It appears that the Conservative Government of Stephen Harper, deliberately or inadvertently, has abandoned some of the men and women who, while risking their lives for this country, have been badly wounded mentally or physically or both.
Well, a few months after the Conservative Party was elected in January, 2006, following up on a campaign promise, they passed the new Canadian Veterans Charter or Bill of Rights into federal law on April 4th of that year.
In fairness to the previous Liberal Government, however, consultations had been ongoing for a number of years. As well, as I recall, there was much fanfare at the time of the implementation because all three main political parties voted in favour saying changes had been long overdue.
So, if no excuses, how can we account for the fact that a political party that was pro-military and a government that has increased military spending over the last seven years by at least $5 billion dollars (even after reductions), is now short-changing our veterans? I mean, how much of that increase is actually going towards veterans programs and services — or is it all going to the Department of Defence?
- There are inadequate supports for veterans trying to transition to a civilian career;
- There are insufficient financial supports for veterans once they reach 65; and
- There are insufficient lifetime financial allowances because pensions been replaced with lump sum payments.
For example, regarding # 2 and 3, Dan Scott (H/T JNW) was injured by an anti-personnel land mine in Afghanistan in 2010. He lost two organs and injured another. So, it doesn’t take much imagination to realize he is going to require health care services and financial assistance for the rest of his life.
Of course, Scott had thought he could count on a veteran’s lifetime pension because that is the way it has been for the last hundred years. I mean, my grandmother told me she received a veteran’s survivor’s pension after my grandfather was killed in 1917 — a very modest pension she collected until her death in 1960.
Yet, for Scott’s dedication and commitment to his country, his country sent him a cheque in the mail for $42,000.
Now, think about that for a moment. Imagine, instead of being injured serving his country, Scott had received his injuries in a car accident at home. What do you suppose his pay out would be from his insurance company? Certainly not what he got. More likely one or two million.
There are, unfortunately, many more such examples. Which means, the verb abandoning is right on the money.
The crux of the matter is, then, that since citizens who vote conservative tend to respect their military, it would not be an exaggeration to suggest that this issue could lose the current government their majority in 2015.
We honoured our veterans yesterday. Let’s also honour them tomorrow with a Bill of Rights they can rely on.
Update: Wednesday, November 13th: Here is a National Post column by Shaun Francis about doing more for our military than wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day. It touches on many of the issues raised here. If things are not as they seem, the PMO should get out front of this matter and make sure the problems are corrected now.