Members and Biographies


Pierre Allard

Colonel (Retired) Pierre Allard was born in Ottawa. He joined the Royal Canadian Navy under the VENTURE Officer Training Plan in 1964. In 2001, he retired from the Canadian Armed Forces with more than 35 years of service.

Pierre joined the Dominion Command of the Royal Canadian Legion as a Service Officer in 2001 and became Service Bureau Director in 2003, until his retirement on 6 January 2012. In April 2011, he was awarded the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Society of Canada’s Brett Yerex Exceptional Advocacy Award in recognition of his role in raising awareness of the link between military service and ALS.

He has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Sciences and History (1982, University of Manitoba), a Certificate in Organizational Communications from l’Université du Québec, and a Master of Arts in War Studies from the Royal Military College. He also attended the Belgian “Institut Royal Supérieur de défense” in Brussels.

Heather Armstrong

Commander (Retired) Heather J. Armstrong served 25 years in the Canadian Armed Forces followed by 10 years in various senior civilian positions in Military Personnel Command at National Defence Headquarters.

Heather is a member of the Board of Governors of Commissionaires Nova Scotia, serving on both the Veterans’ Support Committee and the Human Resources Committee. She is also past President of the Naval Officers’ Association of Canada (Ottawa branch), a member of the Order of St George, the Naval Association of Canada, the Canadian Naval Memorial Trust and the Association of Canadian Logisticians.

A graduate of Saint Mary’s University (Bachelor of Commerce), the Canadian Forces Command and Staff College and the NATO Defense College in Rome, she was presented with the Spirit of Military Families Coin Award in May 2014 by HRH Prince Charles for making a noticeable and significant contribution to the well-being of military families throughout her career. Also, in September 2017, Saint Mary’s University bestowed on her a Doctor of Civil Law, Honoris Causa in recognition of her service to Canada.

Larry Gollner

Brigadier-General (Retired) Larry Gollner retired from the military in 1993 after 37 years of service and settled in the Victoria area of British Columbia.

He became actively involved with Veterans’ issues after Canada’s first casualties were incurred in Afghanistan, becoming the Director of the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry (PPCLI) Voluntary Patricia Program, a Veterans-helping-Veterans program. As Colonel of the Regiment of the PPCLI (2006-2010), he went to Afghanistan twice to visit battle groups of the regiment and was very active in supporting families of the fallen and the wounded.

He also joined the Canadian Peacekeeping Veterans Association (CPVA) and became actively involved in the discussions leading up to the New Veterans Charter, successfully arguing for and securing the inclusion of many of the CPVA’s positions on Veterans’ issues, such as creating a Veterans Ombudsman office and the Veterans Bill of Rights. For his work as lead organizer of British Columbia’s Afghanistan memorial, he was awarded the Sovereign’s Media for Volunteers in 2018.

Jacquie Hannigan

Jacquie Hannigan is the spouse of a medically released Veteran who served in the Royal Canadian Navy until his release in 2016. Although their family’s time with the military has ended, the Canadian Armed Forces is still an important part of their lives. Their personal experiences gave her a passion for helping Veterans and their families, and she takes great pride in helping those who have served our country.

Jacquie’s upbringing was in Halifax, Nova Scotia and her husband’s military career was predominantly in that area. When her husband joined the Canadian Forces at a young age, they looked forward to a full military career. Unfortunately, this was cut short by a service-related injury. In 2016, Jacquie and her husband relocated to the Niagara Region in Ontario to start their new life as a civilian family. This gave Jacquie first-hand experience with military transition into civilian life and the role a spouse and a Veteran’s family plays in this process.

Today, she is a professional in the tourism industry. In her spare time, she coaches soccer with the Grimsby Town Youth Soccer Club and participates in programs with Veterans and their families through organizations like Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS).

Jim Lowther

Jim Lowther is a Veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces with 15 years of service. During his career he deployed to Bosnia, serving two tours in 1996-97 and served onboard the Her Majesty's Canadian Ship Halifax as member of the boarding party during Operation Apollo.

After his release, Jim volunteered in the community, and it was in this role that he encountered his first homeless Veteran and felt strongly that he needed to do something about it. He and his wife founded VETS Canada, and Jim found his new purpose in life.

Jim lives with his family in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia and in his spare time, he enjoys playing his guitar, which he credits with helping him cope with his PTSD. Jim is also a volunteer coach with the Dartmouth Bandits Lacrosse League and the Dartmouth District Minor Baseball Association.

Heather Mackinnon

Lieutenant Commander (Retired) Heather Mackinnon was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She attained a Bachelor of Science from Dalhousie University in 1967, a Master of Science (Diplom Biologin) from Maximillian Ludwig Universitat (University of Munich) in 1976, and a Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia in 1977.

After teaching biology at Vanier College in Montreal (1976-1984), she entered medical school at Dalhousie University, graduating in 1988. Until 1990, she practiced medicine in Chester, Nova Scotia, then entered the Canadian Armed Forces as a Direct Entry Medical Officer (Sea Environment) culminating in her serving as the Fleet Support Medical Officer, MARLANT. She retired from the regular force in 2002 and started a general medical practice in Halifax where many of her patients are former service personnel and their families.

Heather is on the Board of Commissionaires Nova Scotia, Royal United Services Institute, President of the Royal Commonwealth Society of Nova Scotia and Past President of the Chester Garden Club. She has been awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (Somalia), St. John Award for Merit, Maritime Command Commendation, Wing Commander’s Commendation (12 WING), Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal and the Veterans Ombudsman Commendation Award. In April 2017, she was appointed Honorary Lieutenant Colonel of 33 Field Ambulance.

