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OTTAWA, ON – September 22, 2023 – The Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families was honoured today by the visit of the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, leading a delegation to explore international leadership in supporting former military personnel and their Families in restoring their mental health and well-being post-conflict.

As part of the visit, a signing ceremony took place to formalize a memorandum of international Veteran and Family Mental Health partnership between the Ukrainian State Institution “Veterans Mental Health and Rehabilitation Center ‘Lisova Polyana’ of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine” and the research and knowledge mobilization institution, “the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families” in Canada (hereafter — MOU). The MOU formalizes cooperation between the two organizations in Canada and Ukraine to explore possible collaborations for research, knowledge exchange and capacity-building in the sphere of mental health to best support people in Ukraine who have been impacted post-conflict.

Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO of the Atlas Institute, with a signed memorandum of international Veteran and Family mental health partnership (MOU) between the Ukrainian state institution, the “Veterans Mental Health and Rehabilitation Center ‘Lisova Polyana’ of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine” and the Atlas Institute. The MOU, signed as part of a private meeting on September 22, 2023 with Her Excellency Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, at the Atlas Institute head office, formalizes a cooperation between the two organizations to explore possible collaborations for research, knowledge exchange and capacity-building to best support those in Ukraine who have been impacted post-conflict.

“Together, we are looking to explore opportunities to collaborate that will allow Lisova Polyana to support Veteran and Family mental health in Ukraine, informed by the work Atlas is doing,” said Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO of Atlas. “We believe that sharing experiences and knowledge related to Veteran and Family mental health systems of care can support the restoration and development of services across Ukraine’s health care system, and that this will position them for that long road to recovery.”

MaryAnn Notarianni, Deputy CEO and Executive Vice President, Knowledge Mobilization at Atlas, echoed this, noting that supporting the awareness, adaptation and joint development of information and psychoeducational mental health and well-being resources for Veterans and their Families as well as for the professionals who support them is a key aspect of the collaboration. She added, “As an organization that has cultivated a robust network of partnerships nationally and internationally to reduce silos and foster knowledge exchange around best practices for Veteran and Family mental health, this MOU aligns well with the mandate of Atlas. One of our initial steps will be to establish regular dialogue and the means to effectively communicate applicable research findings and best practices between Ukrainian and Canadian mental health professionals and researchers. With our internal subject matter experts (SMEs) and access to a network of other SMEs across Canada, Atlas is well-positioned to inform and advise on efforts to support the use of best-practice standards and protocols for quality mental health care delivery in Ukraine.”

“Through their research and expertise, and supported with funding from the Government of Canada, the Atlas Institute strengthens the care and support of Veterans,” said The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. “Collaboration between the Atlas Institute and Ukraine’s Ministry of Health will help ensure that Veterans and Families in Canada and Ukraine benefit from shared knowledge and research in mental health.”

Her Excellency Olena Zelenska, First Lady of Ukraine, The Honourable Ginette Petitpas Taylor and The Honourable Ya’ara Saks watch a neurofeedback demonstration on Brian McKenna, National Strategic Advisor — Veterans at Atlas, by Dr. Andrew Nicholson, Atlas Director of Clinical Research, and Andrew Lapointe, Postdoctoral Researcher at Atlas.

Hosseiny said that the realities of the current situation are a powerful reminder of the importance of focusing on the mental health of the population, while also ensuring tailored responses for groups like military members, Veterans and their Families who may be uniquely impacted. “As Atlas has championed awareness of Veteran and Family mental health needs in Canada, we are honoured to collaborate with our Ukrainian counterparts to support this effort in their country and model the way for engaging lived experience in that effort,” he added.

With the MOU now signed and the draft framework established, work will begin immediately to rapidly bring the collaboration together.

For more information, please contact:

Joy Pavelich
Executive Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families
joy.pavelich@theroyal.ca
1-403-934-1694


Quick facts:

  • The Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families was established to provide easier access to information, research, tools and expertise on posttraumatic stress disorder and related mental health conditions.
  • Since its inception, Atlas has contributed to the publication of 39 peer-reviewed articles and created more than 45 knowledge products, including fact sheets, written resources, videos and infographics. Atlas has led or is currently leading 14 research projects and has partnered on another 26 research projects.
  • Atlas actively engages Veterans and their Families as key partners, co-investigators and co-authors of its research, including a process for their participation in reviewing research outcomes from a lived expertise perspective.
  • It also collaborates and partners with Veterans and Families to understand which issues matter most to them, using that knowledge to work with them and with service providers and researchers to co-create resources and knowledge products that fit the unique culture and needs of the Veteran and Family communities.

