New Angle for Helping Veterans


Program offers new angle on helping veterans

MICHAEL STAPLES Fredericton Daily Gleaner
06 Dec 2013

A program designed to help former and current military personnel recover from injuries may be setting up shop in the Fredericton area early next year.

Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada assists military personnel who have been wounded or disabled by aiding their physical and emotional recovery through fly fishing and fly tying.

Program co-ordinator André Baril said the aim is to launch something before next summer.

“It’s incredible how much the relaxing value goes hand-in-hand with these activities, whether you are on the water or on the bench tying flies,” Baril said in an interview from his home in Gatineau, Que. “It’s (about) rehabilitation. While they are doing that, they are not thinking about anything else. Also, it’s a lifelong skill.”

Baril said one of his group’s members is moving to New Brunswick in a few months and he intends to launch the program once he gets settled in.

“That’s what I am trying to do — to launch something in New Brunswick,” said Baril, also co-ordinator of the Ottawa-Gatineau chapter.

There are three phases to Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada: learning how to cast, learning the art of fly tying and applying what they learned on a river.

Aside from those with a military connection, the project also welcomes participants from other organizations such as the RCMP, other Canadian Police Members, EMS personnel and brain-trauma victims.

“All activities and services are provided to the participants at no cost,” Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada said on its website.

“Fly fishing and tying equipment and materials are provided to the participants, including equipment that accommodates their special needs as we are able to provide it.”

The program is being sponsored by the Atlantic Salmon Federation (ASF).

The federation became involved in the project after Charles Cusson, the organization’s director of Quebec programs, was approached by Baril.

Cusson said the Healing Waters program has proven to be a therapeutic one for people dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

“When you do get infected with the love of fly fishing and everything that revolves around it, it becomes a passion for a lot of people,” Cusson said. “It’s like almost any other hobby that somebody really gets their hands dirty, so to speak, and it’s a very good tool to forget your everyday worries, or whatever, and just enjoy something you’re very passionate about.

“Some people get real passionate about the fishing experience itself, and others get really involved with the fly tying. Some of them get just as passionate about both.”

It serves as a good environment to share similar experiences, Cusson said.

Ross Ingram of Fredericton, a retired major in the reserves, said the federation is to be congratulated for its involvement on behalf of Canadian veterans.

“While it may be of interest to those with an interest in the out-of-doors, it’s not for all ex-military people, just as it is not for everyone who follows civilian pursuits,” Ingram said.

“Wounded, injured or disabled veterans, especially those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, have been treated in a cavalier fashion by the government of Canada.”

Ingram said these are people who have been changed forever as a result of answering the call to serve their country.

“While efforts by organizations such as the ASF may help in a small way, what these military veterans really need is a comprehensive approach by the federal government to each of their individual needs,” he said.

Baril, meanwhile, said he is looking to make contacts in the Fredericton area with someone involved in the sport who may want to assist the project.

Anyone who is interested can call Baril at 819-455-9351.

For more information or to contribute to the Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing Canada program, visit projecthealingwaters.ca.