Author Topic: Can We Trust a Veterans Affairs Minister That Doesn't Even Know Who a Veteran Is  (Read 22939 times)

0 Members and 2 Guests are viewing this topic.

Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Ron Clarke fights his government and the ghosts in his head
« Reply #15 on: April 01, 2014, 01:37:15 PM »
Ron Clarke fights his government and the ghosts in his head

LOIS LEGGE FEATURES WRITER
Published March 31, 2014 - 6:50pm
Last Updated April 1, 2014 - 12:17pm

Check the Video: http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1197132-ron-clarke-fights-his-government-and-the-ghosts-in-his-head?from=most_read&most_read=1197132



Ex-boxer, infantryman has lost battle to keep DVA offices — so far

Ron Clarke strikes his old boxing pose.

And moves in for a knockout.

“I perfected it, as a matter of fact,” he says of his overhand right.

His 73-year-old body — waiting now for a major back operation — bobs and weaves. Shadow-dancing in the reflection of framed black and white photos. And his glory days.

SEE ALSO: Veterans battle their own government

“I would always throw a bunch of left hooks at you … and what happens when I go to throw that? You move this way, don’t you?” says the former welterweight, edging forward. “And then, bam!”

The Canadian Forces veteran laughs for a moment, thinking about the move that earned him a stellar record in the ring.

Thirty-two fights. Two losses. Twenty-one wins by knockout in the first round.

But that was a long time ago.

And these days, he might have to go the distance — up against his own government and the ghosts in his head.

Many Canadians know about his battle with the federal government. They see him as the tough, feisty senior citizen who took on Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino while fighting, unsuccessfully, to save the department’s district office in Sydney, where vets say they got the kind of personal touch they need while facing everything from post-traumatic stress disorder to the aftermath of strokes.

Ottawa closed that support office and seven others in late January, after countrywide protests. And after testy exchanges between Clarke, other vets and Fantino, when he arrived late for a scheduled meeting with them at his office.

But the Georges River resident vows to fight on, to help defeat the Harper government and get those offices back. And he’s become something of a folk hero along the way — admired by former soldiers and “civvies,” strangers who call him today just because they’re lonely or want someone to champion their own unrelated cause.

But sit with this scrappy former infantryman, military postal clerk and peacekeeping vet for a little while and another man emerges.

A man who came from a hardscrabble life on the wrong side of the tracks and grew up to see things that still keep him up nights.

He points to a picture of his late uncle, Edgar, one of dozens of photos or military plaques covering the basement walls of the home he shares with his wife of 56 years, Elsie, recently diagnosed with lung cancer.

“He suffered from (PTSD),” Clarke says of his uncle, a Second World War veteran. “But in them days, they didn’t know what the hell it was. God love him … great guy when he was sober. When he was drinking, he was a great guy with me too, you know, around us guys, but he was a tough, rough character.

“My … older brother Billy and I, whenever we had the opportunity, we’d pick him up, take him with us fishing. … Yeah, he loved that.”

His voice trails off. And he starts to cry.

“I’ll be all right,” he says, asking for a tissue. “See, that PTSD, that’s what it does to you, this is part of it, right. Anyway.

“The medication hasn’t kicked in yet,” he says with a laugh, shrugging it off.

“That’s another thing I do … I use a lot of humour to get around my problem and that helps.

“And, of course, that little place in the back room there,” he says, pointing to his bar. “That helps too, believe me. But I’m not like Uncle Edgar was. I mean, I don’t drink to get drunk. I have my brandy every night and maybe a liqueur with it and that’s it.”



But his doctor recently upped his antidepressant medication, something he’s been taking since he was diagnosed with PTSD in 2002, 10 years after he retired from a military career that included a decade of those infantry boxing bouts and peacekeeping in Cyprus, Namibia and beyond.

The medication helps, but not always. Lately, with all the pressures of this recent battle, he’s been breaking down too often, he says. He thinks he may need more to stem the trauma he traces back to 1973 and a six-month stint with the International Commission of Control and Supervision — tasked with monitoring ceasefires and the release of prisoners during the Vietnam War.

“Yeah, Vietnam,” says the Clarke, who grew up between North Sydney and Gannon Road, “the roughest place on this side of the water,” where men were stevedores and kids threw rocks at cops who crossed the railway line. He lived there with his mother and 11 siblings (one brother later died on the tracks) in a “poor” household with a heavy-drinking father, who didn’t beat them but scared them so much sometimes “we had to go down the back steps and go up to my grandmother’s place and stay there.”

But then he joined the army at 16. He trained in the infantry, where he boxed as Babe Clarke, for 10 years and switched to the military postal service. And, eventually, went to Vietnam.

“When I arrived in Vietnam, the first day on the ground, I met this first sergeant, that’s like a chief warrant officer, a Canadian and he was from Newfoundland and he was American forces,” Clarke recalls. “He had his own vehicle and asked me if I wanted to have a look around … we looked around the base and then he went off the base and went up a dirt road.”

He takes a breath and explains the rest.

“There was Vietnamese bodies stacked like cordwood, like it would be picked up and taken away. Whew, that was heavy. Anyway, we actually got back to base and he took me over to one of the airplane hangars and it was the mortuary for the Americans. There were thousands, and I mean thousands, of body bags stacked up waiting to be moved back to the States.

