans Bureau
    - The Ombudsman could establish effecting working relations with Veterans
      Organizations
    - The Ombudsman would act as an independent agent under the Minister of
      Veterans Affairs
    - The procedure of the Ombudsman would generally be considered as being
      effective once an applicant has exhausted his/her procedural rights
      under the Pension Act
    - The Ombudsman would be empowered to carry out his own investigations
    - The Ombudsman would have complete access to all Departmental records
    - If after investigation, the Ombudsman comes to the conclusion that an
      application cannot succeed, he would be required to send a letter of
      advice to the applicant
    - The Ombudsman may refer an entitlement application to the Commission if
      he considers that it should be reconsidered
    - In the matter of a complaint, the Ombudsman would refer the details to
      the Chairman of the Commission who would undertake a personal
      investigation
    - The Ombudsman will in all instances prepare a report. If the Ombudsman
      considers an application should have been granted or that the action
      taken is not satisfactory, his report will indicate his decision
    - A report would be published quarterly with copies being made available
      to all interested parties including Members of Parliament, Veterans
      Organizations and the media
    - A rebuttal to an Ombudsman's decision would be accepted in the
      legislation
    - The Ombudsman would be considered an agent of Parliament
    - In general terms the Ombudsman should prevail upon the commission to do
      its job. He should not, however, do the job for it
    - After a trial period of two years, the recommendation to establish an
      Ombudsman could be reviewed
    - His appointment should be made by the Governor in Council on
      recommendation of Parliament. He would be a non-political appointment
    - The Ombudsman could be removed only for cause and only by a majority
      vote of Parliament. This would give him the necessary independence and
      protection to permit him to discharge his duties
    - The Ombudsman should be authorized to secure adequate medical and legal
      advice
    - Other considerations:
      Title: to be established under the Minister of Veterans Affairs and
      known as the Ombudsman for the Pension Act.
      Referrals on own initiative: to be considered
      Who may petition: Ombudsman may receive requests to investigate
      applications or complaints
      Refusal to investigate: Ombudsman, at discretion, may refuse to
      investigate or cease to investigate any grievance if he considers that
      it is groundless; a remedy already exists; it is trivial; is not being
      made in good faith or the pursuit of the investigation would not be in
      the public interests or in the best interest of the person aggrieved
      Note: further information concerning the possible appointment and
      operation of an Ombudsman is available in the minority report of the
      Woods Committee.

    Note: where masculine is used, it is intended to be gender neutral
    




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National Council of Veteran Associations in Canada

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FEDERAL BUDGET REACTION 2007

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