Department of National Defence

Department of National Defence

December 02, 2010 15:55 ET

Statement by the Minister of National Defence

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Dec. 2, 2010) - The Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, made the following statement today:

"The well being of our military members and their families continues to be of the utmost importance to myself and the government. I know it is also a personal priority for the Chief of the Defence Staff.

We are always striving to do better and appreciate that some families feel they have not been well-enough informed about boards of inquiry conducted by the Canadian Forces into the deaths of their loved ones.

I have responded in detail to the Ombudsman's specific concerns. My letter reiterates our commitment to improve how the Canadian Forces communicate with families about sensitive issues related to the deaths of CF members.

Further, my letter provides a detailed update on the specific cases discussed in the Ombudsman's letter of December 1, 2010, and initiatives that we are pursuing to ensure the administrative process even more compassionate and sensitive to families' needs.

National Defence and the Canadian Forces make every effort to regularly inform next-of-kin of the progress and findings of boards of inquiry convened to investigate the death a CF member who dies for reasons other than wounds received in action.

At the same time, boards of inquiry take time. Many witnesses are called, and all available records are reviewed and considered. To be effective, they also have to be independent and allowed the time necessary to ensure we get it right. For this reason, they do not have fixed end dates.

If at any point during the review process, one of the authorities feels that further investigation is needed, they may direct to the board to complete further work related to the inquiry, again in the view of getting it right.

It is important to include family members throughout the board of inquiry process to ensure transparency on all matters. We will continue to work to make this better.

To that end, I have designated an official, Colonel Gerry Blais, to contact the six families indicated by the Ombudsman and to be a single point of contact for them. Col Blais has already contacted the six families.

The Canadian Forces are committed to continually improving support to our families, and deeply value the contributions and sacrifices made by them."

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