When it comes to caring for all Veterans, every government – past, present or future – has a moral, ethical and professional duty of care which can never be disputed.
The current environment Canada’s Veterans are finding themselves in is one that can be categorized as confusing, challenging, complicated and at the same time compelling. The Royal Canadian Legion, is Canada’s largest Veterans and community support organization. As the Dominion President of the Legion, I represent the voice of more than 320,000 Veterans, their family members, and Canadians who care deeply for the men and women who serve, and have served, our country. Here’s what we are seeing and hearing:
It’s confusing to be a Veteran right now and to understand what your rights, benefits, compensation, and physical or mental health treatment options are should you be injured attributable to your service.
It’s challenging for Veterans and their families to navigate through the various players involved. Once into the system and trying to seek benefits, the amount of paperwork and the processes involved to obtain benefits is extremely complex. There are two government departments involved, two rehabilitation programs and an application package that is 18 pages long. This is not like applying for a passport.
It’s complicated to understand the messaging coming from government, there has been a great deal of misinformation and government has not done a good job of outreach to clarify its positions, programs, and services. The Veterans Ombudsman, and Veterans organizations who have delivered long-standing common positions, seem to be regularly pushed aside by government.
How can we not all be aware of the issues facing our Veterans given the daily reporting of their concerns? These are the men and women who chose to serve and protect us, our communities, and our country. They defended us in the past and now project Canadian values around the globe. We must be ready to stand should-to-shoulder with them when they need our help.
Joining the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the RCMP is a conscious career choice. Most of the men and women who do so are in control of that decision. These men and women agree to the policy of Universality of Service as defined in the Defence Administrative Orders and Directives6. Universality of Service contains the following statement:
“Under this principle, CAF members must at all times and under any circumstances perform any functions that they may be required to perform.”
If they were injured, in any way, as a result of their service, wouldn’t it make sense to think that their employer provided Universality of Care to ensure these men and women would be properly treated? The Legion fully believes the government must be bound by just such a policy. The Universality of Care statement would be:
When a CAF or RCMP member suffers a service-related injury, regardless of type of service (e.g. Reg Force or Reserve), at all times and under any circumstances, the Government of Canada will provide the required support and benefits for the care of the members or their families.
This has been the Legion’s main focus in its efforts to ensure proper care for our Veterans and their families; and we have been saying so for 87 years, since our founding in 1926. Certainly every government in power when our country was engaged in global conflict recognized its moral and ethical obligations. The Legion has already made reference to Conservative Prime Minister Borden’s commitment to our military men and women in our Aug 12, 2013 news release http://www.legion.ca/article/veterans-organizations-stand-united-and-demand-government-reaffirms-its-social-contract-to-all-veterans/7 :
In 1917, just prior to the Battle of Vimy Ridge, Conservative Prime Minister Robert Borden stated that “You can go into this action feeling assured of this, and as the head of the government I give you this assurance: That you need not fear that the government and the country will fail to show just appreciation of your service to the country and Empire in what you are about to do and what you have already done. The government and the country will consider it their first duty to see that a proper appreciation of your effort and of your courage is brought to the notice of people at home… that no man, whether he goes back or whether he remains in Flanders, will have just cause to reproach the government for having broken faith with the men who won and the men who died.”
For this Government to say that all promises of previous governments, universally, should not be binding on future governments is an incredibly reprehensible statement. The Legion is deeply concerned that any government that sends men and women out into harm’s way would deny its responsibility to care for them should they be injured. Our government exists today solely because of the efforts of the CAF and RCMP to protect and uphold it.
We are in an environment where soldiers are suing the government because they believe they are not receiving the compensation they deserve. Armed with the information it has possessed on changes to the New Veterans Charter, much of this information from its own committees, it could be argued that this current lawsuit may never have happened if the government had moved on the recommendations it already had. For more than five years now, the Legion has been presenting before government committees and bringing forward to government resolutions from its Dominion Conventions for improvements to the NVC. We are at that point where action is needed and needed now! The proper “vehicle for addressing the very real concerns of Veterans” is an action plan using the recommendations the government has in its own hands. No more delays; we must move now to improve the lives of our Veterans and the Legion stands ready to do its part.
The Royal Canadian Legion