Veterans ombudsman calls it quits after 18 months

Veterans ombudsman calls it quits after 18 months

OTTAWA — Veterans ombudsman Craig Dalton is calling it quits, leaving former service members without a key advocate at a time when many are worried about the effect the COVID-19 pandemic is having on their requests for assistance from the federal government.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced Dalton’s departure Monday, saying the former army colonel was beginning “a new chapter in his distinguished career.”

The announcement caught many within the veterans’ community and even some within the ombudsman’s office by surprise, as Dalton had spent only 18 months on the job.

It also raised questions about why Dalton, who previously served in Afghanistan and commanded Canadian Forces Base Gagetown, decided to leave.

The ombudsman’s office said Dalton, the third person to serve as veterans ombudsman since the office was created in 2007 and whose last day is Friday, was not available for an interview.

Dalton’s predecessors, retired colonel Pat Stogran and retired chief warrant officer Guy Parent, served as ombudsman for three and nine years, respectively. Dalton began his time in the role in November 2018.

While the office has helped some veterans access services and benefits, it has also been criticized for years for its lack of independence from government. The ombudsman reports to the minister of veterans affairs rather than Parliament.

There have also been concerns about the office’s narrow mandate, which largely focuses on reviewing individual cases in which veterans are denied benefits rather than studying and addressing systemic problems in the system.

Dalton echoed some of those sentiments in a February interview with The Canadian Press, in which he specifically took issue with the lack of independence within the office — and worried about the effect that has on its trust and credibility within the veterans’ community.

“Those that are recognized as being the most effective and being true ombuds offices are all independent in their structure,” he said. “They have true independence. And that really matters when it comes to trust and even the perception of independence matters when it comes to trust.”

He also urged the federal government to conduct a review of the office’s mandate. He noted it had not been updated since the position was created, even though the intention at the time was to take a close look at it every five years.

Dalton’s decision to leave comes at an unusual time, given the federal government is currently consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic and Veterans Affairs Canada has been struggling to address a backlog of 44,000 applications for assistance from disabled veterans.

Many veterans and their advocates worry that backlog has only grown because of the pandemic.

Brian Forbes, chair of the National Council of Veterans’ Associations, which represents dozens of veterans’ organizaton across Canada, nevertheless urged the government to use Dalton’s departure as an opportunity to finally review the ombudsman’s mandate.

Dalton “was doing a pretty decent job,” Forbes said. ”He was consulting well with the veterans’ community and stakeholders and put out some pretty decent reports. But the reality is the veterans ombudsman’s office doesn’t have sufficient independence.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2020.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Veterans

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Leanne Evans, Rimbey Neighbourhood Place Program Coordinator, accepts a donation of $5,000 from Kevin Maxwell manager of Field Support for Telus. (Photo Submitted)
Rimbey Neighbourhood Place making big changes behind the scenes

Rimbey Neighbourhood Place recently recieved a $5,000 donation from Telus

Quality Inn & Suites in Rimbey. Photo Submitted
Rimbey hotel gets new lease on life

The Quality Inn & Suites in Rimbey is now open and taking bookings

robbery
UPDATE: Suspect identified in early morning shooting

Rimbey RCMP had responded to a complaint of an armed robbery at the Bluffton City General Store

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw updates media on the Covid-19 situation in Edmonton on Friday March 20, 2020. nbsp;Alberta is reporting it's highest daily number of COVID-19 cases, with 364 new infections. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta confirmed 323 COVID-19 cases Tuesday

Central zone active cases at 145

Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the chief medical officer of health, receive flu shot. Photo via Government of Alberta
COVID-19: One more death in central zone

Ponoka County on province’s watchlist

Conservative member of Parliament Pierre Poilievre speaks during a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on October 19, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Liberals say Tory effort to set up COVID-19 committee will be a confidence matter

The Tories were originally proposing an ‘anticorruption’ committee

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau and his family decide against trick-or-treating this year due to COVID

Adhering to local health authorities, Trudeau urges Canadians to do their part in following those guidelines

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

The project is expected to create up to 2,920 direct jobs during construction, the federal release said

A Tim Hortons employee hands out coffee from a drive-through window to a customer in Mississauga, Ont., on March 17, 2020. Tim Hortons is ending the practice of double cupping hot drinks, a move the fast food restaurant says will eliminate hundreds of millions of cups from landfills each year. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
The end of double cupping: Tim Hortons ditches two cups in favour of one with sleeve

Most recycling facilities in Canada don’t recycle single use paper coffee cups because of a plastic lining

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer doctor Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Tuesday October 20, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s chief public health doctor says in the age of social media, fake news about the COVID-19 pandemic has been spreading faster than the virus itself. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
VIDEO: Fake news creates serious issues for battling pandemic, chief public health doc says

Both Tam and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged Canadians to be responsible about the information they share

A narwhal tusk that was donated to a Goodwill store in northwest Calgary this summer will soon be gifted to the Arctic Institute of North America (Hesam Rezaei)
Narwhal tusk discovered in Calgary Goodwill pile to be donated to university

The tusk had federal hunting tags from 1978 attached that say animal was harvested from the central Arctic

(The Canadian Press)
Alberta-raised Cree actor lands role in Disney’s live-action ‘Peter Pan and Wendy’

Tiger Lily is featured in Disney’s 1953 animated “Peter Pan” film

Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan responds to a question during Question Period in the House of Commons Tuesday February 4, 2020 in Ottawa. The Alberta government is welcoming news that Ottawa has approved an expansion of the Nova Gas Transmission Ltd. gathering system in Alberta — while condemning federal delays that it says cost this summer’s construction season. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Alberta welcomes federal approval of gas pipeline expansion while criticizing delay

Pipeline division owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corp. will now be required to restore 3,840 hectares of caribou habitat,

This 2020 electron microscope image made available by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows a Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 particle isolated from a patient, in a laboratory in Fort Detrick, Md. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-NIAID/NIH via AP
At least 49 cases of COVID-19 linked to wedding in Calgary: Alberta Health

McMillan says the city of Calgary has recently seen several outbreaks linked to social gatherings

Most Read