“The smell of the place was just…

“And one of our own lads, a captain, he was shot down while we were there. We retrieved his remains and they brought him back and when we took him off the airplane, the smell was just — it stays with me to this day. The smell of death.”

The images stay too. Those and others of released prisoners of war, emaciated and confused. He starts to talk about them but stops, overwhelmed by these and other pictures that play over regularly in his dreams.

“Some nights I wake up and I’m a little bit upset,” he says.

“I was up 3:30 this morning … no sense going back to sleep because you don’t know what goes through this thing up here.”

    If it wasn’t for us veterans, not me in particular but those guys who were in combat, if it wasn’t for them, you know (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper wouldn’t be sitting up there today … So look, remember what your veterans did for you, did for this country, and treat them with dignity and give them what they need, whatever they need.

Cape Breton vets like Terry Collins, who served in Afghanistan and also has PTSD, say they’re grateful Clarke has taken on the task. The Florence resident, on antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills for his illness, participated in a few protests and media interviews about the closures but then had to withdraw because it made his symptoms worse.

“We’re lucky that somebody like that can actually go as long as he’s been going,” Collins says. “I could only do so much and then my head became too full.”

“I think it’s great,” Elsie Clarke says of her husband’s mission. But she worries about him too.

“He does need help,” she says. “He’s got too much to do.”

But Clarke sees the ongoing fight as a matter of principle and respect. And decency, toward veterans he says were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.

“Why do they want to treat their vets like that? ” he asks.

“Christ, one of the boys said ‘why the hell do the vets have to beg for everything they want?’ … And I agree with that statement.

“Jesus, you know, if it wasn’t for us veterans, not me in particular but those guys who were in combat, if it wasn’t for them, you know (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper wouldn’t be sitting up there today … So look, remember what your veterans did for you, did for this country, and treat them with dignity and give them what they need, whatever they need. And closing the offices on them was one of the worst things they could ever do.”

Clarke also bristles at Fantino’s claim the vets have been used by the former employees’ union, the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

Yes, he says, the union offered to help and paid for the vets’ delegation to Ottawa. But that was after he’d already been involved in two protests in Sydney.

“I said sure, anything to help. The government certainly wasn’t helping us … but they (the union) weren’t running the show, we were.”

Clarke is working with the union again to gather complaints from veterans across the country, now that the offices have been closed. He plans to send them to the federal ombudsman. He’s already hearing from vets who’ve had trouble getting through or getting to the Service Canada offices. And he says they’re certainly not getting the immediate action they did from the former Sydney employees. Plus, a recent report from the department itself acknowledged the closures could hamper service delivery to vets.

He’s also started what he calls a war chest, a fund, to help defeat the Harper government in the next election. The phone rings today with an offer of $1,000.

The father of four, including a baby who died at just six weeks old, isn’t quite sure why he’s struck such a chord with the public. He’s been told he’s articulate. But he wonders about that, since he only has a Grade 8 education.

“They know I’m sincere and they know I’m fighting a good fight, I guess,” he reasons.

And that’s something he’ll continue to do.

“You know, I may be 74 come April but by Jesus, (if) you’re in front of me, I’ve still got this right hand and right arm and you best be careful.

“I may not be as fast as I used to be, but I’m as powerful.

“Even more powerful,” he jokes, “because I’m a heavyweight.”


Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Conservatives claim they are improving veterans lot shameful
« Reply #16 on: April 03, 2014, 07:42:44 PM »
Conservatives claim they are improving veterans lot shameful

Arnprior Chronicle-Guide
By Andrew Fogarasi

http://www.insideottawavalley.com/opinion-story/4446083-conservatives-claim-they-are-improving-veterans-lot-shameful/

Earlier this year, there was a flurry of news items about the federal government shutting down over 10 per cent of its Veterans Affairs offices.

You may even remember Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino treating a group of veterans with an appalling degree of rudeness and disrespect when they were scheduled to meet with him on the issue.

Except, of course, the Conservatives are hoping you don't. In fact, they are counting on it.

How else to explain MP Cheryl Gallant's recent mail-out trumpeting the joyous news that veterans now enjoy over 600 'points of service' for their dealings with government? Never mind that these exciting new points of service are nothing more than existing Service Canada outlets, already understaffed and unable to effectively serve their areas.

Never mind that instead of having instant access to dedicated professionals intimately familiar with the ins-and-outs of each client's case, veterans are now expected to wait in line for God knows how long in order to speak with someone who has no clue who they are or how to handle their questions.

Why, if the feds only had the foresight to stuff a pile of forms behind the counter of every Mc-Donalds in the country, they could be proudly announcing thousands of points of service! The gall of MP Cheryl Gallant and her fellow Conservatives simply boggles the mind.

They not only expect Canadians to approve of this reduction in the scope and quality of services for veterans, they are actually trying to spin it as a great achievement.

What's next for the Conservatives and their friends? Perhaps "Mike Duffy has done more to expose corruption in the Senate and the PMO than any other Canadian in recent memory."

Or "The Fair Elections Act: improving democracy by making it harder for those who are likely to vote against us to vote at all."

And I look forward to Rob Ford's new mayoral campaign: "Rob Ford, getting crack off the streets ... one rock at a time."

