Band-aid solutions to Veterans needs are not the answer. Here Mike responds to Bill C-55, the one Veterans Affairs Canada Minister Blackburn has been bragging about to our national press. BONNIE
by Michael L. Blais CD
Canada’s 1st Veterans Ombudsman, Colonel Patrick Stogran, ominous parting words rang true not once but twice this week as the Harper Government scrambled to remove contentious veterans issues from the public gaze prior to a potential election. First, justice, or lack thereof, for Veteran Sean Bruyea (and others) who’s privacy rights were violated thousands of times. Minister Blackburn’s theatrical chagrin at the time of disclosure was noteworthy, inclusive of a formal apology, a substantial out-of-court settlement, promises of an investigation and grave sanctions to those deemed guilty. Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart’s investigation added further discord when she confirmed violations of the Privacy Act occurred on multiple levels.
Would Tough on Crime justice be served? Fifty-four sacrificial lambs were awarded three-day suspensions or letters of reprimand, demonstratively feckless when one considers the suspensions did not include loss of pay. (Translation-3 day vacation!).
No one responsible for breaching a variety of federal laws was criminally processed, relieved of their responsibilities or sanctioned financially. Does a five-day weekend and an Above-the-Law token conform to the supposed tough on crime party’s mantra or does it merely expose the truth, that on the veterans issue, the Harper Government’s promises are as shallow as…?
Next on the agenda… Bill-C-55.
The forty-thousand dollar annual threshold (PRE-TAX) for the wounded would be the cornerstone of Bill-C55, an essential requirement the Government subsequently used as a PR ploy to cultivate public approval for the inept legislation for months and ensure compliance from the opposition. Sadly, this forty-thousand dollar provision did not require legislation for implementation, only a regulatory change. Furthermore, this money could have been provided to these disabled veterans months, perhaps years ago, sparing a great fiscal hardship and greatly improving the quality of their lives.
Considering the severity of the economic conditions of the disabled veterans affected, one can only wonder why the Canadian government did not act when the problem was identified instead of delaying for so long? Is the Canadian Government keeping veterans living in poverty merely to exploit this misfortune as a mechanism to push through a bill that does not address the primary issues, such as the Lump Sum Award, widows pensions, the hundreds, perhaps thousands of veterans ignored through the grotesquely restrictive Agent Orange settlement?
Of course, there are other serious flaws to Minister Blackburn’s legislation. The ELB, for example, is ONLY required due to the restrictive post-release reporting period inherent with the Manulife SISIP LTD program and fact that many veterans were virtually abandoned by SISIP and VAC when their symptoms manifested AFTER this time passed. The Canadian Veterans Advocacy supports the premise of the initiative however we would identify two profound deficiencies. First, the award is taxed and repeated claims used in context of the fifty-eight thousand threshold for the seriously disabled is misleading. Secondly, the ELB ceases at age 65.
One of the principles abandoned by the New Veterans Charter was the moral recognition that our disabled veterans will require lifetime commitments and an understanding that catastrophic disabilities do not magically heal, blasted off appendages do not regenerate or the pain and suffering our veterans experience for life magically disappears at the age of 65. We believe that the ELB can only be effective if it is accorded Tax-Free status and modified to reflect the lifetime responsibility the Canadian government abandoned in 2006. If not, how will these seriously disabled veterans and their families survive financially when the government withdraws the foundation of financial assistance package Bill C-55 was created to provide?
The failure to address the Lump Sum Award was also reflective of the severe disconnect the Canadian Government has for the real needs of our veterans. Major Mark Campbell, a double amputee, courageously spoke out against the Lump Sum Award last week and defined great injustice our government has inflicted upon Canada’s most vulnerable citizens, those who have been relegated to second class status through the enactment of the New Veterans Charter in 2006. I would note Major Campbell did not have the opportunity to avail himself of the Harper Government’s financial councilors or save his Lump Sum Award because by the time Major Campbell personally paid to have his vehicle adapted and transformed his home to conform to his mobility restrictions, there was no money left to invest!!!!
The question is, of course, why did Major Campbell have to pay for these modifications?
The Canadians Veterans Advocacy is found on the principle of One Veteran, One Standard, a banner that while relevant to several contradictory issues veterans are confronting today, is highlighted primarily by our stand on the Lump Sum Award and the duty that, the veterans of Canada, have to those to whom we have passed the torch. The Canadian Veterans Advocacy believes that there is only one standard that is applicable to Canada’s sons and daughters who have born the horror of war, a standard earned in blood and great sacrifice by generations of veterans who have tread in Harm’s Way on Canada’s behalf at Vimy Ridge, Paeschendale, Dieppe, Ortona, Juno Beach, Kapyong, Hill 187…
I have seen, spoken with the wounded and shared the grief of the widows and families of the fallen. These brave men and women and their families suffer the consequences of war just as those who did serve prior to 2006. They deserve the same standard of recognition, dignity and financial security as those who served prior to 2006.
One Veteran, One Standard!Michael L Blais CD Founder, Canadian Veterans Advocacy 6618 Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ontario, L2E 7K6, Canada Phone: 905-357-3306 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org