The Harper government says it holds Canada’s veterans in the highest regard. Its actions, however, indicate otherwise: a complete disregard for the welfare of Canada’s veterans.
Last week provided yet another example of the government’s “we really don’t care about veterans” attitude.
• First, Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino failed to show up on time for a scheduled meeting with veterans who had travelled from across Canada to meet him in Ottawa.
• When he did finally appear, he treated the vets and their concerns with disrespect.
The veterans were in Ottawa to protest the closure of nine veterans’ service centres across Canada – one of them in Saskatoon. The centres were shut down despite the pleas of veterans and their families.
This was the latest in a long series of actions the Harper government has taken against the interests of Canada’s veterans, starting almost from the moment it first took office.
In 2006, the Harper government replaced the Pension Act, used since the First World War, with the New Veterans Charter. Under the Charter, Canadian soldiers making an application for disability benefits are awarded a one-time, workers-compensation-style lump sum payout, rather than a lifetime pension.
Studies show the Charter is a financial disaster for many disabled soldiers. ●For those severely disabled, it can mean a 40% reduction from what they would have received under the Pension Act. ●It can also mean receiving 90% less than what other Canadian workers would receive for the same injuries.
REACTIONS TO THE CHARTER
Veterans Ombudsman: Charter Failing Veterans
In his June 2013 report, Canada’s veterans ombudsman, Guy Parent, found that the New Veterans Charter is failing many veterans and the Canadian government needs to take “urgent action.” According to the report:
● More than 400 of the most severely wounded and disabled veterans are at risk of spending their retirement years in poverty.
● 53% of veterans assessed as “totally and permanently incapacitated” have not been awarded impairment benefits.
● Benefits meant to help veterans transition from a military to civilian career are inadequate.
● Compensation for pain and suffering is lacking.
Afghanistan War Vets Take Charter To Court
● In 2012, wounded Afghanistan war vets filed a class-action law-suit in B.C. against the federal government over the lump-sum disability payment under the Veterans Charter, arguing that it is meagre in comparison with the lifetime disability pension and that it violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
● Federal lawyers argued for a dismissal of the veterans’ class-action lawsuit, saying Ottawa has no moral obligation to care for veterans.
● Last October, a B.C. Supreme Court ruling allowed the case to proceed.
● The Harper government says it will appeal the ruling – a stalling tactic that could delay the case for years.
VETERANS FURTHER DISHONOURED
Injured Soldiers Booted From Military
To qualify for an indexed pension, a Canadian soldier must serve in the military for 10 years.
To remain in service, a soldier must be fit to be deployed at a moment’s notice.
To balance the budget, the Harper government is not allowing wounded soldiers who are unable to meet the deployment rule to remain in service long enough to reach pension eligibility.
Since 2008, there have been 75 military suicides in Canada. As many as 10 have occurred in the last two months.
Even as thousands of Canadian forces members are struggling to cope with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental and physical health issues after returning from Afghanistan, the Harper government continues to cut veterans’ services.
To win the 2015 election, the Harper government is trying to claim a balanced budget while shortchanging Canada’s veterans.
Tell Stephen Harper his government has committed to caring for all veterans, and that you want his government to meet this commitments. Remind Mr. Harper of the words he spoke at the last Conservative Party convention: “Let’s never forget that only this party takes to heart the debt owed to our brave men and women in uniform.” email@example.com or 613-992-4211.
Send the same message to the Minister of Veterans Affairs, Julian Fantino: firstname.lastname@example.org or 613-996-4971.
Call on the Harper government to treat Canadian veterans with respect: http://www.ceasefire.ca/?p=17570
Call on the Canadian government to provide lifelong support for wounded veterans. Google “change.org Canadian veterans.”
P U T A N E N D T O W A R
Another way to honour ill and injured veterans would be to avoid creating new generations of wounded and dead soldiers.