OTTAWA — More than 1,600 former Canadian Armed Forces members have benefited from a five-year-old law designed to help them get federal government jobs, according to a new report by Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence.
Yet the same joint report suggests the number of priority hires could have been even higher were it not for a series of "barriers" that have prevented some veterans from taking advantage of the Veterans Hiring Act.
One major barrier was that many former service members did not even know the act — and its provisions giving them priority when applying for some government jobs — existed. Many also didn't know how to find and apply for federal positions.
The lack of awareness was partly blamed on the constant turnover of case managers for veterans suffering from service-related injuries, many of whom are overworked and said they did not receive proper training.
"A number of interviewed case managers identified a lack of training and consistent and clear guidance on the Veterans Hiring Act provisions," reads the report.
"Interviewees indicated that this has resulted in varying efforts in providing veterans with adequate support and information on the Veterans Hiring Act."
The act was launched on July 1, 2015 and was to intended to help veterans — especially those who served in Afghanistan or were being forced to retire for medical reasons — find post-military work.
Veterans and their advocates have consistently underscored that being able to find a job is critical to those who have served in uniform successfully transitioning from the military to civilian life.
The evaluation report also found that managers in many federal departments aren't trained on how to apply the law, resulting in some instances where it has not been properly applied — leaving veterans who should have been hired out in the cold.
Exactly how many wasn't clear, but an internal audit found 18 cases in which a job that by law should have been given to a veteran was instead awarded to a non-veteran.
"This demonstrates a need for hiring managers to have a better understanding of how to apply" the law, the report said.
The evaluators also noted that the same departments were consistently responsible for hiring 1,667 federal positions that went to former service members between the launch of the Veterans Hiring Act on July 1, 2015 and March 31, 2019.
The Defence Department was responsible for hiring about 60 per cent of those veterans, with Fisheries and Oceans Canada coming second at five per cent. Veterans Affairs came in fifth with three per cent.
"It is interesting to note the consistency of the departments and agencies that have hired veterans through these provisions since 2015," reads the report.
"This demonstrates awareness and use of the Veterans Hiring Act provisions to support veteran hiring into the federal public service. It also demonstrates that there is work to be done to encourage all departments and agencies to implement the Veterans Hiring Act provisions."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2020.
Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press