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On Remembrance Day…

     It has been just over a year since my son returned home from the War in Afghanistan.  He walked through those gates and into the arms of his fiance and met his son, just 6 days old, for the first time.  I am so unspeakably thankful that he came home whole, physically and emotionally. Too many didn’t.
     I have attended many remembrance day ceremonies in my time.  As a reservist, as a wife, as a mother.  It is always a highly emotional experience for me.  I feel like I have had alot of time to reflect on the people and the circumstances involved in remembering war and it’s victims.
     To set the record straight, I am not a veteran.  I served for 5 or so years as a naval reservist in peacetime.  I cooked.  I drilled.  I took courses in Damage Control, First Aid, NBCD, I went on class B service and cooked with the reg force for 3 of those years.  Married a cook.  Got posted a couple of times.  Had a baby, all the while working as a DND civilian in the various kitchens.  My (then)husband went to Bosnia as a peacekeeper.  Between the pre deployment training, the deployment and the debriefing period, we spent about a year apart.  He came home a stranger and it eventually ended our marriage.  He is not a veteran either.
     And then there were the Remembrance Day ceremonies when my son was a cadet, and then a reservist, where he first volunteered for the 2010 Olympics and then to Afghanistan…
     I’m not going to attend services tomorrow.
     This past week veterans and their widows have been protesting on Parliament Hill.  Protesting the treatment they have been inflicted with from Stephen Harper and Veteran’s Affairs.  Harper spent somewhere around $28 million this year promoting a war fought between the British and Americans 200 years ago.  He must have taken it out of the budget for looking after current veterans and burying the ones who most recently lost their lives in service to the questionable mandate in the middle east.
The Toronto Star published an article today quoting Harper as saying,

“This government has made enormous — billions of dollars — new investments in programs, particularly for the most needy veterans,” he said.

Yet the Conservative government, which has often boasted of its investments in the Canadian military, this week faced sharp criticism that it was stiffing Canada’s most vulnerable veterans — those who couldn’t pay their own funeral costs.

At the heart of the debate is the Last Post Fund, a non-profit organization that offers financial benefits for funeral expenses for eligible vets. However the funding has been capped at $3,600 since 2001, despite rising costs that have pushed typical funeral prices to more than twice that amount…”


“Obviously, those programs are under constant review and we will continue to assess their suitability going forward,” said Harper, who will mark Remembrance Day in Hong Kong on Sunday.

In French, he added that those reviews would deem whether the program is “appropriate for today’s needs.”

However, advocates say the needs are already well-known. They want the cap raised to $5,000 for each funeral, an increase that would cost an additional $5 million a year. The program now costs $10.2 million a year to administer.

The controversy comes as Ottawa is already under fire for its treatment of modern-day injured veterans. Despite an overhaul of the benefits package, the government has faced continuing criticism that ill and injured veterans are being shortchanged. Indeed, the government has been forced to make a series of successive patchwork fixes to correct shortfalls in the benefits program.

Still, the federal government is facing a class-action lawsuit from injured veterans, including those wounded in Afghanistan, charging that their benefits are inadequate.”

Harper is actually spending millions of taxpayer dollars dragging our veterans through court to get the justice we Canadians expect for them.  He spends more on advertising than he would need to treat the veterans he is creating with the dignity Canada expects to be afforded to those who make such a sacrifice.  Today, the CBC reported that the Minister of Veterans Affairs was defending his decision to cancel the investigation by the Veterans Ombudsman into the breach of privacy of an outspoken Gulf War Vet.

Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney is defending his decision to halt an  investigation by Canada’s veterans ombudsman into a controversial breach of  privacy, saying that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner was best suited to  handle the matter.

Blaney asked Guy Parent, the federal veterans ombudsman, in July 2011 to  discontinue a probe his predecessor had ordered seven months earlier, according  to documents obtained by The Canadian Press.

In an interview with CBC Radio’s The House, Steven Blaney, Minister  of Veterans Affairs, told host Evan Solomon “any privacy breach of a veterans’  file is totally unacceptable.”