Brian McKenna

Warrant Officer (retired) Brian McKenna served in the Royal Westminster Regiment of the Canadian Army Reserves for 19 years between 1995 and 2015. He was attached to the 39 Brigade Group Headquarters for seven years, and did three deployments attached to the PPCLI: two with the 2nd Battalion to Bosnia, and one with the 3rd Battalion to Afghanistan. He also served a year as a NATO contractor teaching C-IED in Afghanistan. He was medically released in 2015 due to injuries sustained while serving, retiring as a Warrant Officer in Delta, British Columbia.

Brian has been open and public about suffering from PTSD and also intestinal damage from a bug caught in Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan. Through his own efforts to get healthier, Brian has used a service dog for a number of years and now advocates for their use for Veterans.

Brian volunteers with the Veterans Transition Network and is a member of the Minister’s Mental Health Advisory Group.

Rebekah Mitchell

Rebekah Mitchell comes from a family of service, with her grandfather-in-law, uncle, brother and husband all deployed overseas at different points with the Canadian Armed Forces. She is also a full-time mom to three children, and spouse to a medically-released Veteran and has worked with her husband to publicly speak about the transitional challenges Veterans and their families face after service.

She recently returned to cycling to improve her own mental health, completing 600 km through mountainous Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina with Wounded Warriors Canada in 2018. She has also completed her Mental Health First Aid training course for the Veteran’s community, and is a Legion member and a member of her local Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) chapter.

Rebekah is a graduate of Bishop’s University (Bachelor of Arts, History Honours), and the University of Western Ontario (Master of Arts, Public History). In addition to volunteering at her children’s school, church and other local charities, she works in the Collections Department and Archives at Markham Museum and is also an educator with Fleming College.

Albert Rivard

Chief Superintendent (Retired) Al Rivard served 34 years with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) in Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and New Brunswick. In the RCMP, he held a broad range of positions of increasing responsibility at Headquarters, Canadian Police College and in provincial contract divisions. These positions progressed from peace officer to senior executive levels in operations, training, protective and administrative areas.

On retirement, he immediately got involved with the RCMP Veterans’ Association and served for almost 20 years on the Ottawa Division Executive. At the national level, he has recently completed his term as National President and continues as Past President of the Association and to be actively involved in the ongoing development of the RCMP National Memorial Cemetery at Beechwood. He also has a long history of community volunteering in such organizations as Scouts Canada, where he was Provincial Commissioner of New Brunswick to the National Executive from 1958-2000, and Bruyère Hospital Lifeline and Palliative Care programs.

His wife, Joanne, and he recently moved to Moncton, New Brunswick to enjoy their retirement. He enjoys travel and golfing.

Paul Rutherford

Brigadier-General (Retired) Paul Rutherford joined the Canadian Armed Forces on 1 June 1980 and retired after 37 years of loyal service on 26 June 2017. He attended the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, graduating in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science degree. He also earned a Master of Arts in International Studies from King’s College London in 2010.

From his formative years with the 1st Canadian Signal Regiment (1985 to 1989), to the end of his career, he served in many different positions culminating in his service at Head Quarters (HQ) United States Central Command in Tampa in the role of Deputy J5 Strategy, Policy, and Plans and as Director General Information Management Operations at National Defence HQ. Shortly after retirement he joined the Military PERSONNEL Command team as a Special Advisor for “The Journey”.

Paul and his wife, Brenna, have remained in the Ottawa area and travel frequently to Kingston to visit their daughter Damie, son-in-law Ben and two grandchildren.

Heidi Sveistrup

Heidi Sveistrup, PhD, is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientific Officer of the Bruyère Research Institute and Vice President of Research and Academic Affairs. Her research focus is in stroke rehabilitation and the use of technologies to support wellness, engagement and long life. She is also the academic lead for the Bruyère Centre for Learning, Research and Innovation (CLRI) in Long-Term Care.

Heidi holds her academic position as a full professor in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa. Heidi served as Vice-Dean, Research and Graduate Studies for the Faculty of Health Sciences for eight years, and is a member of the University of Ottawa’s Brain and Mind Research Institute.

She was a member of the first Board of Governors for the Canadian Institute of Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) and continues her involvement with CIMVHR as a scientist. In the community, Heidi is the Vice-Chair of the Champlain Regional Stroke Network (CRSN) steering committee, and Chair of the CRSN education committee.

Kimberley Unterganschnigg

Lieutenant-Colonel (retired) Kimberley Unterganschnigg has proudly served Canada for over 40 years. After 9 years in the naval reserve, Kimberley had a highly successful 28-year career in the regular force as an Air Force Logistics Officer. Highlights of her military career include deployments in support of the Gulf War, UN peacekeeping, and the war in Afghanistan. She was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal and the Order of Military Merit. Upon retiring from the military in 2016, she spent three years in the Public Service with Status of Women Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard.

As a senior staff officer with the Assistant Deputy Minister Policy, Kimberley identified gaps in the implementation of Gender-based Analysis Plus (GBA+) and in the integration of gender perspectives in the CAF and DND that were impacting CAF operations, policies and procedures. Her work led directly to the issuance of the CDS Directive for Integrating UNSCR 1325 and Related Resolutions into CAF Planning and Operations. As a public servant, Kimberley continued her work with security and defence departments and agencies to support their efforts to integrate GBA+ into their policies, programs and operations.

Kimberley is one of the founding members of MilitaryWomen.CA, an advocacy group dedicated to ensuring that military women, serving and retired, receive equitable benefits and health outcomes.

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