Why Canada needs to pry open the doors of the legion’s headquarters

Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

Sean Bruyea

The national leadership of the Royal Canadian Legion faces a crisis in confidence with its membership along with Canada’s veterans. All Canadians should be concerned with this, given the legion’s responsibility for the poppy symbol and the millions donated as a result.

The legion once actively and assertively advocated for the rights of veterans and their families. The community work performed by many local branches is highly commendable. Provincial Commands, without consideration of personal reward or enrichment, have frequently launched innovations to assist veterans such as homeless-shelter programs.

In contrast, paid senior leadership at national headquarters, known as Dominion Command and located in a suburb of Ottawa, is at risk of being perceived as out of touch with not just veterans but legion membership. Much of the blame for plummeting membership can be placed directly on the leadership’s shoulders.

Why should veterans care about how the legion manages its affairs? After all, of the legion’s about 254,000 paid members on June 1, 62,000 are listed as “ordinary” members. This category includes those who served in Canada’s military but also retired and serving members of the RCMP, civilian police forces, armed forces of all 28 NATO nations, as well as the Canadian Coast Guard.… Read the rest

Dangerous Déjà Vu for Veterans: Send the Omnibus Plate Back to the Chef

Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole

Veterans Affairs Minister Erin O’Toole (Hill Times photo)

 

Sean Bruyea

In a bizarre and never-ending déjà vu, government is ramming through Parliament the fourth piece of veterans’ legislation in a decade. It is plainly bad legislation swallowed inside yet another budget omnibus bill.

The proposed veterans’ programs are joined by a torrent of feel-good political announcements. Does the hype match reality? Do the programs fill the identified gaps and address the evidence-based recommendations?

No and no. The proposed veterans’ legislation should be sent back to the kitchen until what was ordered by veterans is finally served after 10 years of painful hunger.

Retirement Income Security Benefit

A new Retirement Income Security Benefit claims it will top up to 70% of what the veteran received from government prior to age 65. However this is based upon the veteran’s income loss benefit which already reduces military salary to 75%. This income loss benefit is inadequately adjusted for inflation to a maximum of 2% since military release from 1953 onwards. In the past twenty years, inflation has been above 2% nine of those years. Seventeen of the previous 20 years were above 2%.
For example, veterans released in 1996 have had their earnings loss benefit increased by approximately 30% while military salaries have increased 80%.… Read the rest

Fantino: Not tough enough for Veterans Affairs

Sean Bruyea

Minister Julian Fantino is the flypaper to which incompetent management and controversy persistently buzz around and stick. It is not clear why Harper keeps appointing this individual to various cabinet positions. What is abundantly clear: Julian Fantino is not capable of effectively managing the quagmire at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).

When he was appointed Minister, there were ambivalent reactions from the veterans’ community. Some mistakenly believed that an MP who wore a uniform in four different police departments would somehow understand living with lifelong injuries due to military service. Others knew of his career record in failing upwards. His tenure at VAC has highlighted a professional repertoire of disturbing tactics.

In 2004, media noted his “chilling legacy” as Toronto’s police chief during which “Julian Fantino’s arrogance and aggression unravelled [the] city’s social weave.” His “thin-skinned” and “vindictive” nature back then erupted ten years later to national attention. While cameras rolled, Fantino contemptuously brushed off frail, ageing and desperate veterans who waited almost two hours for the Minister on a cold January day. By means of an insincere apology, Fantino accused the veterans of being “union dupes.” Fleeing on camera from the wife of a disabled veteran four months later only confirmed his disdain for dialogue with those in need.… Read the rest