OTTAWA, ON — June 29, 2023 — While peer support is widely practised in military and Veteran populations to help with recovery from service-related injuries as well as with adapting to post-service life, it can be challenging to find the peer support programs and services that are available to Veterans and their Families across Canada.

In response to a growing need to access this specialized support, the Atlas Institute for Veterans has launched an online repository and interactive map of Canadian peer support services for Veterans and their Families. The data used to create this resource was collected by the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT) and shared with the Atlas Institute.

Until now, the extent of Veteran peer support activities has not been documented in Canada, nor have there been guidelines and standards in place to support these activities specific to this particular community, according to Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO of the Atlas Institute. “Peer support has been shown to be effective in promoting well-being in a variety of settings,” Hosseiny said, adding that as part of their service, military personnel are trained to support each other and that mutual support ethic persists into life after service with peer support often occurring spontaneously among Veterans. “We know through our engagement with Veterans and their Families that peer support is an important component of their recovery journey. Our intention was to create a useful tool that ensures access to the Canadian peer support system.”

The interactive webpage, hosted by the Atlas Institute and guided by an advisory committee, provides both a map and list view that details where services are located and which services are offered anywhere in the country. The advisory committee is comprised of individuals across Canada who work or have worked in the field of peer support for Veterans and their Families at the national, provincial and local level. Their contributions were invaluable to the success of this project. Additionally, those searching for supports can filter by terms such as modality, language, cost, location and privacy/confidentiality, among others. Currently, there are 62 programs mapped from 40 unique organizations.

The Atlas Institute and CIPSRT are also collaborating on a network that will develop best practice guidelines to support the provision of peer support to Canadian Veterans, public safety personnel and their Families. This network consists of 41 members from coast to coast to coast. Currently there is not an official governing body or standardized guidelines that are specific to peer support for Canada’s Veteran community.

Hosseiny added that standardization in peer support delivery will help to ensure consistency in matters such as training, expectations on peer supporters and the ability to evaluate the quality of the service. “The advancement of best practice guidelines for providing peer support is central to this work, as well as ensuring a space for connecting peers and supporters, and promoting knowledge about the topic of peer support.”

To access the peer support map, visit atlasveterans.ca/peer-support-directory.

For more information, contact: media-atlas@theroyal.ca

OTTAWA, ON — June 13, 2023 — To fill the gap around educational resources on PTSI for young people in military and Veteran Families, the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families has launched a new website, MindKit.ca, created for and by youth who have loved ones that have served in either the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) or the RCMP.

MindKit.ca is filled with youth-friendly tools, strategies and downloadable resources as well as real-life stories from children of Veterans. The website features a webcomic, videos, audio clips, interactive tools and hands-on coping strategies to support youth whose lives have been impacted by their Family member’s mental health injury. All resources were co-created with a youth advisory group and subject matter experts.

Laryssa Lamrock, National Strategic Advisor for Veteran Families at the Atlas Institute, said MindKit.ca offers youth a central hub to learn about mental health and what it’s like to live with PTSI in the Family. “Not only is it about recognizing and validating the experiences through shared understanding, but the information on this site will also provide youth with different ways to handle challenges.”

Lamrock added that it is important to understand that the mental health of youth can be impacted by their loved ones’ mental health. “In homes where there is an OSI or PTSI, we know that children might take on caregiving roles for their parent or additional household responsibilities such as caring for younger siblings. These added responsibilities can have a cumulative impact on a young person’s well-being.”

Speaking to the impact on youth specifically, Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO of the Atlas Institute, explained that early intervention and targeted resources can change the trajectory of a youth’s experience. “Research shows that children of parents living with mental health challenges are at risk for a number of emotional, behavioural and social problems and this could affect all areas of their lives. These impacts may manifest in various ways, including being confused, frightened or even angry with their parent or the situation. The children might blame themselves of feel ashamed of their Family situation.” Hosseiny added that being part of a community that understands their experience will go a long way towards reducing isolation and helping them realize they are not alone. In addition, it is important to reassure young people that supports are available and that their loved one’s injury is not their fault.

