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Military Community Stakeholders gather to support military families

Community leaders, business leaders and military members and families will come together on Jan. 29 at the Vanier Institute for the second annual Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle. This year’s Leadership Circle will focus on partnerships and collaboration in an effort to increase community understanding and support for military families.

“The overarching purpose is to ensure that military and veteran families have access to the services and support that they require regardless of where they live across the country and regardless of what kind of services they need and looking at it across the life-course from maternal care all the way up to infant and child care all the way up to adolescent parenting to employment,” said Nora Spinks, CEO of the Vanier Institute of the Family.

This year the panel will focus on the collaboration between community organizations and professional associations with organizations that serve primarily or exclusively military and veteran families.

“Everybody around the table will have an opportunity to either share, explore or initiate partnerships and collaborations related to serving, supporting or studying military and veteran families their experience and their perspective,” stated Spinks.

The Vanier Institute and its partners recognize that modern military and veteran families are diverse and complex. It is estimated that there are nearly half a million military and veteran families living across the country and more than 1,000 living in Europe or the U.S. The goal is to increase military literacy to better serve and understand this community.

Military and veteran family members will be present at the Leadership Circle.

“We’re not doing to, or doing for or even doing with military families, but rather we’re being respectful. We’re honouring and responding. So, we’re taking their lead. We’re not driving what needs to be done. We are being responsive and respectful and collaborative,” noted Spinks.

The Leadership Circle is expected to have an attendance of 40 individuals from 37 organizations. Parliamentarian Karen McCrimmon will be present to deliver the keynote address on behalf of the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, Kent Hehr.

“Families are fundamental to the ongoing care and support of Canada’s Veterans. The Government of Canada will listen to Veterans’ families, learn from their experiences and implement policies that make a real difference in their lives. I want to thank the Canadian Military and Veteran Families Leadership Circle for their work, and I look forward to continuing to work with them to bring about real change,” said McCrimmon.

The event is co-hosted by the Canadian Armed Forces’ Commander of Military Personnel Command Lt.-Gen. Christine Whitecross and Vanier Institute of the Family Board Chair Victor Duret.

Last year’s inaugural Leadership Circle was attended by 32 leaders from 21 organizations. Of those organizations present, 18 signed on to become members and in the past year, two more have joined.

Tangible progress was made from last year’s discussions. Calian Technologies, one the participants, reached out to Military Family Services (MFS) to announce the Military Family Doctor Network in Toronto, Winnipeg, and Halifax, an initiative to help military families find primary physicians. The Canadian Child Care Federation has partnered with the Vanier Institute to develop awareness material to be distributed to all Early Childhood Educators. And Accenture is working with MFS and MFRCs to deliver employment related training for spouses.

It is the aim of the Vanier Institute that discussions this year can yield similar results.

“If we can increase understanding and we can ensure that the most appropriate services and supports are available, delivered in the most effective and efficient manner, it will have the best, most positive outcomes and most significant impact for military and veteran families and the communities in which they live and work,” said Spinks.

The Vanier Institute and the Canadian Armed Forces have an ongoing partnership to study and support military and veteran families. Tracing back to their roots and founder George Vanier, a war veteran, the Institute decided to bring military families back into focus and started the Military Family Initiative. The Initiative has four pillars: build awareness about military and veteran family lifestyle; build capacity, organizational capacity to include military families; build competency across various professions to better serve military families; and building communities. The project is ongoing.

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