RCMP called to investigate several cases of veterans being offered medically assisted death

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Four — perhaps even five — Canadian military veterans were given the option of medically assisted death (MAID) by a now-suspended Veterans Affairs Canada caseworker, the country’s veterans minister told a House of Commons committee late Thursday.

Lawrence MacAulay said the case is now being turned over to the RCMP for investigation and his department’s internal review is underway.

“We expect all Veterans Affairs candidate employees to interact with veterans with care, compassion and respect, and the actions of this one employee are simply abhorrent,” MacAulay told the veterans committee. “And I condemn this behavior in the strongest possible terms.”

He went on to say there was “no way to justify” the actions and he was not defending the employee.

Last summer, Global News first reported a case in which a veteran claimed to have been pressured by a veterans case manager to consider medically assisted dying.

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay said the case is now being handed over to the RCMP for investigation. (Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press)

That prompted MacAulay to order an internal investigation, which has now uncovered a total of four cases in which veterans were allegedly offered MAID — all apparently by the same caseworker.

Earlier Thursday, the National Post reported on a possible fifth case involving a still-serving member of the military who told the podcast tango romeo that he was also unexpectedly offered MAID by a case manager last November.

MacAulay told the all-party committee that the latest revelation was not among the cases his staff have revealed, and he urged the veteran who spoke on the podcast to come forward and contact him – or the deputy minister – directly.

“We remain confident that this is all related to a single employee and is not a widespread or systemic issue,” he said.

Conservative MP – and deputy chairman of the veterans committee – Blake Richards questioned whether the minister and the veterans department had a clear indication of the extent of the problem.

Cause for alarm, says Tory MP

The fact that the fifth case may have escaped the attention of the departmental review is cause for alarm, he said

“So in that case, either something was missed in this investigation or another employee is involved,” Richards said. “Now it’s a matter of determining which of the two things it is. Either way, it’s worrisome.”

Based on what he’s seeing, Richard said he believes the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “investigation is not nearly thorough enough.”

He said that could mean “an external investigation is needed.”

MacAulay walked the committee through what his department knew so far, saying the first case that came to light occurred last summer, when the caseworker repeatedly pushed the term MAID to an unnamed veteran who had called seeking help with post-traumatic stress .

Another reported occasion occurred last May when the same caseworker provided information about euthanasia to a veteran.

Another incident is said to have happened in December 2021, MacAulay said. It involved a veteran contacting the department to ask questions about MAID. The committee had already heard testimony about that event during an earlier hearing last month.

Minister apologizes

The fourth known case apparently happened in 2019, when a veteran called VAC specifically asking for information about help taking his own life.

MacAulay offered an apology.

“I’m sorry you had to endure these horrible interactions and we’re doing everything we can to make sure this never happens again,” the minister said.

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