Governments, Canadians must support those who risk lives in service to country
Prince Edward Island veterans, including many who served in the Korean War, march to the Cornwall Cenotaph Service.
As Remembrance Day 2013 approaches, it should be a time to honour our veterans of today and yesteryear, especially those who paid the supreme sacrifice in their duty to Canada. It should also be a time to take some comfort in the knowledge that our veterans are being properly looked after in terms of pensions, healthcare and other necessities by a grateful nation.
Instead, it’s not such a great time to be a veteran. When Islanders turn out by the thousands Monday at cenotaphs across the province to remember their sacrifices, they should also be aware of the battles that veterans are fighting today.
Veterans are facing mounting problems as offices that serve them are closing across the country and layoffs are affecting the headquarters of Veterans Affairs Canada in Charlottetown.
This week, a call has gone out from veterans and workers who serve them urging the minister of veterans affairs to hear what they have to say before going ahead with closures of nine Veterans Affairs offices across Canada. Ottawa plans to close those offices in smaller communities by 2015 as a cost-cutting measure. This will force some veterans to travel long distances to other cities for service or rely on phone apps and call centres, a potential huge barrier for many disabled veterans.
The Union of Veterans’ Affairs Employees says its workers have been told the government is waiting until Nov. 13 or 14, just after Remembrance Day ceremonies, to start informing veterans when the offices will close, including the one in Charlottetown. Demonstrations protesting the closures are planned in a number of those communities today.
Last month, veterans ombudsman Guy Parent identified serious shortcomings in the support available to injured veterans and their families. In response Veterans Affairs said that government must be mindful of its responsibility to the Canadian taxpayer.
Government spent $35 million on legal fees and six years fighting Dennis Manuge, an injured Nova Scotia veteran and other disabled veterans in court over a clawback to their disability pensions. Government is now fighting injured Afghanistan veterans in a court battle over the level of financial support under the New Veterans Charter.
Maimed and disabled veterans face being released just days or weeks before any pension entitlement. There are problems with the Last Post Fund which should ensure every veteran gets a proper burial. Efforts to acknowledge veterans with a proposed volunteer service medal have stalled. Thousands of our veterans have no medal to wear on their lapel at Remembrance Day ceremonies to show they once served.
Volunteers who join the Canadian Forces accept unlimited liability, knowing they may be called upon to risk their lives on behalf of Canada to uphold democracy, peace, security and human rights here at home or around the world. In turn, the government and people of Canada have an obligation to care for and support those who risk their lives in service to our country.
If Canadian taxpayers support better benefits and services for veterans and their families, they must add their voice to ensure that veterans are treated with dignity and respect and with financial support and retirement security.
Don’t blame all the problems facing veterans on government. It was a few short days ago that Summerside Legion members were trying to get their poppy campaign launched. A date was set to canvass the city to sell poppies, and instead of a planned turnout of 100 members and volunteers, there was about a dozen and a fraction of the city was covered.
Government must start paying more than lip service to show their support for veterans and their families. Our veterans are frustrated and wonder if they are forgotten by their nation, and are only remembered for their sacrifices for one hour on one day of the year.