Today, I am proud to present Michael L. Blais, CD, national organizer of the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest, 6 Nov, 2010, with his address to all Canadians. Please listen and do your part as part of our remembrance of all vets during Remembrance Week.
On Saturday, November 6th, veterans from coast to coast will assemble at eleventh morning hour (local) to offer unqualified support for Canadian Forces as they serve in Harm’s Way, the veterans of this great land who have been affected by the consequences of war and peace, the widows of the valiant who have been summoned to the Lord and the many, many families who are coping with a very different life then they envisioned before the war in Afghanistan interceded. It is distressing that it has come down to a protest, but after three years of hopeful anticipation, veterans are increasingly disappointed and frustrated by the lack of real government reform with the New Veterans Charter to reflect the realities of the War in Afghanistan and the needs of all generations of veterans.
Many veterans feel betrayed. Many veterans believed Prime Minister Harper personally appointed Canada’s 1st Veterans Ombudsman, Colonel Pat Stogran, to rectify the charter’s inadequacies. We believed that Colonel Stogran, who is a combat experienced infanteer, had been selected by the PM because of his relationship with those who are suffering the brunt of Canadian casualties, that his compassionate voice of reason would be responded to with all due speed.
As we now know, the Veterans Ombudsman’s voice has not been heard.
Nor was Stogran’s voice the only voice to be dismissed or ignored. The Legion proposed thirteen important changes, knowledgeable veterans advocates and other organizations paraded routinely before parliamentary committee. Yet, even as Canada’s sons and daughters were and are being repatriated with ‘catastrophic’ injuries, the government has refused to act.
On November 6th, parliamentarians will hear our voice, the voice of the veterans who have passed the torch to the generation of Canadian soldiers, sailors and airmen currently representing Canada in Afghanistan and elsewhere across the globe. Canada’s veterans today are no different then those who served in WW2, Korea, Africa, the Middle East, Balkans or dozens of peacekeeping mission across the globe. They bleed the same, they experience profound pain the same, they bear the horrible consequences of war the same and they deserve the SAME standard of dignified care and compensation.
There are five central issues veterans are advocating for on Nov 6th, honourable objectives designed to improve the quality of the lives of the widows and families of the fallen by insisting that any and all pensions related to a Killed in Action tragedy be considered tax-free. To replace the pitiful low Lump Sum award with the same life-time standard of security that previous generations of veterans enjoyed. We seek to expand the Agent Orange settlement to provide support for all veterans exposed to cancerous chemical defoliant, not just those who were in Gagetown during the limited 1-year time frame. We seek to improve VAC PTSD resources to include comprehensive, family inclusive treatment and counseling options on a 24/7, nation-wide basis when necessary. We seek justice for the 6,300 peacekeeping veterans who have been disabled as a consequence of duty, awarded Veterans of Affairs Canada pensions for PAIN and SUFFERING only to discover it is unjustly offset by the SISIP WAGE LOSS LTD insurance policy.
Canadians have been quick to rally to our troops defense these past seven years and regardless of how one feels about Canada’s participation in the Afghanistan war, we have universally united behind our troops and their families when tragedy has struck. Red Fridays, the solemn support for the fallen along the Highway of Heroes, the outpouring of sincere support during far too many funeral services in villages, towns and cities from Newfoundland to British Columbia.
These are expressions of deep patriotism. Yet sometimes, the patriot’s call demands more of Canadians, not only on behalf of the nation’s veterans, but as a nation proud to support the valiant during this time of war. Canada’s Sons and daughters are bound by long standing protocols: while they may attend these rallies, they are not permitted to wear their uniforms, carry signs or publicly express their support. They cannot speak to the inadequate policies that they and the families will confront should the unthinkable occur.
Who speaks for those who cannot speak? When those who have been chosen to speak, the Veterans Ombudsman, the Royal Canadian legion, words fall on deaf ears.
On Nov 6th, Canadians will.
Support rallies are being held in St John’s, Newfoundland, Halifax, Nova Scotia and in Ontario, London and Parliament Hill, Ottawa. Smaller, yet no less significant events are taking place at MPs offices from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island. Canada’s veterans community, by definition, is not very large. We need the support of all Canadians if we are to be successful. If you cannot attend or should there not be an organized event in your MP’s riding, please drop by his/her office between now and Remembrance Day. Email him or give the office a friendly telephone call. It will only take a moment of your time to respectfully ask your parliamentarian to work on your behalf to address the honourable issues the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest has been created to address.
You can make a difference. You can be a soldier’s voice.
God bless our troops, Canada’s veterans and their families.
God bless Canada.
Michael L Blais CD
National Organizer, Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest, 6 Nov, 2010.