To explore the new website and resources, visit MindKit.ca.

For more information, contact: media-atlas@theroyal.ca

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OTTAWA, ON – April 19, 2023 – Results of a recent international study show that neurofeedback, a non-invasive, non-pharmacological treatment, is indicating another promising option for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) with results showing it to be on par with gold standard treatments in terms of reduced symptoms and improved remission rates.

The trial collaboration between the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, Western University and the University of Geneva, shows how people can use neurofeedback to learn to non-invasively regulate brain areas that show altered activity (either too much activity or too little) in association with PTSD symptoms.

Dr. Andrew Nicholson of the Atlas Institute and scientist with the University of Ottawa Institute of Mental Health Research, along with Dr. Tomas Ros at the University of Geneva have been collaborators in this research program since its inception with Dr. Ruth Lanius at Western University. Speaking to her clinical experience in treating PTSD, Dr. Lanius said that neurofeedback has an intriguing ability to heal brain networks affected by trauma, and can be effective in helping individuals restore their sense-of-self and well-being in the aftermath of trauma.

Dr. Nicholson added that by regulating brain activity within these hypo/hyperactive areas, participants saw a decrease in associated PTSD symptoms. Dr. Nicholson stated, “The way neurofeedback works is that it provides the opportunity for individuals to train their brains in the same manner as one might work out muscles at the gym. Here, individuals learn to non-invasively regulate areas of the brain that can become dysregulated in the aftermath of trauma.” He added that he was especially encouraged by the fact that over 60 percent of participants not only experienced symptom reduction – they also no longer met diagnostic criteria for PTSD by the end of the trial. Dr. Nicholson also highlighted the tolerability of neurofeedback, saying, “Typically we would have seen a drop out rate much higher than this over the course of the trial, yet we actually didn’t have any patients leave the study. I think what this really speaks to is the tolerability and effectiveness of the treatment.”

This study is the latest milestone in a 10+ year research program on the use of neurofeedback for PTSD. Moving forward, Dr. Nicholson at the Atlas Institute will continue to collaborate with Drs. Lanius and Ros to expand this new frontier in PTSD treatments with the research being led out of the Atlas Institute.

President and CEO of the Atlas Institute, Fardous Hosseiny, said this is an exciting project for many reasons and he is happy to have the Atlas Institute catalyze this ground-breaking research. “It speaks to our ability and desire to explore new options for treatment of PTSD and other mental health problems,” Hosseiny said, adding that having many options is critical so that people can find what works best for them. “The range of treatments available to our community should be larger, so that Veterans and their Families can explore options to find what is going to give them the best quality of life possible based on their personal situations.”

The Atlas Institute will be hosting a webinar on June 1, 2023 that will bring together the perspectives of research, clinical application and, importantly, of those who live with the impact of PTSD: Veterans and their Family members.

For more information and to register, please visit: Neurofeedback: A promising new treatment for PTSD.

Learn more about neurofeedback therapy.

Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families
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Canada’s Veterans often experience physical or psychological injuries as a result of their service — and sometimes both. Over the past several years, medical cannabis has emerged as a treatment area of significant interest to Veterans and their Families. In 2022, on the recommendations of their individual health care providers, more than 18,000 reimbursement claims were submitted involving cannabis for medical purposes through Veterans Affairs Canada.

A new report released by the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families and the Mental Health Commission of Canada, titled Insights into Veteran and Veteran Family Experiences with Cannabis and Mental Health, summarizes conversations with the Veteran community from a dialogue series hosted during May and June of 2022. The sessions engaged Veterans, Family members, service providers and researchers in a discussion about their experiences and perspectives on cannabis use and mental health.

The report found strong interest among Veterans and Family members to explore cannabis as a treatment option for conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and to have more research and guidance on cannabis use and mental health.

“As one of the more than 18,000 Veterans approved by Veterans Affairs Canada to use medical cannabis, I was keen to participate in this collaborative project, as a community, our knowledge of cannabis is, in large part, based on our own experiences and the shared experiences of our peers. We are missing some of the key scientific and medical research necessary for us to make our own informed decisions about how cannabis may contribute to or jeopardize our other treatments,” said Major-General (Ret’d) Glynne Hines, chair of the Atlas Institute’s Veterans reference group, and project advisor and moderator for the dialogue series.

