I have submitted the following to local Durham Region newspapers and to our three candidates in the upcoming election. BONNIE
As one of your potential voters, I submit the following for your response:
In unprecedented action, Canada’s veterans are rallying each other to bring their issues to the forefront of the election in May.
When people think of veterans, they picture the old vets they see on Remembrance Day, but today Canada is introduced to newer generations of soldiers who have served as peacekeepers and in combat missions like Afghanistan. Often the best of them have been rotated into the same actions repeatedly, from Cyprus and Bosnia to Canada’s longest war engagement of nine years in Afghanistan. These vets know full well what their service to their country has cost them, but the Canadian people have showed little concern until losses began to climb in Afghanistan. Then, to honour those fallen in battle, the people created the Highway of Heroes to salute fallen heroes repatriated home.
As more bodies have returned home, more and more people have lined the highway and bridges to honour these brave soldiers, especially the people of Durham Region. Countless times they have stood waiting in bitter cold and wind for the hearse and convoy of cars to pass their bridge. Once more, Durham citizens gather today on the bridges of Highway 401 to honour another son of Canada killed in Afghanistan on Sunday.
Canadians’ recognition of its military’s sacrifice gladdened the hearts of those veteran peacekeepers who endured through years of public apathy. No one was interested in what they accomplished or what they sacrificed to complete a successful mission. Now, at last, they feel their service is as honoured as those passing down the Highway of Heroes.
But, Ottawa’s new enthusiasm for its military masked callous treatment of the wounded returning home – these are the heroes the public doesn’t see. As good soldiers, the government never expected vets would break their code of silence to protest.
Traditional Royal Canadian Legion members refused to join veterans across Canada on Saturday, November 6, 2010 at the offices of their ridings’ member of parliament in an effort to bring public attention to the unjust and often arbitrary treatment of returning soldiers and vets. The one organization these vets expected to support them was the Royal Canadian Legion, but then it came to light that today’s Legion is no longer a group of actual ex-service people. As old vets died, the Legion filled their ranks with associated social members and became an organization of members who have not experienced the world at war.
It is the Legion’s Top Command who endorsed the government’s New Veterans Charter in 2006 without proper due diligence. Veterans with real military experience, many disabled in the horrors of modern warfare, never had a chance to participate in decisions made on their behalf.
On November 6, 2010, veterans gathered across Canada to introduce a dialogue with their MPs and the public to promote awareness of the government’s failure to provide a standard of care and maintenance of well-being for Canada’s veterans and those who support its Armed Forces.
Their proclamation stated:
“We seek to implement changes to the New Veterans Charter to reflect the honourable service of Canada’s sons and daughters and to ensure that there is only one standard of soldier, one standard of treatment, one standard of financial compensation that is a lifetime award for pain and suffering!
“Through dialogue and, if necessary, protest, it is our objective to end the widows tax that imposes undue hardship on the survivors. To end the lump sum payment our new veterans face and ensure our wounded warriors are provided security through lifetime pensions commensurate with the injuries they have sustained in war and in peace. It is our goal to end the SISIP claw back on ALL VAC pensions. Let us demand that our Agent Orange victims be treated fairly – indeed, that all veterans receive compassionate care not dictated by stinginess on behalf of the federal government.
“Stand with us. These men and women, our veterans, have put their lives on the line for you. The least YOU can do is spare an hour of your time to support them.”
Following this protest, more veterans came forward with incredible proof of their unfair and inadequate treatment at the hands of a government who, to all intent and purpose, treated them as throwaways. At the time, their own ombudsman, Col. Pat Stogran (ret), observed the government preferred its soldiers come back dead.
Since their protest rally in 2010, veterans have fought singularly and as a group for improved treatment. The result is the passage of Bill C-55 in the Senate March 24, 2011. The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of State (Agriculture) has dubbed it the Enhanced New Veterans Charter Act.
On the face of it, C-55 goes a long way to address veterans’ concerns, but no one should suppose it solves all their needs. The legislation still has to go through a number of regulatory steps before coming into force. This will take another five or six months. As well, vets who have analyzed C-55 say the only real solution is to rewrite the New Veterans Charter, in which many measures in the old Pension Act need to be reinstated in the NVC. Consequently, veterans are not disbanding and fading away until all their issues are addressed and solved.
And so, across Canada, veterans are going to send political candidates these questions. Before they vote, they want to know where each candidate stands on veterans’ issues and they want their candidates’ answers in writing:
1. What is your position on – the Enhanced New Veterans Charter, Bill C-55?
2. What is your position on – stopping the lump-sum payments and reverting back to the Pension for Life for veterans’ disabilities?
3. What is your position on – the SISIP claw-back?
4. What is your position on – Veterans losing their disability pensions on reaching age 65?
5. What is your position on – 54 Bureaucrats being rewarded with a three-day paid vacation and promotions, after invading Veterans private medical and military files?
6. What is your position on – the hiring of more veterans for both VAC and the VRAB including executive positions?
7. What is your position on – The CFB Gagetown toxic chemical defoliation program and its victims?
8. Would you support a public inquiry into the use of Toxic chemicals in CFB Gagetown?
9. What is your position on – The hiring of more medically trained people (possibly ex-military medical staff) to sit in the VRAB?
10. What would you suggest can be done for homeless veterans across Canada?
11. How would you correct the need for veterans and even families of current serving members forced to use food banks in Canada?
12. What is your position on – the CFB Gagetown toxic chemical defoliation program and its victims?
13. Do you believe that a disability pension should be tax-free?
14. Do you believe that when a soldier is injured to a point of being 100% disabled that it is the correct thing to cut his salary to 75% when, in most cases, they will never be in a position of being employed again?
A “Veteran” – whether active duty, discharged, retired, or reserve – is someone who, at one time, wrote a blank check made payable to Canada, for an amount “up to and including” his or her own life. In exchange, they expect their country to look after them and their families. Canada has failed them, so it is fitting that our vets be the first to fight for their own ONE STANDARD OF TREATMENT for all.
In this election all candidates and the public must get behind their vets. This is the most important tribute we can give our returning vets for the sacrifices they’ve made on behalf of our country.
Thank you for taking time to pay attention to our vets’ needs and I hope you will respond to the questions they pose to each candidate.
Sincerely,Bonnie Toews Email: email@example.com