Government's rejection of military dog tag chip recommendation is a mistake: critics
July 30th, 2018 - 9:51am
The government has rejected a recommendation by the House veterans affairs committee to add an electronic chip to military dog tags, a decision veterans’ affairs critics think is a mistake.
The House of Commons Veterans Affairs Committee recommended to the government to “add an electronic device” to the military identification discs (commonly referred to as dog tags) that are given to members of the Canadian Armed Forces. The recommendation aims to create an easier way to keep a record of a military members deployment and at-home activity. The committee published its study in May. The government tabled its response on July 18. The government said adding electronic devices to dog tags would “pose security and privacy issues” and “represent a duplication of effort.”
“I don’t accept the reasons for rejection because in today’s world, technology is advancing so quickly and security techniques are being refined, and they exist — the technology exists,” Conservative veterans affairs critic Phil McColeman said. “At least the government should have been willing to take a look at the possibility of what technologies are out there and what could work instead of outright rejecting it.”
“They haven’t defended [their decision] in a way that explains to veterans and Canadians why they can’t just do this simple task that veterans are calling for and that would serve veterans’ needs,” NDP critic for veterans Gord Johns said.
Currently, members of the Forces are given dog tags that follow guidelines defined by the Geneva Conventions. They are engraved with the members’ Service Number, initials and name, religion, blood type and ‘CDN FORCES CDN’. Military recruits receive them shortly after enrolment. Retiring members are allowed to keep them. Currently, members have to request to have their information about separate deployments and home-base services transferred onto the file correlating with their dog tag.
“It’s a bureaucratic nightmare and red tape that’s unnecessary that’s created as a result of this,” Johns said.
“Tackling an issue of having to make requests and do it at multiple layers within the system is a problem for [veterans]. What we were trying to do here is say, ‘listen, just make it automatic.’ The information eventually gets to VAC through the very complex system that’s set up today,” McColeman said.
Retired Cpl. Aaron Bédard served as a witness to the committee for its study. He’s quoted in it as saying: “I͛’ve been pushing for six years to have dog tags that have a microchip. Whatever place they’re at, all the information will be put there, because when someone gets hit overseas and then they go to Landstuhl and then to another hospital here, the paperwork͛s not following. As a result, they’re not then getting covered for benefits and are going through battles to try to prove it.”
Bédard is one of six veterans in what’s called the Equitas case. They’re suing the government over its change to how veterans receive money from the government when they’re released from service.
The Department of National Defence says it is not developing a new dog tag system.
“A working group has been put in place to consider options available to streamline processes to enhance sharing information between the two departments. An example of these efforts is the digitization of personnel records currently in paper format to expedite the file transfer to VAC,” Capt. Cynthia Kent, a spokesperson for the department said.
“It’s these gaps and frustrations where veterans fall through the cracks. We need to listen to the recommendations of the study and I hope the government will rethink its decision and take a hard look at how it can utilize its resources. This is a recommendation that would serve everybody’s best interests,” Johns said.