Unfortunately for every Canadian, the Orwellian doublespeak from the federal government is not really a laughing matter. The way they treat those who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for our country is shameful.

The fact that they are trying to convince Canadians that they are improving things for our vets when they are actively making them worse is disgusting.

These are the kind of people who would kick you in the teeth and praise themselves for their forays into dentistry. The Liberals and their scandal-plagued days in power look downright quaint in comparison.

Andrew Fogarasi

Arnprior
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Julian Fantino Embraces Orwellian Doublespeak, Says Veteran
« Reply #17 on: April 06, 2014, 08:15:46 PM »
Julian Fantino Embraces Orwellian Doublespeak, Says Veteran

April 6, 2014. 4:55 pm • Section: Defence Watch

http://blogs.ottawacitizen.com/2014/04/06/julian-fantino-embraces-orwellian-doublespeak-says-veteran/

By David T. MacLeod CD MA
Veteran Watch
veteranwatch.blogspot.ca

“Veterans a priority” the headline boldly pronounces in the 3 April, 2014 Opinion section of the Regina Leader Post. Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino corrects dissenters, lists government “accomplishments”, and lectures the public on how deeply committed the current government is to veterans.

It’s all Orwellian doublespeak.

You may recall from high school that doublespeak is “pretend communication” where ‘yes’ means ‘no’; ‘good’ means ‘bad’, pain is pleasure.

Doublespeak is an excellent way to shift responsibility away from one person onto another. It is also is an efficient method to distract or confuse the public on critical issues. Creating confusion can suppress dissent.

Doublespeak for ‘Social Contract’ is ‘denying responsibility’. In a clear example of applied doublespeak that creates confusion Minister Fantino stated there is a “social contract” with veterans.

However, the government continues with its defence in the ongoing lawsuit with veterans. If a social contract exists why spend taxpayers money to fight wounded veterans in court?

The current government is desperate to convince Canadians that the quality of care and compensation is improving for veterans.

You see, there is a split in the Conservative Party caucus on veterans – and on several other – issues. With an election looming in 2015 the pressure is mounting.

Some Conservative MPs, unlike Rob Anders, Laurie Hawn, Parm Gill, or Minister Fantino, are truly interested in addressing veterans’ issues.

Currently, the Conservative government views dissent, without permission, as unpatriotic.

Veterans’ prefer you intelligently dissent, at your own discretion, to preserve what we have defended.

Ignore the doublespeak.

Listen to the wounded.
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Veterans across Canada plot campaign against Conservatives
« Reply #18 on: August 11, 2014, 09:36:43 PM »
Veterans across Canada plot campaign against Conservatives

PAUL McLEOD OTTAWA BUREAU
Published August 11, 2014 - 9:31pm

http://thechronicleherald.ca/novascotia/1228721-veterans-across-canada-plot-campaign-against-conservatives



A network of veterans across Canada is planning a co-ordinated campaign against the Conservative government during next year’s election.

The plan was sparked in January by a disastrous meeting in Ottawa with Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino. In interviews, half a dozen organizers across four provinces say thousands of veterans will take part in the movement.

The plan is similar to the ABC campaign — urging people to vote Anything But Conservative — waged by former Newfoundland and Labrador premier Danny Williams.

“When the election is called, you’re going to see some large fallout, believe me,” said Sydney veteran Ron Clarke.

“As soon as the writ is dropped, we are in action.”

The two main issues driving the movement are the closure of nine regional Veterans Affairs Canada offices and the government’s new veterans charter.

The charter gives veterans who are wounded in combat a lump-sum payment instead of regular payments to support them throughout their lives.

About a dozen regional organizers have been in regular contact through conference calls.

The tactics vary. Newfoundland and Labrador organizer Paul Davis said veterans will be specifically targeting Conservative ridings to tell voters about how they have been mistreated by the government.

One group is even mulling getting a bus to take the cross-country campaign on the road.

Others say their protests will be more informal but nonetheless vocal.

“We have no co-ordinated thing planned, but I know that every veteran in the area is pissed,” said John Scott, a former peacekeeper in Cyprus who lives in Prince George, B.C.

The ball started rolling in January when a group of veterans gathered in Ottawa to meet Fantino. The minister was 70 minutes late and things only got worse when he did show up.

Fantino chastised one veteran for pointing his finger, and

the minister walked away, seemingly exasperated, a few minutes later. News cameras caught

the interaction.

Afterwards, several angry veterans who were present started to make plans.

“Up until he screwed up, it would have probably been a fairly quiet thing,” said Scott. “But he made the big mistake of mouthing off to the veterans, and a couple of them, of course, didn’t take it very well.”

Some veterans are also angry that the department spends money on advertising campaigns after cutting the regional offices to save costs.

New tendering documents show the federal government will spend $678,000 this year on “advertising and creative services” to mark Remembrance Day. Target Communications of Halifax, which operates as

Compass Communications, won the contract.

That ad budget is the same or more than the annual costs of running several of the regional front-line offices closed earlier this year. The total costs of running eight regional offices came to $5 million per year (the annual costs of the ninth closed office, in Prince George, are not known.)

Veterans who spoke to The Chronicle Herald said the department has its priorities wrong and has been regularly spending on advertising while cutting front-line services.

