UBC's Mission to Kabul Deepens Understanding of Veterans' Trauma - Burrard Strategy

With Remembrance Day upon us tomorrow, we are reflecting on the sacrifice that so many veterans have made, especially the trauma that many carry with them.

Last April, Burrard Strategy joined the University of British Columbia’s delegation of veterans, Afghan-Canadians and security personnel on their trip to Kabul, Afghanistan just as Ramadan was ending. The trip was a rare opportunity to delve more deeply into the issue of trauma in one of the world’s most troubled regions. 

We were able to witness Canadian veterans return to this war-torn country, and to document the dialogue between UBC and the University of Kabul regarding the issue of trauma.  

Dr. Marv Westwood and Tim Laidler from UBC’s Institute for Veterans Education and Training (IVET) led our group. IVET provides assistance to veterans to manage and overcome trauma and to help them transition from the battlefield to civilian life through group counselling. Their work is truly inspiring.

This trip helped IVET develop new relationships and a deeper understanding about the pain and trauma associated with everyday life in a semi-permanent conflict zone. 

Collaborating with the University of Kabul enabled UBC to gain more insights about trauma from an Afghan academic perspective.  As a result of this visit, the two universities have now created a first-time online course about Basic Trauma Training for Group Applications, in English and in Dari. The new e-learning program will be available to anyone that wants to understand and help treat their trauma. 

Dr. Marv Westwood at UBC is a world-renowned expert in treating veterans’ trauma.  He is an advocate for education, group counseling and reintegrating our veterans into the fabric of our society. 

“For more than twenty years, UBC has been designing and delivering innovative programs to support the veterans’ community,” said Westwood. “I am proud of the work that has taken place and of this renewed commitment by the university to support veterans here on campus, now and into the future.”

Tim Laidler is IVET’s executive director and a Canadian veteran who served in Afghanistan.

“This new program’s focus is on health and trauma,” Laidler said.  “It started on the battlefield for injured soldiers, but its application has proven to go beyond that. People who suffered severe trauma in their lives, women from domestic violence, children that experience famine in Africa, and diplomats that witnessed genocide and violence, can all benefit.”

Witnessing soldiers return to Afghanistan, as civilians, was a dangerous and risky experience, but was worth every moment. 

On this Remembrance Day, as a country, we must continue to advocate and support the work of organizations such as UBC’s IVET. 

While Canada’s long-standing mission in Afghanistan may be over, the work to rehabilitate, overcome and fight trauma for our soldiers, is not complete.  

Today, tomorrow, and everyday after, one of the best ways for us to honour our veterans is to support them and their families as they manage their pain and trauma.

We urge you to support and learn more about the important work the Institute for Veterans Education and Training is doing. 


Mark Marissen

Principal, Burrard Strategy

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