Author Topic: Canadian Veterans Advocacy Situation Report: Thursday, April 5, 2012  (Read 1367 times)

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Mike Blais

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Canadian Veterans Advocacy Situation Report: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Post - Budget 2012 Update

Serving members, fellow veterans, ladies and gentlemen.

I bid you weary tidings from Niagara after what has proven to be a prolonged, but successful battle.

The CVA has been engaged on the 2012 Federal Budget issue since the summer of 2011. This was when we attended our first VAC Stakeholders meeting. At this time we were informed that VAC faced a 5-10 percent cut to its budget in addition to the Strategic Review reductions of approximately 226  million dollars. We were already greatly concerned about the Strategic Review cuts primarily because of the impact these cuts would have on the 400 or more WWII and Korean War era veterans at Ste. Anne's Hospital in Montreal (

The urgency of the situation required the CVA to fight for the exclusion of VAC’s budget from any austerity-based cuts and a sustained campaign with three specific objectives was implemented. First objective, to raise awareness amongst the general public of the serious consequences any further cuts would have on Canada’s wounded warriors, disabled RCMP, Police Services and military veterans; second, to secure public support on a national basis and third, secure government/parliamentary support for the exclusion of the VAC budget prior to the First Reading on March 29.

To achieve these objectives, we traveled extensively, Ottawa repeatedly and Montreal twice. In October 2011, the CVA requested a tour of Ste. Anne’s Hospital in an effort to meet with the residents and assess the standard of care VAC provided. I am pleased to note that standard was of the very highest quality and that the residents were pleased. A CVA action team returned to Montreal in mid-December to support VAC’s unionized workers when the government announced plans to transfer the hospital to provincial authority without safeguards to ensure its exceptionally high level of service would be maintained. Proper management and the preservation of the standard of care of this facility remains an important issue for the CVA as we believe it is our duty to stand on guard for those who have passed the torch of courage to so many following generations. To this end, I hope you will continue to support the Canadian Veterans Advocacy in our mission to have formal safeguards implemented prior to the transfer of the hospital to the province.

If we are not successful, please join us in our mission to monitor the level of care these veterans receive between now and the inevitable and, should the standard prove inadequate, advocate for immediate improvements! Remember, these veterans are Canada’s most vulnerable, they are very old (80-90 years) and they have become accustomed to the standard of excellence VAC has so far provided. We cannot abandon them in their time of need.

On November 5, 2011, the CVA organized the Second Canadian Veterans National Day of Protest and, for the second consecutive year, we drew support from coast to coast. Due to the urgency of the budget situation and the need for affirmative action, the primary focus shifted slightly to include the proposed budget cuts. Major veterans advocates such as Dennis Manuge (SISIP Clawback), Louise Richards (Gulf War Syndrome/depleted uranium), Kenneth Young (Agent Orange) and Dr. Meg Sears (environmental toxins), all spoke on the steps of Parliament Hill before the Peace Tower.

Objectively, the  event was a a great success. We achieved our first and second objectives - to inform the Canadian Public of the plight of veterans and secure their support! Major television and radio network coverage/ interviews were broadcast nationwide for the entire weekend and our executive was able to maintain a sustained assault throughout the Remembrance Week with the assistance of syndicated radio and newspapers. It is not unreasonable to suggest that our message was delivered to millions of Canadians over the week via various mediums.

In mid-December we returned to Montreal where, in the pouring rain, the CVA Directorship stood alongside the unionized workers in support of Ste. Anne’s Hospital. Again, our primary concern was -- and still is -- the preservation of the 98% accreditation for long term care, and the 93.4 global rating of the institution. CTV, Global television, CBC Radio and several newspapers covered the event ensuring our message was delivered across the province of Quebec.

In February we traveled first to Toronto for an important press conference with the Union of veterans Affairs Employees in support of budget cut exclusions then to Ottawa two weeks prior to Budget Day to attend an important press conference on Parliament Hill  ( Railroad Room) about the state of affairs at veterans Affairs Canada. At all times, our message was consistent and clear… exclude Veterans Affairs Canada budget from the austerity-based cut backs.