But the department said the Remembrance Day campaign is well within its mandate.

“It is part of the mandate of Veterans Affairs to keep the memory of the achievement and sacrifices of veterans alive for all Canadians,” said an emailed statement from the department.

“It is important to note (Veterans Affairs) advertising expenditures will not impact the department’s budget for veterans’ services and benefits.”
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
To repair fractured relationship with veterans, Fantino must go
« Reply #19 on: August 28, 2014, 10:22:04 AM »
To repair fractured relationship with veterans, Fantino must go

August 28, 2014

By Deveryn Ross

In an op-ed entitled “It’s a myth veterans are mistreated”, published in last Wednesday’s Halifax Chronicle Herald, Veteran Affairs Minister Julian Fantino lashed out at veterans who are unhappy with the treatment they’re receiving from the Harper government, and at unionized members within his own department. 

The minister wrote that, “One myth is that veterans no longer receive monthly benefits and just receive a lump-sum payment. This is simply not true. Veterans are eligible for a range of services and benefits that enable them to get the financial help and support they deserve.”

He cited a Statistics Canada report which he claimed, “found veterans who are receiving benefits from Veterans Affairs Canada are earning approximately $70,000 a year. This independent report also found that veterans who are medically released earn approximately $60,000 a year. This is in addition to a lump-sum given where a veteran is critically injured.”
In a shot aimed at public service union members, he added that, “Another myth is that unions put veterans ahead of their own interests.”

Fantino’s claims are contradicted by findings contained in a report by Veterans Ombudsman Guy Parent, released last Tuesday.  Parent concluded that almost half of Canada’s most severely disabled veterans are not receiving a government allowance intended to compensate them for their physical and mental wounds.

“Many severely impaired veterans are either not receiving these benefits or may be receiving them at a grade level that is too low,” wrote the Ombudsman. “This is unfair and needs to be corrected.”

The next day, the Canadian Press reported that “Fantino told a House of Commons committee last spring that some permanently disabled soldiers receive more than $10,000 per month, but figures from his own department show that only four individuals in the entire country receive that much.”

Brandonite Glen Kirkland, an Afghanistan veteran and leading advocate for his comrades, is unimpressed by Fantino’s latest broadside.

In 2008, Kirkland was the victim of a Taliban ambush that killed three other soldiers. He suffered serious injuries, including the loss of 75 per cent of his hearing, a partial loss of vision and a brain injury that has left him permanently dependant on insulin.

“I was critically wounded, am on life sustaining therapy (eight - 10 insulin injections a day) and since I’ve been released, I have had zero coverage”, he told me on Wednesday. “I am in the process of getting compensated but am currently paying over $3,000 per month for my medicine that was a direct result of serving Canada.”

Kirkland says what he and those who served with him in Afghanistan want -- and what the Harper government refuses to provide -- is the same treatment as veterans of earlier conflicts receive. “In 2006, the government amended the pension program which covered wounded military personnel. The changes were made months before Canada took on its largest combat mission since Korea. It wasn’t done to look after the soldiers, but rather to save money on the backs of those who serve.”

“What soldiers are fighting for now is not more financial gain but to have one standard for all”, he says. “Whether it’s the older WWII veterans or the more recent veterans, they are coming home with the same injuries and deserve equal compensation.”

Kirkland’s position, resting on principles of fairness and common sense, is reasonable. The belligerent position taken by Fantino in response to veterans’ concerns is not.

It begs the question: What justification is there for the minister of veterans affairs misrepresenting the plight of Canada’s veterans and questioning the motives of his own departmental staff?

Since assuming the veterans’ affairs portfolio, Fantino has taken a combative, adversarial approach toward Canadian men and women who have experienced actual combat, with many having the scars to prove it. Soldiers such as Glen Kirkland.

Far from being their advocate, Fantino has repeatedly portrayed them as ingrates, malingers and, in some cases, liars. Wednesday’s salvo is the latest, and perhaps the most egregious, example.

Enough is enough. If the Harper government has any desire to repair its fractured relationship with veterans before the coming election, it starts with a new veterans’ affairs minister. Fantino must go.

Care to comment?
Email: deverynrossletters@gmail.com, Twitter: @deverynross
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Canada’s war vets a potentially powerful electoral force: Tim Harper
« Reply #20 on: August 28, 2014, 11:12:31 PM »
Canada’s war vets a potentially powerful electoral force: Tim Harper

Tensions between vets and their minister, Julian Fantino, continue to simmer and no détente appears on the horizon.



By: Tim Harper National Affairs, Published on Thu Aug 28 2014

So far, it sounds like loose, angry talk.

But the governing Conservatives are playing with fire with the country’s war veterans.

If they can — as they have threatened — organize, mobilize and speak with one voice during next year’s federal election, the government will have a major problem on its hands; a problem of its own making.

Right now, the Conservatives are dealing with veterans who have yet to find that united politically damaging voice.

But relations between Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino and those who have returned home with physical and psychological wounds have not improved during the summer, with social media the main battleground in ongoing battles that are simmering just below the public eye.

A day of protest in June largely fizzled, but one veterans’ advocate says he doesn’t have to mobilize the multitudes on Parliament Hill to let Canadians know the manner in which they feel they have been treated by the Conservatives.

