Military chaplains are seeing a growing number of soldiers, sailors and aircrew who, pressured by the high cost of living and trapped in a system that forces them to relocate, are finding themselves in financial difficulties and seeking help.
That disturbing assessment is found in the latest report to Chief of Defense Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre from Canadian Forces Chaplain General Brig.-Gen. Guy Bélisle. Breaking: obtained a copy of the report.
The report found that military morale is faltering for a variety of reasons.
“The last six months have been very difficult for many CAF members and their families as they struggle to find a way through the economic, social and cultural realities and changes facing all Canadians in these uncertain times,” he said 26 July. Bélisle 2023 briefing note.
The assessment focuses on recent changes to the Post-Life Differential (PLD), which helps service members offset the cost of living and frequent transfers, as the biggest driver of discontent within the ranks.
“Although unintended, these changes, concurrent with CAF’s efforts to reconstitute the Force, have resulted in many CAF leaders and members feeling more undervalued and belittled than at any time in recent memory,” it said. the informative note, written a few weeks after the changes to the PLD came into force.
“The morale of CAF members was assessed by chaplains in this reporting period as notably lower than during past reporting periods, due to several key factors and realities… changes in the LDP, the increasing lack of affordable housing, the rising cost of living, and staffing shortages have contributed to exacerbating the stresses and challenges experienced by members and their families.”
The LDP’s new policy was a work in progress for almost a decade and a half. It came into effect in July and was intended to help lower-ranking members cope with high housing costs in Canadian cities.
But several thousand senior members who until now received housing benefit now face the possibility of being excluded from the benefit.
Chaplains hear pleas for funds to cover rising costs
Bélisle’s report says that chaplains at bases across the country are listening to those members, who say that “the end of the LDP will have a significant negative impact on them financially and will also be a determining factor in their decision to seek promotions, positions or remain in office. the CAF.
“Many chaplains continue to report increases in requests for funds to assist members who are unable to cover rising housing and food costs.”
The report said support agencies and charities, such as military family support foundation Together We Stand (TWS), have cushioned the blow only slightly.
“However, despite such generosity, support from organizations like TWS can only be seen as a short-term solution for members facing increasing financial and other problems,” the report says.
The report concluded that recent changes to the internal professional evaluation system, known as PaCE, are also having a negative impact on military members.
Efforts to reform military culture take root: Bélisle
Bélisle also noted that recent efforts to reform the culture of the Canadian Forces – including changes aimed at rooting out sexual misconduct and improving the responsiveness of senior officers – are beginning to be accepted and even appreciated in the ranks.
“On the positive side, some members have noticed that their workplace seems to become psychologically safer and that there is now less taboo about communicating problems with [chains of command],” he wrote.
“Leaders at all levels generally seem to be trying to take more seriously the difficulties that some members are experiencing, while recognizing the benefits of being flexible with members who are trying to get the help they need (for example, being more generous in interpreting compassionate situations and granting leave; accommodate members by allowing and supporting more flexible work schedules).”
In an interview with Breaking:, Bélisle said that while military morale has taken a hit since his previous assessments, it is not the lowest he has seen in his more than three decades in uniform.
“It’s very important to say one thing, and that is that CAF members and their families are facing the same challenges right now as other Canadians,” he said. “They are struggling with the effects of the pandemic, the rising costs of leaving higher mortgage payments, access to family doctors, and the pace of change across our society.”
To soften the impact of the changes to the LDP, the Department of National Defense has introduced a transition program called the Provisional Post-Life Differential that will slowly reduce the amount of money they will receive between now and 2026.
It is also introducing something called the Canadian Forces Housing Differential (CFHD). The new benefit focuses specifically on housing affordability, rather than cost of living, which is how the PLD is calculated.
In a background statement, the department noted that regular military personnel recently received a 12 percent pay increase, spread over four years and retroactive to 2021.
Bélisle said his chaplains try to counsel trust and patience.
“As chaplains, we are there to bring hope, we are there to support, we are there to be with them and walk with them during that difficult period,” he said. “And we have high hopes.”