 Additional insights:

  • Health care professionals need more training and guidance on cannabis use for mental health.
  • Cannabis use among Veterans continues to be highly stigmatized.
  • Veterans need to know more about how cannabis works and interacts with other substances.
  • The quality and independence of cannabis research matters; Veterans and Families want to be engaged in research.
  • Knowledge, resources and actions must take diversity among the Veteran population into account.

Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO of the Atlas Institute, said that while cannabis has potential as a tool to manage mental health conditions, more research needs to be conducted to explore the efficacy, impacts and best practices of cannabis as a treatment option for mental health conditions in Canada’s Veteran population. “What emerged from this dialogue series is that this is a significant topic of interest. There is a need for more research, resources, and guidance not only for Veterans and Veteran Family members but for the service providers who work with them, so that collectively they can be best-informed in their decision making around the use of medical cannabis.”

Mary Bartram, Policy Director at the Mental Health Commission of Canada, agreed that this project has shed light on the need for more nuanced research. “In order to honour the Veterans’ and Veteran Family members’ diverse experiences and help bridge the knowledge gaps between users and health care providers, we need to continue to advance evidence-based research hand in hand with the Veteran community.”

ABOUT THE ATLAS INSTITUTE FOR VETERANS AND FAMILIES

The Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families works with Veterans, Families, service providers and researchers to bridge the divide between research and practice so Veterans and their Families can get the best possible mental health care and supports. The Atlas Institute was originally established as the Centre of Excellence on PTSD and Related Mental Health Conditions, through the Minister of Veterans Affairs November 2015 mandate letter, with funding and budget announced in the March 2017 federal budget.

ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA

The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) leads the development and dissemination of innovative programs and tools to support the mental health and wellness of Canadians. Through its unique mandate from the Government of Canada, the MHCC supports federal, provincial, and territorial governments as well as organizations in the implementation of sound public policy. The MHCC has undertaken several initiatives to assess the impacts of cannabis use on mental health and inform future policy development. For more information on MHCC’s work in cannabis and mental health, please visit our website.

CONTACT

Media Relations
Mental Health Commission of Canada
613-683-3748
media@mentalhealthcommission.ca

Media Relations
Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families
media-atlas@theroyal.ca

The nature of the work of public safety personnel (PSP) means they are continuously exposed to potentially psychologically traumatic events. This can impact their mental health and well-being and increase their risk for developing post-traumatic stress injuries (PTSI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In recognition of this, the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Public Safety Research and Treatment (CIPSRT), has launched new educational resources and videos that share first-person experiences of PTSIs as well as helpful coping tips and strategies for PSPs, military members and their Families. These resources were created with the guidance of an advisory committee of current and former PSP and their Family members.

MaryAnn Notarianni, Deputy CEO and Executive Vice-President of Knowledge Mobilization at the Atlas Institute, says there are many reasons why PSP might find reaching out for help and support difficult.  “The new videos and resources aim to help PSP and their Families recognize they are not alone, that support and resources are available and recovery is possible,” she said. “The objectives of developing these videos and resources are to reduce stigma, and then correspondingly to provide information that will support the well-being and help-seeking behaviours of PSP and their loved ones and caregivers. Acknowledging the issue is important, but having accessible supportive information is also crucial for the recovery journey to begin.”

Notarianni adds that these videos complement other resources the Atlas Institute has been producing for military and RCMP Veterans and their Families, acknowledging that many military members change one uniform for another and enter PSP roles when they transition to post-service life. “These videos add to the suite of resources the Atlas Institute has been developing to raise targeted awareness of PTSIs and the impact not only on individuals but Families as well.”

The videos feature seven first-person accounts from current and former PSP and their Family members, speaking to their personal experiences with PTSIs as a result of their work as first responders or other PSP or while supporting a loved one. There are also four educational videos providing information about PTSIs and how PSP and their Families can cope, with corresponding downloadable written resources, as well as a list of other helpful links, all featured at atlasveterans.ca/PSP.

