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Editorial: Not in the line of duty

Christopher Garnier is shown in this file photo.
Christopher Garnier. — SaltWire Network file photo

It’s understandable to be upset by the news that a convicted killer is being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at taxpayers’ expense.

The anger amps up when you learn that Veterans Affairs approved the treatment, while many deserving and needy vets wait months or years for help.

Christopher Garnier says he developed PTSD after strangling a female police officer. So, in fact, Canadians are paying for a killer’s therapy to overcome the trauma of the brutal act.

There are suggestions that some officials at Veterans Affairs need their heads examined. How could this happen?

Christopher Garnier says he developed PTSD after strangling a female police officer. So, in fact, Canadians are paying for a killer’s therapy to overcome the trauma of the brutal act.

Garnier was convicted last December of second-degree murder in the September 2015 death in Halifax of 36-year-old Catherine Campbell, an off-duty Truro police officer. He is being treated by a private psychologist and Veterans Affairs is covering the cost because his father is a veteran who also has diagnosed with PTSD.

RELATED: Political outrage over Veterans Affairs' decision to fund murderer's PTSD help

But before we rush to judgment, we should consider the bigger picture: Garnier is eligible to seek parole in just over 11 years and the key elements of our judicial system are deterrence and rehabilitation. Treatment will give him the best chance of successfully re-entering society once his sentence is served. According to experts, Garnier now suffers from acute stress disorder, a mental illness that resulted from his PTSD.

Current Veterans Affairs rules — in effect for many years — make him eligible for treatment. Changing the program to prevent him from accessing the system would deny help for other veterans and family members who need assistance.

Veterans Affairs Minister Seamus O’Regan is in damage-control mode, trying to limit the political outrage. He says he’s “looking into how and why this decision was made,” but in his position, he has to defend Veterans Affairs officials, who followed the rules.

Veterans Affairs developed programs to help veterans and police who developed PTSD in defence of country or performance of duty. The extension of medical benefits to family members is provided in order to contribute to the overall well-being of veterans. The philosophy behind the policy is that when a man or woman serves in Canada’s Armed Forces or the RCMP, their whole family serves with them.

But providing financial help to a convicted felon — when the cause of PTSD is a heinous crime like murder — is outside the original intent of the rule.

O’Regan has to find a way to halt this travesty while maintaining benefits for those deserving of them.

Garnier’s crime mars the contributions and sacrifices made by veterans, police and their families.

Still, to simply close loopholes and offer no supports — even to a murderer like Garnier — however tempting, is not the right way. As much as the circumstances revolt us, we can’t let revenge be our guide. Then we sink to his level.

Garnier has a right to medical help while in jail, but it should be provided by the Department of Justice, not Veterans Affairs.

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