02/27/2014 07:46 EST | Updated 04/29/2014 05:59 EDT

Winnipeg veteran told to return vet's licence plate

A Winnipeg man who fought for the United States during the Vietnam War in 1965 is being forced to give back his veteran's licence plate.

In 2012, the Royal Canadian Legion approved Ron Parkes's application for the specialty plate because of his service in Vietnam. A couple of months later, it reversed that decision.

Staff told the 71-year-old Parkes that only those who fought in wars on behalf of Canada and its wartime allies qualify for the plates. He's been told he has to give the plate back.

"It hurts," Parkes said. "It just hurts that the legion seems to have nothing better do than to bully us."

Parkes said he was 19 years old when he signed up with the U.S. military, as he did not want to linger on the Canadian army's year-long waiting list.

"I sincerely felt I'd be serving my country as well in the U.S. army as I would in the Canadian army," he said.

'I served honourably'

Parkes said he is proud of his service as a paratrooper.

"I'm a Canadian. I'm a veteran. I served honourably," he said. "I met the criteria. I have no understanding why veterans don't want to recognize veterans."

Other vets like William Douglas of Winnipeg disagree, saying the rules are there for a reason. 

"The plate is a veteran's plate, so it should be restricted in my opinion to Canadian veterans," he said. 

In Ontario, those who fought in Vietnam do qualify for a veteran's specialty plate, but that is not the case in Manitoba.

Manitoba Public Insurance says provincial legislation does not include Vietnam veterans who served in the U.S. military in its specialty licence plate program.

A provincial government spokesperson told CBC News the legion decides who should be eligible for the plates.

"We have always deferred to the legion to determine what groups should be able to receive these plates and the legion oversees the application/approval process," the spokesperson stated in an email.

"If the legion advises us of a change in its position to allow other groups to have veteran licence plates, we will make those changes."

No one from the Royal Canadian Legion was available to comment.

Parkes said he will surrender his veteran's licence plate, but he plans to lobby the provincial government and possibly pursue court action.