The Canadian Government announced on Monday that it plans to commemorate the centennial of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second World War during the period from 2014 through 2020. Awareness activities, events, ceremonies and legacy projects are being planned to mark significant milestones. The activities are funded and organized by Heritage Canada, with participation from the Canadian Armed Forces through equipment and personnel. As the guardians of Remembrance, the Legion understands how very important it is to recognize our military history and ensure Canadians honour and remember the brave men and women that fought for Canada and served our nation. But in times like this, where there is great need within our Veteran community, and concerns that our government is not meeting the obligations to take care of them… we MUST balance the scope of those activities against how that cost will impact the care of our Veterans today.
The cost of participating in the scope of activities outlined for the commemoration of WWI and WWII will undoubtedly be significant. In 2012 alone, the government spent some $20 million dollars just to commemorate the War of 1812. How much money will be earmarked for WWI and WWII commemorations?
Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino spoke to Veterans and reporters at the announcement event on January 13. When posed the question of whether the Defense budget and operations will be compromised by the volume of upcoming commemorations, Fantino responded that members of the Forces can be part of these ‘nation-building’ events while also taking part in day-to-day operations. He stated, “Our men and women in the military can walk and chew at the same time and we, as a government, can support both initiatives”. The Minister’s comment that the military can walk and chew at the same time is insulting to the past deeds and current efforts of the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP. The government needs to be transparent in presenting the costs of the commemorative activities, and ensure those costs are balanced against the needs and required care of all of Canada’s Veterans and their families.