“We merely have to tell Canadians our story,’’ said Michael Blais of Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

“If I have to make YouTube videos of stumps to show Canadians how egregiously we have been treated, I will damn well do it.’’

As first reported by the CBC this week, veterans groups are now raising objections to the amount of money the Harper Conservatives are spending to commemorate past wars, while cutting back spending on helping veterans in the here and now.

They know the value of remembering but point to the total of spending.

According to documents obtained by the federal Liberals, Canadian Heritage budgeted almost $40 million to commemorate the World Wars and the War of 1812 between 2010 and 2015.

National Defence has budgeted some $27.5 million between now and 2020 to mark events of the 100th anniversary of World War I and the 75th anniversary of World War II.

Veterans Affairs has budgeted another $80 million to mark events of the world wars over the next two years.

According to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, the contract for advertising for this year’s Remembrance Day services has gone to a Halifax company for $678,000.

This, veterans will tell you, is millions spent on promoting a government that uses the military for self-aggrandizement while shortchanging those who have served in Afghanistan.

“Sending Canada’s D-Day heroes back to the beaches of Normandy, many of whom were in their 90s, does not come at the expense of treatment for veterans here at home,’’ said Fantino’s spokesperson, Ashlee Smith.

Anyone suggesting that veterans should not be properly honoured is doing them a “disservice,’’ she said.

This week, the veterans’ ombudsman, Guy Parent, and the Canadian Forces ombudsman, Gary Walbourne, jointly agreed to probe the arduous process wounded soldiers face while transitioning to civilian life.

The wounded soldiers have had to validate their conditions with doctors upon release from the forces, beginning a process that can take months and has cost some their benefits.

Parent, in a study, concluded half of the most badly wounded war veterans are receiving no disability benefits, while those who are receiving benefits routinely receive the lowest-grade payments.

A social media war was triggered by Fantino, who took to Facebook and Twitter to make the case that disabled veterans are being treated generously, but veterans and critics labelled the minister’s charts and graphics misleading because so few of the permanently disabled vets receive the amount of money he claims is available.

This has, of course, been a bad year for Fantino, who has fumbled the file in two highly publicized events, arguing with veterans and appearing to snub the wife of a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

But the minister is refusing to swap his combativeness with empathy.

He took matters into his own hands with a letter to the Halifax newspaper this month, because, he said, it was time to explode some myths.

He pointed to a Statistics Canada report that veterans are receiving $60,000 to $70,000 per year and he — again — accused public sector unions of using veterans for their own purposes, then trying to block their entry into the public service.

It is an ongoing puzzle why Fantino mounts such an aggressive counterattack against those who have served this country in wars.

There are no signs that the coming year will result in a détente between the minister and the country’s veterans.

Right now, the government can benefit only because veterans groups seem unable to speak as one political voice.

Should that change, there can be few other lobby groups that could mount a more powerful or politically damaging campaign against a government seeking re-election.

Tim Harper is a national affairs writer. His column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. tharper@thestar.ca Twitter:@nutgraf1
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Tories paying lip service to Canada’s veterans
« Reply #21 on: September 22, 2014, 08:31:51 PM »
Tories paying lip service to Canada’s veterans

David Buckna | Posted 3 weeks ago

http://m.kelownadailycourier.ca/opinion/letters_to_editor/article_c9a1c870-33bf-11e4-8c4b-001a4bcf6878.html?mode=jqm

Ron Cannan wrote in his Aug. 18 MP report: “The world wars, and those fought since, may be behind us, but through commemorations like these (eg. Stephen Harper marking the 100th anniversary of the First World War) and by talking directly to our veterans about their needs, we are confirming that their service and sacrifice will forever hold a meaningful place in our hearts and minds.”

The June 2014 report by Canada’s veterans ombudsman, Guy Parent, says nearly half the country’s most severely disabled ex-soldiers are not receiving a government allowance intended to compensate them for their physical and mental wounds. Parent concluded that those who are receiving the permanent impairment allowance, along with a recently introduced supplement, are only awarded the lowest grade of the benefit. “This is unfair and needs to be corrected,” he wrote.

Last October, The Canadian Press reported that gravely injured troops who want to remain in uniform are being booted from the military before they qualify for their pensions, despite government assurances to the contrary.

A former reserve combat engineer from London, Ont., Cpl. David Hawkins, was let go on a medical discharge after begging for months to remain until he had 10 years of service. He was about one year shy of the date to collect an indexed pension, but was released because his post-traumatic stress made him unable to deploy overseas.

On June 3, I wrote to Minister of Veterans Affairs Julian Fantino. The previous day he said in the House of Commons: “The services and programs available to Canadian veterans are wide-ranging and among the best in the world.”

David Pugliese (Otttawa Citizen) wrote in an April 7 article: “National Defence came under fire in January for failing to live up to a decade-old promise to have roughly 450 mental health professionals on staff. Last December – at the height of the suicides – the department only had 380 of the jobs filled, despite an injection of $11.4 million in 2012 and complaints by the military ombudsman.”

I also asked Fantino: How many mental health professionals did Canadian veterans have access to before the Afghanistan mission began in 2002?

I’ve written to Fantino four times since June 3, plus left a message on his office answering machine, but have not received a reply.

