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Veterans Affairs ordered to take second look before supporting vets' relatives

Christopher Garnier arrives at Nova Supreme Court in Halifax on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. A Halifax man convicted of strangling an off-duty police officer and using a compost bin to dispose of her body is receiving treatment in prison for post-traumatic stress disorder, which is being paid for by Veterans Affairs Canada. The arrangement has drawn criticism from the victim's aunt, Mandy Reekie Wong, who says veterans should be outraged that Christopher Garnier is getting treatment even though he is not a veteran. The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan
Christopher Garnier was convicted of strangling off-duty police officer Catherine Campbell and was receiving treatment in prison for post-traumatic stress disorder, paid for by Veterans Affairs Canada. Minister Seamus O'Regan has called a stop to this. The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan

How this will affect situation with Christopher Garnier remains unclear

CORRECTION: Change made to headlines from earlier release

THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA - The Trudeau government sought to defuse weeks of outrage by ordering officials to take a second look at any case where funding or services for veterans' family members are not related to the veterans' service - particularly those family members convicted of serious crimes.

The move announced on Tuesday followed widespread anger over Veterans Affairs Canada's decision to pay for the PTSD treatment of a Halifax man convicted of killing an off-duty police officer because the murderers' father was a veteran and who had also been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Yet the measure, announced by Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O'Regan at the start of a tense question period session dominated by the issue, appeared to do little to address the concerns of Conservatives, who are demanding an immediate end to Christopher Garnier's benefits.

O'Regan had promised a review of the decision some three weeks ago, and now says similar decisions will be bumped up to senior officials.

“I have reviewed the department's findings on this issue and I am directing them to ensure that services received by a family member of a veteran are related to the veterans' service and where they are not, that they be reviewed by a senior official,” O'Regan told the House of Commons.

“I am directing the department to immediately address its policy on providing treatment to family members under extenuating circumstances, such as conviction of such a serious crime.”

O'Regan cited privacy rules when pressed repeatedly by the Tories if the government would retroactively claw back any payments to people like Garnier who were given payments before the new policy came into effect.

“I cannot discuss this case without infringing upon the privacy of a veteran. I will not play games with veterans,” O'Regan said.

“I will not, even in this most trying and egregious of times, when the son of a veteran is a convicted cop killer, I will not turn my back on that veteran.”

Garnier was convicted in December of murdering 36-year-old Catherine Campbell, an off-duty Truro police officer and dumping her body in a compost bin, and his lawyer had argued his client's mental illness was brought on by the murder.

His conviction carries an automatic life sentence, but a Nova Scotia Supreme Court justice ruled last month that he would be able to apply for parole after serving 13 1/2 years - less 699 days for time served.

The Halifax man has since appealed his sentence, calling it “manifestly excessive.” He had also earlier appealed his conviction, in part because he says police interview tactics elicited a false confession.

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