In a Town Hall recently in Edmonton, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau angered many in the Veteran community when he responded that the Canadian government is still fighting ‘certain Veterans groups’ in court because “they are asking for more than we are able to give right now.”
These sorts of words are extremely insensitive to Canada’s Veterans and reinforce a message that the government does not have an obligation to take care of Canada’s ill and injured Veterans - and that Canada cannot afford it. Why then, do we continue to send our forces into harm’s way if we are not willing to - or cannot - help them adequately upon return? This is inexcusable.
In the Town Hall, the Prime Minister said the revised New Veterans Charter – or Pension for Life plan - goes beyond what was offered in the Pension Act, and offers services, rehabilitation and supports to improve quality of life for the Veteran and their families and caregivers. He also clarified that the government “cannot return to the amount of money that was given before (through the Pension Act) without accounting for the money invested (in the New Veterans Charter) in services for Veterans.”
The government’s plan for a tax-free pain and suffering award for Veterans is promising, but based on the limited details of the plan released to date, the Royal Canadian Legion strongly believes there are still areas for improvement. The plan must include definitive financial support, along with compensation in the form of services and benefits – which together would equal what was offered in the original Pension Act. In addition, the most seriously ill and injured Veterans who cannot generate a comparable income, must receive lifelong financial security.
The Royal Canadian Legion is hearing from Veterans who want and need better communication and direction in terms of what the future actually holds for them under this new plan. The Legion has long advocated for care, benefits and lifelong financial security for ill and injured Veterans. It is well past time for this government to be very clear with all Canadians about its plans to meet our Veterans' needs, permanently.
While there have been and always will be financial considerations, we firmly believe that meeting our Veterans’ needs is fundamental to our foundation and freedom. When asked to risk their lives and futures, our Veterans do so without hesitation. In return for their sacrifices, we must support them without hesitation and not use money as the main excuse for gaps in their care and benefits.
We reiterate that the whole of government must, without reserve, reaffirm its social contract and honour its obligation to provide for the men and women who are injured in the service of Canada.