Canadian troops in Poland face delays in reimbursement for food, travel

As part of Operation Unifier, Defence Minister Anita Anada sent approximately 1000 Canadian Armed Forces members to train Ukrainian military personnel in Poland last October, with more arriving in February and March.

Canadian troops in Poland face delays in reimbursement for food, travel
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Canadian troops stationed in Poland are not being reimbursed for the food they purchase, causing hardships for their families back home. 

As part of Operation Unifier, Defence Minister Anita Anada sent approximately 1000 Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members to train Ukrainian military personnel in Poland last October, with more arriving in February and March.

They provide training in basic and advanced engineering skills, using explosives for demolition work, and demining and abilities relating to using and operating the Leopard 2 tanks in combat.

However, Canada did not send military cooks on the mission. Instead, they received meals from the Polish military and orders to eat at local restaurants.

Due to a massive backlog of reimbursing soldiers, some soldiers have accumulated thousands of dollars in debt. Their families complained about the situation that is causing financial stress at home. 

Food bills racked up without reimbursement, forcing families to rely on their savings to help finance their loved ones in Poland. CAF confirmed Monday they had problems reimbursing expenses monthly, pledging to expedite the process.

"We apologize to the members and their families for the distress this has caused and thank them for their patience," said Capt. Nicolas Plourde-Fleury, spokesman for Canadian Joint Operations Command (CJOC). "We want them to know we have implemented measures to support them better moving forward." 

"Additional administrative staff were deployed in January 2023 and have been hard at work to clear the backlog and provide ongoing support to Op UNIFIER's members," he explained. 

Plourde-Fleury said the Canadian Forces have "taken immediate steps to address" the backlog. 

"The deployment period for financial staff has also been extended to create an overlap with the incoming replacement staff and increase the capacity to clear the backlog."

He stated they had reduced the backlog and would approve the claims in the coming weeks, including some travel claims submitted by personnel stationed in Poland.

"While we work through the backlog, claims for larger amounts are being processed as priorities to minimize financial hardship for members," he added. "Smaller claims, such as some travel claims, will be processed as soon as possible."

Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Wayne Eyre and other Canadian military leaders have repeatedly said that caring for military personnel and their families is essential. CAF faces a high attrition rate citing poor treatment, pay concerns, a lack of housing, and rampant sexual misconduct.

They also plan to cut the cost-of-living allowance for thousands of troops with little notice. A mid-March service announcement said about 7,700 military members would not receive its succeeding housing benefit in July.

The Department of National Defence and the Treasury Board quashed a 14-year tit-for-tat by stating their intent to replace the military's existing cost-of-living allowance with a new housing benefit.

"We're pissing people off," said retired lieutenant-general Guy Thibault, who previously served as vice-chief of the defence staff. "This may be the final straw that pisses them off. 

"It's not really about compensation," contends Thibault. "It's just that they're not feeling valued."

To date, Ottawa has donated 200 armoured vehicles as part of a larger $500 million assistance package announced in November, with $406 million in air defence capabilities and an unspecified number of air-defence missiles.

In January, Anand said the need for Canada to aid Ukraine against Russia's invasion shows "the international rules-based order is under threat like it has never been under threat before."

It's expected that all 200 vehicles will be shipped to Ukraine by the summer to transport troops to the front line and assist in medical evacuations.



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