By Newell Durnbrooke
General Dynamics Canada recently announced a contribution of half a million dollars over three years to support the work of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR). The contribution will fuel research into understanding, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of operational stress injuries (OSIs) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) thereby enhancing the lives of Canadian military personnel, Veterans, their families and their communities.
Esprit de Corps spoke with Kelly Williams, General Dynamics Canada’s senior director of strategy and government relations about their recent donation.
EdeC: What prompted General Dynamics to make a difference in the lives of the CF men and women who returned from Afghanistan with mental wounds?
Williams: As one of Canada’s pre-eminent defence and security companies, General Dynamics Canada (GDC) has always been cognizant of the need to give back to the men and women who serve, our Veterans, and their families. And, because many of us at GDC were in the Forces or are reservists, we have a firsthand understanding of the impact that modern military service can have, not just on our service people, but on their families and on our communities. GDC wants to help ensure that when members of the Canadian Armed Forces leave the battlefield, they make it all the way home.
EdeC: Canada has experienced an increase in the number of military charities in recent years. What was behind the decision to work with CIMVHR and the Royal Ottawa Hospital?
Williams: It is true that there are many excellent military charities. In fact, our employees in Halifax, Ottawa, and Calgary have also decided to support the objective of helping to bring our troops all the way home by focusing their United Way efforts on support to the Military Family Resource Centres in Edmonton, Calgary, Petawawa, Ottawa, and Halifax.
Once GDC decided to focus on supporting better mental health for returning soldiers and Veterans, it was absolutely clear that the right partners were CIMVHR and the Royal Ottawa Hospital. CIMVHR is at the centre of military mental health research in this country, working with most of our leading academics in the area, and the Royal Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s leading mental healthcare centres, specializing in PTSD and OSIs.
EdeC: GDC’s $500k investment to grow the partnership and capacity between CIMVHR and the Royal Ottawa Hospital is significant. Will this encourage the defence industry to begin playing a larger role in the support of our soldiers off the battlefield?
Williams: I hope so. I am a firm believer in what the late Senator Kennedy described as the tiny ripples of hope that together contribute to a powerful current of change. How gratifying would it be to see more and more players step-up to the plate to address this issue and get our soldiers, Veterans, and their families all the help that they need and deserve?
EdeC: In your speech at the Fifth Annual Military and Veteran Health Research Forum, you make the remark that problems associated with mental health in the Canadian Forces are only going to get bigger. Is GDC prepared to commit long-term to initiatives that will improve the well-being of soldiers and veterans who suffer from mental wounds?
Williams: We have made a significant commitment over three years, and I believe it is just the first step of many.