On assignment to Rwanda in 1994, I saw what “undermanned and under-equipped” meant. Canada often transported its troops in contracted Russian Antonov 124 cargo freighters with bald tires and faulty air pressure. On one flight out of Trenton, the plane had to land in Montreal because the troops on board had fallen unconscious. The air pressure had quit working. While landing in Djibouti, Africa, a tire blew on landing. I said then if the Minister of Defence had travelled with me for those nine days, he might have a different outlook, but that was asking too much because he didn’t even sit in meetings with his chiefs of staff. That’s 17 years ago and such conditions have changed. Peter McKay has been a very involved Minister of Defence. But, veterans are treated worse than they have ever been treated. That’s a big, current problem. And Ken talks about the repercussions of Ottawa‘s callous treatment of the military for all Canadians. BONNIE
When it comes to the military in Canada, your choices are quickly running out.
For decades, Canada enjoyed the world’s envy of its long established, exceptionally trained, completely dedicated and wholly volunteer Military. Despite those politicians who would rather be known for “battles won” than “wars prevented” and often, in my opinion, in spite of inept as well as toothless responses from the United Nations headquarters to crisis interventions such as found in Rwanda, the Canadian Military were extremely proud of their Peacekeeping missions and the many lives it saved. Men and women were proud, ready, willing and able as well as very often enthusiastic to join what was a way of life, rather than a job.
But years ago, starting somewhere in the 50s or 60s, it became politically expedient and therefore advantageous to save money on the backs of both our Military and our Veterans. Veterans who used to be all treated the same were suddenly slotted into different categories depending on eligibilities and access to Veterans Affairs pensions and programs.
In effect, Canada created a Veterans Class System. Now there were conditions if you were hurt or killed serving your country. You better be in the right location, doing specific things, and on given days or Ottawa’s responsibility to the Military either vanished or, in the best case scenario for a soldier, awarded a severely reduced liability. Ottawa dipped into the Military’s pension funds (to the tune of some say 30 billion dollars) and used it to reduce Canada’s deficit. Basically, Ottawa wanted to spend more in order to please the people and get elected, so it was decided that soldiers and RCMP pension funds would be drained to foot the bill.
Then along came the New Veterans Charter, which virtually eliminates any Veteran’s lifelong disability pension at 10% of the cost. Military personnel sent into harm’s way today have to pay their own disability insurance premiums, and now we are also told that disabled and injured veterans have to wait until a non-Medical and non-Military panel of bureaucrats in Veterans Affairs Canada decide what kind, how many, how often and even if they are entitled to medical treatment.
To be honest, the Canadian military has often suffered because of penny-pinching equipment purchases. They have often had to use out-dated second- or even third-class transportation, have never had the best of accommodations when in the field and, because of fiscal restraints, been forced to work undermanned and under-supported.
But the total destruction of their morale due to the treatment, or lack thereof, given fellow military–especially when it comes to medical attention–is going too far.
With the lack of enrolment into the forces, which I contend is due to the mistreatment of veterans, it would not surprise me if Canada soon reverts to a Draft Military. We are no longer Peacekeepers under the present government but rather combat forces, and if Ottawa continues to insist on going to war, it will need your sons and daughters to die for Canada.
Canadians, you either need to become willing to pay properly for your Military and the disabled Veterans that it creates in a way which makes young Canadians willing to Volunteer to fight your battles for you or you will end up paying with your unwilling sons and daughters. Either way Ottawa will continue to send Canada’s military into harm’s way, and they will take whatever they need to do so.
Agent Orange Association of Canada