Blaney said as soon as he was informed there could be a potential breach of  privacy, he asked federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart to investigate  and instructed officials in the Department of Veterans Affairs to “fully  cooperate.”

But in January 2011, Blaney’s predecessor, former Veterans Affairs Minister  Jean-Pierre Blackburn, felt it necessary to order the veterans ombudsman to  investigate the matter even though he knew the privacy commissioner was already  looking into what had happened separately.

The focus of Stoddart’s audit was different from that of the veterans  ombudsman.

Blackburn ordered the probe after hundreds of senior bureaucrats accessed the  confidential medical information of Gulf War veteran Sean Bruyea in an alleged  smear campaign. The federal government later settled a lawsuit with Bruyea out  of court, but other veterans have since made similar complaints.”

While the Minister was at a photo op unveiling a memorial paid for by donations from Canadians…

Blaney was in Trenton on Saturday to attend the unveiling of a new  Afghanistan Repatriation Memorial. He spent the better part of Veterans’ Week  defending the federal government’s record and treatment of veterans — including  news that soldiers’ families are raising serious concerns over the care their  loved ones are receiving at the largest veterans care facility in the  country.

Retired sergeant Tom Hoppe, one of Canada’s most decorated veterans of the  Bosnia war, announced this week he will not be wearing his medals on Remembrance  Day Sunday in protest of the federal government’s treatment of vets and in  support of a group of Afghanistan war veterans that have filed a class-action  lawsuit, saying the disability payment regime under the New Veterans Charter  violates their human rights.

In an interview that aired Friday on CBC News Network’s Power &  Politics, Hoppe said it was a “difficult” decision but a necessary one  because the new charter — which he supported when it was first introduced — was  suppose to address the very concerns vets are now going to court over.

“It’s an outrage that this has happened, and on top of that, people’s privacy  was breached,” Hoppe told guest-host Hannah Thibedeau.

“We have tried to work within the system and we have tried to get mediation  with the minister and nothing has happened, what’s left to do? The public has to  know what is going on,” said Hoppe.

Hoppe has said that his personal privacy was also violated when federal  officials snooped in his records in 2006.”

I will spend my time in private tomorrow, reflecting on those whose service to Canada has ended so badly.  I will reflect on the shame of how this Government disregards that service in such a callow manner.

Lastly, go read Boris, at the Galloping Beaver

5 comments to On Remembrance Day…

  • I’m pretty certain that one of your favorite memories on every Remembrance Day, will be of your son returning intact from a tour in Afghanistan. You must feel fortunate to have such a happy memory – unlike those who remember someone they’ll never be with again.

    Harper’s exploitation and neglect of veterans is despicable. For today I will try to think of those who sacrificed for our country, not those like the P.M. who are willing to sacrifice our country in the interests of special interests – business interests, offshore business interest quite often.

    At one time veterans were treated like gold, deservedly so, and could pursue an education, buy a house and start a family, and I know at one time (and maybe still) military service was worth points earned through civil service exams. So back when the Post Office was a government agency, of two equally qualified applicants (by the civil service exam results)if only one was a vet, he would get first refusal to being offered the position.

  • I was referring to the US system, the civil service as it used to be at least, not up to date on how vets are treated there these days, though it does seem like too many are homeless and/or jobless and dealing with untreated mental/medical problems without proper assistance.

    Kim Reply:

    Kootcoot, it’s truely a blessing to have my son return to Canada unscathed. Since his return, he has joined the Navy and is one short course away from being posted on a ship. While I am extremely proud of his commitment to serve, I feel very strongly that there has never been a more dangerous time to be a military member. I remain committed to working to ensure that the CAF is governed by an accountable government. As soon as possible.

    Kootcoot has his own blog at House of Infamy, I try never to miss his writings. To my readers, please follow his link and enjoy the wit and commentary that ensues!

  • Believe me, Kim, there are thousands — hopefully millions — who feel exactly as you do.

    Kim Reply:

    Owen, I certainly hope so. We need Canadians to man up now and demand the socially democratic society that has always been our national identity.

    By the way, Owen writes Northern Reflections, a blog I enjoy daily. Thanks for that Owen.