Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has confirmed that a former employee inappropriately told four veterans about seeking medical assistance in dying (MAID), according to an internal investigation by the department.
The report said these are “isolated” incidents concerning one employee who no longer works for Veterans Affairs. It states this is “not a widespread, systemic issue.”
Veterans Affairs has since referred the incidents to the RCMP, and it “deeply regrets what transpired and understands the seriousness of these completely isolated incidents.”
The department clarified that MAID is not a service it provides.
“As I’ve said from the beginning, what happened to these veterans is unacceptable,” said Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay.
“The report confirms these four cases were isolated to a single employee, and we have referred this matter to the RCMP. Our front-line employees are dedicated and care deeply about the veterans they serve daily.”
An Ontario hospital organization is offering a hefty hourly wage for someone to administer medical assistance in dying (MAID).
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— Rebel News Canada (@RebelNews_CA) March 1, 2023
MacAulay assured veterans they can trust VAC to support their needs “respectfully and compassionately.”
In the report, the department will prevent similar situations by instituting mandatory training on MAID and ensuring any veteran who raises MAID in a conversation involves management from the get-go.
It clarified that “inappropriate” cases would go directly to the assistant deputy minister and deputy minister levels — a process the auditing division will review starting in April.
Veterans Affairs also pledged to consult veterans on whether to record calls between them and case managers or service agents.
VAC Officials said they did not confirm whether the four veterans in the report pursued MAID due to their initial discussions with the former employee. But they said one of the veterans has since passed away, but the cause is unknown.
Officials also stressed that anyone who experienced a similar situation around MAID should contact the department or the Office of the Veterans Ombud.
Conservative MP Ed Fast is set to table a private member’s bill repealing access to medical assistance in dying (MAID) for those with mental illness.https://t.co/NnpVHVhb6v
— Rebel News (@RebelNewsOnline) March 9, 2023
According to the report, 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 earlier that day.
The veteran alleged the employee mentioned providing information on MAID to another veteran, and the department took “immediate action.” They apologized to the veteran and reassigned their file to the employee’s manager.
Management commenced a “fact-finding process” on July 22, with the files of other veterans assigned to that employee reviewed to see if further conversations about MAID occurred.
On August 19, MacAulay instructed the department to investigate the matter. The report confirmed a second incident a few days later and two more veterans in November.
In November, MacAulay testified to a parliamentary committee concerning the four cases in which a now-former department employee suggested MAID to veterans.
Upon confirmation, the department offered written guidance on MAID for staff not to start conversations with veterans about it, calling it “completely unacceptable.”
Though Canadians support Ottawa’s first two versions of its medical assistance in dying (MAID) legislation, many expressed concerns about expanding it to mental illness.
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— Rebel News Québec (@RebelNews_QC) February 21, 2023
They claimed their staff understood they must advise any veteran considering MAID to discuss it with their primary care provider. In cases where a veteran spoke to their doctor, Veterans Affairs provided information about benefits and relevant support and services.
According to the report, VAC reviewed some 402,000 files in its client databases from June 2016. They found no instances where a staffer raised MAID in a conversation, except for the four cases already identified.
The department confirmed it received 235 MAID-related communications from veterans, family members and others between July 21 and December 30, 2022, in the form of calls to the National Client Contact Network, letters and emails, and messages through the online MyVAC account system.
As of January 2023, they reported no further incidents of inappropriate conversations with a veteran around MAID.