On Monday, Remembrance Day, we honour the men and women who died fighting for the freedom of Canada. We also remember, and thank, the surviving veterans.
In his speech to the Conservative convention last weekend Prime Minister Stephen Harper included recognition of “our brave men and women in uniform” as one of his government’s accomplishments.
Is the Veteran Affairs Ombudsman’s scathing report highlighting serious shortcomings in financial support for veterans, especially those permanently disabled in combat, one of those accomplishments? What about the Canadian Forces injured in Afghanistan who are suing the government to get adequate compensation? Harper actually tried to quash that one. Is Harper proud how puny veterans’ disability payments are compared to worker’s compensation claims or civil awards in injury cases? Changes in the government’s new Veterans Charter could violate veterans’ rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, isn’t that ironic.
Service people are being discharged before they’re eligible to collect a pension, veterans’ families are being stiffed on funeral expenses — the ombudsman said it best; “It is simply not acceptable to let veterans who have sacrificed the most for their country … live their lives with unmet financial needs.” I don’t have space to list the mazillions of dollars the Harper government spends on the military either, but it appears the feds are more interested in pleasing the pro-war lobbyists and arms dealers than they are in dealing fairly with war veterans.
The First World War left my dad with physical injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder (shell shock) that plagued him the rest of his life. It coloured my thinking about wars and their aftermaths. On Monday, after bowing our heads for the moment of remembrance, how about letting the federal government know that honouring veterans doesn’t mean much unless some comfort and care goes with it.
Diana French is a freelance columnist for the Tribune. She is a former Tribune editor, retired teacher, historian, and book author.