In 1917, prime minister Robert Borden said: “When a Canadian enlists, they are promised that if they are injured or killed in service, then Canada will take care of them and their loved ones. This social contract is our sacred obligation to those who serve. We Canadians must defend it.”

The Harper government is trying to tweak the Veterans Charter for the second time since 2010. Some Afghan veterans have filed a class-action lawsuit currently before the B.C. Superior Court, arguing the new system is less generous and discriminates against today’s soldier.

The Conservatives honour Canada’s soldiers with their lips, but their hearts are far from them.

David Buckna,

Kelowna
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Julian Fantino: 2014 annus horribilis
« Reply #22 on: October 30, 2014, 07:08:29 PM »
Julian Fantino: 2014 annus horribilis

Veterans have become less amused as Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino’s tenure unfolded. The contrasts with his predecessor, Steven Blaney, are stark.
By MIKE BLAIS |
Published: Monday, 10/06/2014 12:00 am EDT


NIAGARA FALLS, ONT.— Without doubt, 2013-2014 was a terrible first year for Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino. The fledgling minister immediately endeared himself with the veterans’ community, penning a widely-distributed editorial saying that he too was a veteran. Fantino declared, erroneously, that he had smelt gunpowder, been in the trenches, invoking images of Canada’s stellar military history without ever swearing allegiance to the Queen or donning the uniform graced with traditions that pre-date Confederation.

Veterans were not amused.

Veterans became less amused as Fantino’s tenure unfolded. The contrasts with his predecessor, Steven Blaney, were stark. Blaney understood the obligation, was eager to engage veterans’ stakeholders in dialogue and encouraged collective discussions through the enforcement of mandated bi-annual departmental stakeholder meetings. Blaney promoted inclusiveness, accessibility. Fantino, conversely, is seldom accessible and prefers exclusion over inclusion. The departmental stakeholder meetings his predecessor encouraged and often attended have been abandoned. Not one single departmental stakeholders meeting has been convened since Fantino was appointed.

The singular ministerial meeting held in early October 2013, was nearly derailed when Fantino’s exclusionary policies forbade the stakeholders to have observers present. Gordon Moore, then president of the Royal Canadian Legion, arrived with Brad White, Dominion secretary. An ultimatum was delivered. Either White attends or the Royal Canadian Legion would not attend the meeting.

Fantino blinked. The Dominion secretary was allowed access, but other than the Canadian Veterans Advocacy, none of the other organizations present had an observer. Not that it would matter, the meeting was designed to introduce the new minister to the stakeholders, provide a recycled brief of the New Veterans Charter and engage in general discussion that was very interesting, but really served no purpose because a year later, no changes of significance have been implemented.

Fantino did, however, take the opportunity to announce that the Harper government would appeal a favourable ruling for wounded veterans before the B.C. Supreme Court (Equitas Lawsuit) regarding their quest for equality to the Pension Act. Equality was denied when the Harper government enacted the New Veterans Charter in 2006, creating a second class of veteran just as Canadian participation in the Afghanistan war entered the combat phase of a mission that would ravage the nation of 150 valiant lives and account for thousands of injuries and wounds. The government will argue it has no sacred obligation and no social contact with those who have sacrificed dearly under Harper’s stewardship of the war.

It is virtually impossible for a minister to effectively manage such an important portfolio when he is absent from Ottawa/Charlottetown so often and for prolonged periods of time. The complexity of the Veterans Affairs Canada portfolio and the increasing obligation to the wounded being medically released from the Forces after 12 years of war must take priority over ceremonial events. Despite raising public awareness of the severe problems veterans are confronting and the oft-catastrophic consequences, Fantino appears more focused on attending ceremonies celebrating, at tens of millions of dollars, the war of 1812 and anniversaries of battles from World War I and World War II.

No novice minister of Veterans Affairs has embraced the role of Canada’s ceremonial figurehead with such zeal. Within the course of a single year, Fantino traversed the globe. He went to Hong Kong, Korea, Italy, France, the United States, Cyprus, and Belgium and there was even time for a trip to the Vatican. A recent domestic cross-country tour presenting minister’s commendations and awards to Canada’s surviving World War II veterans in tightly-controlled photo opportunities have added significantly to the minister’s ever-growing air miles card.

When the minister is in Ottawa, veterans have not fared well. Fantino has done very little on the portfolio other than perform his duties to slash his department’s budget with characteristic unwavering loyalty to the Conservative fiscal line. Last fall, a “comprehensive” review was initiated on the New Veterans Charter with promises that the sacred obligation inadequacies would be addressed.

Fantino will be tabling the departmental response in early October. Considering the Conservative-dominated committee’s recommendations, it is unlikely that the wounded seeking equality for their sacrifice to the Pension Act provisions will be satisfied or that Memorial Cross Widows currently living in poverty due to exclusion from the NVC’s anti-poverty/earnings loss benefits will be provided respite.

