Learning About and Learning from Canada’s Veteran Families

November 19, 2020

Canada is home to nearly 640,000 Veterans,1 whose service and sacrifices were honoured across the country during a truly unique Remembrance Day. While public health measures remained in place to continue preventing the spread of COVID-19, thousands of Canadians watched commemoration ceremonies online and adapted how they expressed gratitude and appreciation to show respect while helping keep their families and communities safe.

As we continue to acknowledge Veterans and their service beyond November 11, it is important to also learn about and from their families. While COVID-19 has affected relationships, routines and networks of care important to all families, Veteran families have unique experiences, strengths and vulnerabilities that warrant focused attention and that may provide valuable insights on family well-being and resilience.

As part of our ongoing exploration into COVID-19 IMPACTS2 on families in Canada, the Vanier Institute launched a crowdsourced Veteran Families Survey3 in June 2020 to learn about how Veteran families are feeling, what they are doing and what they are thinking about the future.

While pre-pandemic research has shown that most Veterans were socially connected and supported4 – important contributing factors to resilience – this survey is exploring their family experiences and realities, as well as strengths that may offer valuable lessons for those who study, serve and support families, learned through Veterans’ military family life.

Funded by the True Patriot Love Foundation and open to anyone who is a Veteran or a member of a Veteran family, the survey is providing evidence to help inform the systems, services and supports to optimize the well-being of Veteran families in Canada throughout COVID-19 and post-pandemic. ​While the survey is ongoing (until March 31, 2021), respondents to date have reported many of the same impacts and have been adapting in many of the same ways as civilian families:

  • Veteran families report similar impacts on health and well-being as civilian families: While more than half of those in surveyed Veteran families report a negative impact on their mental health, a similar proportion also report that their overall health is as good or even better than pre-pandemic. On average, respondents say that their family well-being is as good or better than their own. As with civilian families, Veteran family members report trouble sleeping (i.e. more sleep interruptions and less overall sleep).
  • Veteran families are concerned about their family finances: While approximately one-third report being worse off financially than before the pandemic, three-quarters are concerned about their future finances. Veteran families report adapting their finances by focusing their spending on essential items and some report using savings for everyday expenses.
  • Veteran families remain socially connected: Respondents report that they have stayed connected with family members and friends not living with them. In-person, video, voice, text, email and letter mail are all being used, with voice and text being most prevalent.
  • Veteran families are helping in communities beyond their households: Veteran families report providing emotional support to one or more people outside the household, and help with providing food and supplies, and assisting with transportation and other errands.


If you are a Veteran or living in a Veteran family and are seeking assistance, contact:


  1. Veterans Affairs Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada Statistics – Facts and Figures Summary (updated December 2019). Link: https://bit.ly/2IstpTe.
  2. The Vanier Institute of the Family, COVID-19 IMPACTS: Families in Canada (web page). Link: https://bit.ly/3nqDAHg.
  3. True Patriot Love Foundation and the Vanier Institute of the Family, COVID-19 IMPACTS: Veteran Families Survey.
  4. In 2016, 96% of surveyed Veterans said they have people they can count on in an emergency, approximately 9 in 10 reported being satisfied/very satisfied with family (88%) and with life (86%), and 84% reported having high social support. Link: https://bit.ly/32NfWNa.


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