Giselle Valaire, a community parole officer and member of the advisory committee for the project, says, “The perception is: ‘You’ve chosen this line of work, so you shouldn’t be affected by the trauma you have experienced.’ The culture is one of not showing weakness, especially as a woman.” She adds, “I suffered in silence for a long time because I did not want to be seen as weak by my co-workers or managers. I was worried others would judge me and lose faith in my ability to do my job. Mostly I was judging myself for being unable to cope with the environment I chose to enter.” Valaire says she feels it was important to use her experience to support others who might be dealing with their own struggles in silence.

Nicholas Carleton, Scientific Director at CIPSRT, echoes the need for PSP to have access to evidence-based resources that support the mental health and wellness of the community of individuals who work to keep Canadians safe. “We know that first responders and other PSP put their own lives on the line to keep others safe. By virtue of their work, PSP experience physical and psychological risks. We know that talking about mental health can reduce stigma, helping people to access evidence-based interventions earlier and supporting better health outcomes.” Highlighting the partnership between the Atlas Institute and CIPSRT, Carleton adds that organizations with complementary mandates can coordinate to help tackle complex challenges, allowing for further potential benefits for all who serve.

The project is funded by Medavie through the Medavie Foundation, as one of its community investment initiatives focused on helping first responders and Families impacted by post-traumatic stress injuries.

For more information, contact:

media-atlas@theroyal.ca

communications.CIPSRT@uregina.ca

Over the past several months, there has been growing awareness about experiences of military sexual misconduct (MSM) and the resulting military sexual trauma (MST) among Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members and Veterans. The Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families has responded to this important issue with the launch of a new collection of resources designed not only for individuals who are impacted by MST but also for health care providers who might be providing care and support to those affected.

MaryAnn Notarianni, Deputy CEO and Vice-President of Knowledge Mobilization at the Atlas Institute, said the Atlas Institute recognized early into its mandate that this was a key priority that would require significant attention, including the development of resources for those impacted. “We heard from the community about the numbers of people impacted, the devastating effects of MST and the need for dedicated resources,” she said. “This is a major public health concern, with one in four women and one in 25 men having experienced sexual assault at least once since joining the Canadian military.”

The resources released today have been developed in consultation with an advisory committee of Veterans with lived experience of MST and health care providers who work in the military/Veteran context, Notarianni added. “It is important to recognize the necessity of creating easily accessible resources for the individual, as well as of building critical awareness among health care providers. Through careful screening and training, more effective and sensitive physical and mental health care can be provided to people impacted by MST,” she said. “The resources were developed with the recognition that all providers, even those outside the military/Veteran community and the field of mental health, can support Veterans impacted by MST when they have the right tools available to them.”

“The first step in supporting and caring for someone is trying to understand how their MST impacts every facet of life. Not being understood is the worst human trauma in life. Every new research or resource we can develop and share strengthens every person’s healing path,”said MST survivor M.E. Sam Samplonius, CD.

“As a person with lived experience, my path has been brightened with more hope thanks to the work the Atlas Institute is doing for all of us and our loved ones.”

Major (Ret’d) Carly Arkell, one of two Veteran members of the working group on service provision who helped in the development of the resources, said the opportunity has been important for her own advocacy efforts in taking her experience and using it in support of others who might not yet have received the help and support they need. “I’m glad to have been part of developing these resources based on the real-life experiences of those of us who have experienced MST. Contributing in this way has been empowering — it has enabled us to share the unique challenges and experiences to add to the body of knowledge about the effect of MST, and to build meaningful support. With the development of these resources, I see the potential for change, which brings me hope, and we know hope can be a powerful thing.”

For individuals impacted by MST, there are two new resources providing tips, strategies and helpful information to support the healing journey — “Recovering from military sexual trauma: From coping to healing” and “Recovering from military sexual trauma: The role of peer support” — available both as downloadable, accessible PDFs as well as web resources.

The new resources for health care providers are designed to improve awareness of the unique military and Veteran-specific factors that can affect care for Veterans who have experienced MST. They include an introductory guide to MST, titledMilitary sexual trauma: A guide for Canadian health care providers,” as well as an infographic and two brief videos that are focused on key practice tips for health care providers working with people impacted by MST.

The resources can be accessed on the Atlas Institute for Veteran and Families’ website at atlasveterans.ca/military-sexual-trauma.

For more information, contact: media-atlas@theroyal.ca

Ottawa, Ontario, 24 August 2022: While a growing amount of research evidence suggests that intimate partner violence (IPV) is a significant concern among military personnel and Veterans, few studies have investigated the use and experience of IPV in these communities and within their Families. A newly released systematic review offers important insights into how commonly IPV is experienced among military personnel and Veterans.