Who will forget how ineptly Fantino handled the closures of several Veterans Affairs district offices located across the nation. Remarkably, the restrictions of services provided the catalyst for hundreds of veterans in the affected regions to protest the closures through local public assemblies. A representative delegation of veterans travelled to Ottawa in January 2015 to encourage Fantino to repeal this policy with the understanding that many Afghan war veterans will soon be medically released into these communities and will require direct assistance, and not a 1-800 number to a contracted entity

The delegation included veterans from World War II to Afghanistan, expanding the level of community discord and derision beyond those affected by the substandard policies of the New Veterans Charter. It will be some time before Canadians dismiss the images of an arrogant minister snapping at a World War II veteran Roy Fields who, chest adorned with campaign medals denoting this nation’s proud history, had the audacity to declare the minister’s excuses hogwash while raising his index finger to make the point.

Hogwash?

Perhaps an apt description of the minister’s performance considering the profound level of disrespect demonstrated and the direct consequences, a decorated United Nations veteran bolting from the room in frustrated tears. Let us not forget, the minister for Veterans Affairs duty is to serve veterans, not to bully and berate them.

Michael L. Blais is president and founder of the Canadian Veterans Advocacy.

news@hilltimes.com

The Hill Times
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
‘They’re hoping for us to die’
« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2014, 10:20:01 AM »
‘They’re hoping for us to die’

By Roberta Bell, Orillia Packet & Times

Thursday, October 30, 2014 8:31:18 EDT PM

http://www.orilliapacket.com/2014/10/30/theyre-hoping-for-us-to-die




The federal government has pledged to make upgrades to the veterans charter, but “they’re certainly not breaking their back ...” says one local Second World War veteran.

Bud Weeks said the feds’ treatment of veterans has improved since he returned to Canada in 1946 after serving four years overseas, but it’s almost come too late.

“If we’d had some of this help, some of it, back about 40 years ago, it would have helped immensely,” the Orillia man said.?In October, the Conservative government agreed to implement 14 recommendations to strengthen the charter, made by the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs in June.

The charter was introduced in 2006 and amended in 2011.

It was only after the 2011 amendment Weeks was granted compensation for the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) he has lived with for more than 60 years.

Weeks landed in France 48 days after the Normandy invasion. He came dangerously close to suffering the same fate as the 20 or so Canadian soldiers who were infamously murdered by the SS at Ardenne Abbey in 1944. He said he was captured by the same SS division that shot those soldiers in the back of their heads and was spared only because an ordinary German soldier threw him down a flight of stairs at the last minute.

“It was one hell of a feeling with that SS bugger behind me taking his pistol out of his holster,” Weeks said.

“I can remember every … darn minute of it and every thing else,” he said.

Weeks first applied for compensation in 2007, after he realized soldiers returning from Afghanistan were being awarded it, but was told he didn’t qualify.

“I just got a letter back saying it wasn’t covered. That was it. That was the end of it. So, I let it go,” he said.

Ramara Township resident Harold Rowden was among the soldiers who stormed Juno Beach on D-Day. He said he only began receiving compensation for PTSD in 2012.

“They’re just hoping for us old farts to die and then they won’t have to pay nothing,” he said.

Rowden feels the government’s treatment of veterans has improved in recent years, but, like Weeks, he was frustrated by earlier experiences while seeking compensation.

He survived the D-Day invasion only to be knocked unconscious a few weeks later in a barrage of enemy artillery fire. He woke up in a hospital with one of his legs mangled.

“When I came back from overseas, I was assessed. I think they called my wound a 3% wound,” Rowden said. “They didn’t give you a pension unless you were 5%.”

Rowden received a letter from the government in 1967 telling him his services were worth $150 and sent him a cheque.

“Wasn’t that damn decent?” he said.

RED-TAPE RUNAROUND

Before 2006, any kind of disability pension was provided under the Pension Act, including pensions for post-military service, said Simcoe North Conservative MP Bruce Stanton.

“The New Veterans Charter was brought in to overhaul that and to try to improve and address the varied complaints they received about the limitations in the Pension Act,” he said.

When asked why Weeks was given the runaround when he sought compensation, Veterans Affairs Canada declined to comment.

However, Janice Summerby, the department’s media relations adviser, said in an email the federal government agrees with “the spirit and intent of the majority of the of the recommendations” made in June.

When asked what recommendations the government didn’t agree with, Veterans Affairs again declined to comment.

The recommendations came following another review of the veterans charter. The focus of the review was on the delivery of programs and supports, including financial ones, for the most seriously disabled veterans and their families.

Implementing the recommendations will be done in phases.

“The first phase of the government’s formal response to the committee report includes ensuring that Canadian Armed Forces personnel are medically stable before they transition to civilian life …” Summerby said in the email.

When asked if former officers were previously reintegrated into society unstable, the department again declined to comment.

As part of the first phase of implementation, the number of counselling sessions available to veterans’ families will be doubled, Summerby said.

She said the government will reduce the amount of red tape around processing benefit applications.

The department did not provide a timeline for implementing the recommendations.

The federal government’s “benefits and investments for veterans have increased by more than $4.7 billion since 2006,” Summerby said in her email.

Stanton said the government “knows and understands” Canada owes its veterans everything.

“We really cannot do enough for them for what they did for us. That’s the sort of jumping-off point that we begin with,” Stanton said. “Each and every case that a veteran brings to us, we have to take up with the greatest degree of interest and attention and compassion. Where that does not happen, we need to find out about it and do what we can to make it right.”

MORE WORK TO DO

Although the government accepted the recommendations, there are veterans’ organizations that still have concerns.

