DND om­buds­man urges more health sup­port for Rangers in the North

Simcoe Reformer - Times-Reformer - - NEWS -

OT­TAWA — The De­fence De­part­ment om­buds­man says the mil­i­tary should be do­ing more to pro­vide health sup­port for the Cana­dian Rangers who pa­trol vast stretches of the North.

In his lat­est report, om­buds­man Gary Wal­bourne says many Rangers aren’t even aware of their health-care en­ti­tle­ments and of­ten fail to report in­juries or ill­ness.

The report also says men­tal health ser­vices for the Rangers need to be beefed up.

The 5,000 Rangers are part-time re­servists re­cruited from north­ern com­mu­ni­ties who con­duct sovereignty pa­trols and gen­er­ally keep an eye on iso­lated ar­eas.

The om­buds­man’s report says the mil­i­tary should make it clear to Rangers what health ser­vices are avail­able and how to ac­cess them.

De­fence Min­is­ter Har­jit Sa­j­jan says he has in­structed the Cana­dian Forces to work with the om­buds­man to ad­dress the report’s rec­om­men­da­tions.

“The Cana­dian Army is already look­ing at ways to re­move bar­ri­ers, and im­prove the sup­port and care for the Cana­dian Rangers,” Sa­j­jan said in a state­ment.

Wal­bourne said the rules around health is­sues need to be clear and said the Forces should work with the Rangers to iden­tify their needs and find a way to de­liver ser­vices.

“We found that many Cana­dian Rangers we in­ter­viewed were un­aware of their health care en­ti­tle­ments and as­sumed they would be taken care of by the Cana­dian Armed Forces,” the report said.

“This in­cludes Vet­eran Af­fairs ben­e­fits as well, which 89 per cent of re­spon­dents who were in­jured on duty did not sub­mit a claim for. It is vi­tal that Cana­dian Rangers are aware of the ben­e­fits en­ti­tled to them if they ex­pe­ri­ence a ser­vice-re­lated ill­ness or in­jury.”

They may also be re­luc­tant to report prob­lems.

“Sev­eral rea­sons were cited for this in­clud­ing: un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the sever­ity of the in­jury, fear­ing re­moval from a par­tic­u­lar ac­tiv­ity, fear­ing long-term ca­reer im­pli­ca­tions and find­ing health care through other sources,” the report said. “As ac­cess to en­ti­tle­ments may re­quire proof of a ser­vice re­la­tion­ship, the im­pli­ca­tions of fail­ing to track ill­nesses and in­juries are ev­i­dent.

The report pointed out that Rangers live in over 200 small and iso­lated com­mu­ni­ties, many of them ac­ces­si­ble only by air. In some, doc­tors fly in only once a month and Rangers who need med­i­cal at­ten­tion are not al­ways seen. The Cana­dian Press

AN­DREW VAUGHAN/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau meets with mem­bers of the Cana­dian Rangers in Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay, N.L., on Nov. 24. The De­fence De­part­ment om­buds­man says the mil­i­tary should be do­ing more to pro­vide health sup­port for the Cana­dian Rangers who pa­trol vast stretches of the North.

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