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Caseworker accused of offering veterans assisted deaths no longer works for Veterans Affairs, department says

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A federal caseworker who allegedly offered at least four Canadian military veterans the option of medically-assisted death (MAID) is no longer working for Veterans Affairs Canada, a spokesperson for the veterans minister said Tuesday.

Erika Lashbrook Knutson, press secretary to Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay, told CBC News that a labour relations process involving the employee is now complete and the individual is “no longer employed” by the department. 

She would not say whether the employee, who has not been identified publicly, was fired or resigned voluntarily.

No other details were revealed.

The department launched an investigation last summer after receiving reports that a veteran claimed to have been pressured by a caseworker to consider medically assisted dying.

A subsequent internal investigation uncovered three more confirmed cases. Other veterans have come forward publicly with their own claims — including a former paralympian. In a recent interview on CBC’s Power & Politics, MacAulay continued to insist that only four cases had been uncovered in the review of the caseworker’s file.

The case has been handed over to the RCMP for criminal investigation. There was no update as of Tuesday on any progress in that probe.

In testimony before a House of Commons committee and in public statements, MacAulay has repeatedly condemned the act of offering veterans medically assisted dying.

WATCH: Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay on veterans and MAID

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay on MAID being offered to veterans

Veterans Affairs Minister Lawrence MacAulay says going forward, if a veteran asks for information on MAID, caseworkers are now trained to immediately forward the case to a supervisor: “Information on MAID, that’s between the doctor and the patient.”

He told the Commons veterans committee on Nov. 24 that there was “no way to justify” those actions and he wasn’t about to defend the employee.

The minister apologized for the alleged actions of the caseworker.

The Conservative opposition and some former military members have questioned how thorough the internal department investigation has been.

Conservative MP and veterans committee vice-chair Blake Richards has called for an independent, external investigation, saying many former soldiers have little faith in the department’s ability to get to the bottom of the issue. 

The revelations involving veterans added fuel to the burning national debate over plans to expand MAID to include those suffering solely from mental illnesses.

That change was set to take place in March but Justice Minister David Lametti and Minister for Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett recently announced they’ll present legislation in the House of Commons to extend that deadline.

The extension, Lametti said, would give the government more time to set up standards for assisted-dying requests from individuals whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness. It would also give provinces and medical professionals time to get ready for the change.

The controversy involving veterans drew international attention, with several media outlets in other countries carrying the reports.


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