There are three major issues the Royal Canadian Legion says still need to be resolved.

Two pertain to perceived inadequacies with the earnings-loss benefit, a monthly sum that currently raises veterans’ total incomes to at least 75% of their pre-release military salaries.

The legion said the figure should be higher for former officers and reservists.

The legion also said the disability awarded to soldiers must be raised so it is consistent with damages awarded to injured civilian workers in courts.

Jack Gillard, president of the Orillia Army Navy Air Force Club, attended the veterans’ organization’s Dominion Command meeting shortly after the recommendations came down.

Gillard said he hasn’t heard negative feedback in response to the proposed changes from local veterans but noted working with the government to rejig the charter is “an ongoing thing.”

“They still haven’t fully listened, but strong voices have been talking to them in the past few years,” Gillard said.

The Army Navy Air Force Club recommended compensation reservists get while serving with regular forces be upgraded, Gillard said, as well as enhanced coverage of funeral costs.

Both are being looked at, he added.

“We would not be where we are today had it not been for the many who gave the final sacrifice for the benefits and freedoms that we have today,” Gillard said. “And I think that is the most important part …”

— With files from QMI Agency

roberta.bell@sunmedia.ca
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy


Canadian_Vet

  • Administrator
  • Hero Member
  • **********
  • Posts: 1546
    • View Profile
    • Canadian Veterans Advocacy
Over $1.1 billion in unspent funds at Veterans Affairs since 2006: documents
« Reply #24 on: November 19, 2014, 08:23:03 PM »
Over $1.1 billion in unspent funds at Veterans Affairs since 2006: documents

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/over-1-1-billion-unspent-funds-veterans-affairs-230110146.html

OTTAWA - Veterans Affairs Canada has returned $1.13 billion to the federal treasury in unspent funds since the Conservatives came to power in 2006 — cash that critics say should have gone towards improved benefits and services.

The figure, which surfaced this week in the House of Commons, has led to renewed criticism of the Harper government, which is already smarting over its frayed relations with disgruntled former soldiers.

Data tabled in the House in response to a written question shows roughly one-third of the so-called lapsed funds were handed back between the 2011 and 2013 budget years when the government was engaged in a massive deficit-cutting drive.

The Conservatives often trumpet how much the budget for veterans care has gone up under their watch — right now it's about $3.4 billion a year, up from $2.8 billion when the Tories took office.

What they don't say is that anywhere between 4.7 per cent and 8.2 per cent of the total allocation has been allowed to lapse because of the department's inability or reluctance to spend it all, said NDP veterans critic Peter Stoffer.

Veterans Affairs Minister Julian Fantino met Wednesday in Quebec City with select organizations representing ex-soldiers, but some of the loudest critics of the department's spending on benefits and services were not invited.

On Tuesday, Stoffer put a pointed question about the lapsed funds to Fantino, who answered by tallying up the government's total spending on the veteran's department — roughly $30 billion since 2006.

"It means improved rehabilitation for Canadian veterans," Fantino said. "It means more counselling for veterans' families. It means more money for veterans' higher education and retraining. It means we care deeply about our veterans."

But that didn't answer the question of why so much of the budget has been allowed to lapse, said Stoffer, noting that the overall budget of the department is something the government is committed to under the law.

The use of lapsed funding to reduce the federal deficit is an exercise that's being practised across all departments, he added.

"The deputy ministers ... have obviously been told by the higher-ups that, 'This money has to come back to us in order for us to have our books balanced, and that way we can use that money for other purposes, like income-splitting.'"

Over the last two fiscal years, all federal departments allowed more than $18 billion in budgeted funding to lapse, according public accounts figures released at the end of October.

Frank Valeriote, the Liberal veterans critic, said ex-soldiers who've been denied benefits will look at the unspent funds and feel "hoodwinked, completely abandoned" and wonder why they've made sacrifices for their country.

"It is reprehensible and unconscionable what they're doing so that the government can create an image of fiscal responsibility," he said.

The Quebec City meeting came on Wednesday at a time when multiple Conservative sources say there is concern that the party's reliable support in the veterans community is bleeding away because of the loud and prolonged battle.

The sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, say there is growing frustration within the party over Fantino's apparent inability to forge positive relationships with veterans, unlike his predecessor, Steven Blaney.

Beyond veterans, long considered a natural constituency for Conservatives, there are signs the Tories are in trouble with ordinary Canadians on the issue. A newly released internal poll on public perceptions of the Canadian Forces suggests the treatment of veterans was registering strongly with respondents.

"Problems that veterans face (42 per cent) and soldiers returning home (29 per cent) were top of mind for many Canadians when asked what they recalled about the (Canadian Armed Forces)," said the Phoneix Strategies Perspectives survey, conducted last May, but released by National Defence online this week.

The survey of 2,025 people found more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of those asked recalled recently seeing, reading, or hearing about issues faced by returning soldiers or their families.

That's a significant increase over 48 per cent of respondents to a similar poll conducted in 2012.

Follow @Murray_Brewster on Twitter
Canadian Veterans Advocacy - One Veteran One Standard

Web Site: http://www.canadianveteransadvocacy.com/index.html

Main FaceBook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/CdnVetsAdvocacy/

Main FaceBook Page: https://www.facebook.com/CanadianVeteransAdvocacy