Canada names new veterans watchdog

·2 min read

Canada's new top veterans advocate is a woman.

Nishika Jardine, a retired colonel who spent 37 years in the military, was quietly named to the post of Veterans Ombudsman Wednesday by the Liberal government.

She replaces Craig Dalton, who abruptly resigned the position, earlier this year.

Veterans Minister Lawrence MacAulay made the announcement in a written statement following the conclusion of Remembrance Day commemoration events.

He said the "core responsibility of the Veterans Ombudsperson is to review complaints and issues related to programs and services delivered by Veterans Affairs Canada and to uphold the Veterans Bill of Rights."

Jardine, whose background was with the Corps of Royal Canadian Electrical & Mechanical Engineers (RCEME), will have her work cut out for her.

The veterans department, despite a massive infusion of cash, is facing an enormous backlog of disability claims, which it has struggled to tame.

She also arrives at a time of increasing unrest among former soldiers, sailors and aircrew, some of whom have taken to suing the federal government over its failure to deliver services — or communicate clearly about the programs and services on offer.

Her predecessor, in an interview with CBC News in the summer of 2019, said he believed the mandate of the veterans ombudsman should be reviewed.

Dalton said, after talking to many veterans' advocates and ordinary vets, he'd come to the conclusion that the watchdog's office had lost the trust of some former soldiers and their families.

He recommended an independent review that would look at, among other things, whether the ombudsman should report directly to Parliament rather than to the veterans minister.

MacAuley said, at the time, he would consider it, but nothing ever transpired.

Jardine retired from the military in May 2019 and joins a growing line of women appointed by the Liberal government to head major institutions.