Canadian Legion Betrays the Voice of Veterans


Now I can apologize for my question yesterday. It was biased and incorrect. 

It’s not that there are demented old vets running the Canadian Legion. It’s that the organization has become nothing more than a social club filled with NON-VETS, who don’t have a clue about what a vet experiences or what a vet stands for. How could this once proud group of Canada’s heroes/heroines fall so far from grace?
 
At the end of the WW II, there were millions of new Canadian veterans, but over the years, these numbers dwindled as the role of the military became less important and secondary to Canadian political strategies. First, the Government downsized in a move to merge traditional military divisions. The Army, Navy and Air Force became one under the Canadian Armed Forces. Personnel morale plummeted. So did the pride of Canadians in their military. The first one-for-all uniforms were a joke. The proud achievements of Canadian peacekeepers went unheralded by the public. Even media attention faded because military stories weren’t sexy enough to hold readers.
 
I was introduced to the disservice of our soldiers in 1994 on a magazine assignment that took me to Rwanda, just after the genocide. I experienced government neglect of our troops and challenged the then Minister of Defence David Collenette to board a cargo plane and follow the relief supply lines as I had for nine days. I guaranteed he would never look at life the same way again. As it was, he rarely showed up for meetings with the DND let alone became interested in the people serving and protecting our country. He took them for granted as most Canadians did, and to a large degree still do.
 
Today we are lucky to have 60 to 70 thousand in the military, and they are maxed out in committed combat missions and peacekeeping or disaster relief assignments worldwide.
 
In the intervening years, as the number of veterans dropped, branches of the Canadian Legion lost members. Yet, even then, it never occurred to me to join the Canadian Legion because I never felt my status of Navy Reserve entitled me to that privilege. I did not see myself as a true vet.
 
I was unaware that, to keep from closing its doors and to meet its quota of voting members, the Canadian Legion changed its requirements and offered associate memberships to anyone related to or involved with a vet, including children and grandchildren of vets. As the WWI, WWII and Korean vets died off, the membership grew with people who have never suffered the rigors of basic training, never been in combat, and never confronted with the inhumanity of tyrants and butchers in foreign lands. This drastically changed the make-up of the Canadian Legion.
 
At this point, I believe the Canadian Legion CEASED to be the VOICE OF VETERANS. But the general public did not know that. Our service members did not know that. They assumed the Canadian Legion represented them as it had historically.
 
The government, however, did know the dynamics of the new Canadian Legion.  After all, it encouraged the subtle shift. To keep its stature as a privileged social club, the government provided the Canadian Legion with many perks at government expense, and when Veterans Affairs approached the Canadian Legion to endorse the New Veterans Charter, it counted on those investments to back them up. The ploy worked. The Canadian Legion did what served them best and did not look out for our veterans’ needs. Indeed, it is questionable if any who signed off the NVC have even been on a military base or visited the wounded returning from Afghanistan. They committed to a conspiracy of silence that forced veterans to suffer: unheard, unrepresented and unprecedented.
 
Until now.  The vets’ vow of silence is broken. It is broken because, over the years, our governments have treated the military as convenient lab rats. They have not protected them from all kinds of atrocities, from exposure to Agent Orange, depleted uranium in weapons used, toxic anti-malaria drug, to name only a few. As a result, military personnel who have served in good faith have suffered an array of terrible diseases and cancers, not to mention the worst combat wounds and spirit-breaking traumas ever treated as a result of modern weapons technology and collateral-damage tactics on innocent civilians caught between warring sides.
 
Our veterans have been betrayed. By their own government and by the Canadian Legion. How our original Legion vets would rise from their graves to defend them, if they could!
 
Since they can’t, our vets are defending themselves against a system bent on taking advantage of them. They have coalesced to form the Canadian Veterans Advocacy.
 
David meet Goliath. You know who won that war.

 

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About Bonnie Toews and John Christiansen

Bonnie's Blog Posts invite our readers and free spirits everywhere to share life's adventures with us. I talk about writing my novels, reading books, chatting with other writers and John's and my journeys around the world. We welcome your anecdotes to our experiences and discussions.
This entry was posted in Afghanistan vets, Canadian Armed Forces, emotional trauma, federal government, Homecoming Vets, physical disability, post traumatic stress disorder, veterans' affairs, veterans' assistance programs and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Canadian Legion Betrays the Voice of Veterans

  1. I agree the Legions have some problems; the reason they have let in associate members is just to stay open and unfortunately the reason for which they were originally created has been forgotten by some. But they continue to do some good work; organizing poppy fund, holding special events for vets on occasion. The Legion at the Mohawk reserve is really wonderful the way they honor the veterans. At my local Legion, veterans and young and old soldiers often drop in and some are regular members and contribute a lot. I think any positive suggestions would be welcome if directed to the executives who are struggling to keep up with expenses.

