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E-mails reveal how Ottawa tried to explain the treatment with PTSD for the man who killed the police


HALIFAX: Recently published documents offer a vision of how high level government officials faced to respond to the revelation that Veterans Affairs financed treatment with PTSD of a man from Halifax convicted of killing an officer out of service police

E-mails obtained by The Canadian Press through access to information and privacy legislation reveal that a large number of people in the Veterans Affairs office – including the Deputy Minister, policy analysts and communications officers – were involved in the configuration of the message that was relayed to the media about Christopher Benefits of Garnier.

The news came out during the Garnier condemnation hearing for the second-degree murder of Catherine Campbell, a police officer Truro, N.S. The court learned that Veterans Affairs covered the cost of their psychologist because his father was a veteran who has also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Within the hundreds of emails that deliberated on how to respond to the flood of media inquiries, officials discussed the relevant policy and what messages "would support the foundations to include family members in a plan of veteran treatment ".

Trevor Nicholson, a senior policy analyst with Veterans Affairs, summed up for some of his colleagues how the department's mental health policy works.

"Who can be included in the rehabilitation plan or plan for a veteran … is at the discretion of the decision-maker based on the recommendation of veterans who treat the healthcare professional and in consultation with the veterans," said Nicholson in August. 28 emails.

"(Veterans Affairs Canada) may include the family in treatment sessions with the veteran patient and / or provide session to family members to address the impact of the patient's mental health status on the other members of the family unit . "

In an email to nine of his colleagues on the following day, the Veterans Affairs officer, Sandra Williamson, wrote that "it should be made clear that the full range of benefits and services it offers Veterans are not offered to family members. "

Mary Nicholson, director of healthcare and rehabilitation programs for Veterans Affairs, agreed with Williamson's approach.

"I'm sure it's part of your messenger, but it's also important to keep in mind that family members only granted access to recognize the important part they have in supporting veteran patients or injured, part of the wellness framework, "wrote in an email on August 29.

Even the Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs, Walt Natynczyk, and Deputy Deputy Minister Lisa Campbell, considered what the department told the media.

"(The Deputy Minister and Associate) have asked us to update our lines to include two things … That the focus of providing advice, etc. to a relative, is always based on the best interests of the welfare of the veteran … and a line around the services that we can provide and what correctional services could provide, and including that there is no duplication or overlay of these services, "wrote the Steven Harris communications agency on August 29.

In a statement to The Canadian Press about the Garnier case, Veterans Affairs said the lines of communication are regularly developed and reviewed as part of a daily work process.

"It is part of the normal business processes to connect to different areas of the department to ensure that messaging accurately reflects the policy and activity of the department," said spokesman Martin Magnan in an email.

In September, the Trudeau government ordered officers to take a more critical eye before approving funds and services for the family member of veterans, particularly family members convicted of serious crimes.

The Veteran Affairs Minister, Seamus O. Regan, told the House of Commons that, in the future, a member of the family of a veteran who is imprisoned could not be offered in a federal facility.

But when it came to Garnier's benefits, Regan repeatedly cited the privacy considerations to refuse to discuss the case, indicating that the order would not be retroactive.

The federal government was also apparently flooded with letters from the public, as widespread outrage over the receipt of financial assistance from Garnier was generated due to a mental condition that was caused by the murder.

"Frankly, this is an outrage and a direct slap to the face, towards the veterans, by a liberal government that has already lost a great deal of support from the veteran community. Catherine Campbell's parents deserve better (Veterans Affairs Canada) and the Government of Canada, "a citizen, whose name is drafted, wrote on August 29.

Another member of the public, whose name is written, wrote: "I can only imagine what mental repercussions should come to strangle a police officer to death here at home in Canada. The murderer must be truly appreciative of the flood of support of (Veterans Affairs Canada), while the survivors of our veteran families fight. "

In an August 30 email to several Veterans Affairs officials, Anick Bedard wrote that O & # 39; Regan received a "large number of emails" that reacted to the news.

In response to a letter, the liberal parliamentarian of Nova Scotia, Sean Fraser, acknowledged that his initial reaction was disbelief.

"It was difficult to understand how someone who suffers a PTSD as a consequence of a murder they committed should be eligible to obtain health benefits from Veteran Affairs Canada," Fraser wrote on August 30 in an email attached to the file.

"In spite of my first reaction, I want to be very careful about how the policy can be developed in response to the extraordinary facts of this case. The system that provides medical coverage to veterans and their families is good, and a political reaction against The knee in this case has the potential to deny coverage to veterans and their relatives who need it, which I do not think is the result that nobody wants. "

Garnier – who strangled the 36-year-old woman and used a compost tray to get rid of her body – appealed her conviction and second-degree murder sentence.

The conviction leads to a condemnation of the automatic life, but the Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia ruled that in August Garnier could request a probation after turning 13 and a half, less 699 days for the period of time .

During his trial, Garnier repeatedly told the jury that he did not remember using the large green binary compound to get rid of the body near a harbor bridge, where he remained undecided for almost five days.

Garnier had also argued that Campbell died accidentally during the injured sex he began after they met a bar in downtown before that night.

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