18 October 2005
OTTAWA – The Royal Canadian Legion is very concerned about the status of as many as 14,000 Canadian veterans who were deemed ‘not to have served’ in the Second World War. In a statement released today by Dominion President Mary Ann Burdett, the Legion is calling upon the Department of National Defence to review the original Order in Council which reclassified the veterans, and to ensure that all those surviving veterans included in the Order in Council are offered the opportunity to recover their status as “honourably served”.
The Legion believes that many of the 14,000 veterans who were not properly discharged from the military after the war did not wilfully go absent but were the victims of arbitrary and cumbersome processing procedures. They should therefore be given the benefit of the doubt and offered the opportunity to regain their status as having honourably served during World War II. DND should therefore immediately open the door to any veteran (or surviving family member) who wishes to apply for reclassification of status as such, and any veteran who is reclassified should be fully eligible for all benefits under the Pension Act.
The Royal Canadian Legion
It is a fact that some persons disqualified themselves for veterans’ benefits by committing the act of desertion. The Legion has not changed its position on this specific law and still considers its application correct based on the validity of the case. Desertion is against the law.
What is becoming clear now, however, is that in many of the cases where a person was deemed “not to have served”, because he or she was not properly discharged, the person did not go wilfully absent. Rather the person may have been the victim of arbitrary and cumbersome processing procedures. Therefore, we strongly believe that the person should be given the benefit of the doubt and offered the opportunity to have their status reclassified to having “honourably served”.
Given that the Department of National Defence bears the primary responsibility for the actions taken, The Royal Canadian Legion is strongly urging the department to take a very pro-active stance on this matter. It is strongly suggested that the department use every possible means to allow those deemed as “not to have served”, or a surviving family member, to make an application to be reclassified as “honourably served. Any veteran who is reclassified should then be fully eligible for all benefits under the Pensions Act.
The Royal Canadian Legion believes this to be a fair and equitable solution to the problem.
For further information please contact Bruce Poulin at Dominion Command, The Royal Canadian Legion, at (613) 591-3335 ext. 241 or by cell at (613) 292-8760.
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