Better conditions sought for soldiers killed, injured in Afghanistan
Local News from “The Falls Review,” Niagara Falls
By TONY RICCIUTO , REVIEW STAFF WRITER
Canadian veterans have waited long enough for the federal government to address their concerns, so now their supporters plan to take action by holding the Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest.
The event, organized by Mike Blais of Niagara Falls, will take place on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Saturday in support of soldiers killed or wounded serving their country.
Support rallies are also being held in St. John’s, Nfld., Halifax, N.S., London, Ont., and at local MPs offices from Newfoundland and Labrador to Vancouver Island.
“Our troops can’t speak for themselves so we will speak for them,” said Blais, a peacekeeping veteran of The Royal Canadian Regiment.
Since Canada’s veterans community is not large, they need the support of all Canadians if they are to be successful.
Many veterans feel betrayed because their voice is not being heard. “We’ve sat patiently for three years now,” said Blais, adding that Canada’s Veterans Ombudsman, Colonel Pat Stogran, has tried to address some of the concerns and the Royal Canadian Legion has gone before the parliamentary committee with 13 important changes, but the government has refused to act.
“For me personally, it’s a matter of honour because my regiment is in Afghanistan right now. Some of these guys are coming back with double amputations, and they are being subjected to this lump sum payment, which is just ridiculous.”
Blais said it should be a lifetime pension, the same standard that was applied to veterans from the Second World War or Korea. “It just makes me angry that nothing is being done. I just felt I had to do something,” said Blais, who mentioned it to some friends and then decided to organize the protest.
“If you can’t attend, we have other smaller rallies happening at MPs offices around the country. Give (MP Rob) Nicholson a call or send him an email because that’s the only way things will change,” Blais said. “We’re just asking as veterans in this riding that our federal member of parliament address these issues on our behalf.”
Some of the issues veterans want dealt with include improving the quality of lives for the widows and families of those who have died by making their pensions from a soldier killed in action tax-free. They want to replace the low lump-sum award with the same lifetime standard of security previous generations of veterans have enjoyed, and also to expand the Agent Orange settlement to provide support for all veterans exposed to cancerous defoliant, not just those who were at Gagetown during the limited one-year time frame.