The research led by the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families, and conducted in collaboration with Phoenix Australia, Centre for Posttraumatic Mental Health, uses a working definition that IPV includes any behaviour intended to cause physical, emotional or sexual harm, in a current or former intimate relationship. This can include physical and sexual violence, as well as psychological or emotional abuse, such as coercive control — a pattern of non-physical, manipulative behaviour — that is used to gain and maintain control over a partner.

The Atlas-Phoenix review of research on IPV in military and Veteran communities found that 1 in 8 (13%) of all active duty personnel and Veterans reported recent use of IPV, and 1 in 5 (21%) reported having recently been exposed to IPV. Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO of the Atlas Institute said these findings suggest a need for greater recognition of, and response to, IPV in military and Veteran settings, specifically within the Canadian context. ”As most, but not all, of this research has been conducted in the United States, the review also identifies a need for additional research regarding the use and experience of IPV among military personnel, Veterans, and their Families in other countries.”

Hosseiny, in confirming that military personnel and Veterans may be at a higher risk of using or being exposed to IPV, added that  the unique experiences within the military context such as relocations, deployment, as well as post traumatic stress and related mental health conditions, are all factors that could increase the risk of IPV.

Professor David Forbes, Hosseiny’s counterpart at Phoenix Australia, said the findings from this review provide up-to-date, evidence-based information about how commonly IPV is experienced and used among military personnel and Veterans: “The findings suggest a strong need for greater recognition and responses to IPV in military and ex-service settings. Addressing this need may include developing and/or increasing availability of programs that can meet the needs of military personnel and Veterans and their Families who are exposed to IPV.”

Hosseiny added that examples of such programs should include support services for clients that report exposure to IPV, as well as training for health providers of Veterans and Veteran Families to effectively discuss and respond to clients’ reports of exposure and/or use of IPV. “As a result of this study, we have a much better picture of the situation. We can state with certainty that there is a need for more services targeted at Veterans and Veteran Families to help prevent and reduce the use of IPV in these communities Policymakers and leaders in health service organizations can support these efforts by implementing policies that promote awareness of IPV in services for Veterans and their Families.”

The project, Hosseiny added, was initiated primarily in response to the increased risk of IPV generally, as a result of the isolation and stress of the COVID-19 pandemic, and interest in knowing more about the impacts for military and Veteran communities specifically. Using this review as a foundation, the Atlas Institute and Phoenix Australia are planning a follow-up study that will engage Veterans and Families to learn more about their previous and/or current experiences using Canadian IPV support services and programs.

For more information about this study, contact engagement@theroyal.ca. Additional resources can be accessed at atlasveterans.ca/intimate-partner-violence.

For more information, contact:
media-atlas@theroyal.ca

Ottawa, ON, 10 August 2022: The Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families is pleased to announce the expansion of its Board of Directors with the appointment of Dr. Alice Aiken, Craig Dalton, Inspector (Ret’d) Baltej Dhillon, and James MacRae.

The Atlas Institute has been designed to have a small Board of Directors from a governance and oversight perspective, while ensuring input into its day-to-day operations from the lived expertise community through the use of reference groups.

Additionally, Scott McLean, founding Chair of the Board of Directors has announced his retirement. Cal Crocker will step into the Chair role and Joanne Bezzubetz has continued in her role as board member. This brings the new Board of Directors of the Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families to six.

“Our Board of Directors at the Atlas Institute is comprised of dedicated individuals from across Canada who are committed to providing strength, stability and well-being for Canadian military and RCMP Veterans and their Families,” Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO said, adding that the expanded talent, expertise and energy as well as each having a direct connection to the community itself in varying capacity will help further the mission of the Atlas Institute.

“I would like to thank Scott for the instrumental role he has played in building this organization, and his commitment to the community as our inaugural Chair of the Board,” Hosseiny said, adding “I would also like to welcome this new board as together they will provide the governance that continues to guide our work in this sector.”

The Atlas Institute’s original board was made up of three members who brought different skills and perspectives from within the mental health sector. With today’s announcement, the Board has been expanded to ensure representation from across Canada as well as additional Veteran and Family perspective.

