Ombudsman hears from CAF/DND members during Halifax visit

DND/CAF Ombudsman Gregory Lick speaks to defence team members during a town-hall style event at CFB Halifax on March 6. AVIATOR GREGORY COLE

Ombudsman hears from CAF/DND members during Halifax visit

By Ryan Melanson,
Trident Staff

The Office of the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Ombudsman is here to help.

Lick a indiqué que la rémunération et les avantages sociaux, la crise du logement et les problèmes des familles de militaires sont des sujets qui reviennent régulièrement lorsqu’il visite les bases et entend les membres des FAC/MDN. AVIATOR GREGORY COLE

That’s a key message DND/CAF Ombudsman Gregory Lick and his team hoped to deliver during a visit to CFB Halifax and 12 Wing Shearwater from March 4-8. The trip included town halls with CAF and DND members and meetings with military families.

The office is tasked with ensuring the CAF and DND provide fair treatment to members, employees, families, and other constituents, including Cadets and CAF applicants. Lick said members should feel free to contact the Ombudsman if they think they’re being treated unfairly. In some cases, the office will find reason to investigate and potentially intervene – for the majority, their role will involve sharing information, resources and advice, or helping to find the most appropriate mechanism/channel for the particular issue.

The Ombudsman is independent of the CAF chain of command and civilian management, and offers a confidential service.

“There’s an idea that we’re the office of last resort, and that can be true, but we’re also an office of first resort – to help people, share information, and maybe prevent a bigger problem down the road,” added Lick, a former Naval Reservist and senior Canadian Coast Guard official.

His office gets about 15,000 calls a year, and approximately 80 percent are handled by providing information or a referral to a more appropriate avenue.

“The rest will require deeper investigation.”

Through his seven-year stint in the job, Lick said he’s pleased to report that every finding of unfairness in individual situations has been accepted by the CAF or DND, with recommendations either implemented or in the process. On top of those daily small successes, Lick said his office has also seen and contributed to positive systemic change, pointing to the establishment of the CAF Transition Group as an improvement for those preparing for a life after their service as one example. 

But Lick has also used his position to highlight many areas where the CAF and DND members may need more support. From housing and cost-of-living complaints that came up during recent visits, to military family issues, or mental-health supports, particularly for Reservists deployed domestically. The office has new systemic investigation reports due out this spring before Lick ends his time in the position later this year.

Above all else, Lick said he wants members to be aware of the Ombudsman and to feel comfortable reaching out with almost any concern.

“It might be ‘Where’s the local MFRC’ or it might be something much more serious. We have a group of people in the office and on our phone lines who are very passionate about helping you.”

Liz Hoffman Memorial Commendation

The Ombudsman’s office is also getting set to present the Liz Hoffman Memorial Commendation, an annual award recognizing individuals within the defence community who have worked to bring positive and lasting change to the CAF/DND.

Among the 2023 recipients was the Royal Canadian Navy’s own Sailor First Class (S1) Matthew Raniowski, recognized for his work as the military co-chair of National Military Co-Chair of the Defense Advisory Group for Persons with Disabilities (DAGPwD), along with his DND colleague and civilian co-chair Lana Costello. 

Nominations for the 2024 Commendations are open until March 31; Lick and his team encouraged local members to consider submitting. Click here for more information about the award, including its namesake, past winners, and criteria for nominations.