Ex-om­buds­man ‘gob­s­macked’ home­less is­sue took five years

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - PROVINCE - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Pat Stogran, Canada’s first veter­ans om­buds­man, vividly re­calls be­ing hauled into the min­is­ter’s of­fice one day in late 2008, where an an­gry, red-faced Greg Thomp­son — the veter­ans min­is­ter of the day — up­braided him for mak­ing pub­lic the is­sue of homelessness among ex-sol­diers.

It was not an is­sue, Thomp­son al­legedly told the ex­tra in­fantry colonel, who had been se­lected for the watch­dog post by a Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment ea­ger to demon­strate that it was the best friend of the troops.

The en­counter, chron­i­cled in Stogran’s book Rude Awak­en­ing: The Govern­ment’s Se­cret War Against Canada’s Veter­ans, was the be­gin­ning of the end of the rap­port they’d en­joyed. And it even­tu­ally led to the Harper govern­ment not re­new­ing Stogran’s po­si­tion in 2010.

Stogran says he tried un­suc­cess­fully through­out his man­date to get the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment to rec­og­nize that homelessness among ex-sol­diers was not only an is­sue, but a grow­ing con­cern.

“They weren’t go­ing to do any­thing un­less they got hit in the head with a ham­mer,” said Stogran, who in­di­cated the re­luc­tance to ac­knowl­edge the prob­lem ex­tended to the veter­ans depart­ment as well.

What got him in trou­ble was the high-pro­file vis­its he made to home­less shel­ters across the coun­try, where in 2009 — de­spite be­ing chewed out — he be­gan ask­ing staff to col­lect data on whether shel­ter res­i­dents had any mil­i­tary ser­vice.

That data didn’t make its way into the na­tional registry in a co-or­di­nated way for five years.

“I’m gob-smacked it took un­til 2014 for them to ac­tu­ally pick up on it,” Stogran said in an in­ter­view with The Cana­dian Press.

Last week, Em­ploy­ment and So­cial De­vel­op­ment Canada re­leased a re­port to The Cana­dian Press that es­ti­mates 2,250 for­mer sol­diers — about 2.7 per cent of the to­tal home­less pop­u­la­tion — use shel­ters on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Some groups, such as the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion, say they be­lieve the es­ti­mate is too low and point to the fact that a Le­gion out­reach pro­gram has dealt with 425 home­less ex-sol­diers in On­tario alone since 2009.

Stogran

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