Professor Alice B. Aiken, CD, PhD, MSc, BScPT, BSc, ICD.D

Dr. Alice Aiken is Vice-President Research & Innovation at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.  She is a full Professor in the Faculty of Health whose research focuses on health systems transformation and evidence-informed policy making, with a focus on military and Veteran health. Dr. Aiken is currently the interim Chair of the Governing Council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).  She is elected to the College of New Scholars of the Royal Society of Canada. She holds her ICD.D designation from the Institute of Corporate Directors (ICD).

She was formerly the Dean of the Faculty of Health at Dalhousie. She started her academic career at Queen’s University where she founded and was the first Scientific Director of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research, a unique consortium of over 48 Canadian and 13 international universities dedicated to researching the health needs of military personnel, Veterans and their families.

She received her PhD and Master from Queen’s University, Canada, her Physical Therapy degree from Dalhousie University, and a BSc in Kinesiology from the University of Ottawa. She also proudly served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 14 years, first as a ship’s navigator in the Royal Canadian Navy, then as a physiotherapist.

In recognition of her research leadership in military health, she is currently the Honorary Captain (Navy) for Canadian Forces Health Services Atlantic, and a Dame of the Order of St George.  She has also received a Distinguished Alumni Award from Queen’s University, the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, and the Chapel of the Four Chaplains Legion of Honor Bronze Medallion (USA).

Craig Dalton

Craig Dalton was commissioned into the Royal Regiment of Canadian Artillery in 1990 and over the course of a 25-year Army career, had the distinct pleasure of serving alongside Canadian soldiers, sailors, airmen and airwomen, as well as whole-of-government partners, both here at home in Canada, and abroad on operations, in Cyprus, Bosnia-Herzegovina and, most recently, Afghanistan. During his time in uniform, Mr. Dalton served in a wide variety of staff appointments and had the privilege to lead teams from the troop to formation level including command of the 2nd Regiment Royal Canadian Horse Artillery and command of 5th Canadian Division Support Group/Canadian Forces Base Gagetown.

Since his release in 2014, Mr. Dalton has had the opportunity to serve at all three levels of government initially joining the Government of New Brunswick where he had privilege of serving as the Deputy Minister of Public Safety and subsequently as the Deputy Minister of Social Services. Craig then joined the Government of Prince Edward Island where he served as Deputy Minister of Family and Human Services before appointed as Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman. More recently, Mr. Dalton has worked at the local government level as the City Manager with the City of Lethbridge and in his current position as the Chief Administrative Officer with the Squamish – Lillooet Regional District.

Mr. Dalton holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the Royal Military College of Canada and holds Masters Degrees from Central Michigan University (Strategic Leadership), the United States Army Command and General Staff College (Strategy), and from Deakin University, Australia (Policy).

Inspector (Ret’d) Baltej Dhillon Hon LLD., C.Dir.

Raised in Malaysia, Baltej and his family move to British Columbia in 1983 after which they settled in Surrey. He studied criminology, and though initially interested in practicing law, he volunteered with the RCMP and acted as an interpreter so that the RCMP could communicate with recent Asian immigrants.

In 1988, Baltej decided to formally apply to join the RCMP. Though he met all the entrance requirements, he encountered one significant problem: the dress code forbade beards and wearing a turban in place of the uniform hat. In 1989, Baltej appealed to the RCMP Commissioner, who recommended new RCMP uniform regulations that would include an RCMP turban and the ability for members of the Sikh community to maintain their unshorn hair. After months of debate, the federal government announced new changes to the RCMP dress code in March of 1990 — including the freedom  for observant Sikhs to wear beards and turbans. As a result, Baltej was able to join the RCMP, train in Regina and then graduate to active duty in 1991.

Inspector Dhillon’s career with the RCMP started off in Quesnel BC where he started off as Constable serving the community . He then went to serve in other units including the Air India Task Force, Pickton serial killer investigation, Polygraph Unit, established the first Provincial Intelligence Centre in BC, served as the Non Commissioned Officer in charge of Intelligence Section, RCMP – Federal Serious Organized Crime and retired in 2019 after serving as the Officer in Charge, RCMP – Operational Readiness and Response & Protective Technical Services Section.

