As vets prepare to launch their protest rally across Canada November 6, 2010, our Ontario leader, Michael L Blais CD, sent us a poignant Thanksgiving message summarizing some of the major issues concerning Canadian vets. I have excerpted portions of his letter here:
Happy Thanksgiving one and all. I hope that your weekend is being filled with the love of family, friendship and good cheer!
On the veterans front, the week has been bittersweet. Brian Dyck, who suffered from ALS and was a driving factor behind Prime Minister Harper’s announcement that VAC to create a policy for veterans suffering from ALS, passed away on Friday. Although he would never see the benefits or receive the support he so richly deserved from VAC, he did pass knowing that he had made a significant difference and that his actions would have a profound effect on other veterans who suffer from this deadly disease. Please watch this.
Let us ensure that Brian Dyck is not forgotten, that we use his shining example to ensure that Prime Ministers Harper’s pledge is followed through on and a comprehensive program for veterans with ALS is established for both them and their families.
Breach of privacy issues dominated the week once again, and we have discovered that the PMOs office was involved in this situation in 2006. Privacy commissioner Stoddart confirmed illegal activity yet the government still refuses to summon the appropriate authorities. Ie, the RCMP! I suspect that the investigation will reveal other incidents of illegal activity and would encourage you all to stand fast. Only by bringing these things into the light of public scrutiny will change be affected at Veterans Affairs, and on November 6th, ladies and gentlemen, the light will be dazzling bright!
I have attached the following letter re: the Death Benefits Tax with the hope that we all share a prayer this Thanksgiving for the many families and friends who will be thinking of those who have offered the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of our nation. May God be merciful unto them now and forever.
Canadian Veterans National Day to Rally / Protest – 6/11/10, The Widows Tax.
The profound horror of losing one you are deeply in love with is traumatic enough. To experience this terrible loss when your loved one, a proud Canadian soldier, was Killed In Action fighting a war that many Canadians no longer support serves only to further compound the level of grief. A knock on the door at an early morning hour, the solemn expressions on the regimental officer’s features, a padre’s blessed compassion. The harsh realization they are here to speak to you.
The man you have devoted your life to, the man whom you have loved unconditionally… is dead.
The dreaded words, platitudes, a searing, heart-wrenching flash of terror, freefalling into the abyss of grief steadied, although not always, through responsibilities to children, an extended family and a compassionate community. A series of telephone calls, the Governor General of Canada, the Prime Minister, words of support, a litany of compassion and condolence. Intense Sorrow.
The children. Tears, so many tears. The distressing journey to CFB Trenton, meeting important government and military dignitaries, the aircraft’s arrival. Melancholic rituals of a repatriation service, the rhythmic, haunting cadence of brightly polished boots, muted sobbing as the flag draped coffin is gently eased into the back of the waiting hearse. A rose amongst roses, a child’s forlorn wail. The nation observes, empathizes, citizens bearing flags, sharing tears as the solemn procession travels the length of the Highway of Heroes to the coroner’s office in Toronto.
Home. The seemingly unbearable task of returning the valiant to the community he left as a young, vibrant Canadian eager to serve this great nation. Families and friends join thousands of anonymous citizens, a standing tribute along the streets and on bridges. Veterans of already forgotten wars attend the viewing, muted sympathies, occasionally, tears. The children, silent, withdrawn, overwhelmed with grief. On the day of the funeral, so many attend dozens stand vigil outside the church, an unspoken promise that Canada’s sons and daughters shall never be forgotten. During the internment, a military contingent carries a casket bearing bayonet and beret; others escort wife and family to the gravesite. Final prayers are offered, the Canadian flag ritually folded. A startling barrage of gunfire, the final regimental tribute, shatters the stillness.
Life. There are responsibilities that cannot be denied. Grieving children to comfort, the need to offer solace to the Fallen’s parents, logistic issues, work, school… A new life, perhaps inclusive of a separation from the military community that provided great support through the darkest moments. There will be further hardship, regardless of the fact your husband has been Killed in Action while serving Canada in a distant land, there will be taxes on his pension and it will be added to your income, punitive in the sense of tax brackets.
Imagine this is you, my friend, who is living the bleak scenario I have just described. Then ask yourself; has not the families of the Canada sons and daughters suffered enough? Should they not be provided tax-exempt status on all awards, death benefits and pensions when their loved ones have been slain in combat on behalf of Canada? Would not these very same benefits be tax-exempt were he the victim of a tragic accident on the job here?
This is one of five important issues veterans from across the nation are uniting at 1100 am, November 6th, 2010, to seek redress. Many veterans believe the families of our comrades, our brothers in arms, deserve better considerations, that they should suffer no undue financial hardship through taxation on pensions and awards provided to them as a consequence of their loved ones being killed in Afghanistan. Rallies are planned for Parliament Hill, London and St John’s. Elsewhere throughout the nation, veterans will be congregating at their MP’s riding offices to respectfully request their local parliamentarian address these issues on behalf of the troops and the affected veterans living in their ridings.
We hope Canadians will join us, that together we can make our voices heard and united, rectify the inadequacies in the New Veterans Charter, vastly improve the quality of life for the wounded, the injured, the fallen and the families they have left behind.
Michael L Blais CD
Niagara Falls, Ontario