During this period, the CVA was very active on the political front. We engaged Minister of Veterans Affairs, Steven Blaney on several occasions  and arranged a meeting with with Conservative Senator Don Plett. We also engaged Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, cultivating strong bonds with veterans Affairs critics Peter Stoffer (NDP) and Sean Casey (LPC). The CVA executive traveled again to Parliament Hill in early March to lobby for nonpartisan support for the NDP initiated parliamentary motion to exclude Veterans Affairs Canada from the imminent budget cuts and to attend a session of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs when Minister Blaney, Deputy Minister Tining and John Larlee, VRAB, were witnesses. Minister Blaney was kind enough to meet with us in the House of Commons to discuss the issues one-on-one, one on three (he had two aides) on very short notice and for this we are grateful. I mention these facts to reiterate our nonpartisan activity. The CVA seeks support from all parliamentarians regardless of their political affiliation, conversely, CVA will engage all parliamentarians, regardless of their political affiliation, if their policies do not reflect the Sacred Obligation Canada’s war-wounded/disabled Sons and Daughters deserve by this government and all governments that shall follow

CVA executives were also accorded the opportunity to express our views during a detailed interview between Director Joseph Burke and I on the CPAC medium. An early morning  CFRA radio interview generated a sustained period of Ottawa dialogue as callers weighted in and I am pleased to note, we have great support from the people of Ottawa and I am grateful to Steve Medely for providing an opportunity to address this issue and the failure of the government’s Sacred Obligation to those who have suffered the consequences of serving in Harm’s Way  on Canada’s behalf. Prior to the vote and a live interview with Don Martin, CTV Question period, at a very strategic time - moments prior to the vote. Unfortunately, Mr Stoffer’s motion, even with the support of the Liberal, BQ and Green Party, was defeated and as such, we moved into the last phase of the Budget Operation.

Vigil for Veterans

First, let me thank everybody who showed up. We were proud to have veterans from Korea and World War II standing beside and we thank those who traveled from as far away as Nova Scotia to be present. Special thanks to Mrs. Sheila Fynes, who was in Ottawa to attend the hearing into her son’s tragic death, for standing with us, as well as MP Elizabeth May, who met us at the cenotaph to express her support. Of course, the NDP and the Liberals were steadfast and demonstrated their support which we have pro-actively cultivated over the past year. I thank MPs Peter Stoffer, Sean Casey and the other members of their parties who joined us after Question Period and marched with us from the National War Memorial to the front steps of the House of Commons. We appreciate your words and we appreciate your support. As a nonpartisan organization that believes that veterans care should be fully supported by all members of parliament, we accept your presence was a tangible sign of mission success.

It is important to note that the national media in Ottawa on budget day is very controlled and due the pre-release lock down of field resources, the national networks did not have personnel to cover our Vigil until after the parliamentary reading/scrum had been concluded. By this time, the Vigil had concluded. We are grateful to Shannon at CTV for compensating for this issue and setting up a discussion panel that included CVA reps Kevin Berry from Vancouver, Walter Callaghan from Toronto and myself in the Ottawa studio. Kevin and Walter performed admirably. I was also fortunate to have a discussion in the green room with former Veterans Ombudsman Col (retired) Pat Stogran. Needless to say, we successfully delivered our message to the millions of Canadians who tuned into the pre-budget coverage.

Message, message, message!!!!

The CVA has been consistent in pressing this message since last autumn, a message that we have pursued with due diligence, a message that, to the Conservative Government of Canada’s credit, has been heard. The much heralded 130 to 360 million dollar hit has been significantly reduced to just one percent of the VAC budget.


Objectively, we must focus on results, success or failure can only be defined in these terms.

The CVA objectives identified as being critical to mission success have been attained - the national consciousness of veterans plight / budget impact  was elevated, the support of the Canadian public attained and working together other prestigious veterans organizations, attained a NINETY NINE PERCENT MISSION SUCCESSS RATING!!!!!!

One percent!

This is a important Canadian weekend, historically demonstrated by the great sacrifice and birth of true independence at the battle Vimy Ridge and spiritually, in accordance with the beliefs of a new nation’s founding fathers/mothers.. I bid you to have good cheer, that when you observe your personal moments on this somber, yet nation/spirit affirming weekend, be proud in your heart for those of you who have heard the cries of veterans and their families that you, you are in the truest essence of the word, the patriots of this nation.

To everybody who supported the protests last year, to everybody who telephoned, emailed, wrote or personally contacted their MPs during the long campaign, to everybody who engaged over the CVA electronic network to ensure that their voices were heard, let there be no doubt you have made a profound difference in thousands of disabled RCMP, Police Service and military veteran’s lives and… I salute you!

Of course, we were not alone in this mission and while we may be the most pro-active national veterans organization in Canada with VAC Stakeholders status, I would be remiss were I not to compliment the traditional stakeholders and many, many veterans organizations which shared our vision. Their efforts have quantified our position and established a state of unity that collectively, represented the voices of hundreds of thousands of veterans. Gord Jenkins, NATO Veterans, Brian Forbes, National Council of Veterans Associations, Patricia Varga, Royal Canadian Legion… indeed, I am sure that they and the other leaders have spoken personally to Minister Blaney about these issues as I have and that collectively, we made a significant difference. I would also express my appreciation to the many independent veterans advocates, Sean Bruyea, Louise Richards, Jim Lowther of VETS Canada and Wayne Johnson, founder of Wounded, all of whom have been very visible during this battle. Bravo Zulu.

