Unions and veterans call for end to privatization of veteran rehabilitation services

The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and the Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees (UVAE) join veterans and their advocates calling for the Liberal government to cancel a new $570 million dollar contract for veteran rehabilitation services in Canada. 

“This contract was a mistake from the beginning,” said Chris Aylward, PSAC national president. “Veterans and their families should be served by public service workers who put their interests first, not by a private corporation that aims to profit from them.”  

Veterans in need of support are now left in limbo, with the program’s implementation already delayed by months and no rehabilitation services available to veterans until the new system is rolled out.  

“This contract was rushed out the door without properly consulting with veterans or the dedicated staff at Veterans Affairs Canada who serve them,” said Virginia Vaillancourt, UVAE national president.  

The implementation has already been delayed twice since November, and there is a lack of support and training for staff and service providers.  

“Every day a veteran goes without the care they need for the psychological and physical trauma they’ve endured is a tragedy this government should be ashamed of,” said Vaillancourt. “This contract is an unmitigated disaster and should be scrapped immediately.” 

Veterans have been actively speaking out about this contract and the negative impacts they are experiencing since implementation has begun. 

Christopher Banks is a decorated veteran who served in Bosnia and Afghanistan before being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and who received the Veterans Affairs Ministers Commendation for saving the life of a suicidal veteran. He is worried about getting treatments that he and other veterans desperately need. “Because of the delays, no new people are being let into the system until they sort that out,” said Banks. “So, if you were injured during your service, there’s no rehabilitation available to you today, tomorrow or probably months down the road.” 

Clayton Goodwin, a veteran from the Veterans Accountability Commission added that he feels insulted and under-appreciated that this valuable work has been given to a for-profit company owned by Loblaws, which has already faced criticism for price-gouging grocery store customers during the pandemic. “I signed up to serve Canada, and I expect federal public service workers to be the face of my care. I don’t want to go to Loblaws or Shoppers Drug Mart to get service. Veterans deserve better.” 

“We’re hearing personally from veterans who are angry, depressed and frustrated by the new contract,” said Vaillancourt. “Now case managers at Veterans Affairs Canada who have worked with them, sometimes for years, do not have the authority or ability to help them.” 

Putting an end to the contracting out of public service jobs is a key issue at the bargaining table as PSAC continues to hold strike votes for 155,000 federal workers across the country.  

“The harm we’ve already seen from outsourcing veterans’ rehabilitation services is a tragic example of why privatization always costs Canadians more – and delivers less,” said Aylward. “Unfortunately, it’s now Canada’s veterans who are paying the price.” 

“Frankly, the fact the new service provider is immediately failing is scary. But at least the delay gives me time to get better before being subjected to this,” said Banks. “It’s time to cancel this contract and put veterans ahead of profits,” said Christopher Banks.  

March 2, 2023