  2. K.D. Kuzyk says:

    Year ago I joined the Legion when I was a young armoured trooper in Gagetown NB. Back then I enjoyed going to the Legion and I kept up my membership dues for a number of years, until I noticed that the Legion was being invaded by non-service related people. It came to the point where I did not renew my dues and stopped attending, and now I only go once a year on November 11th. I did not realize what kind of power the Legion has had over veterans with the government. It seems like they have really thrown us to the wolves in regards to the New Veterans Charter.

  3. Bonnie Toews says:

    Elizabeth and KD,

    Thanks for your comments. I do agree that people in individual branches have faithfully supported veterans over the years and their good works need to be acknowledged. As always, they are not the ones who have created the problem. However, I will continue to argue that the Canadian Legion helped create the problems in the New Veterans Charter thus they have a responsibility to join forces with the Canadian Veterans Advocacy to fix it.

    2006 is the dividing line, when the NVC was introduced. Vets before that date are compensated differently than those afterwards. Those vets affected from 2006 on are the ones suffering the most. How long do they wait to have their problems addressed and fixed?

  4. James Green CD says:

    i can remember after wwII when we all came home the Legion was the place
    to be. now as you say those don’t know which end the bullet come out of a gun
    have let us down. thank you for your support I belong to the CVA hope we
    are successful in getting our government and legion to realize the serverity of
    damage done by them.

    jim WW2 vet and post WW2 service

  5. Bonnie Toews says:

    Thanks for commenting, Jim, and I’m thankful you didn’t take my remark about “demented old vets” personally. It got attention but not the right attention, I’m sorry to say. Thank you for standing by our newer generation of vets as I have believed all true vets do. One homeless vet is one too many. One suicide, by a serving member or vet, is one too many, and those stats are unfortunately climbing as we write. BONNIE

  6. Lance Usher says:

    Unfortunately now a non-vet supporting organization. Where were they on the NVDOP? Too many associates and no appreciation for what Veterans did. They are (due to their lack of support of Veterans) now a redundant orgnaization. We need something new.

  7. You are absolutely correct in your assertions about the public: we don’t know. Some veterans feel that this is because the public doesn’t care and, to a certain extent, that is correct. Not that the public is uncaring or uninterested, but that all people are primarily interested in the things which directly affect them.

    Then, there is the issue of silence. As I discovered when I waded into this fray, the most concerned people are barred from comment. RCMP members can lose their jobs and pensions for criticizing their benefits. VAC staff can also lose their jobs and their pensions for pointing out problems in the system. CF members can be discharged and face jail time for speaking out. And, as you pointed out, the Legion – the veterans organization with the biggest profile – tried to silence its members. Which raises the point that people cannot be expected to know that which they cannot hear.

    The other part of public ignorance is trust. As Forces personnel and RCMP members have trusted that they will be provided for, the Canadian public has also trusted the same. We expected that our government would look after our veterans; we never considered that this would be a debateable issue. We are incrediluous that this has happened and we are not quite sure what to do about it.

    But one thing is certain and has become extremely evident over the recent months: we, as Canadians, DO find the situation intolerable. We ARE outraged. And we WILL fix the problem. It takes a lot of effort to wake a sleeping giant, but the snoring has ceased, the eyes are open, and we smell coffee.

    (For reference, please consider this conversation. Joining me are two members of the Left, one in Ontario active with several causes, the other a member of the Punk scene, anti-violence/war/aggession and an animal rights keener. If those furthest removed from the military community can be just as outraged as those in it, then you know that you are not alone and we do care.
    http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/rosemartland/posts/148890768504722?notif_t=share_comment )

  8. Bonnie Toews says:

    Oh, Jeff, thank you for responding. This is what we SO need to hear. Together we can make a difference and we will. These things are all election issues as well because our government has been failing us, “we the people.”

    Marching in faith,

    Bonnie

  9. There is an answer to the legions problems. Join up and make them responsible . If you are a veteran and want to change them then do it.

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