Assess, adapt, advance…

Objectively, the budget success is satisfying but… we must consider this a skirmish in the greater battle, unforeseen when the CVA was established. Due to urgency of the situation and the limited window of operations, we had to devote a majority of our resources to the skirmish, away from our primary focus. Now is the time to maintain pressure of the Sainte Anne’s front until a successful resolution has been attained while refocusing resources to our primary objectives as reflected by the CVA Mission Statement (

Ste. Anne’s Hospital

The Canadians Veterans Advocacy will continue to provide a vigorous defense of hundreds of WWII and Korean War era veterans who are the proud and valiant residents of Ste. Anne’s Hospital. We have traveled to Montreal from Niagara twice in the past six months to fight to ensure the standard of care (98% accreditation LTC ) to which they are accustomed is maintained once the facility is transferred to provincial control – a bureaucracy that DOES NOT HAVE A 98% ACCREDITATION LTC.

Minister Blaney has promised no services will be affected by the cutbacks, yet how can this be true if the Canadian government does not include enforceable safeguards to ensure that the Centre of Excellence Award standards attained under VACs stewardship are maintained until the last veterans has passed?

In a perfect world, the government would see the value of retaining Ste. Anne’s and converting it into a modern veterans hospital capable of providing care to all of Canada’s war and peace wounded. The Canadian Veterans Advocacy is acutely aware that modern veterans – indeed, any and all veterans who served after the Korean conflict – will not have access to the same dignified, veteran-specific long-term care resources as did our forefathers. This is fundamentally unfair and disrespectful to those who have suffered the consequences of war and peace. Don’t the wounds of our young warriors deserve the same level of respect? Isn’t their sacrifice equal to those of our forefathers? Haven’t we all served in Harms Way on behalf of the Canadian government? The answer is YES, so why is the Canadian government determined to shirk their sacred responsibility to those at Ste. Anne’s when they have reached their eighties and nineties or their responsibility to us, an obligation to provide veterans now and in the future with the same standard of care as that provided to our World War II and Korean veterans. If you haven’t done so already, please contact your local MP about your concerns for this last VAC-controlled veterans hospital. One veteran, one standard.

Contact, wait out…

April 8-9, 2012: Ottawa, National War Memorial. Be advised that we have been invited to Ottawa on April 8 to attend the national Battle for Vimy Ridge ceremonies and I have been asked to assist with the laying of the wreath on behalf of the government of Canada during the sunset ceremony. I would encourage veterans residing in the Ottawa region to join us for this very special celebration. Please, if you see me, come up and introduce yourself. As president of the CVA, it has been my goal to be approachable to all veterans and their families. We shall also be attending the ceremonies Monday morning at 10:00 AM and afterwards, returning to Niagara Falls.

Military Police Complaints Commission – Fynes Hearing

Once again, the Canadian Veterans Advocacy is attempting to mobilize veterans in the Ottawa area to provide support to Mr. and Mrs. Fynes during the public hearings into issues surrounding her son's suicide. I am sure that you understand that these are very traumatic times for this family and as they reside in Victoria, British Columbia, there is a great distance between them and their family and friends when they are in Ottawa. If you can help by volunteering a couple of hours through the day to attend the hearing and sit beside Mrs. Fynes during the testimony, we would be very, very grateful. Remember, we are there to offer support. We have no agenda other than to ensure justice is served for these fine Canadians and that the burden they carry is alleviated by our presence. You can make a profound difference. Please contact me at if you are available to help.

My apologies for this being more of a newsletter then a situation report however there is much on the go and much more to come as we gear up for a Pennies for Veterans Summer with events in Red Deer, Alberta, and in Niagara Falls, Ontario, already booked! On that note, a heartfelt thanks and congratulations to Donald Ward and all the supporters of Pennies for Veterans in and around Wasaga Beach, Ontario. Donald took it upon himself to spearhead a fundraiser, and even as the pennies are being counted he and his community have made a significant contribution towards helping homless vets. Take Donald’s lead and start a penny drive in your hometowns Minister Flaherty has asked Canadians to donate their pennies to a appropriate charity but as you know, many charities do not put the money they collect directly into the problem and instead use these funds for infrastructure and logistics support. The Pennies for Veterans account is separate from the Canadian Veterans Advocacy operating budget and are directed – in full – to the front line in our quest to help veterans who are in desperate need of support. Think about it. If you need ideas or have suggestions, please, step up!

Michael L Blais CD

Founder/President, Canadian Veterans Advocacy
6618 Harper Drive, Niagara Falls, Ont, Cda.
L2E 7K6 // 905-357-3306 // Cell 905-359-9247[/

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