A spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay’s office confirmed the information Tuesday, after a protracted labour relations process was resolved this week.
“As of today, the employee is no longer employed at Veterans Affairs Canada,” said Erika Lashbrook Knutson, press secretary for the minister.
Global News first reported in August that a VAC employee had discussed medically assisted death with a veteran, a case that has brought renewed scrutiny on the department and the ongoing struggle for veterans seeking support.
Sources told Global News a VAC service agent brought up MAID unprompted in a conversation earlier this year with the combat veteran, who was discussing treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder and a traumatic brain injury.
The veteran, whom Global News has not identified but has spoken with directly, said the service agent told him in the call about having helped another veteran access resources for medical assistance in dying, and that the other veteran went through with a medically assisted death.
A VAC spokesperson told Global News last week that it has not been able to confirm if any veteran who discussed MAID later ended their own life.
Veterans Affairs investigation finds two more cases of assisted dying discussions
An internal department investigation sparked by Global News’ reporting not only confirmed those two cases, but also later revealed that the same VAC agent discussed MAID with two other veterans, MacAulay first told lawmakers last month. He said in that testimony that the four confirmed cases date back to 2019.
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Lashbrook Knutson confirmed Tuesday that since the issue was first brought to light in August, the employee — who has been described by the department as a “well-established” service agent — had not been at work and was not interacting with veterans.
The minister’s office could not confirm specific details about the employee’s termination, including if they received any severance payment.
In November, Veterans Affairs Canada referred the four cases to the RCMP for a potential criminal investigation.
While the RCMP confirmed to Global News last week that the matter has been referred to “the appropriate RCMP jurisdiction,” the national police force has not confirmed if a formal probe has been opened.
Canada’s assisted dying law states such discussions can only be held between a patient and their primary health-care provider.
In an interview with Global News last week, MacAulay would not comment on whether the employee should be fired, saying it was “a human resources issue” that requires proper procedures under the public service union contract.
The department says it has not found information to confirm a claim by retired corporal and former Paralympian Christine Gauthier that she was a fifth veteran with whom a service agent discussed assisted dying, saying a review of her file did not corroborate that such a discussion occurred.
MacAulay told Global News he believes the four cases confirmed so far may be the extent of the matter — stressing only the one employee is known to be involved — but added he won’t know for sure until the investigation concludes.
“All I can tell you at this time is there are four cases and one individual employee is involved,” the minister said. “But the investigation is not over.
“I feel that possibly this is all that’s there, but I don’t know.”
The department is set to deliver a report on the investigation to the House of Commons standing committee on veterans affairs and make its findings public, but has not set a date for when the probe will wrap up.
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