There has been no shortage of excuses and red herrings from government to avoid making substantive improvements in the lives of Canada’s veterans and their families. This inaction has catalyzed veterans’ communities to forge a near unanimous game plan. Government has merely chosen to play another sport.
Once upon a time, government had an easy game going. It could count on the deep rivalry between veterans’ organizations to divide and conquer. Groups were quite willing to side with government against other organizations as each lobbied for their special interests behind closed doors. In the end, government was free to do little in pushing through a 50-year agenda which essentially abandoned Canadian Forces (CF) veterans and their families.
Unsightly infighting was greatly aggravated by dozens of policies and programs which each created multiple classes and subclasses of veterans. The veterans ombudsman has identified 15 categories of veterans in the long-term care program alone. The much-revered military comradeship often drove veterans of one military campaign to disparage those from other campaigns. In this hostile environment, CF veterans remained further relegated to a policy backseat.
The passage of the New Veterans Charter (NVC) in 2005 promised to change this. Government explicitly guaranteed that the legislation was a “living charter” with regular reviews and improvements to follow.… Read the rest
Posted by Sean Bruyea on March 3, 2014
Military veteran Alfie Burt recently questioned Minister Julian Fantino’s insistence on closing nine Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) offices, “What the frig is wrong with that guy?”
To be fair, the same question can easily be asked of various Ministers and the most senior VAC bureaucrats over the past eight years. However, closure of VAC offices has become another incendiary device condescendingly tossed into the national outrage as to how Canada’s veterans are mistreated by government.
At issue is Ottawa’s effort to balance the books irrespective of veteran outcry. Problematically, Veterans Affairs, unlike most other federal departments did not have a significant hiring surge when the Conservatives took power in 2006. In fact, VAC has not only experienced one of the largest employment cuts of any department but the assault on its frontline employees began in 2011, a year before the government-wide downsizing.
At its peak in 2009, VAC was authorized a mere 7% increase in employees from 2006 levels. Since that time, employee positions have been consistently cut. Today, the department has almost 10% less positions (3,370) than when Mr. Harper became Prime Minister. When the axe stops swinging in 2016, VAC will have lost more than a quarter of its work force or 1000 positions since the Conservatives took power, not including 800 further positions to be lost when Ste.… Read the rest
Posted by Sean Bruyea on February 6, 2014
The recent spate of suicides by serving and retired Canadian Armed Forces members is indescribably tragic. If we truly wish to live up to our claims as a civilized and compassionate nation, then we have the highest moral obligation to ask tough questions and risk being profoundly changed by the answers.
First, we must remember and honour the most recent four victims of apparent suicide: Master Bombardier Travis Halmrast, Corporal William Elliot, Master Warrant Officer Michael McNeil and Corporal Sylvain Lelièvre. They are casualties of combat and military service. We can only imagine but we must understand the degree of darkness they endured to make such a difficult decision. The official government understanding is less than helpful.
The DND hierarchy after each suicide marches out the platitudes and rhetoric. DND claims Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel have a lower suicide rate than the civilian population or that of the U.S. military. Such cold comfort allows the largest of Canada’s federal departments to sit on its hands, avoiding the deep critical thinking needed to make important changes. In fact, such statistical claims have often been massaged to show a seemingly benign picture of death. For five-year periods, the CF average has been steady at about 19 suicides per 100,000 soldiers, same or slightly more than the civilian population rate of 18 per 100,000 for males (the military is still overwhelmingly male) and approximately 20 per 100,000 for the American military.… Read the rest
Posted by Sean Bruyea on December 12, 2013