Since 2013, MUN has been working hard to provide for the changing demand of student wellness and health services across all their campuses. Though, in January of 2014, Veterans found themselves protesting across Canada to keep open veterans’ affairs offices.
The Muse sat down with veteran Shannon Lewis-Simpson, Lieutenant Commander. “Veterans aren’t just retired military personnel, they are anybody who’s ever put on a uniform and signed an allegiance to the queen to protect Canada. This includes RCMP, reservists, regular force, or rangers,” she said.
“There are a lot of people you wouldn’t expect [to be veterans]. We’re starting to extend that benefit to first responders, too.”
Lewis-Simpson says that supports on campus for veterans are specific to the individual. She doesn’t find that there is one single targeted support that she sees on campus for veterans. Though, the counselling centre is a great place to start finding supports in general.
“To be honest, we have no idea how many veterans are on campus. We might have a lot around. People have this idea of veteran as an 80-year old retired man, with a rack full of medals freezing on the war memorial, but anybody could be a veteran.”
“Unless people self-declare or we ask the question, we don’t know who is a veteran. Maybe that is the next step asking when people register ‘have you served or do you serve in the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) or the RCMP?’”
Lewis-Simpson said, “A lot of people, especially in the Navy, take advantage of distance courses and take courses online.”
While specific veteran’s services are not yet available on MUN’s St. John’s Campus, Lewis-Simpson, said “I am happy to sit and talk to anyone in my joint roles as CFLC Liaison Officer and Student Life personnel about their experiences on campus.”
In an interview with the Muse, the Minister for National Defense, Harjit Sajjan, said that veterans have particular issues with finding the transferrable skills from their previous jobs with the Canadian Armed Forces to returning to civilian life. Though, while it may be difficult to find the similarities, Sajjan says that veterans are taught how to plan, assess, and lead.
Sajjan said, “When you put it all together there’s a tremendous amount of experiences that they [veterans] end up finding and translate into civilian language.”
Sajjan said each individual veteran has very different needs when considering accommodations for veterans at post-secondary institutions. Sajjan says that he and the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Kent Hehr are working on making sure that each individual veteran receives the individualized care that they need to make transitions to post-secondary and civilian life as easy as possible.
Sajjan suggests that the most recent policy that he and Hehr are working on is a policy pertaining to the transition between military and civilian life. While he said that he was unable to tell more, he did highlight that post-secondary education was a key component. Though, he said that it was not just limited to university or college.