Canadians are becoming more concerned with the plight of modern veterans struggling to make the transition from the Canadian Forces to civilian life.
According to a Nanos survey conducted Oct. 4 to Oct. 11, sampling 1,000 Canadians, 94 per cent of those surveyed agreed Canadians have an obligation to ensure modern veterans find meaningful employment after they’ve finished their service in the Canadian Forces.
Founded in 1925 as a not-for-profit society, Commissionaires helps provide meaningful employment for veterans as they make the transition from the Canadian Forces to civilian life.
From his home in Langley, Bill Sutherland, chair of the National Board of Commissionaires, said in B.C. there are two divisions of Commissionaires that service the province. One is located on Vancouver Island and serves the island, Victoria and Yukon. The other is BC Corps, based in Vancouver, with regional offices across the province.
A veteran, serving with the Princess Patricia Light Infantry for 28 years, Sutherland has volunteered for the Commissionaires on its national board of governors since retiring from the military in 1997.
“We’re the largest employer of veterans in Canada. We’re kind of unique. We employ the whole spectrum of veterans. We have veterans from the Second World War all the way through to newer veterans who served in Afghanistan, who didn’t actually serve in a war zone, but have recently left the Canadian Forces.”
In Canada there are over 5,000 people who leave the Canadian Forces in any given year. There are over 600,000 veterans according to Veterans Affairs, Sutherland added.
Employment for Commissionaires is primarily focused on security, such as guarding positions for people with skills in the high tech world such as digital fingerprinting, in municipal bylaw enforcement, and security consulting and training.
The jobs go well beyond traditional guarding, and the organization works very closely with police forces and the federal government.
“We have the constant challenge to meet the needs of all kinds of veterans. With the skills and experiences that today’s veterans are coming out of the forces with, we need to be able to turn those into finding meaningful employment for them,” Sutherland said, adding veterans retiring from the RCMP are also served by the organization.
There are several veteran advocacy organizations that already exist in Canada, Sutherland said, Commissionaires does not attempt to duplicate those efforts.
“We’ve found it’s best for us to remain neutral in these things and focus on finding employment. We are the largest employer of veterans in the country.”
The challenge is to constantly evolve as an organization, Sutherland suggested, and while focusing on employment for veterans it’s also important to hire non-veterans.
“The combination of the two means we have a broader spectrum of employment opportunities that we can provide for veterans. Veterans don’t exist in large numbers in every community in the country, yet we are represented as Commissionaires in over 2,000 communities across from coast to coast to coast.”
It’s a comfortable combination because it offers a wider range of opportunities, he added.