An open letter to Canadians from Tom Eagles, President, The Royal Canadian Legion
Does Canada have a solemn obligation owed to those who have been disabled or killed through military service? Prime Minister Robert Borden told the troops in 1917: “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.”
The more than 300,000 members of the Royal Canadian Legion firmly believe this country has a solemn obligation owed to our military members. Many changes have been made in the treatment of our serving military personnel, Veterans and their families since the establishment of the Royal Canadian Legion in 1926.
We strongly believe that the Veterans Bill of Rights must be included in the New Veterans Charter and in the Pension Act, and that a modified version of section 2 of the Pension Act be incorporated into the New Veterans Charter, and read as follows: The provisions of this Act shall be liberally construed and interpreted to the end that the recognized solemn obligation of the people and Government of Canada to provide compensation to those members of the forces who have been disabled or have died as a result of military service, and to their dependants, may be fulfilled.”
The New Veterans Charter was established in 2006 as a living document, replacing the Pension Act and it brought a holistic approach to Veterans’ care and benefits. However, it took five long years before any changes were made to the document even though many Committees, Veterans organizations and studies had provided their recommendations for appropriate changes. While being touted as a living charter, this was not in fact what was happening.
We see the upcoming federal election as an opportunity for the Royal Canadian Legion as the largest Veteran and community support organization in the country to state our position on issues affecting Veterans, their families and their overall well-being.The following position paper reflects the Legion’s grass-roots consultative process which includes our members, our volunteers, our elected officials and our staff. Also note that by the Legion definition of a Veteran, we encompass members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and those peace officers who have served in special duty areas or operations and their families. Essentially, this paper is a short list of measures we are advocating that if adopted by Canada’s Government will have a positive impact on our Veterans and their families. It is hoped that all federal political parties will heed the Legion’s position paper and include it in their respective election platforms as tangible commitment towards this country’s social contract with its Veterans – both retired and still serving, and their families.
It is extremely important that the Government follows through on the recommendations in the attached position paper now; all relevant studies have been conducted and it is clearly time to rectify the deficiencies in the New Veterans Charter and meet the needs of our injured or ill Veterans and their families.
While we acknowledge what successive governments have done in the past for our Veterans, more still needs to be done. The Royal Canadian Legion exhorts our politicians and the next Government to turn election rhetoric into tangible measures that will improve the health, finances and overall well-being of our Veterans. Their standard of living and that of their families is at stake. This position paper provides a shortlist of tangible actions that will make a difference if adopted by the Government of Canada.
The New Veterans Charter is an important document in our Veterans’ lives. As the issues affecting our Veterans evolve, so too must the Charter. Only through this process will the Charter become a “Living Charter” that it was meant to be. As Canadians we have an obligation to be informed of the issues and to voice our concerns. The time is now as Veterans and their Families Matter.
Lest We Forget,
The Royal Canadian Legion