VET­ER­ANS AF­FAIRS RETHINKS PO­SI­TION

Sta­tus for Christo­pher Garnier re­mains un­clear though

Truro Daily News - - Front Page - BY LEE BERTHIAUME

The Trudeau govern­ment sought to defuse weeks of out­rage by or­der­ing of­fi­cials to adopt a more crit­i­cal eye be­fore ap­prov­ing funds and ser­vices for the fam­ily mem­ber of vet­er­ans – par­tic­u­larly rel­a­tives con­victed of se­ri­ous crimes.

Yet it wasn’t im­me­di­ately clear what im­pact the or­der will have on the case of Christo­pher Garnier, the Hal­i­fax man con­victed last year of killing off-duty Truro po­lice of­fi­cer Cather­ine Camp­bell whose re­ceipt of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for PTSD treat­ment from Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada has sparked wide­spread anger.

A Hal­i­fax court heard last month that Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Canada was cov­er­ing the cost of Garnier’s psy­chol­o­gist be­cause his fa­ther was a vet­eran who has also been di­ag­nosed with post­trau­matic stress dis­or­der.

The rev­e­la­tion that tax­pay­ers were foot­ing the bill for Garnier’s treat­ment has sparked wide­spread con­dem­na­tion, and Vet­er­ans Af­fairs Min­is­ter Sea­mus O’re­gan promised last month to look into how and why the de­ci­sion was made.

On Tues­day, he told the House he had re­viewed the find­ings and was di­rect­ing of­fi­cials “to en­sure that ser­vices re­ceived by a fam­ily mem­ber of a vet­eran are re­lated to the vet­er­ans’ ser­vice and where they are not, that they be re­viewed by a se­nior of­fi­cial.

“I am di­rect­ing the depart­ment to im­me­di­ately ad­dress its pol­icy on pro­vid­ing treat­ment to fam­ily mem­bers un­der ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances,” he added, “such as con­vic­tion of such a se­ri­ous crime.”

The min­is­ter also said ben­e­fits will not be pro­vided to a vet­eran’s fam­ily mem­ber who is in­car­cer­ated in a fed­eral fa­cil­ity; re­spon­si­bil­ity for the pro­vi­sion of such ser­vices rests with Cor­rec­tional Ser­vices Canada.

But when it came to Garnier’s

ben­e­fits, O’re­gan re­peat­edly cited pri­vacy con­sid­er­a­tions for re­fus­ing to dis­cuss the case while in­di­cat­ing the or­der would not be retroac­tive.

“The pol­icy is to pro­vide scru­tiny with all fu­ture de­ci­sions,” O’re­gan said out­side the Com­mons. “All fu­ture de­ci­sions will now have an el­e­vated level of scru­tiny when we are deal­ing par­tic­u­larly with ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances like this.”

Lib­er­als sub­se­quently voted down a sym­bolic Con­ser­va­tive mo­tion de­mand­ing an im­me­di­ate end to the pro­vi­sion of Vet­er­ans Af­fairs ben­e­fits to Garnier, who never served in uni­form.

The min­is­ter also sidestepped a re­porter’s ques­tions about whether the new pol­icy would pre­vent sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions in the fu­ture if the depart­ment deemed the rel­a­tive of a vet­eran should get ben­e­fits.

“I’m not go­ing to get into hy­po­thet­i­cals,” O’re­gan said.

Con­ser­va­tives ap­peared unim­pressed with the move. Dur­ing a heated ques­tion pe­riod – and on so­cial me­dia – sev­eral Tory MPS de­manded the govern­ment take im­me­di­ate ac­tion by strip­ping Garnier of his cur­rent ben­e­fits.

Garnier, 30, was con­victed in De­cem­ber of mur­der­ing 36-yearold Camp­bell, and dump­ing her body in a com­post bin, and his lawyer had ar­gued his client’s men­tal ill­ness was brought on by the mur­der.

His con­vic­tion car­ries an au­to­matic life sen­tence, but a Nova Sco­tia Supreme Court jus­tice ruled last month he would be able to ap­ply for pa­role af­ter serv­ing 13 and a half years – less 699 days for time served.

The Hal­i­fax man has since ap­pealed his sen­tence, call­ing it “man­i­festly ex­ces­sive.” He had also ear­lier ap­pealed his con­vic­tion, in part be­cause he says po­lice in­ter­view tac­tics elicited a false con­fes­sion.

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO/AN­DREW VAUGHAN

Christo­pher Calvin Garnier was con­victed of sec­ond-de­gree mur­der in the death of Truro po­lice of­fi­cer Cather­ine Camp­bell, and has been re­ceiv­ing fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for treat­ment of PTSD through Vet­er­ans Af­fairs.

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