Inspector Dhillon has been awarded two honorary degrees of the Doctor of Laws by Kwantlen Polytech University in May 2014 and McMaster University in 2021, as well as the Distinguished Alumni Award from Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Inspector Dhillon is also  the recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and earned a Commanding Officer’s Commendation for Excellence in Policing for his work on the Pickton serial killer investigation

He is a Director with WorkSafeBC, Dan’s Legacy, Coast Mental Health BC, and Chair of the Canada India Education Society and continues to serve in law enforcement as a member of the Organised Crime Agency of BC in the role of Program Manager – Crime Guns Intelligence and Investigations Group for the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit in BC.

James MacRae

James is the President and CEO of verTerra Corp., an Ottawa based real estate development and infrastructure management company. Incorporated in 2009 by James and his late partner Judy Klenik, verTerra Corp., provides management and advisory services to public and private sector clients in the investment and delivery of real estate and infrastructure assets, specializing in Public Private Partnerships. Since incorporation, verTerra has successfully managed over $1 billion dollars of capital real estate projects in Canada and the United States.

Prior to establishing verTerra, James held Senior Management positions with national and international design and construction companies. James is an Architectural Technologist, Project Management Professional, LEED Accredited Professional and a Certified Risk Management Analyst.

James is a passionate and dedicated advocate for advancing mental health care in Canada. James’s father, two of his uncles and both grandfathers were war veterans and James’s sister suffered from mental illness from her childhood to her passing in 2018. James respects and understands the impact of mental illness on the people affected their families and the systemic challenges faced by mental health care organizations. James has served as an Independent Board Trustee of the Royal Ottawa Hospital Group (ROHGC) since 2018 and served on the Board of the Royal Ottawa Volunteers Association from 2009 to 2018, including a term as Board Chair.

ABOUT THE ATLAS INSTITUTE: The Atlas Institute for Veterans and Families was originally established as the Centre of Excellence on PTSD through the Minister of Veterans Affairs 12 November 2015 mandate letter with funding and budget announced in the March 2017 federal budget.

In announcing his retirement, Dr. Smith said he has always known his role was to build a foundation of solid business practices, establish and support meaningful stakeholder engagement, and recruit a strong team who could support a smoothly running operation into the future. “This was not a timeline specific purpose, but rather one of building the team, getting things firing on all cylinders, and stepping away to watch the organization take flight,” he said.

Reflecting on building a pan-Canadian presence for a new organization during a global pandemic, Dr. Smith says the successes achieved in the very short term of the Centre’s existence, are beyond his expectations. “We have established a Network of Networks model anchored by four reference groups reflective of diverse Veterans, Veteran Families, service providers, and researchers. We’ve also established an international reputation as a trusted research partner and have built strategic partnerships with Veteran and Family-serving organizations. We’ve built a team of experts including Veteran and Family advisors embedded into the fabric of how we work. This model of partnering with lived expertise guides us in helping to build access to safe, high-quality resources and supports that protect the dignity of Veterans and Veteran Families, and provide a foundation for hope, connection, and community.”

Scott McLean, Chair of the CoE’s Board, said while seeing a visionary leader such as Dr. Smith move on from the Centre is difficult, he is confident in the strong foundation that has been built. “I would like to congratulate Patrick on bringing us to where we are today, and wish him well in his retirement. I would also like to welcome Fardous Hosseiny as our incoming President and CEO. Having worked extensively with him at a leadership level, I am confident in the future of the Centre of Excellence and the strength of the leadership team as we move into this next stage of the organization.”

Fardous Hosseiny said he is deeply honoured to be entrusted with the opportunity to move ahead with the direction set with Veterans and their Family members over the past several months, and on the strength of the foundation that was built with Dr. Smith. Hosseiny added that he is pleased to work with MaryAnn Notarianni who will step into the role of Deputy CEO and Vice President, Knowledge Mobilization, and Joy Pavelich who will round out the Executive leadership team as Executive Vice-President of Strategy and Operations.

“Having collaborated with both MaryAnn and Joy closely over the past year and a half in working through our foundational build and engagement with our community, I am confident in our shared vision in support of the Veterans and Families who are looking to us for leadership to bring the work of the Centre to life.”

Fardous Hosseiny, President and CEO, Atlas

Announced by the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence in May of 2018, the mandate of the CoE – PTSD is to advance mental health, research, and support to improve treatment for Canada’s Military and RCMP Veterans and their Families across the country.