Veteran Affairs minister visit a family affair

Photo by Jon Chabun, MFRC

Lieutenant Commander Danny O’Regan, Commandant of Fleet School; Seamus O’Regan, Minister of Veterans Affairs; Jackie Carlé, Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) Interim Executive Director; Kaitlyn Ross, MFRC Veteran Family Program Coordinator; Pauline Sibbald, MFRC Social Worker; and Base Commander Capt(N) Jason Boyd gather outside the MFRC building on Signal Hill for a group photograph. Photo by Jon Chabun, MFRC

Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

In early September, Minister of Veterans Affairs Seamus O’Regan made a one-day stop in Esquimalt. The recently appointed cabinet minister was in town to meet with senior naval leadership, tour dockyard, and drop by the Military Family Resource Centre (MFRC) to discuss the rollout of the Veteran Family Program.

Meeting him at the MFRC was his younger brother, Lieutenant Commander Danny O’Regan, Commandant of Naval Fleet School (Pacific).

A gaggle of O’Regan family members were in Ottawa just days before to witness Minister O’Regan’s swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall.

“Now he is essentially my boss,” said LCdr O’Regan. “I was on leave in St. John’s after taking the red eye when he called me and said he had been named minister and we had to come to Ottawa for the ceremony.”

The representative from St. John’s South-Mount Pearl, not only heads Veterans Affairs Canada but is also the Associate Minister of Defence as part of his first-ever cabinet appointment. The cabinet appointment came following the resignation of Minister of Public Services and Procurement Judy Foote, precipitating a cabinet shuffle by the Prime Minister.

LCdr O’Regan remarked how the ceremony in Ottawa was also a family celebration of courage and recovery. That’s because back in January 2016, when Seamus was still a back bencher, he announced to the nation on social media that he was seeking treatment for alcoholism.

Family, friends, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rallied around him throughout his recovery process.

“That’s a big reason why the swearing in was an especially proud moment for myself and the entire family,” said LCdr O’Regan. “My brother has gone through a lot over the last few years and to see him work hard for his constituency, and to see it all come to a pinnacle was exhilarating.”

Minister O’Regan takes over his new post from former Minister of Veteran’s Affairs Kent Hehr, who saw the department through a major transition phase. The big changes included the re-opening of nine previously mothballed regional Veteran Affairs Centres, the hiring of 400 support staff, and the implementation of multiple new support programs, including the MFRC`s Veteran Family Program.

That program was piloted in Esquimalt and six other centres for a year-and-a-half before rolling out to all 32 MFRCs across Canada in May 2017. It is designed to support medically-releasing veterans and their families with resources made available through the MFRC.

Jackie Carlé, MFRC Esquimalt Interim Executive Director, says Minister O’Regan’s visit provided an opportunity to have a discussion about the challenges of the new program.

“The minister was genuinely interested in finding out more about this portfolio and we were grateful for the opportunity to meet with him and talk about our community focused approach to this and other services at the MFRC,” she said.

Minister O’Regan spent the evening with his brother where he was treated to a home-cooked meal that included turkey burgers prepared by LCdr O’Regan’s wife Tesh. The next morning he witnessed his nephew Daniel Jr. set off for his first-ever day of school.

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