THUNDER BAY – Healthbeat – Several members of Canada’s Reserve Force work right here at the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre – and last February President and CEO Andrée Robichaud got a first-hand look at what they do.
“It gives you an appreciation of the opportunities that these people have,” Robichaud said after visiting the HMCS Nanaimo in Vancouver.
The two-day trip was part of the Executrek Program that helps employers understand how important it is to support their Reservists, especially when it comes to giving them time off for training exercises.
Not all soldiers, sailors, and air personnel in the Canadian Forces are full time. In fact, Reservists play a vital role in both domestic and overseas operations to augment, sustain, and support the Regular Force.
However Reservists still require training, which often means taking courses for weeks or even a month at a time. Sometimes they take part in operations including during times of domestic emergency like flooding and other natural disasters. Getting that time can be difficult to coordinate if they have a full-time or part-time job – for both the Reservist and their employer.
The Canadian Forces Liaison Council (CFLC) is a group of over 200 business and organizational leaders in the country, volunteering their time to help employers develop Military Leave policies for their Reservist employees.
“Part and parcel of our mandate is that we promote the value of the Reserves,” said Edward Meijer, Manitoba and Northwestern Ontario Regional Director for the CFLC. “The Reservists are bettering themselves, and taking these courses in their own time. At times employers don’t necessarily understand exactly why somebody wants a week off. It’s not for a vacation, but it might be for a course they have to take so that they can progress.”
There are over 320 Reservists in Thunder Bay, Meijer said, serving in several different branches of the Canadian Forces including the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment (LSSR), the HMCS Griffon, the 38 Service Battalion, the 18 Field Ambulance, and the 38 Signals Regiment, as well as over 80 cadets. At the Health Sciences Centre, Reservists include Dr. David Puskas, who holds the rank of Major and last served in Afghanistan as a surgeon in 2010, Major Christian Borland, a Registered Nurse, and Dr. Mark Thibert, a Lieutenant-Colonel and Commander of the 18 Field Ambulance in Thunder Bay.
“If Reservists serve in the field, they have the identical status as a full-time solider. It’s very important that they are kept up with the training, with the latest technology, and all the latest information,” Meijer said.
Robichaud said that the Health Sciences Centre Reservists’ policy is open in terms of length of time they can request.
“I think the policy right now is Reservist-friendly,” Robichaud said. “It’s very important to support them and accommodate their requests for Military Leave as best we can.”
That’s exactly what the CFLC hopes to achieve in companies and organizations across Canada – a better understanding of the importance of Reservists and workplace policies that will support them when they need Military Leave.
“The reservists are being trained on a part-time basis,” Meijer said. “When courses are being run, it’s important that they can make themselves available to take those.”
In the photograph: Orthopedic surgeon Major David Puskas (left) serving at Kandahar in 2008 with Major Max Talbot, another orthopedic surgeon from Montreal. There are over 320 Reservists in Thunder Bay including many at the Health Sciences Centre.